Eating out alone has to be the biggest restaurant related stigma there is. The judgy looks from bored couples. The rudely worded pie ‘for two’. The crushing realisation that it’s just you and your interior monologue, again. But it shouldn’t be like this. Because dining solo is actually great. You just need to know how to do it.
Here are three tips:
1) For starters, you should have a starter. This is about doing you. Treat yourself. Don’t rush.
2) Choose the right restaurant: casual, maybe with counter seating if you want something to look at it that isn’t other diners.
3) Bring a prop if you like. A book, a nice podcast but most importantly (and in stark contradiction to this entire introduction) don’t overthink it. This is your time, enjoy it.
Bao is one of those restaurants where, more often than not, you don’t actually want to share what you’re eating, but because of stuff like social contracts, vows, or rubbish like that, you feel obliged to. There’s no such danger on your own and that’s when you want to be at Bao Borough. There’s bar seating opposite the kitchen - perfect for one person, a sensational curry cheese bao, and a must-order bowl of aged beef with butter rice.
Finsbury Park exists in a perma-state of organised bedlam and you know what, we love it. But having a restaurant like Zamzam to escape to alone is extremely beneficial when you need a breather and a big plate of bariis iskukaris. The Somali spot feels like a comfortable canteen but, moreover, feels like respite. Especially once you’ve settled down with a bowl of soup.
There’s something a little heavenly about the all-white, signal-less bar at St. John in Clerkenwell. There’s also something a little asylum-like about the whole aesthetic. Either way, we’d be more than happy to spend the rest of our days here. During the week the bar area is, hands down, our favourite place to eat alone in London. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. Nobody can use their phone. There’s a bar stocked with an excellent range of drinks. And we could, if pushed, eat that Welsh rarebit forever and ever.
The Chongqing noodle and Sichuanese spot in Spitalfields is a peaceful getaway from the hubbub of the market next door. A bowl of niu-rou mian noodle soup is a face-down, bib-on kind of solo meal and the same goes for a generous, dry chilli-heavy portion of gong-bao ji ding. Gong-bao chicken done the proper, Sichuan way. That said, if they sound a little heavy you can always swing by for a bowl of dumplings and those lang-ya tu dou, wok-fried chips.
The counter at Berenjak is one of our favourite places to eat alone in Soho. Not just because you don’t want to share your chenjeh kabab with anyone - the chicken is lovely, and the lamb rump is even better - but because it has some of the most mesmerising entertainment around in the shape of a glistening rotating shawarma.
Few restaurants in London give lone diners the respect, the crumble-heavy desserts, and the table they deserve quite like 40 Maltby Street does. To the point that the always relaxed and always classy wine bar and small plates spot dedicated a table to solo diners. It’s cosy, it’s intimate and, yes, you’re surrounded by excellent wine.
Kurumaya is a teeny, tiny restaurant near Smithfield. And when we say tiny, we mean tiny. So tiny in fact that you’re definitely not going to want to come here with a group, but it’s perfect for a solo sushi mission. Especially if you’ve got a whole day ahead of you and also fancy a trip to the nearby Barbican after you’re done with your maki. Expect big bowls of katsu curry, bento boxes, and plenty of oolong tea.
From channa packed baras to, newborn-sized rotis, to wedges of macaroni pie with sweet tamarind sauce on top, the range of enormously delicious and incredible value Trinidadian options from Roti Joupa isn’t quite limitless, but it will keep you going for some time. With locations in both north (Finsbury Park) and south (Clapham) of the river, as well as Shepherd’s Bush, you should be grabbing a window stool at the little takeaway spot, stat.
Chang’s is a haven for anyone and everyone, and you’ll realise that as soon as you walk into this Bloomsbury restaurant. On every visit there’s been an almost equal mix of big groups - filling table space with noodles, crispy squid, and more, and also of solo noodle eaters - getting through a bowl of their excellent shan xi yo po noodles with their phone expertly balanced against a jar of chilli oil and a bottle of soy.
Train stations meals are, by and large, solo occasions. They’re intense periods of focused eating. Of sandwiches being gulped, hot wings being crunched, and crisp packets being emptied. A meal at Coal Rooms, in Peckham Rye’s old ticket office, is very different though. Grab yourself a seat at the bar from 7am in the morning to 10pm at night and happily and unhurriedly get anything from kedgeree, to veal schnitzel, to miso-roasted cauliflower. Technically, this is still train station food. But also, it isn’t at all.
