Where To Go When You've Got Festival FOMO
FOMO 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 and serving £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 Billie Eilish live in a field and instead enjoy listening to her with a burger and a shot in hand.
Ewarts is 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 an always 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. You’ll want the jerk chicken, wings, and the pork belly chunks for sure. 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.
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. A 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 say you’re permanently ghosting portaloos with great conviction. 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.
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photo credit: Karolina Wiercigroch
The restaurant formerly known as Black Axe Mangal (AKA 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 compliments cold beers and the big flavours of lamb offal flatbread or a blood orange trifle to finish. Best of all, Highbury and Islington is very well connected, so you can stumble home to your bed rather than a tent.
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 hail bale? No disrespect to Paul McCartney, but we all know it’s the latter. Luckily, sitting outside and feeling like a hot mess 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 that is just as ‘hello summer’ as it sounds. 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.
photo credit: Forza Wine Serving Us Glorious Sunset Realness
There are several rooftop restaurants in London but none of them pull off casual cool with a side of spectacular south London views like Forza Wine. The Peckham wine bar keeps things simple with industrial chairs and sleek tables that really lets the sunset speak for itself. The other thing that sets this place apart is the fact that the food is genuinely great. Like, really great. Expect things like grilled flatbread with taleggio and oil-drenched panzanella. This is much better than sitting in a field, from anyone's point of view.
This 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 packed full of happy groups cracking into their jingling bags from the offy.
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.
Good old Benji famously said “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” and to that Pop Brixton said “lol ok”. Equal parts chaotic and delicious, this buzzing complex of shipping containers packed with food vendors and bars does a good job of making you feel like you’re right in the thick of it. There’s always something delicious to eat, whether that's a hefty souvlaki or a lamb jalfrezi burger—everyone will find something here. Grab a drink, pick up some food, find somewhere nice to perch, and thank the Pop Brixton gods for creating somewhere for the non-planners.
Chick 'N' Sours
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.