Whether you’re looking for a night on the town, a quick bite to eat, some light (or maybe not so light) shopping, or some combination of it all, there’s no better district to look in London than Richmond Row. This strip of London’s Richmond Street, from Oxford Street to York Street, sports nearly 300 businesses, big and small, most locally owned, to fill a Londoner’s day out and about. From greasy spoons to fine dining, athletic apparel to prom dresses, and theatres to good old Mother Nature, Richmond Row offers it all.
Despite being just one of the streets in the downtown core, Richmond Row remains the most prominent and stands out with its own identity. With Western University just down the street, Richmond has become a hotspot for trendy, unique businesses that are able to flourish with the influx of young adults to the area. However, this doesn’t mean that only students are going to enjoy Richmond Row. All demographics – age, budget, and even dietary restrictions – will find something to enjoy on the Row.
Depending on the type of activities you’re looking for and the amount of cash you’re planning to spend, your day on Richmond Row could vary wildly. Since Richmond Row offers such an eclectic mix, the following features have been divided into categories based on the goods and services offered, and within those categories broken down by how much the average outing would cost: low end for the more budget friendly options, perfect for a student budget or a frugal spender, and high end for going all out, whether it be a special occasion or simply treating yourself to the finer things in life.
Low End: Prince Albert’s Diner
For the classic diner feel, there’s no better place on Richmond than Prince Al’s, as Londoners will often call it. It’ll catch your eye on the Row from far off with the building’s bright yellow siding, and the décor inside matches that bold statement, as does their food.
The restaurant offers classic diner fare, such as burgers and milkshakes, with twists including their famous Wally Burger – a classic beef patty topped with bacon and covered in creamy peanut butter which earned them a featured spot on the Food Network’s You Gotta Eat Here. They also offer a variety of other appetizing additions such as sandwiches, burritos, and pierogis. For good measure, they also do offer a few vegetarian options mixed into their menu.
It’s important to keep in mind that Prince Al’s is a popular London staple with limited seating. So you might be fighting to get a seat, especially on evenings when the London Knights are playing, but it’s well worth the wait.
High End: Bertoldi’s Trattoria
Bertoldi’s is a locally-run, rustic restaurant, serving up Italian classics in the tradition of their grandparents: fresh and local ingredients creating delicacies from scratch. They boast that all of their pastas and sauces are made daily on site, and most definitely never frozen. And their recipes aren’t the only thing that are up to Italian standards, in the center of the restaurant sits their fiery forno, a massive oven imported from Naples, baking authentic Italian breads and pizzas all day every day.
From pizza to pasta, Bertoldi’s is embroiled in tradition, and for good reason: if it isn’t broken, why fix it? But for those thinking Italian food is just pasta with red sauce, Bertoldi’s can open your eyes to a whole new world of Italian delights. You could go for the carb heavy and cheesy meals and there’s definitely no shame in that, they’re classics for a reason, or get something fresh and light. No matter what, you’ll be leaving satisfied.
Low End: Haven’s Creamery
Haven’s is a new addition to Richmond Row that Londoners have definitely taken a liking to, based on the near constant line out the door since the temperature has warmed up. With a selection of handmade flavours, both classic and innovative, and fresh waffle cones made before your very eyes, there’s no doubt that Haven’s product is high quality.
But of course, the most important thing when it comes to ice cream is always the taste. Haven’s ice cream is rich, creamy, and smooth, no matter what flavour you get. Getting a double scoop allows you to mix and match complimenting flavours such as carrot cake and maple pecan, a truly fantastic combo for a summer sunset.
If even a double scoop doesn’t satisfy you or you know you’ll be getting another craving later in the night, head over to their freezer and grab a pint or a litre of your favourite flavour to take home and pretend that you’re going to share it with your friends and family.
For the dairy averse, Haven’s also offers a few fruity flavours of sorbet, currently their feature is cantaloupe mango. So don’t let lactose intolerance stand in your way of enjoying these handmade frozen treats.
Haven’s is a welcome new face on Richmond Row, serving up quality frozen desserts just in time for the summer months.
High End: Chil Frozen Yogurt Bar
Admittedly, going to Chil doesn’t need to be expensive. But since you pay by weight, it’s entirely possible to go way overboard and end up with a pricey cup of fro-yo on your hands, which is why Chil is ending up in the “high end” category.