Some spaces are just more comfortable on your own. The toilet is (obviously) one of them and so is the bed, no matter how much you love the other person in it. Another to add to this list is cafs. Like, proper cafs. And that’s where the Regency comes in, along with a plate heavy from black pudding, hash browns, and baked beans. The Westminster institution has been a place for everyone since 1946 and it’s no different today but, FYI, it’s only open until lunchtime at the moment.
Some people believe that podcasts are so popular because, often, they’re free. We believe that podcasts are so popular because everyone’s figured out that it’s the best way to be entertained whilst still being able to eye up your noodles. One of our favourite ways to spend a solo evening, a podcast and a huge bowl of biang biang noodles will serve you well at this casual Xi’anese restaurant in Euston (and they also have branches at Bank and in Mayfair). Plus, their speedy service will mean you’re ready for the bill before that podcast ends.
The word ‘alone’ has a bad reputation. We prefer ‘solitary’ (so Zen), ‘by oneself’ (classy), or ‘stag’ (bit dangerous, strong air of YOLO). But whichever way you prefer to say it, you should know that Snackbar is the kind of cool and casual restaurant where no one’s going to bat an eye when you rock up with just that new paperback for company. A daytime situation, the menu changes regularly but you can expect things like kimchi-packed rice bowls, big-deal toasties, and burritos.
Just like baths and sleeping, a bowl of pasta is best enjoyed alone. Just you, some saucy carbs, and a deceptively deep piece of crockery. The bar at Officina 00 in Old Street is perfect for satisfying this unique (and every Monday recurring) desire. Start with a deep fried cacio e pepe-filled raviolo and don’t stop until you’ve got through a bowl of gnocchi, papardelle, or occhi as well. Oh, and those profiteroles aren’t optional either.
The are few situations that Sông Quê isn’t perfect for and this is yet another. The restaurant and room are ideal for when you’re looking to get something quick and tasty on your lonesome. It gets pretty busy at night, but it’s the sort of environment that doesn’t make you feel like the end bit of a loaf of bread. The pho is a go-to, as are the bun noodles, and both are perfect slurpers to enjoy whilst the bustle of Kingsland Road unfold outside.
The name, the dumplings, the jars of chilli oil for your phone to lean on - was there ever any doubt that My Old Place is the perfect place for a little bit of you, and a big bit of mapo tofu? There’s little not to like about this lowkey Spitalfields Szechuan restaurant, and once it’s in your me-time-restaurant-roster, you’ll find yourself going back again and again.
Hummus, a pineapple, and a tin of beans with little sausages. That’s what we picked up the last time we went to our corner shop looking for solo dinner inspiration. We’ll be honest, that wasn’t a great meal, but that’ll never happen at Persepolis. This Persian shop, deli, and restaurant serves the people of Peckham (and beyond) a range of brilliant tasting and priced vegetarian and vegan dishes. It’s perfect for a healthy solo lunch or early dinner, especially as the one-person mezze plate is just a fiver.
Sweetings is a lunchtime-only institution in the City that’s been around for a very long time serving seafood to City-folk for a very long time. But this combination of suits and sticky toffee pudding works, and it’s perfect for a solo lunch. Stools snake around the bar in the main room and also along the windows, making it a comfortable spot for some homely fish pie and a totally unnecessary pint.
Koya is a small Japanese bar in Soho that’s made for solo diners to slurp through some very good curry miso udon on the counter for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. In fact, their fried egg, bacon, and shiitake-porridge breakfast is probably the best thing here. It’s walk-in only, which translates to: ideal for one person and a bowl of udon.
In the immortal words of Donna and Tom in Parks And Recreation, Treat Yo’ Self. The concept is simple. Treat yourself to nice things. Nice things like garlic potatoes, gambas, and some cheeky queijo. Grab a seat at the marble bar of this Portuguese restaurant, indulge in all of the above, and finish with a glass of Douro wine. Why? Because, treat yo’ self.
