Flying Solo: London’s best solo dining spots
I find the most satisfying meals I have these days are the impulsive, solo ones. I’ll be honest – I never appreciated the joys of solo dining in my younger days… always slightly self-conscious about what complete strangers would think about friendless ol’ me, eating alone whilst zoning on my phone.
These days however, the peace and quiet of a solo meal is something I’ve come to treasure. Don’t get me wrong – I still think food is best enjoyed in the company of friends and family. But the lack of company shouldn’t stop one from eating well. Once in a while, simply being able to eat whatever you want, whenever you want without the hassle of making plans in advance is gold. Being able to jump the queue to fill that last remaining spot on the bar counter-top at London’s busiest restaurants is a definite bonus too!
So whether you are in London town on your own for business, travelling solo, or simply have a craving to quell that won’t wait for others, here’s a round up of my favourite spots in the capital where the solo diner will feel right at home.
If there’s one restaurant in the capital serving up old-school French dishes that’s up there with the very best you can find in France, it’s this cosy, bustling bistro on Bermondsey street. The menu changes daily and is posted on their Twitter feed that morning, making it perfect for that impulse meal when there’s a dish you fancy making an appearance. Table seating is limited here and often booked well in advance. There’s no booking their charming wooden-top bar counter however – a haven for the solo diner. Be on the lookout for their Trotter Croustillant, Pigeon en croute, Chicken ‘deux cuisson’, Paris-Brest and Lemon tart dishes!
This Thai, counter-top dining spot is one of Soho’s busiest. Flying solo usually means you can jump to the front of the queue and nab a seat in front of the theatre of the kilns and hot coals of their open kitchen. Whereas most Thai restaurants are best enjoyed in larger groups to share out the dishes, Kiln is one of the rare Thai places where a solo diner can still enjoy a variety, thanks to their friendly prices, smaller portions and grilled dishes available per-piece. The Claypot Glass Noodles with Pork Belly and Brown Crab is a must, as are the Aged Lamb skewers, slow-grilled chicken and Burmese Beef Cheek Curry. Expect top-notch produce, properly authentic flavours and spot-on seasoning & spicing throughout.
This all-day, counter-dining only Japanese spot in Soho serves up simple but carefully prepared Udon and other classic Japanese fare. Especially popular with solo diners, there’s often a zen-like feel to the place that’s perfect if you are after some peace and quiet. I normally get the sweet tofu ‘Kitsune’ Udon with a side of Buta Kakuni (Cider-brased Pork Belly). Comforting, restorative eating at its best.
Another Soho favourite that’s always packed to the rafters. the Sri Lankan food here at Hoppers is mouthwateringly good. The spicing is beautifully balanced and the flavours always bang on point. Their crispy, bowl-shaped hoppers and small plate ‘short eats’ make the menu particularly solo diner friendly. There’s also a great value Express lunch deal which covers most of their signature dishes. Don’t leave without trying their Bone Marrow Varuval and Black Pork Kari + Hopper combo!
This convivial wine bar under the railway arches of Maltby Street serves simple, exquisitely prepared European small plates to go with their arsenal of natural wines. Grab a seat at the bar counter, ask the friendly and knowledgeable bar staff to pour you a glass or 2 and work your way through Chef Steve Williams & team’s immaculate food here. The quality of the dishes coming out of the modest kitchen here never ceases to amaze me. The menu changes weekly but do lookout for signatures such as their glazed ham, terrines, savoury tarts & pastry dishes!
Everybody’s favourite pasta bar, the queues here at Padella often snake round the corner into Borough market. Cut down on the wait time by going solo and what awaits you are some of London’s best pasta dishes, most of which are hand-made on site and cooked ‘a la minute’. Prices here are still affordable considering the quality, but the smaller than usual portion sizes mean you will need more than one plate per person if you are hungry! Pici Cacio e Pepe & their pillowy, air-light Gnocchi are my picks.
p.s. Other great solo dining spots that come to mind in addition to the above: Morito Hackney Road, Terroirs or Ellory for small plates and great wines by the glass, Kanada-Ya for Ramen, Barrafina (for 1 Michelin star Spanish Tapas – the cosier Adelaide street branch is my favourite)