Most people see eating alone as a bit of a sad thing to do. If you’re sitting in a square alone feeding the pigeons the crusts of your BLT then yes, that is deeply depressing. But if you’re getting into otherwise packed restaurants without a wait or reservation, ordering whatever you want and you eating it all yourself, well that sounds pretty good every now and again doesn’t it?
Eating solo doesn’t have to be an occasional necessity, it can be an absolute bloody luxury. So whether you find yourself flying solo after a last-minute cancellation, or just want somewhere to relax on your day off, here’s where to go to spend a few hours with nothing but some good food, good wine, and your own excellent company.
The warehouse vibe in Bermondsey makes it feel like the sort of place you can easily get stranded in, but once you’ve set yourself up at the bar in Londrino it’s very easy to get comfortable. There’s lots of natural light, some lovely staff, and an excellent choice of food and drink. The “Tribute to Gazela” Portuguese hot dog is an absolute must, as is the toasted rice ice cream and, to be honest, you’ll probably find yourself ordering a majority of the bar menu once one hour slips into two.
The are few situations that Song Que doesn’t fit for and this is yet another. The restaurant and room are perfect 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 on a loaf of bread. The pho is a go-to, as are the bun (rice vermicelli salads) and they’re perfect slurpers to enjoy whilst the horrors of Kingsland Road unfold outside.
There’s nothing more nourishing than family cooking, especially when you’re eating alone, and that’s what it feels like you’re getting when you’re at Monty’s. The vibe is diner-ish, but it’s a bit like if your friends and family owned a diner. Everyone is just so bloody nice. It’s Jewish family cooking - so expect enormous reubens, matzo soups, latkes and a chat about the barman’s relationship. Once you go once, you’ll find yourself back on a daily basis. Even if it’s just for a catch-up.
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 you usually share when you come here. Now they’re all for you. Cacio e pepe: all for you. Beef shin ragu: all for you. Spinach ravioli: all for you. You probably don’t need them all. But you do.
One of the main worries people have when eating alone is wondering what they should do with themselves. The great thing about Temper is that they’ve got that covered. The bar area 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 - or a curry if you’re really hungry - a drink and get a bit messy. No one you know can see you, after all.
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 (or whatever you’re feeling), 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 awkwardly staring someone out. After all, it’s much better to be on the inside looking out than the outside looking in.
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 at all 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 there’s nothing awkward about tapas when you don’t have to share them with anyone. Go straight 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 with this person you met on the internet.
Most restaurants close between lunch and dinner, annoyingly right at that time in the late afternoon that’s perfect for hanging out with a drink and doing nothing else. Spuntino in Soho is one of the few places that stays open all afternoon (and then, later, into the very early hours), making it a perfect place to drop in and hang out with a cold beer and a cheeseburger. The bar-oriented setup is also ideal for either meeting new people or having some quality time alone.
You’re meeting your mate for a drink in Soho later, but in the meantime you’re already in the neighbourhood and wandering around thinking about pasta like a hungry Italian raccoon. Now’s your chance to hit Bocca di Lupo for a spontaneous dinner. This 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 you’re one of those Londoners who likes to slap labels on things and needs to know whether a place is a pub, a bar, or a proper restaurant, Bergen House is going to be confusing. It’s a Newington Green local, but it’s not a pub. It has a fully stocked bar, but it doesn’t do cocktails. It serves one of the best steaks we’ve had in a while, but it’s not open for weekday lunch. Before you scream “Bergen House, what are you?” at nobody in particular and run, alone, to your nearest gastropub, go and check it out. Take a seat at the bar, order a beer and that steak we mentioned, and get talking to your neighbour. Before you know it you’ll be sharing food like you’re old friends. It’s just that kind of a place. And we’re jealous of anyone who lives within staggering distance of it.