Where To Go For An Epic Catch-Up
Eight months of trying to find a free evening and here we are. Let the chatting commence.
Are you guilty of replying to texts in your head? Has one of your friends recently entered a new relationship and fallen off the face of the planet? Do you tend to avoid seeing anyone who lives more than one mile outside of your postcode? If so, then it sounds like you need a restaurant for a good old-fashioned ABC or, A Big Catch-Up. Comfortable, casual, but also just a little bit special feeling, the restaurants on this list are the perfect places to get up to date with everything.
Noble Rot Soho
Unless your surname is Roux, you’re unlikely to find better value fancy-ish restaurant cooking in London than at Noble Rot. The Soho location is a convenient middle ground for everyone, and the daily-changing set lunch menu is a steal at £22 for three courses. Expect lovely, light touch things like braised chicken leg with beans and aioli, or poached trout and beetroot salad, as well a wine list that will ensure this catch-up goes on, and on, and on.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
The issue with overdue catch-ups is where to start. You enter the conversation like someone who is simultaneously trying to navigate Bank station and break down the narrative arc of Lost in under three minutes. Instead of breathlessly mumbling ‘couple dates, moved, changed dentist, oh my god invested in waterproof jacket’, simply sit back and eat moreish chicken skins smothered in zaep seasoning, and unapologetically fiery drunkard’s seafood and beef noodles at Chinatown’s Speedboat Bar. Don’t be deterred by the name, this tipsy giggle of a restaurant is the kind of place where you can chat over unmissable Thai food, before drinking something involving a cocktail umbrella over a game of pool. Round your merry four-hour catch-up off with the deep-fried pineapple pie.
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photo credit: Karolina Wiercigroch
Royal China Club
The last time you saw this person, they fell out of your Uber before doing a roly-poly to their front door. Now, they live with someone called Kevin, have two pet chickens, and can diagnose different types of plant fungus. The times, they are a-changin’. You’re going to need an hour to cover the chickens alone, so a proper feast at Royal China Club is in order. This legendary Chinese spot on Baker Street is the place to be when you want a round of dim sum, a whole duck, fried udon, and sod it, another round of dim sum. The food here is uniformly excellent and the views of the Thames won’t hurt either.
Hours melt to minutes at Maison François. Partly because of the quintessential St. James’s service, the delightful circumflex-covered menu, and warm orange glow of the art deco dining room. But also because this all-day brasserie is home to a dessert trolley that gets wheeled around like sugared royalty. If there’s ever been a more seductive way to convince us to get a luxurious sweet treat, we’re yet to find it. Once you’ve dedicated three hours to jambon noir de Bigorre, gravity-defying paris-brest aux noisettes, and dissecting the lives of everyone you went to university with, keep the Bordeaux flowing at the moody downstairs bar a vin, Frank’s.
Leroy is a classy and relaxed Shoreditch restaurant and wine bar that encourages conversation as much as it does a second or third bottle. There’s an effortlessly cool vibe to this place, whether you’re sitting at the bar or on a table, and the smaller sharing plates, like a cheese-covered chicory salad or tartare on toast, are particularly tasty. Start off with one of London’s best martinis, followed by a bottle off the excellent wine list, and there’s no doubt that conversation will be flowing for hours.
photo credit: Sam Harris
After six months of WhatsApp ping pong and one failed Doodle, you’ve finally settled on a date. No matter what day of the week it is, you can head to Forza Win—and you should. The Italian spot in Camberwell is a good times enabler, from the delightful parmesan chunks appetiser, to the big bowls of buttery pappardelle, to the generous hospitality. Whether you settle in for a Proper Lunch catch-up when the space is bright and breezy, or hunker down in the evening, the meal should end with spoons clinking in a shared bowl of boozy tiramisu.
It turns out that the answer to ‘how are you?’ is really quite complicated when you spend most evenings eating garlic bread in bed and reading ‘poetry’. ‘Oh, you know, fine!’ you’ll say, because ‘utterly feral’ 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.
Nothing will soften the blow of realising you haven’t made the time to see this person since three hairstyles ago than the words ‘chef residency’. Carousel is an intimate wine bar in Fitzrovia that also happens to have a slick back dining room which hosts a rotating line-up of big-name chefs. One week there are big bold flavours by a couple of mates-cum-chefs from Tel Aviv, and the next there’s an izakaya specialist from Paris. No matter which chef is headlining, it always feels like a Hot Event that should always be followed by a cold glass of orange in the wine bar.
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, sorry, I 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, feelgood restaurant in Fitzrovia, it’s the kind of place where a spicy paloma and some tuna tartare can easily turn into a four-course meal and a bottle of white from Santorini. Basically, it’s the perfect place, and menu, for someone you want to spend a good few hours with.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
Whatever the question, the answer is plenty of cushions and ackee croquettes. And this pan-African restaurant in Southwark happens to have both. It’s physically impossible to eat the mashed rice and groundnut soup in this warm and welcoming dining room without deciding you want to spend the entire evening here. Order the black eyed bean hummus and plantain chips to break the ice, and hard as it may be, offer them the last chichinga buttermilk fried chicken wing to soften them up. (And to keep their memory of you a fond one until your next annual catch-up.)
Pure Indian Cooking
Nothing says I’m sorry for kind-of-semi-ghosting you like introducing someone to London's best dahl. Share some garlic naan and malai chicken at this Indian spot in Fulham while you dig yourself a hole trying to explain that you didn’t ignore their requests to meet, but have been having “iMessage issues” for over nine months. They definitely won’t believe you, but at least they’ll be so grateful you introduced them to the smooth Manglorean chicken curry, that they’ll probably start seeing you more often.
Chestnut Bakery Belgravia
A serious catch-up requires caffeine. A jam doughnut wouldn’t hurt either. Head to Chestnut Bakery in Victoria for the kind of catch-up that can last all day. We’re not exaggerating—it’s open from 8am until 6pm, so a coffee can turn into a merguez and aioli flatbread-fuelled brunch, and brunch can turn into a lemon meringue croissant to finish. And dessert should always be followed by lunch, right? Get one of the tables in the bright and airy conservatory, and camp out for a few hours. Just make sure your friend doesn’t accidentally head to the Covent Garden location instead.
The Winemakers Club
The Winemaker’s Club is the perfect choice for 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 while nibbling on charcuterie and their extra cheesy raclette toasties. That being said, even if your mate has turned into the kind of person who 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.
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 in Peckham is laid-back enough that you also won’t be interrupted by any noisy groups or blaring music. Perfect.