Love it or hate it, dining alone is on the increase. Whether that table for one is an indulgent treat or an unplanned necessity, we bring you the best solo dining spots in London for whatever vibe you’re after.

Best for a quiet lunch with a book, or just your thoughts

St John Bread & Wine | Photo by Amanda David

St John

If it’s somewhere to clear your head that you’re after, then one of the St John sites has to be on the list. They have a policy in their restaurants of no music, no flowers on the table, no art on the walls – just the gentle background hum of muted chatter and clinking cutlery, with the food taking centre stage. You can’t go wrong with their legendary roasted bone marrow & parsley salad, Welsh rarebit or even an Eccles cake & chese with a glass of wine. They put a lovely post on Instagram recently about how they see solo diners as the ultimate compliment, so you’ll be sure of a warm welcome.

Toklas terrace
Toklas | Photo by Amanda David

Toklas

Owned by the same people that founded Frieze, the restaurant has an arty, intellectual vibe and regular solo diners, so you won’t feel at all out of place. The tables are set quite widely apart, so even when it’s busy you feel you have your own space. Settle in to a table by the window or, even better, on their huge terrace. The menu depends on the best produce available that morning but is reliably delicious.

Cafe Murano Bermondsey | Photo by Amanda David

Cafe Murano Bermondsey

This gets a special summer mention, when they have tables on a small terrace area opening onto Bermondsey Street. Strategically-placed plants make it a great little hideaway; it’s also very inconspicuous if you’re uncomfortable about dining alone. You can fill up on cicchetti and wine by the glass, which somehow counts less as eating alone than a main course and sides.

For chef watching & conversation with your neighbour

London’s restaurants are cottoning on to the increase in solo diners. Many have counter seating along bars and open kitchens, where they don’t lose money on a table for one. This is great for shy solos, as at a busy counter it’s hard to tell if someone is alone or not; equally, it’s perfect if you’re naturally sociable and open for a random chat over lunch.

Either way, watching chefs work is always great theatre, so you’re sure to be entertained!

Manteca | Photo by Amanda David

Manteca

This nose-to-tail Italian-inspired restaurant is home to some of the biggest flavours – and most reasonable prices – in London. The menu changes regularly but they are known for their incredible pasta. Also, trust me, order the salad; they are always fabulous. The staff are lovely and it’s a popular lunch spot for Shoreditch’s creatives, so counter chats are always interesting. As a bonus, they have an excellent range of wines on tap and by the glass.

Kiln

If you like it hot, this tiny Thai grill and claypot restaurant is kitchen theatre at its finest, with some seriously spicy options (although they will advise alternatives and can usually tweak the heat level). If you’re at all into food, watching these guys work is endlessly fascinating.

Bar Douro

Serving Portuguese tapas-style small plates, the whole ground floor here is counter/bar dining. If you’ve ever fancied learning more about Portuguese wine, this is your chance; they are passionate about their award-winning all-Portuguese wine list and happy to talk through recommendations.

Best for people-watching

We’ve covered some places for people who find solo dining awkward; now here are a few for those of us who love it. Rather than trying to fade into the background, celebrate it. At a table for one, it’s all about you. No compromises, no distractions, no demands – and some of the best people-watching opportunities around.

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Sessions Arts Club
Sessions Arts Club | Photo by Amanda David

Sessions Arts Club

The ultimate foodie people-watching (and star-spotting) venue, your best options are tables on the mezzanine floor overlooking the main dining room or table 33 downstairs, which gives you a great 180 degree view of the room. It’s a gorgeous, glamorous room with outstanding cooking from Florence Knight, so order anything and everything. Tables here are notoriously difficult to bag, which is where your solo diner status is actually an advantage. Check on their website for last-minute availability.

  • Location: Clerkenwell
Brutto | Photo by Amanda David

Brutto

The Rook’s Nest, which is table 34 on the raised platform, or a seat at the end of the bar are prime see-and-be seen spots for the more confident solo diner. This relaxed, informal Tuscan trattoria run by Russell Norman (of Polpo fame) serves honest, traditional dishes done exceptionally well and is immediately welcoming – and the £5 Negronis and Spritzes don’t hurt.

40 Maltby Street
40 Maltby Street | Photo by Amanda David

40 Maltby Street

They have bar seating, a counter running along one wall and a dedicated table for one. If it’s nice enough to sit outside, you can watch a steady stream of hopefuls being turned away, as this is both one of London’s top restaurants and is no-reservation. Cheerier viewing can be had inside, where Bermondsey’s cool crowd and savvy foodies swoon over the fritters (a must-order, thank me later) and the carefully curated wine shop. Bottles are priced for drink-in and take away but they always have two or three interesting wines available by the glass.

Written by:
BIO: Freelance writer, flâneuse and former blogger at London Girl About Town, Amanda is dedicated to sharing the latest on London's restaurants, bars, hidden quirks and general wonderfulness.
Filed under: Eating & Drinking

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