Where To Eat When You’re Still In Love But Don’t Want To TalkWhen spending quality time in comfortable silence is top priority.
Love is eternal but the need for conversation is not. Maybe you’ve both had a long day, maybe your love language is physical touch, or maybe you’ve been together so long you’ve exhausted all topics and prefer to point at a flaming wok and say “wow, cool”. Whatever the reason, these restaurants—that range from the entertaining to the highly efficient—fit the bill for when you need deliciousness without discussion.
Wong Kei is where you don’t take those who need wooing, but those who have emerged from the Curzon Soho and need a plate of gravy-smothered char siu pork on rice and a dollop of chilli oil, stat. The cash-only, Cantonese institution in Chinatown isn’t romantic in the traditional sense (its soundtrack is the sound of plastic chopsticks scraping bowls), but it’s a restaurant that you often find yourself sharing with the ones you love most.
There are seldom more generous shows of love than sharing a box of JB’s lustrous jerk pork belly. The Caribbean spot in Peckham is an in-and-out kind of place. Open from 11am until 9pm (or until they run out), there is a careful comfort to everything that comes out of JB’s kitchen, be it rich oxtail or curry chicken falling from the bone. Cheeky backchat between staff and customers is regular, but these plastic boxes are best enjoyed in quiet satisfaction alongside a tower of napkins.
Words are shouted as much as they are spoken at Regency Cafe, an iconic Britalian caff in Westminster. This spot is best known for its aesthetically pleasing art deco interior and peerless fried breakfasts. Beans, black pudding, scrambled, and sunny-side-up are all words you’ll hear a lot of here—hollered from the kitchen. But many of the Regency’s patrons, regulars for decades or those who just landed in London, prefer to enjoy their plates with a newspaper or book beside them.
A meal at a reverential fine dining restaurant is the easiest way to nullify conversation as both of you check the time every 30 seconds. But Casa Fofò is a truly casual and enjoyable take on this type of restaurant. It’s a romantic neighbourhood spot in Hackney that serves genuinely creative and flavour-packed, globe-trotting food. Almost every dish of this mysterious, eight-course set menu puts everyone into stunned silence.
You’ve been together for seven years, nine months, and three days. But who’s really counting? The last conversation you had was yesterday, and that was to tell them that the fact that Richard Hammond is their favourite Top Gear presenter is your ick. What you need is a place to eat tacos in companionable silence, because neither of you can be trusted to speak. Sonora Taquería is a casual Mexican spot in Stoke Newington that’s ideal for a quick lunch of cheese crust quesadillas. The juicy, spicy chorizo tacos can be eaten in a few bites, which means no talking but lots of carb-based bonding.
If money talks and wealth whispers, Ploussard is barely audible—just like you. This Clapham restaurant has got attractive counter seating, ideal for when conversation is less of a flow and more of a trickle. Overlooking a busy intersection, you can watch cyclists in judgemental silence together, occasionally muttering “they aren’t wearing a helmet” as one flies past a red light. Get a spread of the European-leaning dishes—tender lamb and salty anchovy-topped crumpets and crispy squid ink crackers—and accept that side-by-side seating is the friend of all deeply in love but tired couples.
It’s July and you’ve just asked your partner if they’re looking forward to Christmas. It’s official, you’ve run out of things to say. Royal Mahal is a Pakistani restaurant in Tooting where it’s OK to be speechless. There’s so much going on that it's practically like going to a show anyway. Starters of dynamite chicken are served in silver goblets, delivered by bow tie-wearing waiters, and come with a side of billowing dry ice. At regular intervals a conga line of sparklers leaves the kitchen as a birthday song is blasted out over speakers. This isn’t where you come for a life-changing lamb biryani, but it’s where you come to stare wide-eyed at the golden chandeliers and wordlessly point at the neon-lit rock display in the bathroom.
Being comfortable enough to sit in silence is a green flag. So is your partner ordering the Milo soft serve for dessert when you were in the toilet. But while you don’t have the comforting hum of Netflix in the background of every conversation, Rambutan’s bustling kitchen will fill the void. It’s impossible to be bored at this Sri Lankan kitchen in Borough Market. There’s no such thing as an awkward silence because every moment is filled with the crackling fire from the aduppu or the hypnotising sight of roti being methodically scrunched. It’s like going to the theatre except better. Because as well as the entertainment, at the end of each scene you get things like buttermilk fried chicken and pol sambol paan.
When you use Temaki’s counter as a live podcast, you’ll hear some very interesting stories. After a night at this Japanese spot in Brixton we knew the ins and outs of the argument the person next to us got into with their best friend in Tenerife. And if there’s a first date going on next to you, you’re basically listening to Love Island, the audio book. The wrap-around counter makes for endless people-watching entertainment. And the chef passing you hand roll after hand roll of excellent bbq eel or akami tuna is a conversation starter itself.
Unlike your partner’s—well-meaning but overly involved—mother, the mammas at this Italian restaurant on the King’s Road improve any situation they involve themselves in. And this particular situation—you, repeatedly saying “wait, what was I going to tell you…” before returning to silence—could use an intervention that involves a ladle of lasagne being dropped on your plate. If there’s a birthday going on—there’s always a birthday going on—then the mammas bang their wooden spoons on pots and pans, pull people up to dance mid-cacio e pepe chew, and have you both smiling all the way home.