These days, when someone suggests ‘going out’, you wonder whether it’s the latest teen comedy on Netflix. Gone are the days of communal pitchers and 4am night bus journeys. Thank god. But whether you’re having a bad hair week (year), raising a tiny human, or you’re just in a very committed, happy relationship with your sofa, these are the spots to go to when you don’t go out anymore.
For when you’ve become part-human, part-sofa
Your sofa is ergonomically molded to your body. You can’t remember the last time you wore anything other than underwear. Netflix has given up asking. Of course you’re going to watch more. Or, are you? It’s time to peel yourself off and get yourself back out in the real world. You need somewhere rejuvenating. Somewhere that’ll make you feel good about yourself. Somewhere like Nandine in Camberwell, a Kurdish cafe and restaurant that serves brilliant vegetable-filled mezze bowls, 10/10 baklava, and all at a price that seems too good to be true. But it isn’t.
For when the world is too loud
The birds are singing outside your window. The bin men are recreating Stomp outside your door. Your housemate is auditioning for The Voice in the shower. You begin to wonder, what would it be like to spill blood? Right. Snap out of it and get yourself down to Rochelle Canteen. This semi-secret London spot is a sanctuary (despite being in Shoreditch) and it serves up simple and refined classics from shepherds pie to lemon curd on toast, all in the calm, quiet surroundings of a former school garden.
La Mia Mamma
For when you’ve been under the weather
The last time you weren’t 90% snot feels like a very long time ago but you’ve almost hacked your way through it. It’s time to get your head out of that steaming bowl of Vicks and get some TLC from La Mia Mamma in Chelsea instead. Because when you’re ill, the only thing you need more than pity is pasta. And your mum as well. So it’s a good thing this place specialises in homemade pastas - from cacio e pepe to tagliatelle bolognese - all served up by a group of Italian mammas.
For when you’re having a bad hair month
You look like you’ve been possessed by the spirit of a hospital mop, and the thought of showing yourself in public is extremely not allowed. Don’t worry. Some restaurants will not give two turds and Black Axe Mangal is one of them. That’s because this spot on Highbury Corner isn’t a standard restaurant. It’s a cramped and smokey sensory overload, where guitar solos are pumping and lamb offal flatbread is being stuffed into mouths. Nobody here cares about what you look like. Nobody here cares about anything apart from drinking well, and eating even better.
For when you think you hate everyone
People. They’re annoying aren’t they? Handsy, heavy breathing, honking breath, human beings. Ugh. Good thing there’s a joyous, pasta-serving and piano-playing restaurant in Bloomsbury that will restore your faith in humanity. Ciao Bella is a London classic and it’s the place to go when you need to have a good time with other people. The food is old school Italian classics: seafood pasta slopped out of a steaming greaseproof bag. The wine is your classic plonk: drinkable and plentiful. And the atmosphere is celebratory: whether it’s a Monday lunchtime or Saturday, you’ll leave Ciao Bella smiling.
For when you’ve been working late non-stop
Work, sleep, eat Haribo, repeat. That’s been your recent lifestyle, and it’s extremely unsustainable. Now there’s a light at the end of the tunnel you need respite. You need adrenaline, pizza, and booze. You need Theo’s. There are few problems a pizza can’t solve, but a meal at Theo’s in Camberwell will solve even more. The pizzas are crisp and doughy, their homemade chilli sauce concerningly addictive, and their cocktail list suitably to the point. The restaurant itself is a scene at night and a haven in the day. Meaning whatever you’re after, Theo’s is the answer.
For when it’s awful weather outside
London’s gone all The Day After Tomorrow and, if this is the end, well, you want to make sure you go out with some peek gai sud yai. Nothing celebrates the apocalypse like eating a spicy prawn-stuffed chicken wing in an extremely casual and comfortable setting, and that’s exactly what you’ll be doing at Supawan. This excellent Thai spot in Kings Cross is a must for when you’re craving strong flavours to counteract the gloom outside. The yum khao tod (crispy rice salad) is one of the best things you can eat in the city, and the tom yum soup is a go-to during any season.
For when you’ve been busy raising a tiny human.
