Hot Dinners recommends

With social distancing and the rule of six, solo dining has never been more attractive. Fully updated with the new Covid measures is our guide to London's best restaurants for perching up at the counter.

 

45 Jermyn St.

45 Jermyn St.

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.

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BAO

BAO

Soho, Borough 

The steamed buns at BAO are one of London's most popular dishes and the counter scene one of the most coveted. Queues are, for the moment, banished and you can actually book at both Soho and Borough (although Fitzrovia is currently closed). All of the restaurants have some counter dining available.

Covid specific changes: Extra spaces between diners, perspex screen at Borough

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The Barbary

The Barbary

16 Neal's Yard, London WC2H 9DP

The 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. 

Covid specific changes: Reduced seating, with an empty stool between groups

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Barrafina

Barrafina

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. If you're just after something specifically pescatarian, then head to the Drury Lane restaurant when it reopens as Barrafina Mariscos, focusing on seafood. 

Covid specific changes: A number of stools removed at all venues to allow distancing

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Berenjak

Berenjak

27 Romilly St, Soho, 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.

Covid specific changes: Reduced seating at the counter, extra seating by the hatch

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Bocca Di Lupo

Bocca Di Lupo

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. 

Covid specific changes: Perspex screens have been installed

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Breddos

Breddos

82 Goswell Rd, London EC1V 7DB

Breddos were mainly responsible for helping to kick off London's taco revolution and this Clerkenwell restaurant remains one of the best places for tacos in the City (and keep an eye out for guest chefs). There are limited spaces at the counter, but for us, they're the best seats in the house. 

Covid specific changes: Reduced seating at the counter

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Bubala

Bubala

65 Commercial St, Spitalfields, 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. 

Covid specific changes: Reduced counter dining is still available at the bar

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Pick & Cheese and The Cheese Bar

Pick & Cheese and The Cheese Bar

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. 

Covid specific changes: Reduced seating at the counters

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jugemu

Harrods Food Hall

87-135 Brompton Rd, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7XL

All six restaurants in the dining hall at this Knightsbridge institution have now reopened. Take your pick from Caviar House & Prunier, the sushi bar, Kama by Vineet, the fish bar, pasta bar and The Grill.

Covid specific changes: There are screens separating diners and the bar/preparation areas.

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jugemu

Jugemu

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.

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Kiln

Kiln

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.

Covid specific changes: Reduced seating at the counters

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Kricket Soho

Kricket 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. 

Covid specific changes: Reduced seating at the counters to allow more spacing between groups

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Lorne

Lorne

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. 

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The Ned

The Ned

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 Zobler's (closed at the time of writing) and the Asian-Pacific restaurant Kaia. With so much space this is a great bet for popping in for a walk-in spot. 

Covid specific changes: Reduced seating at the counters (Zobler's seating is being used for extra space)

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pfranco

P Franco

107 Lower Clapton Rd, Lower Clapton, 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. 

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Padella

Padella

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. 

Covid specific changes: Protective screens in front of the counters

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The Palomar

The Palomar

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.

Covid specific changes: Reduced seating at the counters to allow more spacing between groups. Plus, you can now book the counter.

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Paradise

Paradise

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.

Covid specific changes: They have halved capacity at the counter.

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Sabor

Sabor

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.

Covid specific changes: Reduced seating

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Temper

Temper

25 Broadwick St, Soho, London W1F

Temper in Soho all about the meat and it features a hugely theatrical central counter space. It's clearly the place to be, watching the chefs up close - you'll end up being hypnotised by the inflating flatbreads if you're near that section.

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