Chil is slightly hidden off the corner of Hymen Street, behind the Running Room, but if you’ve spent any time on Richmond Row, you’ve definitely seen their aggressive marketing, as there seems to be a near constant flow of Chil coupons placed strategically along the street and in Victoria Park. With a coupon in hand, heading over to Chil and hanging out on their sidewalk patio is a great way to end off an evening out.
Like a kid in a candy store, Chil allows customers to serve themselves, offering a plethora of frozen yogurt flavours, including vegan options, alongside over 125 toppings for you to create the perfect Frankenstein’s monster of a dessert.
Chil is the Choose Your Own Adventure of the fro-yo industry, and the only limit to your dessert is your own creativity. And the size of the cups they give you… but they never said you can’t get two if you’re so inclined.
Low End: Victoria Park
Despite being in the heart of downtown, the Forest City still delivers on greenery. With a whopping cost of completely free, your cheapest option for entertaining yourself is Victoria Park. Bring a book and read in the shade or bring a friend and a frisbee for some catch, nothing beats a sunny afternoon in a park. With eighteen acres, you can stake your claim on a patch of grass and enjoy your time with a leisure activity of your choosing. Victoria Park is also a fantastic spot for picnics, but don’t feed the squirrels. They are notoriously greedy.
If you’re lucky enough to (or make a plan to) catch Victoria Park on the right day, you could also find yourself at one of the many festivals hosted there throughout the summer such as Sun Fest or Rib Fest. Although the products aren’t free and you won’t find much space to sit, walking through the stands is definitely worth your while. You can smell or even taste great food, hear local bands, and experience local art. There are also great activities for any children in your life. Victoria Park’s festivals are a major attraction during the summer months.
High End: Grand Theatre
The Grand Theatre is, as the name implies, a grand experience. With two performance venues in the building, as well as two lounges, there is often a variety of options for your viewing pleasure. Catching a show on the Spriet Stage is akin to that of a traditional opera theatre, with incredible high ceilings and gorgeous balconies. Their second stage, the McManus Stage, allows for a more intimate performance, with a smaller crowd and various configurations such as “in the round,” where the stage is in the center of the room surrounded by the audience, allowing for a 360 degree performance.
With upcoming events such as Imagine: The Music of John Lennon, a show dedicated to remembering the musical innovator, and Jeans ‘N Classics, a rock symphony with five separate shows dedicated to exploring different bands, the Grand Theatre is something to keep your eye on. They are constantly announcing new and amazing touring shows and original productions, but tickets tend to go fast, so you’ll have to snatch yours up quick.
Low End: Jack’s
No matter what night of the week you’re looking to head out on, Jack’s is going to have a deal for you. Mondays are Dollar Beer Night, Tuesday is Tequila Tuesday, Thursday has $2.50 jaeger bombs, and so on and so forth. Turning up, as the kids call it nowadays, is no longer something that is guaranteed to ruin your bank account at Jack’s with daily deals and modestly priced food. Of course, that means that during the post-secondary school year, the joint is typically full of students, so enter at your own risk.
If that prospect doesn’t intimidate you, you can expect current jams bumping, a dancefloor that always seems to be slightly overpopulated, and drinks flowing all the while. It may not be everyone’s taste, but if your criteria for whether you want to go somewhere is mostly based on the price of drinks, Jack’s is your place.
High End: The Poacher’s Arms
Where Jack’s is very much a student hotspot, the Poacher’s Arms tends to attract a different crowd. They also have daily specials for each day of the week along with events: Monday is Comedy Night paired with half price poutine and discounted Coors and whiskey sours, Wednesday is an Open Mic with $10 nachos and a couple bucks knocked off Molson Mini Jugs and Tom Collins.
The Poacher’s Arms is much more of a classic pub than it is a common North American bar. Laidback but traditional, there is a heavier emphasis on quality over quantity without any holier-than- thou disposition. The Poacher’s Arms is a perfect spot for grabbing a couple of beers or classic cocktails and having a good chat with pals or other patrons, without the issue of having to scream over deafening bangers.
In conclusion Richmond Row is generally considered to be one of the most interesting places to be in
London, and there’s no question as to why that is. Whether you’re a student, a young family of four, or on the verge of retirement, Richmond Row’s eclectic mix of opportunities makes it the perfect place to spend your day on the town. Richmond Row is one of the most densely packed streets in London, filled to the brim with locally owned and operated restaurants and shops to support your city, as well as larger chains for a touch of familiarity. The possibilities for your afternoon or evening are endless.