Have you ever read Guess How Much I Love You whilst also, somehow, sleeping? Or stuffed ear plugs up your nose as smell defenders? Yes? Welcome to parenthood, sunshine. When you’re finally heading back out into the big, wide world - aka. found a decent babysitter - go for Clapton wine shop, P Franco. Think of this place as your fun, boozy living room for the night, with zero nappies or talcum powder in sight. Part wine bar, part shop, part restaurant, P Franco serves some of the best small plates in London. Whether you end up drinking on the pavement outside with the regulars, or balanced on a stool inside, totally trashed from your first glass of Bordeaux in fourteen months, you’ll have fun without anything feeling too loud.
For when you’ve spent all your time and money on moving.
You’re really into your brand new flat. Which is handy, seeing as since you paid that deposit four months ago you haven’t been able to afford leaving it. The Culpeper is a chic but cool pub and dining room situation, with an upstairs restaurant and a rooftop garden that has views of the City. It’s a fun, feel-good spot where you can either keep things cheap and cheerful with a couple of starters and a pint, or let loose with several dishes from their weekly changing menu. The best part is you can go from area to area, feeling like you’ve had a proper change of scene without splashing too much of that precious rent money.
For when you and your broken heart have been hiding from the general public.
It’s been seven hours and fifteen days. That’s a collective 367 hours of listening to Sinéad O’Conner in a mermaid blanket you Amazon Primed to your flat. Yes, the break up hit you hard, but it’s pretty much impossible to feel bad when you’re flying high at the bar at The Palomar. This Israeli sharing plates spot in Soho serves some seriously good dishes like octo-hummus, kubaneh, and sea trout tartare. But really it’s the atmosphere and loud tunes that’ll kick any memory of them saying ‘let’s still be friends’ out of your psyche for good. Come here with a couple of great friends, put your name down for a seat at the bar, get sucked into the drama of the buzzy open kitchen, and let The Palomar do the rest.
For when you’re married to your partner, and the TV remote.
Think of Gloria as your marriage counsellor. Your loud and proud, Italian, Aperol-wielding, marriage counselor. Sure, that’s probably not ethical, but the point is, this Shoreditch trattoria is exactly the kind of place that will remind you of all the fun you had before saving for a Dyson became you and your partner’s priority. From the service to all of the velour and mirrored surfaces, this place is entirely over the top - which makes it entirely appropriate to get drunk whilst making your way through a pizza and their carbonara, that just so happens to be served out of a huge block of parmesan. Sexy. If you’re not stumbling home at midnight with grand, negroni-fuelled plans to book a second honeymoon, then you’re doing it wrong.
For when life has been all about your pet.
Your camera roll is full of photos of them. You buy them teeny tiny clothes. Nothing on this planet makes you as proud as being a parent. A parent to a tabby named Pussy Malone. It’s possible you’ve taken this fur baby thing a little far, but when you’re looking to get back out there head to Covent Garden’s Frenchie. This stupidly good-looking, modern brasserie serves excellent seasonal food that ranges from a bacon and maple syrup scone starter to fresh, handmade pappardelle. Add their set menu options, banoffee pie, and a couple bottles of wine into the mix, and you’re set for a great time here. No, the cat isn’t allowed.
For when all of your friends have suddenly decided to be grown-ups.
It all started with Matt. There you were just minding your own business, when he went and got engaged. Two years later and like a game of grown-up dominoes, all of your friends are suddenly married with kids. Good one, Matt. You dick. There are many reasons why Kiln, a Thai spot in Soho, is a great place to hit when you haven’t been out for a hot minute. One: it’s a lively, cocktail-guzzling restaurant that’ll feel upbeat without, err, Tiësto beats. Two: there are big tables downstairs that you can book in advance so your mates can book their babysitters. Three: if they all cancel because said babysitters forgot their homework, Kiln is also a pretty sweet dining solo spot. You never liked Matt anyway.
For when life has been all about that dissertation.
Night out? Honestly, you don’t even know which month it is anymore. There could be a zombie apocalypse going on outside your window and all you’d be able to tell survivors is the correct way to Harvard Reference. Seriously, go outside and head to Electric Diner in Notting Hill. This American diner spot has huge red booths perfect for groups, a banging mac and cheese, and a prawn and katsu burger you definitely want on your table. It’s always pretty lively here, but if you’re after a chilled gateway back into socialising, watch a film at the Electric Cinema next door before dinner. Also, seeing as all of that nighttime reading has basically made you nocturnal, it’s worth noting that this place is open until 2am at the weekend.