Where To Meet Up With Someone For Exactly 1 Hour So You Can Go Home & Be Alone Again
Now that “catching up” is suddenly everyone’s favourite activity, it’s time to practice the art of the hour-long drink-and-snack.
It doesn’t really matter why, but for some reason you want to avoid spending more than an hour with this person. Maybe you’re meeting them as a favour to your aunt (who’s loaded), maybe it’s nothing personal and you secretly liked spending your evening on the sofa and can’t wait to get back to it every time you leave, or maybe you want to avoid spending too much time with anyone in case they notice that you’ve forgotten how to interact with people that aren’t your cat.
Whatever the reason, it’s time to practice the art of the hour-long drink-and-snack. And these spots are ideal for first dates, coworker reunions, and third-tier friend meet-ups—especially because you can be in and out in an hour to go home and watch TV by yourself.
Where To Meet Up With Colleagues That Isn’t A Zoom Call
photo credit: Karolina Wiercigroch
The idea of leaving the house—spontaneous, refreshing, witnessing stimuli outside of Twitter—is great. The reality—rain, walking, someone asking you how you are and all you can say is ‘did you see that dog that can diagnose gout on Twitter?’—is not always so cute. That’s why you’ve got to keep socialising to short, sweet manageable bursts involving quickfire rounds of udon. Home to London’s best noodles, Koya is a no-reservations counter in Soho designed for deeply satisfying but speedy meals. Trust us, the curry atsu-atsu will make those excruciating eight minutes of walking from the tube entirely worth it.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
Café Deco has lots of things going for it. Firstly, it's a café. So you can get things like egg mayonnaise and a slice of cake. Two things that very much fit into a sitcom-like get together between two friends who both inexplicably happen to live in Bloomsbury. More importantly, Café Deco is also a wine bar and lovely restaurant, so you can eat charcuterie and have a glass or two of something funky. Those are two things that make time fly. And if there's a better way or place to spend an hour in central London, we're yet to find it.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Be the first to get expert restaurant recommendations for every situation right in your inbox.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
Chestnut Bakery Belgravia
When done right, this bakery in Victoria can be the one-stop shop you need when looking to avoid any chance of a suggestion to “get dessert after”. This airy spot on Elizabeth Street has a clay oven that churns out some excellent flatbreads. Think delicious combinations like merguez and garlic aioli, or burrata and honey. But that’s not all, they’ve got loaf cakes, lemon meringue croissants that would make your dentist cringe, and raspberry doughnuts that will leave zero stomach space for anything else. Basically, it’s the ideal spot for a speedy catch-up where the sheer number of freshly baked options on display will ensure that whoever you’re with has no chance to even suggest hitting somewhere else after.
You like this person. Not enough that you want to spend hours with them, but enough that you want them to think you’re cool by taking them to this casual and adorable café in King’s Cross. Unlike Bao’s other spots, this place is less about confit pork-packed sit-down meals and more about picking up some delicious sweet stuff wrapped up in equally delicious steamed dough. Think cute peach-shaped red bean white chocolate bao, molten seasonal specials, and our personal favourite, the salted egg custard sad face bao. Pick up a box of those, a couple of their steamed dough sausage rolls, and head to the canal for a light snack and speedy catch-up.
Over Under Coffee
You don’t remember when you agreed to go for a “catch-up!” with this person you haven’t seen since uni, but they must’ve caught you mid-lockdown, when you rewatched Yes Man and felt it spoke to you on a spiritual level. Don’t cancel, that’s not very Jim Carrey of you. Instead head to Australian coffee spot Over Under. Not only do they do great coffee, the kind of formidable pancakes that are so good they probably deserve their own star on a mythical pancake Walk of Fame, they’ve also got a heated outdoor terrace that you can book in advance so you won’t have any of that awkward waiting in the queue small talk. Also worth noting that in the evening they serve cocktails.
This Lebanese bakery in East Acton could very well have been created with this exact situation in mind. It’s right on the A40, it isn’t surrounded by any other restaurants or coffee shops, there’s usually somewhere to park very close by, and it’s the perfect place to spend one hour - and one hour only - with a third-tier friend. Although their mains are good, the real reason you come here is for the manakeesh, specifically the meat and cheese, and spinach and cheese. And for £3.50 a pop you can easily enjoy a speedy catch-up for under a tenner. There’s no chance the person you’re with will suggest walking somewhere for dessert, or getting a coffee nearby, because there aren’t all that many places on offer.
When you’re in the kind of rush that means you can’t rely on other people to get you home on time, what you need is a self service situation. Enter this Caribbean cash-only takeaway spot that you really want to know about. For £7.50 you can get a tupperware packed to the brim with charred jerk chicken, rice and peas, cabbage, beans, and carrots, all covered in a perfectly spicy and fruity sauce. It’s as delicious as it is generous, and there’s lots more on the menu as well, from curried goat to saltfish patties. Order a bunch of stuff and walk up the road a minute to Tavistock Gardens, where you can find yourself a nice spot to eat and chat.
London’s Best Park Bench Meals
Suggesting a wine bar might give off the impression that you’re in it for a good time and a long time. But heading to an all-day cafe that serves wine and cocktails? That says exactly what you want it to say. And this striking Chelsea spot has a huge courtyard on the King’s Road as well as a roof terrace and a drinks menu with cocktails, wine, and beer that’s perfect for a boozy (but quick) catch-up.
Patatas bravas. A single, glorious, lamb chop. And a beetroot borani that would go perfectly with pretty much anything from their cocktail list. That’s what you can expect from this little spot on Exmouth Market that’s doing some pretty tasty small plates. It’s a tiny space, so the outdoor seating is a welcome addition, and the perfect place to set up tent for the hour while you discuss exactly what you have not been up to this past lockdown over some incredible crispy aubergine and a glass of something nice.
Ozone Coffee Roasters
Meeting someone for a coffee can sometimes be code for ‘I don’t want to be here’, but in the case of Ozone it’s code for I really want to be here, and by here you’ll mean in your friend’s company, but mostly in the company of this Emma Street cafe’s excellent eggs benedict on bubble ‘n’ squeak. The brunch options at this all-day cafe are great, as is the coffee, and if you keep it to brunch and coffee, you can be in and out within the hour.
Bar Pepito in King’s Cross is a great place to go if you’re looking for something lowkey that involves meat and wine. This little tapas bar is ideal as a casual catch-up spot. Just make sure you bring someone who you’re comfortable taking the last slice of jamon from. With everything from a cheese platter to iberico scotch eggs, it’s a pretty solid option for when you want a bite and a drink. Or even a flight of sherry.
An ice-cream catch-up. Hear us out. Everyone loves ice-cream. There’s no waiting around, it’s a grab-and-go situation, and having dessert first subtly tells them the end is near. The flavours change regularly - the sour cherry stracciatella or blood orange sorbet are amazing if they’re on, and even the classics like pistachio and chocolate are a cut above anywhere else. Delicious ice-cream for you, and a 45 minute catch-up for them.
Nothing says ‘let’s keep this short’ like a menu with six options, all of which involve different variations of egg. This spot in Notting Hill is the perfect place to bring someone when you want absolutely no faffing about and one bacon, egg, and cheese roll on their outdoor terrace. Get a bun each, maybe a buttermilk biscuit, and take your time, because how long could it take to finish an egg bun?