One of my favourite things to do is wake up early, head to a cafe with my book or laptop in hand and enjoy breakfast by myself. I’ve been known to do it a few times for dinner too. I don’t have to wait for anyone, I can order what I want and just enjoy my own company – something we don’t get to do (or want to do?) nowadays. Wait, you went to eat by yourself? Didn’t you feel like people were looking at you and thinking wow she’s got no friends that’s really embarrassing? …. at one time, yes, but it’s become something that I cherish now rather than be embarrassed about.
Doing a bit of research for this post I came across a restaurant that opened up in Amsterdam in 2013 and then in London a year later called Eenmaal, meaning “one time” and “one meal”. Eenmaal was a dining establishment specifically for people on their own and I use ‘was’ because it sadly closed shortly after. Does that mean there’s not that many solo diners out there? Or just we’re too embarrassed to do it?
Dining alone shouldn’t be seen as something that sad, lonely people do and let’s face it, nowadays you’re never really alone. Not with the introduction of phones, laptops and wait for it …. even real life paper books! (Shocking I know!) It should be empowering and liberating and more places should be catering for it! By eating alone we get to enjoy our own company, we don’t have to share our delicious meal and we probably won’t have to wait for a table! Three very good reasons I think!
So, your planning on eating out solo? Here’s some simple tips mind to get the best out of your experience!
1. Pick the RIGHT place
Find somewhere that’s got areas that cater well for the solo diners … A stool at the counter, a bar area, seats lined up against a window. Preferably not a large open restaurant with formal tables.
2. Own it!
Be confident. Don’t walk in and think oh gosh I’m on my own everyone must think I’m weird. It’ll radiate all over your face. Truth is most people won’t even think about it or if they do they are probably thinking wow I wish I had the guts to do that like them.
3. Take a prop if it makes you more comfortable.
If you are super uncomfortable not having someone to talk then take a prop. A book, a phone or a laptop is always a good distraction.
Now you’re clued up on how to do it well, here are 19 places I’d suggest I think are perfect for solo dining … happy eating!
Delicious, affordable handmade pasta. Counter seating or tables that turn around very quickly. Very famous in London. Expect a queue.
Super cheap and super fast pizza (under £5!) . My favourite in London. Pay at the counter, pick up your pizza when your buzzer goes off and sit at a communal table.
Handmade pasta served in smaller portions. Counter seating overlooking the busy chefs. A beautiful place. One where you could order a nice glass of wine for yourself.
A Scandi-style cafe serving nordic breakfast and lunch of salads, sandwiches and traditional Scandinavian sweet treats. Pop in for one of their famous cinnamon buns.
Fluffy steamed bao buns in a funky Cantonese style cafe. Informal seating with stools. Easy menu, VERY affordable and quick turn around on food.
Build your own Hawaiian Poke bowl of fish, grains and vegetables. A fast food kinda setting but in a healthier more elegant way.
A New York style food court in a 5* hotel. One for business travelers or those looking for high-end solo dining. Choose from 8 restaurants.
Danish cafe. Grab a number and order a sandwich, salad or cake at the counter. Find your own seat in a large, relaxed, industrial space.
A great one for a solo lunch. Japanese small plates or larger one bowl dishes. Always have a lunch special under £10.
Malaysian Street Food in a buzzing underground basement. Expect a long queue that goes down fast and tables that turn around quickly. Don’t go for great service but for delicious food.
A large, farm house style bakery & cafe serving breakfast, brunch and homemade pastries. Pull up a chair at one of their window sills and enjoy breakfast watching the world go by.
A restaurant dedicated to all things cheese. Mostly stool seating around a large center island counter.
Photo Credit: Square Meal
An upmarket food hall inside an old tube station. Buy food from one of the many traders and take it to eat in the communal seating area. See more about them here.
A small, compact restaurant doing fluffy Taiwanese style bao buns. Seating available at the counter. Usually a queue that goes down fast.
15. Maltby/Borough/ Spitalfields/Broadway Market.
London markets offer AMAZING street food to grab and go. Alternatively, pull a kerb and enjoy.
American style comfort food in a small industrial restaurant. Seating around a counter only and no tables. Intimate. Can take a maximum of 20 people.
Gourmet burgers and fries in a relaxed and really cool space. High-quality ingredients from local suppliers. Much more than just a burger place.
Photo Credit: Nic Crilly Photography
Japanese ramen bar. Enjoy a solo session of delicious noodles at one of London’s most famous ramen bars.
A stylish restaurant serving up affordable pasta dishes. No reservations, large sharing tables, quick service.
People tell me that some great other ones are Barrafina for tapas, Bancone and Bocca di Lupo for pasta, Seoul Bakery for Japanese and The Barbary for Mediterranean meets the Middle East. I haven’t been to them (yet) but the recommendation comes from friends who know the food scene well. Of course, don’t forget that most London coffee shops are a sanctuary for a solo breakfast or lunch and you’ll see many people enjoying their own company at one of many in the city so don’t be afraid.
I’ve also gathered loads more ideas from around the internet of best places to dine solo in London.
These from Eater London.
These from the Evening Standard.
These from Infatuation London.
These from the Londonist.