Here is our guide to London's best restaurants for perching up at the counter.
Mayfair - 45 Jermyn St, St. James's, London SW1Y 6JD
Sure the glamorous tomato red booths are fun here, but there's a lot of buzz up at the extensive counter in this modern take on a traditional St James spot. Nestle in between art dealers and folk up from the country while you sip a perfect martini before summoning the caviar trolley.
Soho, Borough, Fitzrovia, Shoreditch
The steamed buns at BAO are one of London's most popular dishes and the counter scene one of the most coveted (and there's even a special solo diner menu). These days, you can actually book a table so the queue is gone. All of the restaurants have some counter dining available, but it's best at Soho or Fitzrovia.
Covent Garden - 16 Neal's Yard, London WC2H 9DP
Sister restaurant of The Palomar, this concentrates on cooking from the Barbary Coast and southern Europe. The restaurant is also almost all-counter dining, with plenty of opportunity for chats with the chefs creating the meals.
Also see: The Barbary Next Door, which is exactly what it says - a mini version of the Barbary that's entirely counter dining (and features a separate menu).
Mayfair - 16 Albemarle St, London W1S 4HW
Parisian chef Cyril Lignac's London outpost is a slice of Paris for homesick expats who love to perch up at the counter here. Grab yourself a stool and a cold glass of something nice from Corsica while you peruse the sushi menu.
Soho, Covent Garden, Strand and King's Cross
Serving up some of the best Spanish tapas in town, all the Barrafinas are centred around counter dining. There's not much better than scoring a seat here and ordering one of their amazing gooey tortillas.
Hackney - 20 Sidworth St, London E8 3SD
There's no place to hide at Behind which brings the chefs out of the kitchen and into the centre of this all-counter restaurant, to plate up dishes a few centimetres from diners. If you love a bit of theatre when dining, then this Hackney spot is the perfect place - and the seafood-forward menu offers a veritable procession of gastro highlights.
Soho - 27 Romilly St, London W1D 5AL
This Soho Kababi offers two choices of counter dining. Inside, or outdoors by the new grab and go hatch. Either way, you're in the right place to enjoy some fabulous Iranian dishes and we can attest to the strength of their cocktails.
Mayfair - 42 North Audley Street, London W1K 6ZR
Our favourite restaurant opening of 2021, Bibi is the perfect spot for weary shoppers to make a beeline for when Oxford Street drains their will to live. The intricate dishes and drinks here make counter dining a treat, particularly if you're sat in front of the shaved ice contraption.
Soho - 12 Archer St, London W1D 7BB
Jacob Kenedy's Bocca di Lupo offers regional Italian cooking with a regularly changing menu. One of London's older counter dining scenes, the seats up at the pass at Bocca di Lupo have always been the best in the house. Right now their menu is roaming all over Italy, which is great if you didn't manage to get away.
Spitalfields - 65 Commercial St, London E1 6BD
Bubala in Spitalfields has earned a name for itself as one of the most promising plant-based restaurants in London. With a menu that has middle-eastern influences, it really earns the plaudit that you won't miss the meat at all.
Covent Garden and Camden
Both of The Cheese Bar restaurants are centred around counter dining and if you want the ultimate in a cheese-laden dinner they come highly recommended. But it's the conveyor belt action of Pick & Cheese that wins out for us. The very idea of a conveyor belt filled with cheese is a dream come true. Look out for their bottomless plates deals too.
Mayfair - 6 Clarges St, London W1J 8AE
As the name suggests, the key part of the ground floor restaurant is all about the counter. Here you'll find a combination of Robuchon classics as well as new dishes inspired by his cooking around the world, not to mention some of the best pommes puree ever created (there's a LOT of butter involved).
Knightsbridge - 87-135 Brompton Rd, London SW1X 7XL
All six restaurants in the dining hall at this Knightsbridge institution have counter dining space, making them a great shopping pitstop. Take your pick from Caviar House & Prunier, the sushi bar, Kama by Vineet, Kerridge's fish & chips, the pasta bar and The Grill.
Soho - 54 Frith St, London W1D 4SL
Angelo Sato's beak to claw approach makes use of every piece of the chicken at this Soho yakitori bar. It's all counter seating here and - on a cold day - the seats opposite the imported Japanese grill are highly prized.
See also: in Marylebone, the omakase experience at Junsei has you putting your trust in chef Aman Lakhiani to deliver the goods.
Winnett St, Soho, London W1D 6JY
In her review, Marina O'Loughlin urged readers to "sit at the counter and order the made-to-order hand rolls that aren’t available at the tables" at this idiosyncratic sushi joint in the heart of Soho. So do what the woman says.
Covent Garden - 4 Mercer Walk, London WC2H 9FA
Taking the concept of a kebab restaurant to the next level is this Covent Garden spot where the counter is so much part of the action that it's actually heated in places allowing the chef to cook your food, quite literally, in front of you. It's a tasting menu only place but quite unlike any other restaurant in London.
