Where To Eat With Boring People
Because they can’t talk about the weather if you’re stuffing a doughnut in their mouth.
Lots of people are boring. It is an unfortunate fact of life. Aside from The One Show and Ryvita crackers, the driest of all combinations is dinner with someone who is a total snooze. But a meal with someone who makes you consider eloping to a traveling circus shouldn’t have to be a complete write-off. There are plenty of restaurants that can satisfy your stomach when it’s with less than satisfactory company, from buzzy spots with plenty to keep your own electrifying brain entertained to quick classics where your mind won’t even have time to wander.
I never knew that about ISAs, you say whilst contemplating whether it would be too dramatic to plug your own ears with a napkin. The grown-up thing to do is to go somewhere that’s so loud and buzzy that you just have to nod your head, smile, and embrace that the state of your overdraft is a problem for a mysterious place called My Responsible Future. Passyunk Avenue has most definitely got the required decibels for this situation and importantly, this dive bar is also home to a whopper of a cheesesteak. You’re primarily here for their expert wiz sauce and the life-size cutout of Danny DeVito by the toilets, so feel free to skip the starters and casually watch the TV screen behind your companion’s head if they start up with money talk again.
Sometimes a person’s conversation can make you long for the meditative joy of cooking at home. The rhythmic slicing of vegetables. The white noise of frying food. The non-judgemental freedom to pour yourself half pints of wine. Admittedly, Abeno doesn’t quite hit all of these marks. But the okonomiyaki specialist in Bloomsbury does provide the sizzling entertainment of pancakes being cooked and fried in front of you on your table’s own hot plate. Sadly they’ve done away with their cottage pie flavour, but there’s enough good stuff going on to keep everyone interested and interesting.
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An important list of distractions you’ll find at Brigadiers: a whisky vending machine, a pool room, approximately ten televisions showing live sport, oil portraits of Theirry Henry, lamps in the shape of monkeys, and—dun dun dun—the best lamb chops in London. Honestly, we could come here by ourselves and still be thoroughly entertained and that’s not just because we’re clearly very interesting and charming people. A feelgood party in the City, this is the kind of excellent restaurant that will do all the hard work for you so you can just sit back, eat BBQ butter chicken wings, and know that any drab conversation is entirely fine in the face of a giant beef shin and bone marrow biryani.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
Bao Noodle Shop
Silence is golden. So too is Bao Noodle Shop’s burnt butter. Have you ever tried having an in-depth conversation whilst slurping beefy noodle soup? It just doesn’t work. Which means that if you’re really looking to tick the physically present box but very much mentally on the beach, their hand-pulled noodle outpost in Shoreditch is your place. There’s plenty of bar seating that’s built for a nice—but not so nice you want to get comfortable—lunch or dinner.
Would you rob a bank without an escape plan? No. Are you going to go for dinner with Person Who Interrupts All Conversations To Read Their Political News Alerts Out Loud without a thorough exit strategy? Absolutely not. That’s the magic of Brixton Village. One minute you’re eating some crunchy tempura and the next you’re claiming that you desperately need to go and pick up that decorative pillow from the shop on the corner before the market closes. Temaki, a slick counter-only spot, will help you in your need-for-speed deception with their quick-fire expert hand rolls. Just don’t skip the BBQ eel temaki, it’s oh-so smoky and entirely fantastic.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
JB's Soul Food
You don’t go to JB’s for frilly service or a fancy environment. You go for one thing and one thing only, and that is the food. The best jerk spot in Peckham is an in-and-out kind of place, even though its portions are never anything less than generous. A jerk chicken meal here is enough to silence even the most persistent of monologue deliverers, the char is present, the marinade spiced and fruity, and the plantain a satisfyingly sweet accompaniment. Go on the weekend or a Wednesday and you can share some of their excellent jerk pork as well. You won’t need to talk about anything else, it’s that good.
photo credit: Forza Wine Serving Us Glorious Sunset Realness
We are partial to restaurants with great views. Sure, because being up high is nice and all but also because we’ve never met a conversation about postage inflation that can’t be interrupted by wow! Look, you can see the O2 from this angle. One of our all-time favourite rooftops in London, Forza Wine in Peckham is the perfect place to split an oil-drenched panzanella in the sunshine with exactly one frozen negroni. Can’t risk brain freeze, can you? And, now that you’re full of aioli, you might as well be on your way.
A quick lunchtime grab and go is the answer to many a begrudging meet-up. Balady is the answer to many stomach grumbles and anyone posing the question as to where you can get a fantastic falafel pitta and make a complete mess of yourself in the process. So you should bear the Israeli spot’s Clerkenwell location in mind when you’re looking to join those two ideas. The falafel is herby and fantastic, their hand-cut chips essential, and there’s some seating outside for you to pop a squat for half an hour before being on your merry way.
When in doubt, take someone for doughnuts. We’ve been known to demolish Bread Ahead’s classic vanilla custard doughnuts in under three minutes and coincidentally that’s the exact amount of time it’ll take this person to bring up the fact they once had a cameo on Made In Chelsea. Congratulations, your new life motto is ‘sugar high, then say goodbye’. You’re welcome.