Happy February from Need To Know Club,
Here at Need To Know we're in the middle of a redesign, but that hasn't stopped us from exploring some pretty amazing places we'd love you to know about too. This month we're bigging up the amazing city of Portland, whose residents' rallying cry is 'Keep Portland Weird'; London's Soho, still quietly giving Shoreditch a run for its money; and Barcelona, where you can still find authenticity if you know where to look. If you want exhaustive lists, go to Trip Advisor – our mission is to save you time and money by picking out a few places we know you're going to rave about.
Portland is good looking, full of creativity and life; a city with a lively music scene, an exciting food and drink culture and a very active artistic community. Eco attitudes and sustainability are upfront, with vegetables planted on sidewalks and chickens clucking in back yards in the more residential neighbourhoods. ‘Keep Portland Weird’ is a recurring sign. Unusually for America, Portland welcomes pedestrians and cyclists, rather than being ruled by cars and highways. The city’s districts – Pearl, Nob Hill, Alberta, Mississippi – each have their own distinct character, and there's an expansive riverside area that hosts many festivals. Portland's default setting is laid-back, but there's even more peace up in the hills where Washington Park and Forest Park offer a beautiful green setting with stunning views.
The cool kids may have gone to Shoreditch but Soho remains the buzziest place in the West End for dinner. The sheer variety of cuisines on offer in this tiny geographical area – less than a square kilometre – is exciting. Sure, the tables will be timed in a lot of restaurants, but don't let them hurry you. Soho is still media central, and with the BBC returning to its Portland Place headquarters a few years ago and private members' clubs like the Groucho, Soho House and Blacks thriving, you're very likely to pass famous faces walking around its streets. Don't be daft and ask for a selfie, it's not very Soho. After dinner, it's worth catching some comedy at the Soho Theatre where the room sizes offer an intimate setting for a laugh. The comedians often hang out at the theatre's bar afterwards.
Barcelona has become a victim of its own success; a beautiful, culturally rich city that was very cool but now feels a bit like a theme park. Unless you go off the beaten track. So avoid the Sagrada Familia (we know it's pretty, but you're going to spend more time queueing than appreciating the architecture) and Las Ramblas (a heaving mass of tourists and tat) and head for some of the places we recommend – the Mercat de Sant Antoni food hall rather than the Boqueria; the gothic cathedral instead of Gaudi's. We'll look after you.
This month's most eye-catching nominations from members
Thanks to Need To Know Club members Justin Bond for nominating Dry Martini in Barcelona and Linda Bygrave for nominating Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Our writers have put them on their list of places to visit. This month Dave Cook reviewed a recent nomination by Anna Walton, Indian Tiffin Room in Leeds, UK.