Aside from double dipping, eating alone has to be the biggest restaurant related stigma there is. But whether you’re working late, or happier with your podcasts for company than a person, there are times when you’re going to need a table for one. Most solve this by ordering a cold burger to their door, or gulping down a BLT, seagull-like, on the bus home. But eating alone should be celebrated and taken advantage of by going to the right restaurant.
There are a few things that make a restaurant perfect for eating alone. 1) A casual atmosphere. You don’t want Sauron-like judgement from anywhere in the room. 2) A good menu. This isn’t the time for sharing plates. And, 3) reasonable pricing. All of the restaurants below have these three things.
There’s something a little heavenly about the all-white, signal-less bar at St. John in Clerkenwell. There’s also something a little insane asylum about the whole look. 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 alcohol. And we could, if pushed, eat that Welsh rarebit forever and ever.
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.
The are few situations that Song Que 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 horrors of Kingsland Road unfold outside.
Sweetings is a lunchtime-only institution in the City that’s been around for a very long time serving seafood to the same type of person (see: trust fund) 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 to for some homely fish pie and a totally unnecessary pint.
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 was a sub 5.0 meal, but you’ll never get that 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.
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.
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 anyone, and that’s one of the reasons it’s our highest rated restaurant. 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.
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.
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.
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 crap 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 a load of bar seating opposite the kitchen, perfect for one person, a curry cheese bao, and bowl of aged beef with butter rice.
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 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.
Worried about being bored on your own? Then head to Temper City. The bar area here is genuinely enthralling. You get to see chefs hunk enormous bits of meat about, break them down, and then stick them on the barby. It’s hot, it’s smelly, and it’s great fun. Pitch up here, get a few starters, a drink, then get a bit messy as the chefs get even messier.
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.
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.
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.
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.