The Best Walk-In Only Restaurants For When You Forgot To Make A Booking guide image


The Best Walk-In Only Restaurants For When You Forgot To Make A Booking

Because spontaneity (and disorganisation) is the spice of life.

There are people who make plans and there are people who plan to make plans. This guide is for the latter. So the next time you decide you’d like to go to an excellent restaurant for dinner, before realising several hundred sickeningly organised people have had the same idea, head to one of these spots instead. These aren’t restaurants that save a few seats for walk-ins. These are restaurants entirely made for those of us who lean a little more spontaneous.


40 Maltby Street review image

40 Maltby Street


40 Maltby St, Camberwell
View WebsiteEarn 3X Points

Open Wednesday to Saturday with a changing menu that jumps from terrine to fritters to rhubarb jelly with Jersey cream, 40 Maltby is an any day, any night, any situation kind of establishment. The Bermondsey wine bar and small plates restaurant is a hidden away, strictly no reservations hot spot. Given their excellent wine list, spending any amount of time waiting at the bar is a blessing rather than a curse.

Open since 1998, this Chinatown staple has been around longer than most people you follow on TikTok have been alive. And once you try the nasi lemak you’ll understand why it continues to be a top pick for the people who know about it. You’ll find all the traditional Malay dishes, but the go-to move here should be that nasi lemak. Fragrant rice with coconutty curry sauce, alongside tender chicken that’s been cooked in that same coconut-heavy curry. A casual spot, it's perfect for a low-key dinner with a group of friends in central. Just FYI your whole party has to arrive before you get a seat, so consider that before inviting that friend who’s always having “TFL troubles”.

Sign up for our newsletter.

Be the first to get expert restaurant recommendations for every situation right in your inbox.

By signing up, I agree to the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Koya Soho review image

Koya Soho



OpenTable logo

Koya is a teeny tiny Japanese restaurant on Frith Street in Soho that serves exceptional hand-pulled udon, huge donburis, and London’s best steam facial courtesy of the curry atsu-atsu. Because of those chewy noodles, you’ll usually find a queue of people waiting outside with a look of katsu concentration on their faces. But Koya, we thank you for being open from 10am until 10pm daily so our last-minute udon cravings are always covered. 

photo credit: Karolina Wiercigroch

Padella review image


Padella is one of those restaurants that everyone and their cousin's dog bigs up. Except with Padella, it actually lives up to the hype. The London Bridge, handmade pasta spot is a no reservations, industrial-looking place. On the concise menu, there’s a handful of antipasti and a list of seasonally-changing pastas, all for under £15, that you’ll wish were a year-round thing. But there are some solid fixtures like the pici cacio e pepe that you won’t want to share—and at £11, there’s no need to. They’ve got a virtual queue system going so put your name down and head around the corner for a glass of wine while you wait.

You’re not going to walk into Dim Sum & Duck. Not unless you’re getting there at 11:59am on a Tuesday morning. But even then, don’t be surprised if a few people have had the same idea. The Cantonese restaurant in King’s Cross is one of the best around… and lots of people know it. So when you’ve got a hankering for superb xiaolongbao and glistening ho fun noodles and don’t mind waiting around for (most likely) an hour, then you know where to head.

The morning is a particularly abysmal time to realise that you a) invited everyone to brunch and b) forgot that you invited everyone to brunch and are now wondering if a McMuffin is a socially acceptable offering. Friend, meet Juliet’s, home to London’s best eggs, expert coffee, and a pistachio cake that convinced us once and for all that yuzu is the ultimate icing flavour. During the weekend you’ll often find a short queue snaking out the door of this Tooting cafe but trust us, any wait is worth it for the zesty smoked pumpkin omelette and the signature homemade tonkatsu breakfast bap that will make you ghost McMuffins forever. 

The lack of solid reservations for the dinner you said you’d plan two weeks ago could be seen as chaotic, indecisive, or just proof that you’re a gemini through and through. Or it could be a spontaneous, smart move on your part because Roti King, an excellent walk-in only Malaysian spot in Euston, is the perfect place to come with a couple of friends for some flakey roti and mutton curry. It’s all about perspective. This basement spot also serves really great versions of Malaysian hawker stall staples like char kway teow, nasi goreng, and a proper laksa for £7.50. Hit it for a tasty, no-frills meal, though be warned that there can be queues at peak hours. And in case you were looking for one more reason to go, it’s BYOB.

A much-loved seasonal cafe, only open in spring and summer, on Regent’s Canal in east London, Towpath is one for early risers and early birds. On a glorious morning or evening, spaces tend to go fast here. But that isn’t just because it’s one of the most idyllic spots around. It’s because the food is so good too. Giant, sweet, and juicy dressed marinda tomatoes on toast. The gooiest of cheese toasties. Patience or some vague night before planning is required but it’s very much worth it.

Chase Sapphire Card Ad

Suggested Reading

The Best Pubs For Good Food In London guide image
The Best Pubs For Good Food In London

21 pubs for when you want to eat as well as you drink.

London’s New Restaurant Openings guide image

The new London restaurant openings you should know about.

The Hottest Dinner Spots In London Right Now guide image

Paris Hilton, eat your heart out. These are the London restaurants that are definitively hot right now.

Infatuation Logo
2023 © The Infatuation Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Get it on Google PlayDownload on the App Store