Everyone’s got that friend who will always “be there in 15, promise”. Who’s round the corner. Who’s had an absolute ’mare. Everything about their timing points to them having been conceived on a Ryanair flight after a Southern Rail journey to the airport. But the only thing worse than always waiting for them, is waiting for them in a restaurant. The looks. The judgements. The crippling reliance on your phone to vacantly stare into. This can all be avoided if you choose the right restaurants though. Ones that are comfortable, entertaining, and have snacks you wouldn’t want to share. Like any on this list.
If you or your friend are the kind of person who texts “on my way” while still drying from a shower, then organising to go for breakfast or brunch at Jolene would be a good call. This all-day Newington Green cafe has got that comfort factor. The kind where you feel like you could stay there for hours and be completely at ease. As a bonus, their jamon, eggs, and potatoes are great too.
The problem with people who are always late, is that they are always late. They will lie. They will embellish. They will literally throw away one of their shoes to act like they’ve been mugged. You learn not to rise to it. That’s why you should also learn to make it work for you, by going to Maltby Street Market. This is London’s best weekend food market, and it’s a joy to be there and only think about yourself (for a bit). Especially with a carton of steak, chips, and chimichurri sauce from The Beefsteaks.
Unless you’re into wandering up and down Portobello Road for half an hour, Books For Cooks is the ideal spot in Notting Hill to meet your loveable but unreliable flakey friend. It’s literally a cafe in a cookbook shop, meaning you can read up on a few things to whip up at home, before you can both get into some lovely homemade soups or salads.
Look, let’s not beat around the bush. This restaurant has a whisky vending machine. You know, a vending machine (usually for crisps, overpriced water, Starburst, and the like) but for whisky. That. Is. Bananas. And there’s a pool table right next to it. Plus espresso martinis on tap. To top it all off, Brigadiers has a very special bar snacks menu. Butter chicken wings. Ox cheek vindaloo samosas. You know what? You should cancel. Who needs anyone else?
We live in the age of #content. And when you’ve got naff all else to do, well, you may as well make some bloody good content right? There are few better places in London for that than the Chiltern Firehouse. If there isn’t someone off ITV3, or one of Little Mix to unsubtly zoom into whilst pretending to scratch your ear, then at least you can pretend to be 58th in line to wangle a free cocktail.
All of the Barrafina restaurants are excellent solo dining spots. So when you know you’re going to get a message saying they’ll be there in 15 minutes, they’re just changing their shoes, don’t worry, because this tapas restaurant near King’s Cross is a fine spot to be alone in. Whether you get a cheeky lone tortilla whilst you wait, or have a gander in one of those bougie shops around Coal Drops Yard, it’s an easy place to lose some minutes.
Not only is Rochelle at the ICA one of favourite spots in London, it’s also in a legendary gallery. So while you’re waiting to get stuck into some cod’s roe, or a bit of pie later, why not absorb a bit of culture? Or, alternatively, just prop up at the bar and sample one (or two) cocktails.
You’ve had enough. It’s the last time they’re going to make you wait around. You’re just gonna finish this croque monsieur, and the hash brown potatoes with beef fat mayonnaise, and then you’re going. It’s a good thing that Coal Rooms is next to Peckham Rye station. So you can always flounce completely satisfied (or stay because those other starters are very tempting).
A restaurant that keeps you entertained does not necessarily have to animatronics like The Rainforest Cafe. Though that alligator is pretty wild, we know. Yen is a Japanese restaurant on The Strand that has a lot going for it, even aside from the tasty soba and sushi on offer. All the noodles here are hand pulled and you can watch a chef do it through a sort of weird perspex box. If that doesn’t entertain you enough, then just pay a visit to the toilets. They are the future, now.
Not many restaurants are genuinely better by yourself. But we reckon Berenjak is pretty close. This Iranian kebab and mazeh restaurant in Soho has one of the best counters around. It’s comfortable, fun, and extremely tempting - not least because of the shiny, hypnotising kebab behind it. By the time your friend gets there, you will definitely have had at least a beer and some flatbread with dip. Because, why not.
The problem with the food options at Spitalfields Market is that there are too many. Do you want a reuben from Monty’s? Or maybe some Dumpling Shack? Or...seeing as there’s been yet another mystery, singular, unable to find on Twitter, tube strike - maybe you get one of each while you wait?
So your nemesis CityMapper has done you in again. Turns out there’s another restaurant with the same name, so you’re gonna be at Kym’s for half an hour with just your sweet self for company. Well, more fool them. The bar area at this swish City Chinese restaurant is very slick, and very open to daydreams about being a lot more successful than you probably are. Once you snap out of it get some sweet and sour ribs. You won’t want to share them.