Where To Go With Someone You Haven’t Seen In A Year
The restaurants that have got you sorted when you’ve got a whole 12 months to catch up on.
This one goes out to every poor soul who is trying to arrange a PLCU. What’s a PLCU? No, it’s not the latest government scandal that will make you Google ‘living off the grid’. It stands for Post-Lockdown Catch-Up, and when you’re trying to organise the mother of all catch-ups there are a lot of things to consider. You don’t want a restaurant that’s too loud to talk, or so quiet that you’ll spend the next three hours staring into the distance, wondering how long you can drag out that story about seeing a squirrel steal someone’s e-cigarette last May. No, you want somewhere feel-good, somewhere a little bit special, and somewhere that will allow you to catch up on everything from Zoom dates to DIY dramas for the next few hours. Somewhere exactly like the great, catch-up-ready restaurants on this guide. PLCUs, commence.
The last time you saw this person they were in the middle of disputing an Uber chunder fee and now they live with someone called Stephen, have two pet chickens, and can diagnose different types of plant fungus. The times, they are a-changin’. Now, you’re going to need an hour to cover the chickens alone, so a proper feast at Royal China is in order. This Cantonese restaurant is the place to be when you want a round of dim sum, a whole duck, fried udon, and fuck it, another round of dim sum. The food here is uniformly excellent and the views of the Thames won’t hurt either.
It turns out that the answer to ‘how are you?’ is really quite complicated when you’ve spent months of your life eating garlic bread in bed and reading ‘poetry’. Oh, you know, fine! You’ll say, because ‘been miserable’ might lower the mood. But you should know that it’s safe to unleash your feelings at Llerena, a straightforward tapas spot in Islington that always feels like a distinctly safe, cosy place to be. Don’t skip the churros. Or the ham. Or the morcilla mondonga. Basically, get it all.
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If you’re not sure what to say when you meet up with someone you haven’t seen in forever, try ‘have you done something to your hair’. We can guarantee it’s either grown, been lovingly attacked with a pair of nail scissors, or dutifully turned stress-grey over the past 12 months. Another excellent conversation starter is ‘look at that view’, a phrase you can definitely crack out at Tavolino. This Italian restaurant overlooks Tower Bridge, has that whole sentimental European rattan terrace thing going on, and is the perfect place to recount your feeble attempts at learning another language circa March 2020 whilst shovelling some spicy nduja and pork ragu tagliatelle in your mouth. The cacio e pepe is also a winner and on the right sunny day you can’t beat the ultimate catch-up combo, river views and top negronis.
If you’ve given this friendship the same level of love and care you offer that poor cactus in your bathroom, then Meraki is the perfect place to create an aura of ‘hi, so very sorry I’ve been an aloof asshole, I do miss you’. We’re talking smile-inducing tzatziki, the crispiest of great crispy squids, and some of London’s all-time must-order lamb chops. A relaxed but feelgood restaurant, it’s the kind of place where a spicy paloma and some tuna tartare can easily turn into a four-course meal and a sweet bottle of white from Santorini. Basically, it’s the perfect apology in hummus-packed form.
Quality Chop House
Fancy a qual catch-up at Qual Chop? Xx
Look, when the text’s write themselves, you know it’s a good idea. Quality Chop House is a British restaurant in Clerkenwell that is effectively meat heaven, with a side of ‘FMU this bread is fantastic’. As well as serving perfectly-cooked slabs of meat off of the kind of plates that make you want to scour charity shops for vintage tableware, this place is a traditional restaurant that really, truly understands what you want from a great meal with a great person you’ve missed. Excellent food, excellent wines, and importantly, excellent free bread that you should treat as your trusty buttered sidekick to mop up each and every last bit of sauce. Plus, their confit potatoes rank highly in our mental list of Carbohydrates We Dream Of Regularly, Arguably Too Regularly. Get them. They’re 10/10.
Apart from that ten-minute DM exchange you had after being mutually outraged about who won Drag Race - Bimini is an icon, nay, iconique! Hope you and the cat are doing fine! Wild times! - you haven’t got a single clue about what is going on in this person’s life. That’s why dinner alone just isn’t going to cut it. But dinner and a long stroll around Chiswick? Sounds like peak catch-up territory to us. Hit up the seriously excellent smoked meats from Cue Point, who are currently serving wildly tasty things like buffalo chicken wings and lamb barbacoa out of The Chiswick Pavilion. Be sure to get involved in all the dips and a round of pints in The Chiswick Pavilion’s beer garden, then set off on a nice walk along the river or find a cute bench in the adjacent sports grounds.
The Riding House Café
Some people think that brunch was invented so that nice millennials could get absolutely plastered before 12pm, guilt-free. We disagree. We believe that the quintessential purpose of the great marriage of brunch and lunch is catching-up with someone you haven’t seen in a hot minute. One of London’s best central brunch spots is The Riding House Café, a no-brainer brasserie that’s perfect for pretty much every occasion, including a daytime deep-and-meaningful about how you spent the pandemic. Arguably, we never thought we’d write that sentence but here we are. Be sure to try the pancakes and know that they’ve got a gazebo on their terrace so you can rest assured that you’ll be, erm, literally covered if the weather takes a turn.
Rule one of the PLCU: Do not mention banana bread. We repeat, do not mention banana bread. Unless of course you want your dining companion to take cover under the table and start whispering ‘please don’t talk about adding cinnamon’. Anyway, rule number two is: pick somewhere that’s covered if the weather looks like it might be trash. On that note, Peckham Bazaar’s terrace is not only a lovely place to eat grilled octopus and baked feta, it’s also completely protected from the British weather. As well as providing shelter for a rainproof catch-up, this Mediterranean restaurant is laid back enough that you also won’t be interrupted by any noisy groups or blaring music. Perfect.
You’ve spent a whole lot of time with this person. There was that 48-hour bender in Berlin, the glorious, five unwashed days at Glastonbury, and an entire week in Magaluf that neither of you can talk about for legal reasons. Circolo Popolare is the perfect restaurant for an extended catch-up with someone where your bond is predominantly based on the fact that you both feel vile after sambuca but love a shot of limoncello. This huge, glitzy Italian trattoria in Fitzrovia is a good times restaurant through and through, and whether you go for the pun-tastic ‘I Wanna Nduja’ pizza or the carbonara that’s served out of a big wheel of pecorino, we can guarantee you’ll have a laugh. Get involved in a couple Rossini Spritz out on their buzzing terrace for peak holiday flashbacks.
The Winemakers Club
A year is a long time. Arguably not long enough for us to finally open a savings account, but it’s a long time nonetheless. And maybe this person you’re meeting up with has changed a lot over the past 12 months, afterall the Kimye divorce news affected us all differently. That’s why The Winemaker’s Club is the perfect choice if you’re not sure if you want to spend 30 minutes or three hours catching up with someone. A moody wine bar underneath Holborn Viaduct, you can either have a glass of chianti and be on your way, or spend several hours working through their great wine list whilst nibbling on charcuterie and their extra cheesy raclette toasties. That being said, even if your mate has turned into the kind of person that shows you pictures of their completed jigsaw puzzles, this wine bar is so nice that we have a feeling you’ll want to stick around.