Wuli Wuli is a Chinese restaurant on Camberwell Church Street open for lunch and dinner that generally always has a spare seat on the counter. It’s a pretty straightforward restaurant in that the only thing to focus on is the food, and you’ll be more than satisfied with a bowl of spiced and nutty saliva chicken alongside a plate of fried dumplings, or hand pulled noodles. This kind of head down, focused eating is a favourite of ours. Especially as it’s open until 11pm.
Solo meals don’t just have to be a product of circumstance, in fact they shouldn’t be. Noble Rot is a must-visit, with or without anyonet. Whether you’re drinking wine and eating bread in the wine bar up front, or enjoying their unbeatable three-course £20 lunch deal, Noble Rot never feels anything less than precisely where you should be.
Like most of the best Soho restaurants, Kiln has both fantastic food (in this case, Thai) and waits that make it a logistical ballache, especially if your friends are impatient people. Coming here by yourself is a good way to get around all that. If you grab a seat at the bar, you’ll also get the benefit of watching as your food is cooked in front of you. The portions here are perfect for solo diners - get the lamb skewer and crab noodles.
Your heart’s desires can be complicated but your stomach’s desires are extremely simple, especially when you’re alone. Beer and Burger in Dalston answers these base level needs in the most straightforward way possible. This spot is pretty much made for lone wolves wolfing down a double cheese with fries and gravy, and a pint of pale ale for good measure. It’s casual, it’s comfortable, and it’s what you want when you’re on your own.
We’ve eaten Xi’an’s cold liangpi noodles and steamed pork and vegetable dumplings alone precisely three million times. This is our first stop whenever we’ve spent any elongated time out of London and realised that 1) London is the best city in the world, and 2) living a life without these noodles and dumplings is not a life worth living. Xi’an is opposite Arsenal’s stadium in Highbury, it’s quiet, it’s casual, and it’s always perfect for alone time.
The last time we were at Theo’s alone - just us, a bufalina pizza, a pomodoro-stained book, and an entire cup of that homemade chilli oil - the table next to us stage whispered “we should have got one each”. So, if you’re looking for that happy mix of pizza and smug self satisfaction, then grab a window seat at Theo’s in Camberwell. Not only will you eat a delicious Neapolitan pizza all to yourself, but others will wish they were doing the same.
Popolo isn’t the most spectacular Italian restaurant in London, but it’s one of Shoreditch’s only restaurants that isn’t full of screaming crowds that will make you consider a life by the seaside. There’s plenty of counter seating, both upstairs by the windows and downstairs at the bar, and it makes for a savvy choice when you’re in the ’ditch craving a bit of peace and pappardelle.
The most common problem people have with eating alone is judgement. It’s like Terminator: Judgement Day, only instead of murderous robots there are couples with beady eyes. At Nandine in Camberwell you’ll get none of those looks. This homely Kurdish restaurant is welcoming and comfortable, and it shows in their food. The mezze plate is perfectly designed for one and is definitely the thing to get.
The savviest way to come to Padella is definitely on your own. How many people do you see queuing just for little old them? Not many. Padella is the ideal solo spot: it’s delicious, cheap, and has a bar area to sit at and keep you entertained. Best of all though is those pastas that you usually share. Now they’re all for you. Just think, that cacio e pepe: all for you. Beef shin ragu: all for you. Just for one never sounded so good.
The interior may feel a little bit smart, but the second Hoppers isn’t formal at all, and its choice of window seats make it excellent for a solo Sri Lankan session. Get yourself an egg hopper, a prawn kari, roll up your sleeves (if you have any), and get mopping. It’s just as delicious as the original and just as good as on your own. Plus, there’s nothing quite like stuffing your face at a window seat and staring someone out.
Bocca is one of London’s best Italian restaurants, so an impromptu meal for more than one is usually impossible. But it’s relatively easy to walk in and grab a solo seat at the bar in the middle of the action. If you don’t want a main, they serve the majority of their regional Italian menu in starter/tasting size portions. Regardless, there should be a pasta in front of you, and probably also the langoustines.
If there’s an experience that confirms that restaurants are, in fact, better dates than people, it is a solo dinner at Barrafina - because this tapas is better without sharing. Go in, sit at the bar, and get whatever you fancy. The classics are always good, but let the staff guide you on what your best bets might be on the day you’re there. Get a cold glass of albarino while you watch your food being prepped, and be glad that you won’t need to count the bites of your prawn to make sure you’re splitting it evenly.