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Best seafood restaurants in London: cockles at Kiln in Soho
Kiln offers some of the most sought-after bar seats in town
Kiln [official photo]

The 14 Best Places for Counter Dining In London

Pull up a stool for the pick of the capital’s best bar snacks, kitchen-side seats and countertop cuisine

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Kiln offers some of the most sought-after bar seats in town
| Kiln [official photo]

From restaurants with stool space only to joints where the best seat in the house is up at the pass, eating at the counter is no longer a bad thing in London’s restaurants. It’s the place to see — the kitchen, the chefs and the action — and be seen. Lets meet at the bar.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Hill & Szrok Master Butcher & Cookshop

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60 Broadway Market
London E8 4QJ, UK

The marble butcher’s block at east London’s Hill & Szrok is wiped down every evening and transformed into one of Broadway Market’s most sought-after counter tables. Gorge on pork rillettes and pickles, the day’s choice cuts of meat and a changing support cast of sides like buttered greens and curried lentils.

2. Morito

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195 Hackney Rd
London E2 8JL, UK

On a sunny day, Morito’s Hackney Road outpost is flooded with light, and a seat around the blue marbled bar or by the window is the best in the house. Take advantage of its great-value mezze lunch, or clear ample space at the counter for the thrilling seasonal small plates on offer at dinner: sweet and salty cheese fritters with thyme honey, grilled lamb chops with anchovy butter and addictive fried aubergines with molasses and feta.

Morito [official photo]

3. Lyle's

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Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch High St
London E1 6JJ, UK

A daily-changing set menu used to be the only option for dinner at this laid-back Michelin-starred restaurant in Shoreditch. Recently, however, James Lowe and his team launched a new bar menu in the style of their small plate lunch dishes. Expect snacks like rock oysters with rhubarb, smoked eel broth and chicory with blood orange. Fair warning: expect to end up ordering the whole menu.

Lyle’s in Shoreditch will open Flor in Borough Market Anton Rodrigez/Lyles [official photo]

4. BAO Fitzrovia

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31 Windmill St, Fitzrovia
London W1T 2JN, UK

Head upstairs at BAO’s Fitzrovia location to bag a prime position spot around the horseshoe-shaped bar which is perfect for people watching and steamed bun eating alike. Make sure to leave room for the other menu big hitters like tingling mapo aubergine, addictive beef cheek and tendon nuggets and mackerel with persimmon.

5. The Barbary

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16 Neal's Yard
London WC2H 9DP, UK

A small number of stools set around a u-shaped bar look into The Barbary’s open kitchen. Don’t be deceived by its size though — the food here is a knockout. Mop up silky baba ganoush with huge blistered flatbreads, marvel at coiled octopus tentacles on a bed of garlicky chickpeas and crave more sticky pistachio tart long after the last forkful.

Pork at The Barbary Carol Sachs/The Barbary [official photo]

6. Barrafina

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26-27 Dean St, Soho
London W1D 3LL, UK

Cult tapas restaurant Barrafina has several locations in Central London (and soon Kings Cross). Executive chef Angel Zapata Martin ensures that everything that leaves the pass is top-tier, and all locations feature marble-topped bars and chic red leather stools with views into open kitchens. With a glass of manzanilla in hand, work through molten ham croquetas, delicately grilled sardines and succulent milk-fed lamb. It’s worth every minute of the wait time.

Greg Funnell/Barrafina [official photo]

7. Jugemu

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3 Winnett St, Soho
London W1D 6JY, UK
020 7734 0518

Snag a seat at the counter for spectacular sushi in Soho. Feast on some of the best nigiri and sashimi London has to offer, sample duck teriyaki and peruse the extensive sake list. An insider tip from fan Marina O’Loughlin: at the counter, diners can order made-to-order hand rolls that aren’t available at tables.

8. Sabor

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35-37 Heddon St, Mayfair
London W1B 4BR, UK

The debut solo restaurant from ex-Barrafina chef Nieves Barragan opened to great acclaim earlier this year. While many head upstairs to the asador, the real drama is downstairs at The Counter, less than a metre away from the open kitchen. Watch the parade of hits cross the pass, like baby potatoes with a slick of sobrasada, crisp quail with romanesco and irresistible prawn croquetas. Propping up the bar while waiting for a seat? Don’t miss the camarones fritos — fried shrimp — topped with a runny egg.

Chris Terry/Sabor [official photo]

9. Kiln

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58 Brewer St, Soho
London W1F 9TL, UK

For the best view of the open kitchen and the Thai-inspired restaurant’s namesake kiln, sit at the far end of the bar. Watch as clay pots filled with glass noodles and crab meat or Tamworth belly nestle among the open flames. Order a dry red curry or heady pork laap and watch it all being prepared just out of arm’s reach. And a heads up: expect any clothes worn here to smell delicious for days.

