Hot Dinners recommends

Every so often, there's a story in a newspaper where someone has a good old whinge about no-bookings restaurants. And their main issue always seems to be that the author couldn't or wouldn't countenance the idea of ever queueing for a restaurant. 

But don't get swayed by this view. 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.

And when it comes right down it, there are very few actual queues, much of the time you'll be waiting in a nearby pub waiting for a call to say you're next on the list or you'll be nursing a cocktail at the restaurant's bar or - crazier still - actually getting to talk to complete strangers while you wait. You might even make a new friend (or get someone's number if you're really lucky).

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

 

 

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 just prepared to 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, where Neil Rankin is smoking up a storm at Temper, and you can book a table there.

More about Smokestak 

 

 

Breddos

Breddos
82 Goswell Rd, London EC1V 7DB

Tacos are finally a big thing in London and at Breddos you can be sure of some of the best in town. There's also an unhealthy amount of excellent Mezcal on offer. Look out for the weekend brunch specials too.

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

If the queue is too long: Head into Soho for Corazon or south of the river for El Pastor. But be warned, they have queues too...

More about Breddos 

 

 

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.

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: Head over to the original Smoking Goat. But be warned, they have queues too...

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

More about Kiln 

 

 

Kricket

Kricket
12 Denman St, Soho, London W1D 7HH

Originally a much smaller spot in Pop Brixton (which is still going strong), Kricket have brought their original take on Indian small plates to the heart of Soho (adding a few more dishes into the bargain). The counter is the place you'll really want to sit at.

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: Try the original in Brixton early evening.

More about Kricket 

 

 

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 follow0up 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'll have to wait around the sides of the restaurant where you can prop 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.

More about The Barbary 

 

 

Barrafina

Barrafina
Soho, Covent Garden, Drury Lane

Quite probably the most well-known no-bookings restaurant London, the original Barrafina on Frith St has now 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 

 

 

Bao

Bao
53 Lexington St, London W1F 9AS

Another 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 

 

 

Hoppers

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. At the time of writing, it's 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: If you're prepared to go a little more upmarket, book a spot at Gymkhana. Or alternatively a spot of crazy golf at Swingers where Hoppers is appearing too.

More about Hoppers 

 

 

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: If you can wait until late March 2017, they're opening in the City where they WILL take bookings.

Any booking options? Book anytime for a lunchtime visit or before 6pm. Plus bookings for 6 or more people. 

More about Blacklock 

 

 

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 

 

 

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.

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.

The City Pitt Cue is bookable, but if you need a pulled pork fix, head to Little Pitt in Soho.

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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