Words Kirk Truman
Illustrations Alexandria Coe
The unanimity of secrets and veils, the conformity, the place where we all go. In my home town of Leicester, it’s said that you can tell a Leicesterian by their insistence upon meeting at the clock tower any time of the day. Here in Fitzrovia, it is said you can tell a Fitzrovian by their insistence upon meeting at 43-51 Great Titchfield Street morning, noon and night. Sat at the corner of Riding House Street and Great Titchfield Street, I give you the story of this infamous meeting spot that doubles as a work point for creative types locally and afar. Alas the local haunt, The Riding House Café.
Our story begins in south London, Bermondsey. Adam White had previous ambitions of designing fast lawnmowers and bread baskets, for his friend. Clive Watson, it was being a DJ. Leaving their backgrounds’ behind them, Adam and Clive decided to pool their talents and turn their passion towards hospitality with the ambition of creating a successful gastropub that caters for the needs of the local community. In 2003, the pair opened The Garrison Public House in the fast-developing Bermondsey Village. With its success, the two decided a few years later to open a cocktail bar and brasserie in East Village at the far end of Bermondsey Street. Both sites became a go-to within the creative community as a workplace.
Having founded Village London, with two successful sites up and running in Bermondsey, Adam and Clive had in mind a new prospect. The philosophy behind Village London is to create local spaces that people can learn to love, where creative communities can flourish, its members finding a home away from home. Their intention was to open a third site in the West-End. With the idea growing on them, the two discovered Fitzrovia.
Feeling that the area captured the Village London philosophy, they felt it could mirror what they had already found success in. This fish-bowl like space on Great Titchfield Street, at the base of an unattractive 1950s block, was once the home to a number of chain offerings and questionable concepts. When Adam and Clive discovered the site almost four years ago, their determination to turn this space into a welcoming and attractive local restaurant similar to those they had established in Bermondsey seemed somewhat ambitious.
‘The café’ (as I so often hear it referred to) may find itself misperceived by non-residents. Before my first visit, it was my belief that this was a formal dining environment where people flourish and play – I’m almost certain that I’m still known as the Fitzrovia Journal guy. Like many Fitzrovia hotspots, the staff are well connected with the abundance of local coffeehouses, salons and creative businesses. A welcoming, informal environment with curios such as a number of stuffed squirrels, architectural salvage from around the globe and antiques that fill this individual setting, The Riding House Café came to open its doors in April 2011.
Amongst the catalogue of global cuisines in the area, The Riding House Café has found itself frequented by local Fitzrovian’s as a retreat throughout the day, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Although largely a destination for Fitzrovians and our Soho cousins just across the Oxford Street border, the restaurant has found itself a reliable work setting for creative types. Meetings of creative origin take place all day long at the restaurant – I must confess that a lot of my own take place here too – offering its early morning until late evening menus daily, led by head chef, Paul Daniel. A modern brasserie, the Riding House Café’s dishes vary from the Fitzroviaesque Titchfield muesli with nuts, to Falmouth Bay rock oysters and the renowned ‘special recipe’ cheeseburger.
As you pass by the lounge chairs to the back of the restaurant, you will find yourself transported into the basement of the café where you’ll find The Stables: A private, concealed area, capable of seating 14 people, the room is a cross between a horse stable and a hunting lodge. The room offers seclusion under the streets of Fitzrovia that’s almost unrivalled in the area. Annoyingly enough, I wasn’t aware that it existed until now.
If you stare into a wash of liquors, beers and wines where the bartender moves back and forth behind the long bar, you’ll notice the whispers of fashion styling, marketing and film, wetting the appetite for your own creative endeavour. An illustrator may sit to add the final detailing to their next project, or a writer sat discussing the completion of a novella. Signature cocktails include another nod to the neighbourhood with the Fitzroy twinkle, the Negroni Sbagliato and, with a nod to the south London routes of the Café, the elegant Bermondsey Breeze.
It goes without saying that, since its appearance, the Café has made its mark on the surrounding area having integrated itself as a unique way for Fitzrovia to connect and network. On top of its high standards of cuisine and its reputable bar, the Riding House Café clearly reflects the surrounding community; people coming together in the heart of the West-End. The Riding House Café has set the standard in Fitzrovia for an all-day meeting point and sits proudly as a place where creativity thrives. I find myself consistently telling people to meet me at The Riding House Café, or simply ‘the café’. This is certainly one my favourite meeting points in the area. What is your local Fitzrovia haunt?