There might be regeneration in the east of London thanks to the Olympic and Paralympic Games — but there's been a largely unnoticed renaissance in the centre. In 2012, the WC2 postal district is suddenly buzzing.
Since the 18th century, the area around Charing Cross has been the official centre of London. But in terms of food, fashion and culture, WC2 has recently been very much on the periphery. The tourists and theatre crowds throng in and out, but fashionable London sticks to Soho and Mayfair.
When High Life moved to 85 Strand three years ago, there wasn't much to divert us other than the Adam Street private members' club (adamstreet.co.uk) and pioneering hotel One Aldwych (onealdwych.com). The Savoy was closed for a refurb that took forever and if you wanted to take a contact to lunch, it was Soho or a sandwich.
Then the opening of the small Terroirs wine bar (terroirswinebar.com) on William IV Street began to attract an arty and foodie crowd. That encouraged leaders of the city's fine-dining-for-less revolution to head WC2-wards from Soho. The Arbutus group launched Les Deux Salons (lesdeuxsalons.co.uk), a Manhattan-meets-Montmartre joint across the road from Terroirs. Russell Norman expanded his Venetian empire just north of the Strand with Da Polpo (dapolpo.co.uk) in 2011, followed by his take on the Jewish deli, Mishkin's (mishkins.co.uk). If that wasn't enough budget quality, the owners of tapas joint Salt Yard took over The Opera Tavern (operatavern.co.uk).
But it was the reopening of the Savoy (fairmont.com/savoy) at 10.10am on 10.10.10 that was the symbolic kick-start for the area. The well-heeled and well-known again flocked to the American Bar, Gordon Ramsay's respectfully re-created Savoy Grill and the spectacular Beaufort Bar. Six months later, it had five-star company in the very elegant Corinthia Hotel (corinthia.com), with suites and a spa that are a match for anything in Mayfair.
All it needed was for the presiding geniuses of London dining to move in. Jeremy King and Chris Corbin, late of the Ivy and very much still of the Wolseley, duly opened a 'café restaurant in the grand European tradition', The Delaunay (thedelaunay.com), in late 2011. 'We had always wanted to come back to Theatreland,' says King, 'but nobody wanted to go near the Strand. That's changed. Once again it's the place where the City meets the West End... It's certainly buzzing again.'