Best seafood restaurants in London: cockles at Kiln in Soho Kiln [official photo]

10. J Sheekey Atlantic Bar

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28-32 St Martin's Ct
London WC2N 4AL, UK

Sister to the neighbouring original J Sheekey fish restaurant, seafood is still star of the show at the Atlantic Bar. Whether it’s to grab a quick bite in the West End or settle in for a more lengthy post-theatre affair, ask for a plush seat at the horseshoe-shaped bar; dine on native oysters and martinis, or after 9.30pm, order the legendary fish pie.

John Carey/J Sheekey [official photo]

11. Wiltons Restaurant

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55 Jermyn St, St. James's
London SW1Y 6LX, UK

Bask in old-school luxury at Jermyn Street stalwart Wiltons’ oyster bar. Cosy up at the counter with a glass of something sparkling and a dressed crab or comfortingly retro prawn cocktail. It would be rude to leave without sampling some native oysters — have them as they come, with a squeeze of lemon, or go Rockefeller, Kilpatrick or Beau Brummell.

Wiltons [official photo]

12. José

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104 Bermondsey St
London SE1 3UB, UK

Watch Bermondsey Street go by from this little tapas and sherry bar; the daily-changing menu is chalked up on blackboards, and sure to be full of Spanish favourites done well. Expect vibrant pan con tomate, oozing tortilla, sea bass with piquant mojo verde and slivers of melting jamón Ibérico. With a glass of crisp fino on the side, of course.

13. Hedone

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301-303 Chiswick High Rd, Chiswick
London W4 4HH, UK

There are only a few stools at the pass of Hedone’s kitchen but it’s worth every effort for the chance to watch the chefs of one of the world’s top 50 restaurants at work. The Chiswick restaurant is pricey, but ex-food blogger Mikael Jonsson’s food is exquisite. The menu changes with what’s best in season; during the last dregs of winter expect dishes like pork shoulder with morels, or pigeon with parsley and pistachio sauce.

14. Counter Culture

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16 The Pavement
London SW4 0HY, UK

From Robin Gill et al behind The Dairy and Sorella, Counter Culture in Clapham is the so-called “naughty little brother”. With just 14 stools, the spot serving “modern British tapas” is small, but the food packs a punch. Pickling, fermenting and curing are their weapons of choice — try the potato flatbread with ’nduja and cultured cream or Irish lamb tartare with fermented dulse.

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1. Hill & Szrok Master Butcher & Cookshop

60 Broadway Market, London E8 4QJ, UK

The marble butcher’s block at east London’s Hill & Szrok is wiped down every evening and transformed into one of Broadway Market’s most sought-after counter tables. Gorge on pork rillettes and pickles, the day’s choice cuts of meat and a changing support cast of sides like buttered greens and curried lentils.

60 Broadway Market
London E8 4QJ, UK

2. Morito

195 Hackney Rd, London E2 8JL, UK
Morito [official photo]

On a sunny day, Morito’s Hackney Road outpost is flooded with light, and a seat around the blue marbled bar or by the window is the best in the house. Take advantage of its great-value mezze lunch, or clear ample space at the counter for the thrilling seasonal small plates on offer at dinner: sweet and salty cheese fritters with thyme honey, grilled lamb chops with anchovy butter and addictive fried aubergines with molasses and feta.

195 Hackney Rd
London E2 8JL, UK

3. Lyle's

Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch High St, London E1 6JJ, UK
Lyle’s in Shoreditch will open Flor in Borough Market Anton Rodrigez/Lyles [official photo]

A daily-changing set menu used to be the only option for dinner at this laid-back Michelin-starred restaurant in Shoreditch. Recently, however, James Lowe and his team launched a new bar menu in the style of their small plate lunch dishes. Expect snacks like rock oysters with rhubarb, smoked eel broth and chicory with blood orange. Fair warning: expect to end up ordering the whole menu.

Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch High St
London E1 6JJ, UK

4. BAO Fitzrovia

31 Windmill St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 2JN, UK

Head upstairs at BAO’s Fitzrovia location to bag a prime position spot around the horseshoe-shaped bar which is perfect for people watching and steamed bun eating alike. Make sure to leave room for the other menu big hitters like tingling mapo aubergine, addictive beef cheek and tendon nuggets and mackerel with persimmon.

31 Windmill St, Fitzrovia
London W1T 2JN, UK

5. The Barbary

16 Neal's Yard, London WC2H 9DP, UK
Pork at The Barbary Carol Sachs/The Barbary [official photo]

A small number of stools set around a u-shaped bar look into The Barbary’s open kitchen. Don’t be deceived by its size though — the food here is a knockout. Mop up silky baba ganoush with huge blistered flatbreads, marvel at coiled octopus tentacles on a bed of garlicky chickpeas and crave more sticky pistachio tart long after the last forkful.