Soho - 58 Brewer Street, London W1F 9TL
You can grab a table downstairs at Kiln, but it's really all about the ground floor counter here, stretching the length of the restaurant. We think you'll want to grab a seat towards the back, where watching dishes come out of the oven becomes rather hypnotic. From the same people as The Smoking Goat, it's a more pared-back Thai dining experience.
Fitzrovia - 70 Charlotte St., London W1T 4QG
London's best fine counter dining experience, bar none, the restaurant here got one hell of a makeover during the various lockdowns. Good luck securing one of the seats up at the counter here - if you do, you'll not only enjoy some of London's best food, but hear (and see) how it's sourced and cooked too.
Soho - 58 Brewer Street, London W1F 9TL
Since its shipping container days at Pop Brixton, Kricket and its Indian-inspired small plates menu has become a huge hit, with restaurants at Soho, White City and Brixton. The Soho restaurant is almost all counter, making it perfect for popping in and grabbing a plate of the amazing samphire pakora.
Victoria - 76 Wilton Rd, Pimlico, London SW1V 1DE
Tucked in behind Victoria station, this independent restaurant serving up modern, seasonal and beautifully thought out food, is a beacon of light in the area. Perch up at the counter and make sure to pore through their excellent wine list. Don't leave without ordering a madeleine.
The City - 27 Poultry, London EC2R 8AJ
The Ned has a huge amount of space in The City making it easy for them to work to social distancing rules. Lots of the ground floor dining room is devoted to counter dining at Electric Bar & Diner and the Asian-Pacific restaurant Kaia. With so much space this is a great bet for popping in for a walk-in spot.
Clapton - 107 Lower Clapton Rd, London E5 0NP
Whether you're sitting up at the main counter, or out looking over Lower Clapton Road, you know is that you're going to get a startling meal at wine shop/restaurant P Franco. It's all the more amazing, given the size of the kitchen. We say kitchen but really it's just a couple of induction hobs. The chef changes semi-regularly and the menu all the time - so it rewards repeat visits.
Borough Market & Shoreditch
Getting any seat at all at this much-loved pasta restaurant is generally rather tough, but the counter seats are particularly sought after because it's where you can watch the chefs in action. While both restaurants have counter dining, the original at Borough is really the place to be. Don't leave without ordering cacio e pepe or their amazing beef shin ragu.
34 Rupert St, London W1D 6DN
This Jerusalem cuisine restaurant offers one of the best counter experiences in town. Yes, you can sit in the back room, but really there's no way you'd want to be anywhere other than the counter. Fizzing with energy - it's impossible not to have a good time here.
61 Rupert St, Soho, London W1D 7PW
The industrial-chic design of this Soho restaurant has made it particularly good for both social distancing (plenty of booth tables) and counter dining - at both the bar and looking out towards Rupert Street. Enjoy the amazing food inspired by owner Dominic Fernando's family home in Sri Lanka.
35 Heddon Street, London W1B 4BR
Nieves Barragan and José Etura have taken the magic they wrought at Barrafina and turned this Heddon Street restaurant into one of the hottest Spanish restaurants in town. While there are booths in the upstairs asador, the counter in front of the kitchen is the place to be. Some of London's very best tapas can be found here, inspired by the cuisine of Andalucía through to the asadors of Castile and the seafood restaurants of Galicia.
Soho - 28-32 St Martin's Ct, London WC2N 4AL
Now that the Atlantic Bar has been incorporated back into the main Sheekey's restaurant, there's plenty of space to enjoy the full J Sheekey's experience at the counter. Our preferred option is at the smaller counter in the main restaurant section, but wherever you are you can be assured of expertly shucked oysters and a warm welcome.
King's Cross - 11 Goods Way, London N1C 4PW
This New York import had barely opened when lockdown forced its closure, so its King's Cross location is still something of an undiscovered gem. The sushi is impeccable and - if you're in a hurry - perfect, as the omakase experience comes in at just 45 minutes long.
Brixton - 12 Market Row, London SW9 8LB
Chef Shaulan Steenson spent years working at some of Tokyo's best sushi spots just to bring Londoners a taste of the real deal. The hand rolls, made with vinegared red Uruchimai rice, are handed to you directly from the chef across the counter.
Hackney - 337 Acton Mews, London E8 4EA
For sustainable seafood, the place to go is this Hackney spot where there are just 12 seats up at the chef's table for an omakase-style tasting menu experience. It's all very Bond villain lair design to balance how virtuous you'll feel about how well-sourced the fish on your dish is.
St James's - 55 Jermyn St, London SW1Y 6LX
As one of London's oldest restaurants - it first opened for business 280 years ago - Wiltons is the restaurant equivalent of slipping into a freshly drawn hot bath. The booths here are mainly reserved for the restaurant's many regulars, but those in the know are just as happy to perch up at the oyster bar where half a dozen natives and a glass of Champagne go down very nicely.
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