Last minute plans or just short of time to book, we have some top notch, queue worthy restaurants that means you have an equal chance of getting into some of the best restaurants in London as anyone else that evening.
Provided you’re willing to wait a little, these no reservation restaurants are some of the very best meals in London, and you’re missing out if you don’t give them a try.
Barrafina, various locations
Now with 3 outlets (Drury Lane, Adelaide Street, King’s Cross Coal Drops Yard), this is Michelin-starred tapas, all washed down with cava and sherry.
Sit up on red leather bar stools at a long marble bar with an open kitchen, with endless and quite delectable Basque treats flowing. Favourites include chorizo and chipirones, gambas al ajillo and grilled sardines, and most definitely the tomato salad. But don’t ignore the daily specials chalked up on the blackboard.
While all are great and each have their own original dishes, the Soho original is the one that most captures you’re heart.
Flat Iron, various locations
“Now I get why there is a queue,” is what diners explain as they leave the restaurant whilst us Londoners stand come rain or shine, umbrellas on standby. Hands down one of the best, most affordable steaks in London. They basically do one thing – a flat iron cut of beef, served with salad.
All the meat is locally sourced (of course), with a full team of in-house butchers, who host master classes and demonstrations. End your meal with a complimentary ice cream from the gelato bar. All for under £20? Yes indeed!
There’s a note on the menu entitled ‘Souvenir Alert’ that asks diners not to steal the lovely wooden-handled cleavers and hip flasks. Which must be so commonplace, they’ve cleverly made them available to buy for £10.
Bao London, various locations
Walk past their branch on Lexington in Soho and you’ll know what a queue really means after that. But oh my, is it worth the wait.
BAO draws its inspiration from the ‘small-eats’ venues popular in Taipei. Made in-house, these secret-recipe steamed milk buns come filled with braised pork, peanut powder, fermented greens, lamb shoulder, panko-crumbed daikon radish, daikon pickle, hot sauce and coriander. There are snacks and other items as well, ranging from sweet-potato chips with plum pickle salt to the more adventurous (if you date) pig-blood cake. You can finish your meal with a decadent fried Horlicks ice-cream sandwich.
Padella, London Bridge
Borough and its new opening in Shoreditch has all sorts of phenomenal bites to try, so why do you always see a queue at this one street corner before you enter the market? Is it really worth it? Well, yes. How long a wait is a Cacio e Pepe worth?
Padella specialises in small plates of melt in your mouth pastas (doused in butter of course) for surprisingly reasonable prices. A short menu with seasonal ingredients and wine on tap.
With a focus on the wood burning kiln oven and grill, this is one of the most fascinating and magical kitchens with serious attention to detail.
The real action is at the counter, where it’s walk-ins only. Everything is cooked in pots over wood burners, sans gas connection, on a kiln if you will. One dish that you will always find on the menu is Kiln’s signature serve – clay pot baked glass noodles topped with Tamworth pork belly and brown crab meat. Kiln doesn’t serve desserts, but it makes up for that with a truly delightful drinks list.
Barbary, Covent Garden
This sister restaurant to the equally popular Palomar offers 24-seat counter bar dining, serving dishes influenced by the Barbary Coast region of Africa, and it’s all stunning. Sat in a corner of Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden, its a pretty picturesque spot to watch and wait, while the restaurant serves a “dedicated queue menu.”
You know we love an open kitchen, and this place gets it so right with its deftly spiced and seasoned menu options. The menu is split into Land, Sea, Earth and Heaven (let’s hope heaven serves up something like this).