Where To Eat At 5PM Because You’re Tired & Need An Early Night

Because getting home by 8pm is quite nice, isn’t it?
Two bowls of udon from Koya Ko on a window counter.

photo credit: Anton Rodriguez

When it comes to dinner, the early bird usually catches a lot of flack. But we're here to celebrate the 5pm reservation. Maybe you want some more time for post-meal activities (read: Netflix marathons), or perhaps you learned from a podcast that (shockingly) the four hours of sleep you get is 'not optimal'. 

Some of these spots have a great atmosphere whatever time of day you visit, others are prime for hunkering down in peaceful solitude before the dinner rush, and a few are so tough to book that you can only really visit them earlier on. In all cases, 5pm is the sweet spot.


photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch



$$$$Perfect For:Catching Up With MatesLunchDining SoloCasual Weeknight Dinner
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At Homies On Donkeys, there’s no fear of tumbleweeds if you book at 5pm. This Mexican spot in Leytonstone starts to fill up mere minutes after opening. Which is great news for anyone who likes excellent chicken thigh barbacoa tacos and a fun atmosphere, but also has a firm 8pm slippers-on rule. The Barbie-pink and Lego-yellow walls, and thrumming hip-hop soundtrack are a mood-boosting combination; the roasted broccoli tacos are a superior early dinner choice; and the temptation to linger in order to fit in another round of lime Jarritos is strong. 

Polka Kitchen is always a little sleepy, which is part of its charm and makes an early bird booking here totally acceptable. Plus, it’s the only way to make full use of the impressive cake counter—think regal, tiered slices of black forest gateau—without getting a midnight sugar rush. The twinkling chandeliers, velvet booths, and operatic soundtrack at this Polish spot in Ealing suit well-behaved family gatherings. Ones where toddlers bounce on the knee of cord-wearing grandparents who try—mostly successfully—to steer plates of comforting beef stew away from their grabby little hands. 

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

It’s worth messing with your body clock for a meal at The Devonshire. And really, unless you embrace an early dinner or late lunch, your chances of getting a booking here are as slim as the potato scales on their lamb hotpot. This restaurant above a pub in Soho is one orphan and a frilly bonnet away from being a Dickens film set. Roaring fire, wooden floors, and pressed white tablecloths aside, The Devonshire serves some of the best British food in London. It’ll convert you to suet pudding and press a perfect pint of Guinness into your hand just when you need it.

The time is 5:30pm and you would like nothing more than to go full hermit under a warm, preferably weighted blanket and start watching a 10-episode series. But your stomach is also rumbling aggressively. Mukkebi is a charming, relaxed spot in Finsbury Park where you can scoff silky smooth japchae or some crispy fried chicken before crawling back to bed. And unlike the Fast & Furious quote you got tattooed onto your ribs, the walls of this Korean restaurant are filled with meaning. There are photographs of Korean pop icons, mismatched crockery, and an illustration explaining that Mukkebi is a mischievous goblin. If it all sounds heartwarming, that’s because it is. 

Tashas works best as a very late lunch or early dinner spot. There are copious amounts of cushions to collapse on to, floor-to-ceiling windows which fill the space with natural light, and a hefty bowl of garlic-heavy cream sauce rigatoni that deserves to be lingered over. This Battersea spot nails the all-day cafe, and golden hour is when the interiors—think Beige Minimalist Chic—come to life. Paper teapots hang from the ceiling like an art installation in the lobby of a £700-a-night hotel, and it’s so pretty that even your most technologically challenged friend can get a good picture of you here. 

Sometimes you’ve just got to give the people what they want. And in the case of Broadway Market’s whippet-walking residents, they want handmade udon and they want it at the work-friendly finishing time of 5pm. This tiny Hackney spot is open from 10am daily, but there's something about hot-footing it straight from the office that feels like you're really flipping the establishment the bird. The tempura, curry bowls, and kara-age will definitely do it for you too. This is an in-and-out space—perfect for a quick bite that won't mess with your 14-step skincare routine. 

