Table for one? It doesn’t need to be an embarrassing question. There are plenty of places in London that offer kitchen counter or bar dining where you can perch and watch chefs, oyster shuckers or mixologists work and forget that you’re out on your tod. We’ve rounded up the capital’s best places to eat when you’re flying solo…
Solo seafood bar dining…
“Always fun, especially in the downstairs oyster bar” – Richard Corrigan’s “classy” fish veteran, near Piccadilly Circus, won vigorous praise this year for its “amazing” oysters and other “bang-on” fish and seafood; there’s a “pleasingly traditional” upstairs restaurant too.
“Slurping down quality oysters perched on a stool – is there a better way of spending an evening?” Not according to many devotees of the “brilliant”, “friendly” and “glamorous” bar attached to the adjacent “doyenne of seafood restaurants”.
A single ticket on the sushi train…
“As close to the Japanese sushi-ya experience as it’s possible to get outside Asia”; you sit at the bar, one of only 7 people face-to-face with the chef at this “amazing” Clerkenwell “hole in the wall”, run by a “lovely husband and wife team” and serving sushi “like an incredible dream”. (“It’s akin to the Vienna Philharmonic performing just for you and six others, while explaining every note!”)
There’s also the newly opened Araki in Mayfair, which has only nine seats and allows for solo dining. But, with a £300+ price tag it’s a pretty pricey way to treat yourself.
“You don’t go for the ambience!”; you go to this “basic” Barbican fixture for “fabulous” sushi and sashimi that’s “incredible value”.
Small plates you don’t have to share…
“I’m never happier than perched on a stool here, watching the incredible food being prepared!” – The Hart Bros have fully captured the zeitgeist with their “thrilling” small foodie meccas in Soho and Covent Garden – “truly exciting, vibrant London experiences” founded in “some of the best tapas outside Barcelona” (and in particular “peerlessly fresh fish”), “fabulous” wines and sherries, and “empathetic” service. “You wait over an hour for a seat, but it really is THAT good!” Incredibly, the second branch is rated just as highly as the Frith Street original, and to sound in-the-know, remark on how the Josper Oven makes the fish taste even better at Adelaide Street. Can they pull it off again with Branch No. 3?
“Israeli cooking as in Jerusalem” (“brilliant, punchy, sparky” small dishes), plus “super-keen and knowledgeable” service have made a smash-hit of this “bare-walled” yearling, in the heart of the West End – “the joint is jumping!” and it’s superb “fun” (if “squashed” and “extremely noisy”). There’s a little, tough-to-book, dining room, or sit at the bar and watch the chefs in action.
“What a find!”; this “lovely and romantic” (if “cramped”) Soho yearling is “a gem” – superb “buzzy” atmosphere, “knowledgeable” service, and “delightful” Gallic take on ‘tapas’ too.
To truly treat yourself…
Simon Rogan extends his offering at Fera in Claridge’s Hotel with a new development kitchen which allows just six guest to sit at the kitchen counter and watch the chefs at work while they dine. Single seat reservations can be made up to four weeks in advance. Full prepayment is required at the time of booking.
Dude food on your tod…
“Just wow!”; the “revelatory” burgers are “a sloppy sensation” – “so juicy, moist and cooked to perfection” – at these “loud”, “indie-vibe” pitstops, whose branch near Selfridges is the highest-rated burger-joint in town.
“Awesome pizza” – “huge”, and with “obscure combinations that work” – are well “worth the wait” (you can’t book) at these “fun”, but “crammed” and “loud” pit stops, whose Fitzrovia outpost opened in August 2015. A Shoreditch site launched in December last year.
Noodles for uno…
“The hoards queuing outside know they’re in for a treat” at these cheap, “truly genuine”, “cheek-by-jowl” ramen newcomers in the West End (outposts of a chain originating in Fukuoka, in southern Japan); “the broth is so rich, the meat so unctuous, you’ll finish the bowl, even if you feel you’re about to burst!”
“Go early to avoid the crazy queues, and being rammed next to loads of self-adoring 20-somethings”, if you grab a bite at this “rock ’n’ roll ramen house” in Soho, which doesn’t only offer “silky, rich noodle dishes”, but lots of other “enormously tasty” snacks. (Top Menu Tips include the “incredible miso aubergine” and “ever-so nice green tea ice cream”.) It has an OK spin off over Kensington’s Whole Foods too, and – coming soon – a branch in its spiritual home – Shoreditch (and see also Shackfuyu).
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