16 Neal's Yard
London WC2H 9DP, UK

6. Barrafina

26-27 Dean St, Soho, London W1D 3LL, UK
Greg Funnell/Barrafina [official photo]

Cult tapas restaurant Barrafina has several locations in Central London (and soon Kings Cross). Executive chef Angel Zapata Martin ensures that everything that leaves the pass is top-tier, and all locations feature marble-topped bars and chic red leather stools with views into open kitchens. With a glass of manzanilla in hand, work through molten ham croquetas, delicately grilled sardines and succulent milk-fed lamb. It’s worth every minute of the wait time.

26-27 Dean St, Soho
London W1D 3LL, UK

7. Jugemu

3 Winnett St, Soho, London W1D 6JY, UK

Snag a seat at the counter for spectacular sushi in Soho. Feast on some of the best nigiri and sashimi London has to offer, sample duck teriyaki and peruse the extensive sake list. An insider tip from fan Marina O’Loughlin: at the counter, diners can order made-to-order hand rolls that aren’t available at tables.

3 Winnett St, Soho
London W1D 6JY, UK

8. Sabor

35-37 Heddon St, Mayfair, London W1B 4BR, UK
Chris Terry/Sabor [official photo]

The debut solo restaurant from ex-Barrafina chef Nieves Barragan opened to great acclaim earlier this year. While many head upstairs to the asador, the real drama is downstairs at The Counter, less than a metre away from the open kitchen. Watch the parade of hits cross the pass, like baby potatoes with a slick of sobrasada, crisp quail with romanesco and irresistible prawn croquetas. Propping up the bar while waiting for a seat? Don’t miss the camarones fritos — fried shrimp — topped with a runny egg.

35-37 Heddon St, Mayfair
London W1B 4BR, UK

9. Kiln

58 Brewer St, Soho, London W1F 9TL, UK
Best seafood restaurants in London: cockles at Kiln in Soho Kiln [official photo]

For the best view of the open kitchen and the Thai-inspired restaurant’s namesake kiln, sit at the far end of the bar. Watch as clay pots filled with glass noodles and crab meat or Tamworth belly nestle among the open flames. Order a dry red curry or heady pork laap and watch it all being prepared just out of arm’s reach. And a heads up: expect any clothes worn here to smell delicious for days.

58 Brewer St, Soho
London W1F 9TL, UK

10. J Sheekey Atlantic Bar

28-32 St Martin's Ct, London WC2N 4AL, UK
John Carey/J Sheekey [official photo]

Sister to the neighbouring original J Sheekey fish restaurant, seafood is still star of the show at the Atlantic Bar. Whether it’s to grab a quick bite in the West End or settle in for a more lengthy post-theatre affair, ask for a plush seat at the horseshoe-shaped bar; dine on native oysters and martinis, or after 9.30pm, order the legendary fish pie.

28-32 St Martin's Ct
London WC2N 4AL, UK

11. Wiltons Restaurant

55 Jermyn St, St. James's, London SW1Y 6LX, UK
Wiltons [official photo]

Bask in old-school luxury at Jermyn Street stalwart Wiltons’ oyster bar. Cosy up at the counter with a glass of something sparkling and a dressed crab or comfortingly retro prawn cocktail. It would be rude to leave without sampling some native oysters — have them as they come, with a squeeze of lemon, or go Rockefeller, Kilpatrick or Beau Brummell.

55 Jermyn St, St. James's
London SW1Y 6LX, UK

12. José

104 Bermondsey St, London SE1 3UB, UK

Watch Bermondsey Street go by from this little tapas and sherry bar; the daily-changing menu is chalked up on blackboards, and sure to be full of Spanish favourites done well. Expect vibrant pan con tomate, oozing tortilla, sea bass with piquant mojo verde and slivers of melting jamón Ibérico. With a glass of crisp fino on the side, of course.

104 Bermondsey St
London SE1 3UB, UK

13. Hedone

301-303 Chiswick High Rd, Chiswick, London W4 4HH, UK

There are only a few stools at the pass of Hedone’s kitchen but it’s worth every effort for the chance to watch the chefs of one of the world’s top 50 restaurants at work. The Chiswick restaurant is pricey, but ex-food blogger Mikael Jonsson’s food is exquisite. The menu changes with what’s best in season; during the last dregs of winter expect dishes like pork shoulder with morels, or pigeon with parsley and pistachio sauce.

301-303 Chiswick High Rd, Chiswick
London W4 4HH, UK

14. Counter Culture

16 The Pavement, London SW4 0HY, UK

From Robin Gill et al behind The Dairy and Sorella, Counter Culture in Clapham is the so-called “naughty little brother”. With just 14 stools, the spot serving “modern British tapas” is small, but the food packs a punch. Pickling, fermenting and curing are their weapons of choice — try the potato flatbread with ’nduja and cultured cream or Irish lamb tartare with fermented dulse.

16 The Pavement
London SW4 0HY, UK

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