Insider guide to London: Eloise de Fine

Eloise de Fine in Chinatown - picture by Jessy Boon Cowler
Eloise de Fine in Chinatown – picture by Jessy Boon Cowler

Here at The Wandering Tattler, we love a good cocktail. And this week’s city guide Eloise makes some of the best cocktails in London.

As the general manager of the Ape and Bird in Cambridge Circus at the heart of the West End, she runs one of our favourite places to go for a drink and a bite to eat. Eloise always manages to make us feel at home while overseeing a slick table service restaurant, a pub and a dive bar all in one building. (We recommend the truffle cheese fries.)

She is also incredibly stylish, a great writer and has impeccable taste in music – when we first met her she was one half of a successful dj duo with her partner in crime and former Wandering Tattler City Guide, Laura.

Eloise lives in Soho – the beating heart of London’s restaurant scene. Soho is infamous for its characters, its late night joints, its weird and wonderful boutiques, its sex shops and its drinking holes and Eloise knows the best of all of them…  well maybe not the sex shops.

Eloise de Fine in Chinatown - picture by Jessy Boon Cowler
Eloise de Fine in Chinatown – picture by Jessy Boon Cowler

The best place for a bargain: Grocery shopping in Chinatown was a revelation when I moved to Soho.  You can get kohlrabi on Gerrard street as easily as you would apples in Tesco. I love the big displays of ugly Jack fruit outside the shops and the rows and rows of stacked pak choi & daikon. Everything is cheaper in Chinatown, from slabs of pork belly to papery braids of garlic to net bags of mussels & clams. You will not find better flat leaf parsley anywhere than the trees of the stuff you can buy for 90p from Loon Fung Supermarket. I’m also a believer that if you can’t find it in Chinatown, you can’t find it anywhere.

The best place for jewellery: The Great Frog on Ganton Street practically invented the skull ring. It’s wall to wall with punchy animal skulls carved into big wedges of silver, leopards with emerald eyes & gobstopper sized skull rings. I have a silver bull ring from there, with a tiny ring through its nose. Their fantastic kudu skull ring is on my wish list. AND they make all of Lemmy’s jewellery… enough said.

Eloise in ECC, Chinatown - picture by Jessy Boon Cowler
Eloise in ECC, Chinatown – picture by Jessy Boon Cowler

My favourite late night place: When I clear the crumpled wad of receipts from my purse in the not quite monthly clean out, an embarrassing amount of them are from ECC (The Experimental Cocktail Club), payments taken sometime between 2 and 3am. I leave work late, always after midnight and often after 1am, and after a brutal shift when I feel as if I’ve fed, watered & wined every soul from Golden Square to 7 Dials, I really, really need a big, stiff drink. I love to sit at the bar & have Chris, my bartender of choice, make me something that involves bourbon & bitters, or if I’m feeling irresponsible, a vintage grasshopper. It’s the only way to go in the early hours.

Eloise in Spuntino - picture by Jessy Boon Cowler
Eloise in Spuntino – picture by Jessy Boon Cowler

The best date place: Spuntino is one of my favourite places in the world. It’s sexy in a gritty, David Lynch, used to be a butcher, kind of way. It’s the best place to go on a date, hands down, in all of London. The lighting is outrageously flattering & the music (usually ACDC or the like) is genuinely loud which forces you to practically live in the crook of your date’s neck in order to have a conversation. If your date doesn’t appreciate ACDC then they aren’t worth your time anyway. It’s a good test.

The food is great (Head Chef Rachel O’Sullivan can do no wrong) and the whole restaurant consists of one big dining counter… my favourite way to dine. It’s my perfect restaurant. I love it.

Dean Street Townhouse
The dining room – picture via Dean Street Townhouse

Favourite place for a fancy dinner: The Dean Street Townhouse is where I go when things seem bad in the world. It’s all red wine, ribeyes, negronis & a hefty wooden bar. It’s where I go when I’m miserable and want a glass of sympathy. It’s where I go for champagne with my girlfriends to celebrate the fact that it’s Wednesday. It’s where I go for Christmas lunch if I can’t get home to my family in South Africa. It’s where I go when I feel like I need a bit of a hug.

The Society Club, Soho
Picture via The Society Club

Best place to buy books: The Society Club is part bookshop, part cocktail bar, part tea room & part puppy parlour. Babette, the owner, knows every page of every book in her store. There are readings and poetry recitals (which I never attend, despite my best intentions) but most importantly, there are books AND booze.

It’s also a haven for every dog in Soho. There are always at least 3 tiny dogs asleep on a big pillow in the corner. There’s Babette leaning, perfectly coiffured, smoking a cigarette against the doorway, and Billie Holiday on the stereo. And sometimes, me, a new book & an Old Fashioned in hand.

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