Hot Dinners recommends

We reckon there are huge benefits to the no-reservations restaurant. When restaurants don't have to worry about no-shows (which have a horrible impact on their bottom line) the prices can be lower. It's all very egalitarian. You have an equal chance of getting into the restaurant as anyone else in London that evening. And if you decide to go out on a busy night but haven't booked anywhere - then all the below are possible dining options.

So forget about the naysayers, and join us in celebrating all these excellent no-reservation restaurants.

 

Bao

Bao
53 Lexington St, London W1F 9AS

One of London's legendary restaurant queues, the original Soho Bao remains one of the hardest spots to get into. Stand your ground and you'll be rewarded with some of the best steamed buns in town.

How to queue: An old-school queue across the road from the restaurant

If the queue is too long: Then head over to the FItzrovia Bao where you should have more luck and can book a table too!

More about Bao 

 

 

The Barbary

The Barbary
16 Neal's Yard, London WC2H 9DP

The people behind the Barbary had already created one of London's best no-bookings restaurants with The Palomar and their follow-up is just as successful. Expect lots of Barbary Coast and North African food and an in-your-face counter dining experience.

How to queue: You can wait around the sides of the restaurant, propped up on a bar with a drink and some snacks to get you in the mood.

If the queue is too long: Try the original Palomar, where they'll take your number and call you when your table is ready (in their pub, The Blue Posts, just down the road).

More about The Barbary 

 

 

Barrafina

Barrafina
Soho, Covent Garden, Drury Lane

Quite probably the most well-known no-bookings restaurant in London, the original Barrafina on Frith St relocated to Dean Street - but all three Barrafinas are for walk-ins only. Expect top tapas dishes and you'll want to visit them all as they each have original dishes. (Photo by Paul Winch-Furness)

How to queue: You'll have to wait for your table, but some of the spots have places where you can grab a drink while you wait.

If the queue is too long: Just head over to one of the other Barrafinas and hope you get luckier...

More about Barrafina 

 

 

Black Axe Mangal

Black Axe Mangal
24 Great Windmill Street, London W1D 7LG

One of our personal favourite restaurants in town and where we often find ourselves popping in to see what's new on the menu. Expect Lee Tiernan to be working wonders in their huge oven, with flatbreads to die for (particularly the squid ink and cods roe) and a regularly changing inventive menu. Brunch is another highlight too. 

How to queue: They have a waitlist, so will call as soon as your table is ready. Head to the next-door Hen and Chickens while you wait.

Any booking options? Book Monday - Thursday for tables of four or more

More about Black Axe Mangal 

 

 

Blacklock

Blacklock
24 Great Windmill Street, London W1D 7LG

This basement spot in Soho serves chops and steak that rest over and soak their meaty juices into bread. So yes, there is a bit of a wait for that, but it's worth it.

How to queue: Put your name on the list and they'll call you when a table is free. Or you can start working on the £5 cocktails at the bar.

If the queue is too long: Head over to Blacklock City where they WILL take bookings.

Any booking options? Book anytime for a lunchtime visit, or before 6pm. 

More about Blacklock 

 

 

hoppersnew

Hoppers
49 Frith Street, Soho, London W1D 4SG

From the people behind Michelin-starred Gymkhana, this is a more street-food approach to Sri-Lankan food, mainly centred around hoppers and dosas. Although they have opened a second branch, the original in Soho is still hugely popular so be very thankful if you get a table.

How to queue: Put your name on the list, head nearby for a drink and they'll text you when a table is free.

If the queue is too long: Then head over to their Marylebone branch, where you can book a table if there are four or more of you.

More about Hoppers 

 

 

Kiln

Kiln
58 Brewer Street, London W1F 9TL

The people behind the hugely popular Smoking Goat launched this primarily counter dining restaurant, with a stripped down version of small plates Thai food, with a kick. The counter is where you'll want to be here, and they don't take reservations for it.

How to queue: Put your name on the list, head nearby for a drink and they'll call you when a table is free.

Any booking options? 4 or more in the downstairs dining room.

More about Kiln 

 

 

Kricket

Kricket
12 Denman St, Soho, London W1D 7HH

Kricket successfully brought their original take on Indian small plates to the heart of Soho and it's one of the best counter dining spots in town (we do love a bit of samphire pakora). 

How to queue: Put your name on the list, head nearby for a drink and they'll call you when a table is free.

If the queue is too long: Take the Victoria line down to their restaurant in Brixton where they do take reservations. 

More about Kricket 

 

 

Padella

Padella
24 Southwark Street, London SE1 1TQ

There are only a select few dishes on the menu at this pasta restaurant in Borough, but they're all fantastic value and it's seen as one of the best pasta restaurants in London. Inevitably there's a bit of a queue. But it's well worth any wait.

How to queue: An old-school queue outside

If the queue is too long: Try the original Trullo in Islington, where you can book a table.

More about Padella 

 

 

Pastaio 

Pastaio 
19 Ganton St, Soho, London W1F 9BN

Another great pasta restaurant, this time from Stevie Parle, the man behind Craft, Palatino and more. Expect plenty of freshly made, affordable pasta dishes and the option to drink Prosecco slushies with them. Because who wouldn't want that?

How to queue: They'll take your number and text you when your table is free.

More about Pastaio 

 

 

Sabor

Sabor
35 Heddon Street, London W1B 4BR

The person who's arguably mainly responsible for the huge success of Barrafina, Nieves Barragan, has moved onto opening her own place, together with another Barrafina Alumni, José Etura. The main draw here is the counter area around the big open-plan kitchen. As before, expect some of the best tapas in town here. 

How to queue: There's a small bar area on the ground floor which has its own food too. Grab a drink there, some Camarones Fritos and it's almost as good as the counter.

If the queue is too long: Book upstairs at the asador for larger sharing plates, like suckling pig. 

More about Sabor 

 

 

Smokestak

Smokestak
35 Sclater St, London E1 6LB

If you're looking for some of the best brisket in town (and a LOT more besides), then Smokestak is the place to be. Some of the most gloriously smoked meat in town awaits you if you're prepared to also smell very smoky yourself afterwards. (Photo by Carol Sachs)

How to queue: Put your name on the list and head downstairs to the basement bar until your table is ready.

If the queue is too long: Head into Soho, for barbecued goodness in the original Temper, where you can book a table.

More about Smokestak 

 

 

Som Saa

Som Saa
43A Commercial St, London E1 6BD

Hailed by many as the epitome of Thai cooking in London, Som Saa serves up cracking Thai food on the fringes of the City to a large and devoted fanbase.

How to queue: You'll have to wait in the restaurant, but there's a nice bar up front to wait in.

If the queue is too long: Think about heading northwards to Islington for Farang

Any booking options? Book anytime for a lunchtime visit or for tables of four and eight in the evening. 

More about Som Saa 

 

 

Also try...

From the same people as Barrafina, tacos in Borough market at El Pastor.

For burgers and booze, head to any of the MEATliquors dotted across town.

Chick n Sours in Haggerston for some top fried chicken (although you can book the Covent Garden branch)

Head to any of the Dishooms where it's no booking in the evening - but they're ALL still very popular.

Waterloo isn't the best spot for food in town, so the walk-in-only Anchor and Hope is far and away your best bet.

If you're after a steak fix for a tenner - head to a Flat Iron.

One of the original restaurants to popularise no-booking, Polpo is still going strong, as is Spuntino.

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