It’s hard to pick a favourite out of all the things that come off of FM Mangal’s ocakbaşı grill. It’s why the Turkish neighbourhood favourite is always buzzing with Camberwell locals come dinnertime. Miss the rush, come early, and order the juicy, perfectly spiced adana kebab. And the flatbread—the flatbread that’s soaked in meat juices, rubbed with a-never-not-exciting secret rub, and grilled over coals. It’s a basket of bread we’d welcome morning, day, and night, but particularly when post-dinner plans involve being horizontal.

Late-night dates are overrated—you're tired, you can barely even see what they look like thanks to the candlelight, you've wasted a whole evening. This French restaurant on the corner of Bermondsey Street starts to fill up from 5pm with air-kissing old friends, or dates sharing perfectly pink boeuf en crôute across a red-and-white check tablecloth. Casse-Croûte is so charming it hurts, and the fact that you don't have to wait until 8pm to have a tender moment over a towering mille-feuille is even more swoon-worthy.

This is where you go to stop a bad day from turning into a bad night. Gold Mine is a Cantonese banquet-style spot of the most old-school variety, and the comforting combination of low ceilings, gold-detailed chairs, red carpet, and tender char siu pork is sure to put you in a proverbial good place. You won’t need to book, and because there’s a steady stream of people at this all-day spot in Queensway, you’ll be inconspicuous too. When it comes to ordering, tender duck with crisp skin, beautifully layered crispy pork belly, and sweet, thickly sliced char siu are all excellent.

We’re going to level with you, Fairuz is truly a great dinner option at any time of day. But 5pm does make the intimate cave-like nooks and hidden-away back corners feel even more charming. The menu at this family-run spot in Marylebone is a mix of classic Lebanese dishes, but they’re a cut above. Creamy aubergine fatteh and tangy, nutty kibbeh b’laban—a minced lamb-stuffed ball in a garlicky yoghurt sauce—should both be on your table. This spot is the epitome of a Great Little Place, and coming at 5pm you get the feeling that you’re in on one of London’s tastiest secrets. 

5pm meals are the norm in Soho. The only thing is, they’re usually chianti-stained lunches that are just finishing. But a meal at Quo Vadis feels special at any time of day. The British classic on Dean Street is the kind of home we’d like to make our permanent address, with white tablecloths, shimmering martinis, and generous pies. Given its lifelong expertise in making you feel all warm and fuzzy with a side of chips, Quo Vadis is a pain to get into. So waltz in at 5pm rather than try to scrap for an 8pm sitting.

Chandeliers hang and borscht is ladled into your bowl tableside at this wonderful Polish institution in South Kensington. Sitting in Daquise’s gracefully aged dining room—part tiled, part distressed, but wholly elegant—makes us wonder why this traditional ideal of a restaurant is no longer in vogue. The fur-clad clientele, additional pieces of Daquise’s old-school furniture, decompress at being served in the most thorough but familiar of fashions. Yes, the goulash is overcooked, and no the pierogies aren’t the finest, but a fail-safe schnitzel rarely goes amiss.

The Tamil Crown is an excellent neighbourhood pub in Angel that also serves some of the best Indian food in London, and therefore it isn’t the easiest place to get a table. Unless of course, you beat the dinner crowd and head there at 5pm. Pros of coming at 5pm include: being able to see the aubergine curry that’s worth crossing London for (in the evening the lighting is non-existent), getting to sit in the cosy upstairs room, and being tucked in bed by 8pm. 

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch



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We like to think about Fatt Pundit’s lamb chops whenever we feel sad. And the cult-like following of lamb chop-yielding enthusiasts who agree with us make getting a decent dinnertime reservation at this Soho spot pretty hard. But trust us, it’s worth coming for an early dinner to try the excellent Indo-Chinese food. Think deep-fried spinach leaves covered in a sweet yoghurt, date, and plum sauce and pomegranate seeds, or a creamy Malabar monkfish curry we’d drink through a straw. The 5pm booking also means the always-cramped space will feel that little bit more spacious.

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