One of life’s great pleasures is eating in a restaurant where your comfiest and most downright offensive clothing isn’t so much accepted as completely unacknowledged. Being looked up and down as if you’re a live action Red Nose Day appeal isn’t something you want, especially when you’ve gone somewhere because you just can’t be arsed. Thankfully there are plenty of restaurants across London that are as comfortable as you want to stay. Where you’ll be treated exactly the same, whether you’re wearing Prada or Primark, and keep you in that sofa state of mind. Only with much better food.
Ciao Bella, like your best friends parent’s house, is a place you’ll always feel warmly welcome in. Even if you have dropped a glass on the floor once or twice. It’s a trough of spaghetti and meatballs, plus a jug of wine kind of restaurant. A place where the atmosphere is simultaneously raucous and respectful. Nobody comes to Ciao Bella for any other reason but to feel good. And that’s whether you look it or not. Calling this restaurant popular is an understatement, so it’s worth calling ahead. Though there’s always their downstairs seating area as well.
A good bowl of pho is the food equivalent to lying in front of the fireplace listening to David Attenborough read out every nice thing ever said about you. It’s warming, nourishing, and Song Que is where you should be getting yours from. Aside from serving up some of the best broth in London, this Kingsland Road Vietnamese is perfectly unpretentious. Meaning that it’s just as perfect for a date as it is a day after the night before group dinner. You probably won’t get any huskily read compliments, but the food more than makes up for that.
One of Hackney’s most reliable and consistent restaurants that’s nice, but not so nice that they’ll look at your sliders with a hint of disdain, is Lardo. It’s a cool and casual Italian spot that serves wood-fire pizzas and a range of antipasti. Lardo is an ideal restaurant for the most casual of date nights: where you share a pizza, pasta, and a roasted fennel salad, without anyone even noticing your matching tracksuits.
We don’t know how it happened, but apparently, at some point, society decided that you have to actually put on some decent clothes before you even get your morning coffee. Where is the justice? At Ozone in Shoreditch, that’s where. This is the kind of big space where you’re just as likely to find a lowkey business lunch in one of the booths at the back, as you are someone sat on a stool by the window powering through their hangover with some crispy lamb shoulder and smoked beetroot for company. Basically, whether you’re dropping in for a coffee to go, or a full sit-down wagyu beef burger situation, there’s no need to abandon your trusty cosies.
When you really can’t be bothered for anything. Like, really, really can’t be bothered for anything besides lifting up a fork and feeling 100% cotton against your skin, then Gokyuzu is the place to be. One of the many excellent things about this legendary Turkish spot on Green Lanes is that it’s open from 9am - 2am. Meaning that you can be eating a lahmacun in your pyjama top at 10am, and a bowl of manti in your pyjama top at 10pm. Which is all we really ask for in a restaurant.
If you look at a venn diagram of comfort, comfy clothes, and food, you’ll see three circles that look like the emblem of a pizza cult. That’s because pizza and comfort are intrinsically linked, like tabloid newspapers and out-of-court settlements. Yard Sale is a pizza place with spots in Clapton, Finsbury Park, and Walthamstow. Their gigantic 18 inch pizzas with toppings like broccoli and manchego, or Sicilian sausage and chilli, will be as welcome to your stomach as the staff are to you. Their spaces aren’t massive, but they’re homely, happy, and delicious places to be.
Dotori is a mile a minute Korean and Japanese restaurant in Finsbury Park where nobody gives a flying fart about what you’re wearing or who you’re with. The reason being that this no reservations spot is far too busy seating people queuing outside, putting down portions of their sizzling bibimbap, or taking pick-up orders for the lazy sods who can’t be bothered to wait ten minutes for a seat (us). We tend to stick to the Korean menu, though you’ll be content here regardless. Just bear in mind it’s cash-only.
The Queen could walk into The Fryer’s Delight hankering after saveloy and chips, and Amal Clooney could walk in with her husband nagging for scampi, and you’d all still end up getting the same handful of tartare sauce packets. That’s just the kind of place this no nonsense chippy is. The red formica booths are a bit of a London icon, and the fish and chips on top of them aren’t bad either. Few things are as comforting as a chip butty and a cup of builder’s. This is a solid place for both.
The top three spaces for comfy clothes goes something like: your sofa, your parent’s nicer sofa, and the biscuit aisle of your corner shop. Go to Persepolis in Peckham, and you’ll walk through the biscuit aisle to find a brilliant and serene café that serves a huge range of Persian-inspired vegan food as well. You can either go a la carte alone and get yourself a mezze platter for one, or, if there are at least two of you in need of some TLC, go for the £20 tasting menu. It’s a happy and relentless amount of food that starts with falafels and dips, and ends with baklava and ice cream sundae.
If you rock up to E. Pellicci wearing head-to-toe peacock feathers like some human Zazu, the jolly family that owns and runs this place will probably mock you mercilessly before you’ve managed to consume even a single baked bean. This proper, old school London caff is all about fried bread, communal banter, casual fun, and waging a one-man eating contest with yourself as you try to finish every last scrap of their truly massive full English. You can do it. Remember there’s no jean button constraints to stand in your way.
Have you ever seen a sleepy rabbit chowing down on some fresh coriander? Of course you have, that’s just what happens when you fall down a YouTube hole. Well, at Granger and Co. in Clerkenwell, you can completely channel a relaxed, overtly cosy herb-loving pet. Everything from the prawn, XO, and nduja fried rice to the excellent crispy chicken burger here comes topped with a handful of coriander, so it’s perfect for a casual lunch or catch up dinner where you want to be relaxed but also feel like you’re keeping it kind of healthy.
We have so much respect and affection for the cold noodles at Xi’an Impression, that if they jumped up off the plate and asked us to put on a suit jacket and style a bouffant, we’d do it. But that would never happen. Partially because, as far as we know, noodles can’t talk, but mostly because this small Chinese spot in Highbury not only serves some of the best hand-pulled noodles in London, but it’s also laid back enough for a completely casual meal.
Lovely, lovely pubs. The spiritual home of pints and never being underdressed. The Camberwell Arms also serves some truly excellent food, like pork fat and scotch bonnets on toast, crab soup, and an oxtail and saffron risotto that you should definitely order if it’s on the menu. Of course, you can stop by on a weeknight, but coming here for a Sunday roast wearing your comfiest trackies will bring a whole new meaning to Sunday best.
Ever seen someone eating oysters and drinking champagne at a rock ‘n’ roll gig? Or someone prepping a chicken with shake ‘n’ bake in a ball gown? No, of course you haven’t, because anything involving ‘‘n’’ is usually a pretty casual affair - and Chick ‘N’ Sours is no different. This Haggerston spot serves Asian-inspired fried chicken - think kung pao disco wings and K-pop burgers - with sour cocktails that will have you merrily wandering home chilled, full of rum, and distinctly happy with your decision to forego jeans.