Where To Go When You've Got Festival FOMOFOMO is incurable but good food, booze, and your lovely pillows are a decent alternative.
A restaurant can’t really feel like a festival, we know. But the point of this guide isn’t to direct you towards a place filled with crusty folk playing windpipes that serves £15 jacket potatoes. The point of this guide is to make you feel better. FOMO is hard to cure, but a restaurant full of good food, booze, and a lively atmosphere is a pretty good distraction. So temper your hopes of seeing Arctic Monkeys live in a field and instead enjoy listening to them with a burger and a shot in hand.
It’s not quite sleeping in a tent made for two with a group of six, but a car park turned rooftop bar has some of that same festival grit. Frank’s Café is on top of a multi-storey car park in Peckham and does hangover-curing food. Queuing to get in here is not, not like queuing for toilets at a festival. If you find that triggering, just remember there’s a sunset to watch once you get in, and unlike at a festival, the drinks are reasonably priced.
La Chingada, a Mexican restaurant in Surrey Quays, turns this otherwise grey stretch of road into a glorious technicolour festival. It recreates that eating-in-a-field feeling, but with actually good food and stools for when your backache inevitably kicks in. Pile in, napkins at the ready, and dodge other people balancing tacos and tostadas. At this tiny taqueria everything is ramped up to 11. It’s the multi-coloured comic sans sign. The kaleidoscopic chicken shop-style interior. Fluoro red chilli sauce being poured onto the crispiest of chicken wings. And green salsa verde getting on everything.
So your mates are all off for a weekend of wild swimming, sleeping in luxury yurts, and eating salad under the stars. While you can’t erect a full-on safari tent in your local park, you can surround yourself with food stalls and eat on the grass. Take yourself off to Jay Dees, a Caribbean spot right around the corner from Portobello Market. A box of their takeaway charred jerk chicken in a spicy, fruity sauce is best enjoyed in nearby Tavistock Gardens, or wandering around sampling food from other stalls.
Ewarts is a Caribbean spot in the middle of Gillett Square in Dalston. It’s where the blasting of reggae and the cracking of tinnies is a perma-soundtrack and Ewart’s smoking drum wafts a deliciously welcoming smell. This is east London’s most legit jerk chicken. It’s rubbed dry, cooked fresh, and has that smokiness and crisp char that can’t be replicated. This is also where NTS have its square parties so, a few days a year things get turned up to about as festival-like as you could want.
The restaurant Formerly Known As Black Axe Mangal (a.k.a F.K.A.B.A.M.) has always been something of a riot. It’s a day festival in a cupboard where a shot of borscht comes alongside a shot of vodka. Expect loud music: heavy metal, thrash, and anything that complements cold beers and the big flavours of lamb offal flatbread or a cointreau chocolate orange mousse to finish. Best of all, Highbury & Islington is very well connected, so you can stumble home to your bed rather than a tent.
The cash-only, BYOB Thai spot in Leytonstone is hot in every sense of the word. Getting a table here is no mean feat—so if you’re looking for some Glastonbury-like envy from your friends, this is your place. Its legendary changing specials board will likely KO everyone from the performative hot sauce lover to the genuine chilli enthusiast. Everything about Singburi is full throttle. From the fierce and pungent flavours to the tight-knit dining room packed full of happy groups cracking into their jingling bags from the offy.
Sure, your mates are having ‘the best weekend of their lives’ but guess who had the pleasure of having a hot shower this morning and is about to eat truffle-packed mafaldine? It’s you. An Italian restaurant comprising three themed areas, this Covent Garden spot goes from Amalfi holiday destination to moody ‘70s basement, all rounded off by the kind of rainbow bathrooms that will make you permanently ghost portaloos. About as daft as the concept of paying £200 for the humbling act of a baby wipe bath, Ave Mario is most definitely a silly restaurant. But it’s the perfect place to witness a humongous stracciatella gelato cake be wheeled around. This is our version of ‘getting trollied’ and might we just say, it’s fabulous.
Some people’s most formative memories involve seaside holidays with their parents or the first time they discovered their one true creative passion. Ours was watching a man dressed as a goblin steal a police golf buggy on the Sunday night at Reading Festival, then proceed to perform a one-man fire theatre show called Pop-Up Tent Annihilation. Take that energy, tone it down a little on the old pyromania, mix in a deep-fried hot dog, and you’ve got Meatliquor. A huge diner and bar behind everyone’s favourite capitalist party, Oxford Circus, this place has ‘poke for Jäger buttons’ on every table, disco balls, and importantly, loaded hippie fries. FYI it’s open until 3am every night of the week.
Are festivals about the music or are they about drinking for so long that you look like you’ve got a whole body tattoo of a hay bale? No disrespect to Elton John, but we all know it’s the latter. Luckily, sitting outside and feeling like hot shit is something you can do in London too. At Acme Fire Cult, you also get the added bonus of smoother than smooth tahini with smoked potatoes and a fermented squash hummus. A covered and—ding ding ding—heated terrace located in Dalston’s 40FT Brewery, this place specialises in live fire cooking which, yes, involves hefty slabs of quality meat and creative vegetarian dishes being grilled on the big outdoor barbecue. Negronis and pints encouraged.
When you’re fighting off the FOMO, there are three things you need. Firstly, a buzzy atmosphere. Secondly, sour cocktails that will have you merrily wandering home full of rum. And thirdly, a hefty amount of fried chicken. Chick ‘n’ Sours’ Haggerston branch (versus Covent Garden or Islington) is our favourite of the bunch. It’s lively, it’s fun, and it’s a no-brainer for a tasty and not-too-expensive meal in the area.
If the highlight of all your festival experiences includes eating BBQ street food outside, with an endless supply of beer, wishing you never had to leave, then Cue Point is the place for you. This brisket specialist, in residency at Orbit Brewery in Walworth, peaks in the summertime. Because that’s when you can grab one of the many outside tables, catch a tan, talk shit with some friends for a couple hours, and enjoy one of London’s best brisket buns—all while knowing you can go home to an actual bed afterwards.