Neal's Yard, to the north of Covent Garden, is a great place to eat if you're vegetarian. Or vegan. Or only eat organic. Or if you just fancy some ethically sourced and freshly prepared food that you know will be good for you, the planet and the people who grew it.
My favourite of these "wholesome" eateries is the World Food Café. Up a flight of stairs above Neal's Yard Remedies, it's easily overlooked – but difficult to pass by once you know it's there.
The café was started in 1991 by Chris and Carolyn Caldicott, based on recipes they'd discovered while globe trotting as travel writers and photographers. They claim to still have scraps of napkins and guidebooks covered in hastily jotted ingredients and instructions – and luckily the café itself has retained this cheerfully informal spirit, with friendly staff and a simple but inviting open-plan layout.
As you'd expect, the menu is wide-ranging, including Mexican, Egyptian, Turkish, Indian and West African dishes daily, as well as changing specials and salads. In my experience the food is both delicious and surprisingly cheap – great value for money. And if you're feeling a little too virtuous after a bowl of dhal or a quinoa salad, don't worry: the desserts are suitably epicurean.
Seating is arranged bar-style around the "kitchen" area, or at large shared tables beside full-length windows that open over the yard. As a result, it feels pleasingly communal – like eating at a relaxed music festival.
While you eat, you can also browse the café's two recipe books, enjoy a selection of world music, and admire photographs from the Caldicotts' travels. Few places can really claim to provide a 'round-the-world' experience, but this surely comes close. And it definitely beats an overpriced tourist trap or chain café – even if you're just grabbing a quick bite before hitting the shops.