Where To Have A Long Meal Alone (When Everything Is Annoying You) guide image

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch


Where To Have A Long Meal Alone (When Everything Is Annoying You)

£5 negronis, slabs of tiramisu, a 12-course Cantonese feast, and other ideas for giving yourself some quality time.

Maybe your bus terminated early and it’s biblical outside. Maybe you just bumped into an old fling in your favourite coffee shop. Maybe, a pigeon just looked you dead in the eye before taking flight and unloading a McFlurry onto your head. Any one of these things would suggest that you and The World need a bit of alone time and that, perhaps, a nice, long, non-confrontational, solo meal is just what the doctor ordered. 


photo credit: Karolina Wiercigroch

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51 Pimlico Rd, London
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Hunan is a no-menu Chinese restaurant in between Chelsea and Pimlico that takes your choices away from you. You'll be served 12 or 18 courses, and only asked if you don’t like anything, and how spicy you can go. The menu says “trust us”. And when you have lost all trust in humanity, we reckon Hunan may just restore it. The room, all-white and serene, is like a dream sequence where you’ve died and gone to a prawn toast-filled heaven. Of course, 12 courses isn’t exactly a snip at £60-odd pounds, but in terms of elongated, relaxing, delicious meals, Hunan gives you bang for your buck.

One thing we like to do when we hate everyone and everything, is hide. It’s a very mature technique we learnt when we still wore bibs and dribbled on ourselves. Normah’s in Queensway Market is one of our favourite restaurants to hide in. The Malaysian spot is a low-key, homely place, where Normah herself does everything. She fries the crunchy chicken wings and she braises the meltingly good rendang. If maternal warmth and cooking is what you need, look no further.

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Café Deco is a temple of thoughtful contentment disguised as a cafe, restaurant, and wine bar in Bloomsbury. In the daytime, the dining room is a light-filled sanctuary where you can enjoy homemade soups or warming fish pie. At night, grab a seat on the counter and enjoy a room happily full of murmuring voices and yellow candlelight, elbows on the table, and spoons getting stuck into apple fritters and ice cream. Perfect.

Slump into Kaieteur Kitchen in a huff and you can guarantee that your frown will be turned upside down by any number of things. The Guyanese spot’s heartwarming hospitality is well-known, not just in Elephant and Castle but all over London, and its food is excellent. Pepper pot is a slow-cooked meaty puddle of brown deliciousness, with meat so tender it gives up before your plate is put down, and a sauce so rich with cloves, cassava, and cinnamon, that leaving even a drop is a crime. Roti is a must. 

photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli

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St. John



open table

A calming place in the pleasing category of Heaven-Like Spaces That Serve A Great Guinness, the bar at St. John’s in Smithfield is a sort of industrial, white, decompression chamber that also has a bakery with freshly made doughnuts. Which is kind of the dream, right? A midweek lunch at St. John’s bar, gloriously lacking in phone signal, but with an abundance of Welsh rarebit and Lea & Perrins sauce, is our idea of namaste.

If you lean back when sitting at Trattoria Brutto’s bar, you will not fall over. Because these mahogany stools have backs. If you order a negroni at Trattoria Brutto’s bar, you will not fall over from the price. Because these negronis cost £5. And if you order food at Trattoria Brutto’s bar, the only thing you will do is fall into a contented slump. The Florentine-inspired trattoria in Farringdon is all about little effort and maximum reward. Anchovies and butter that you can lazily throw on to St. John sourdough. Penne alla vodka for when you need to bow head first into a bowl of pasta. A hunk of tiramisu because, well, when isn’t a hunk of tiramisu welcome. 

Stools snake around Sweetings’ 130-something-year-old dining room, along the bar where oysters sit, and also facing the windows that look out onto The City. This stalwart British seafood institution isn’t just full of trust funds, but completely trusted. Comforting fish pies and unnecessary pints, followed by sticky toffee pudding and a pool of custard. Considering it’s only open in the daytime, in the week, it makes for one of London’s most unique solo meals.


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