By Kabir Mehta BA Politics and International Relations
Familiarising yourself with the areas around SOAS is an excellent way to feel more comfortable at university while also finding a suitable escape from the stressful environment that can build up around your studies. I found that walking around campus is the best way to find the hidden gems that feed Bloomsbury. This part of London has always been an academic hub with university campuses, publishing houses and massive student populations, and does not immediately come to mind as a go-to neighbourhood for a food enthusiast. Rest assured, there are quite a few under-appreciated spots that make Bloomsbury unique.
- Pitted Olive
This small Turkish restaurant is the perfect lunch grab for under £12. It is located on Leigh Street, a 7-10 minute walk from campus. They serve everything from fresh golzeme to mezze and borek in generous quantities! Personally, I would recommend the lamb and cheese golzeme with mezze; it is hands-down the freshest mezze I have had in London. There are halal and vegan options available. This restaurant undeniably forms an integral part of the local community businesses that live in Bloomsbury beyond the larger food chains.
- 49 Cafe
The cafe is located on Marchmont Street and is perfect for quick takeaways between classes. The establishment is open from 7 am to 4 pm, making it the ideal spot for a quick breakfast takeaway. They do very practical breakfast deals, which include coffee and bagels.
For lunch, they do three specials of the day that are around £7. Their menu is a mix of Spanish and Italian food. Whether the cafe is serving up jerk chicken paella or arabbiatta Pasta, the line isn’t short. Additionally, they make fresh salads, wraps and sandwiches, amongst others, for a slightly higher price than their daily specials.
- Project 68
Project 68 is a small independent coffee shop on Tavistock Place, around ten minutes from campus. The feel of the cafe is very cosy and earthy. The minimalist wooden interiors give the cafe a timeless and calming feel. What is unique about this cafe is that the coffee is sourced from SEND Coffee, the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities organisation that helps people with disabilities gain employment in the coffee industry as baristas. Alongside excellent coffee, they also serve hot chocolate in varying cocoa percentages. It’s the perfect coffee spot near SOAS when you need a change of scenery while working or socialising. Vegan milk alternatives and pastry options are also available.
This small cafe/restaurant is located just off Tottenham Court Road and is approximately eight minutes away from campus. Limited seating is made up for by its ideal location, beside the Whitfield Gardens, equipped with public seating and a mural worth perusal. Hiba serves Lebanese and Palestinian food, including everything from lentil soups to excellent falafel wraps. They are generous with their quantities, and the wait is always under five minutes, making it ideal for a quick meal. Prices start at £6.95 for a basic wrap and go up to £15 for a main dish. They are halal-certified and have plenty of vegan options. The establishment is family-owned and has smaller outlets in Holborn and Walthamstow.
This small restaurant arguably serves some of Bloomsbury’s best value-for-money Korean food. Located on Great Russell Street, it’s a stone’s throw away from Tottenham Court Road Station and the SOAS campus. The kimchi soup and mandu are perfect light eats. They offer an additional 10% off all main dishes, making the bibimbap and Tteokbokki very appealing. I would recommend going here for an abundance of vegan options!
Fortitude Bakehouse for some delicious pastries, Changs Noodles for an excellent £10 lunch deal with generous quantities of kung pao chicken and rice, and ICCO for some quick and reasonable pizza.
These are just a few of the permanent establishments in Bloomsbury. The farmers market on Thursday, and the Tuesday food market outside Birkbeck College, as well as the stalls on Goodge Place and Tottenham Court Road, offer a very diverse selection of freshly prepared food options within 10 minutes of campus. There may be very few popular restaurants in Bloomsbury, but when you dig deeper, the locality is filled with cuisines from every corner of the world, making the food scene just as worldly as the people inhabiting it.
Photo credits: Malvika Dang