Many people have something against eating alone - but those people are wrong. When you’re by yourself, it’s easy to get into otherwise packed places, you can order whatever you want, and you never have to worry about splitting the bill with anyone. Eating solo isn’t an occasional necessity, but an absolute bloody luxury.
So whether you’re by yourself because of a last-minute cancellation, or just in search of someplace to relax on your day off, here’s where to go and enjoy a few hours with nothing but some good food, good wine, and your own excellent company.
There’s a real lack of things to do around Victoria. Except one worthy activity: eating at Lorne, the best restaurant in SW1. Should you find yourself in the neighbourhood, head here and grab a seat at the bar or one of the tables at the back. The seafood at this modern European place is particularly outstanding, and the desserts are even better. Plus, there are plenty of excellent by-the-glass wines to keep you entertained.
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.
Your old mate from uni just texted to cancel on you, which means you’ve won the lottery for misanthropes. Celebrate at Brawn, where the route to success is simple: post up at the bar, order a glass of wine and a plate of pasta, and read a magazine (or your phone). The French and Italian-ish menu has plenty of things you’d be happy to eat every day (particularly the panna cotta), and the atmosphere is lively without being too loud.
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.
Noble Rot combines incredible modern British food with a cool wine bar feel that makes you want to stay for as long as they’ll let you. You can enjoy this place with any number of people, but it’s also perfect for dining solo - sit up front in the quieter bar, or at the back where there’s more going on. Even if your meal consisted only of wine and their excellent bread, it would make for a memorable solo night out.
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.
A sushi counter is always a good call when eating alone, but the problem is that most of them tend to pricier than gold-leaf loo roll. Jugemu in Soho hits the right balance between good quality and affordability, and when you’re there, you’ll feel like you walked down a side street in Shibuya and into one of those restaurants you’re always seeing on the Travel Channel. The move here is either the £15 omakase with a side of dumplings, or a bowl of their incredible tempura soba, which is among the best in London.
Bao’s Fitzrovia restaurant, just off Tottenham Court Road, is perfect for solo eating, not just because you can skip the queue, but also because this location in general is so much more spacious and comfortable than the original Soho restaurant. The bar is great for people-watching, and they specialise in rice bowls here. Your order is one of those, a bao, and a cocktail.