London is a busy place, and it can be so uncommon a feeling to be without company that it can be a pretty daunting prospect, especially when dining. But just as making plans is difficult, so is getting into many of the city’s best restaurants with large groups. It’s time to shake off the shackles of being sociable and embrace some quality solo meals. Show some self-love slurping up a ramen, find the perfect table for one, or meet the salt beef sandwich dreams are made of all by yourself.Read More
14 Superb Places to Dine Alone in London
Going solo doesn’t have to be daunting
A restaurant whose easy hospitality and comforting menu makes either a large group or a solo visit its ideal form, Normah’s — recently reopened in Queensway Market — is a place to come for both celebration and respite. Order roti and a bowl of the the puckering assam pedas.
Earth (or SW11, anyway) has nothing to show more fair than Antonio Pellone’s pizzas. His margherita is great, his cornicione blistered and his dough both light and digestible, but it’s the second menu of sauceless white “gourmet” pizzas where he shows his mastery. Inventive and playful, they’re one degree away from trad but flawlessly executed. A small terrace, too, for outdoor dining.
A seat at Ben Chapman’s bar top delivers all the theatre and flavour a lone diner could ever long for. Mesmerisingly prepped and flame-cooked over a primordial charcoal range, the likes of stir fried squid, turbot jungle curry or pork laap make perfect not-sharing plates. The (keenly priced) menu may be in constant motion, but thankfully the glass noodles with Tamworth belly and brown crab aren’t going anywhere.
For those looking for a more explorative solo dining journey, Jugemu offers a step beyond the ordinary. The tiny, transportive hideaway — spattered with scraps of paper, on which the day’s specials are scrawled in Japanese — is run by Yuya Kikuchi, who rustles up an array of sashimi, onigiri, tempura and more for eager diners. The best approach here is to wander in for lunch, let Yuya take control and learn something new.
A bowl of wonton soup lifted to heights beyond its calling by the house chilli oil, either in the canteen or, for now, outside — a rightful place in London’s lunchtime folklore.
The Euston-based basement diner’s roti canai must be among the best meals that £5 can buy. The art of roti making has been truly mastered here, making the bread far more than just a vehicle for its accompanying dal. Great food at an almost unbelievable price results in a constant queue but individuals will make their way down the steps much faster. Go alone, and have the vegetarian dal.
The Garden Cafe
Calling “hidden gem” overused is by now as dead as “hidden gem” itself, so stay with the idea that the Garden Museum cafe is ... A hidden gem! Concise and considered, unlike so many museum/cultural institution cafes that seek to deaden themselves to all comers, expect the likes of confit mackerel with tomato and caper; john dory, served whole with black olives and fennel; and mammole artichokes served Roman-style, all in another dead cliché that is here breathed back to life: the “urban oasis.”
El Rancho De Lalo
El Rancho del Lalo was one of the few Colombian restaurants in the arcade predating its regeneration, before a rise in rent forced it to move behind Brixton Town Hall. But its excellence is undimmed: this is a place where empanadas are dense as bricks, stuffed to bursting with strands of spiced pork and fried to order so the casing satisfyingly cracks and spills out its contents. An excellent rendition of the Colombian national dish bandeja paisa comes as an enormous platter of meat and protein, including standout crispy chicharron and kidney bean stew. The gentrification continues apace, but El Rancho still outflanks units in its former home selling food at twice the price.
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Nick Bramham and team’s Mediterranean nook on Farringdon Road can offer a pleasingly rickety outside table on a bright evening or a coveted counter seat, ready to receive perhaps a flawlessly made pasta; a tumble of Sicilian caponata; always a cannolo, or better two.
Kaieteur Kitchen Original
There are so few chefs in London who oversee every plate of food in their kitchen, but Faye Gomes is one of them; every dish, no matter how simple, is blessed by little touches of care which signal that she, and only she, has made it. Previously in the ill-fated Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre’s moat, she is now in the temporary Castle Square development where she serves Guyanese stews, exceptional vegetable rices, noodles and roti, and fried fish. Her most exceptional dish is her weekend pepper pot, vinyl black with two day cooked beef, oxtail, tripe and lamb, and the bittersweetness of cassareep.
The beloved Soho branch of this Japanese noodle den is yet another feather in the area’s solo dining cap, but more recently it’s the opening of Koya City in the Bloomberg Arcade that’s been causing a stir. A beacon of calm amid the mayhem of the City, there is a clean, modest tranquillity that transcends the stripped back wooden bar top and soothing soups. Mindfulness is dunking cold udon noodles into a pork and miso broth. Crunching crispy fried prawn heads may be less zen, but it’s no less rewarding.
Rise early, and meander along to this Haggerston canalside institution for a solo breakfast or lunch — majoring in eggs with mojo verde at the former and confit garlic with goat’s curd come the latter. With an unapologetic coffee and time to spare in good weather, there’s little to beat it.
40 Maltby Street
Whether outside on the green-tabled terrace or in one of its Bermondsey arch’s many nooks, this is one of the very best places in the city to eat (alone). An intrepid solo diner will slowly learn the grammar of 40 Maltby Street — what constitutes a salad; to always order the fritters; to always always order something with pastry.
Xi'an Biang Biang Noodles
With its canteen-style feel Xi’an Biang Biang has the right vibe for solo dining — get the liang pi, slippery and chewy and slick, and the Chongqing-style noodle soup.