Counter culture has been heating up London’s restaurant scene of late and it’s spanning all the types of eateries you can think of, from Japanese izakaya bars to fine dining grills and rotating cheese counters. Pull up a pew, knock knees and be wowed by the theatre of the chefs behind the bar at these top 19 counter top dining spots.
As previous winners of the Best Restaurant in the UK, it’s a bit of a given that KILN are doing something right. The Thai-inspired restaurant cooks fresh in an open kitchen in what can only be described as a space with serious city culture. It’s got that sort of quick in-and-out dinner before the theatre vibe, grabbing small plates, seafood and claypots of raw chopped beef larb, Tokyo turnips or mackerel dry red curry, washed down with one of their signature cocktail creations. Whilst the space is small, it certainly adds to the intimacy. If you’re after counter culture, Soho’s KILN is one to beat.
Pull up a pew at one of Temper’s mouth-wateringly good restaurants located across Soho, Covent Garden and The City. Soho is all about dining below the street to good tunes, food theatre and woodsmoke from a six metre-long central fire pit, (the biggest we know of in any restaurant anywhere). Temper is all about meat over open fire and moreish tacos – a winning combination in our book – and the bar area offers the best way to view all the action from a lively kitchen.
Don’t fight the carbs at this eatery but prepare to queue. This first come first serve spot will have you slipping over spaghetti to grab a seat counter side. The restaurant, located in London Bridge, is all about hand-rolled, fresh and splashed with just the right amount of sauce dishes. It’s also refreshingly affordable.
Jacob Kennedy and Victor Hugo opened Bocca di Lupo in November 2008 and ever since have championed at-the-counter dining. The restaurant specialises in obscure food and wine from across Italy’s twenty regions. Expect cosy Italian famiglia vibes all round.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out what kind of restaurant this is. Cheese connoisseurs, you’ll be fine. Pull up a pew at the Camden or Seven Dials bar and tuck into stringy cheese toasties, addictive cheese puffs and the weekly-changing cheeseboard. Expect some wild dreams post-dinner.
Counter dining lovers, get an eye full of these awesome pink stools at Kricket in Soho. This Pinterest-perfect joint is all about the small plates, enjoyed counter side, from masala kulcha breads to bhel puri and cuttlefish, there’s something for every palette, and what with that extensive menu there’s sure to be a whole lot of action kitchen side.
Barrafina is an authentic tapas bar with a difference – the Soho outpost even has a star. Despite the original site being located on Dean Street, you can pull up a pew counter side across their other locations in Drury Lane and Adelaide Street. The sought after tapas haven serves up traditional Spanish food and drinks in the form of Spanish sherries, Cavas and wines to whet the palette.
Obviously The Grill is going to nail meaty dishes but if you’re a veggie, vegan or dining with one it’s worth trying out their vegetarian menu too – the cauliflower steaks with shaved truffle are sublime. You may be sitting at the bar but this is still fine dining – expect to leave with a lighter wallet and a heavier belly.
This Dalston gem is fast becoming one of our favourites in east London. The restaurant is made up of candlelit sharing tables but book a spot at the bar to see all the live action from the chefs. The menu is Italian-meets-Japanese – shouldn’t work but it does – and the menu changes regularly. Meaning you’ll always want to go back.
This NY-meets-LND-meets-French Brasserie establishment is a Covent Garden favourite. Sit at the bar, chat to the welcoming waiters and order something simple – you can’t beat bar snacks and a bottle of wine for two post-shopping spree.
Where: 4-6 Russell Street, Covent Garden, London WC2B 5HZ
Nearest station: Covent Garden (0.2 miles)
If you like a good G&T with your dinner book into the counter bar at Rosewood London’s Holborn Dining Room where they have a sound selection of mother’s ruin. The interiors are Insta-friendly thanks to the red leather seats, copper-topped bar and antique mirrors and the food is hearty – we highly recommend one of their signature pies on dreary grey London days.
Where: Rosewood London, High Holborn, London, United Kingdom
Nearest station: Holborn (0.2 miles)
Bar-side dining dedicated to bread? We’re here for it. Head to the Naan’ery at the LaLiT where they have a dedicated naan bread bar within the Buluchi restaurant. Watch the chefs work their culinary magic and create delicious dishes right in front of you, including butter chicken curry with steaming hot naans to dip in or the aubergine and tamarind curry.
The best spot in the house is at Japanese restaurant ROBATA, the izakaya-style bar. Watch the talented chefs through billows of smoke cook up their famous skewers and bao buns before plating them up right in front of your eyes.
Open flames and an open kitchen are the ethos at the Barbary where simple, seasonal and top quality ingredients rule. The menu is broken up into The Land, The Sea and The Earth and is intended to be shared on small plates. It’s all delicious and beautiful. The best place to sit? The bar, of course.
Behind one of London’s most famous institutions, Fortnum & Mason, sits 45 Jermyn Street. The main menu offers dishes for a global palette executed exquisitely, but we’d quite happily take the bar menu too, from the Steak Tartare on Toast to the Toasted Cheese Sandwich with White Truffle. At £26 it might just be the most expensive but delicious sandwich you ever ordered.
One of London’s most impressive restaurant buildings, German Gymnasium’s Grand Café bar is lit from below and looks up to the mezzanine restaurant and stunning roof – the building was designed by Edward Gruning and was England’s first purpose-built gymnasium. Worth the Instagram moment alone.
A dining experience like no other, there are quite literally no other options than to sit at the counter at Kitchen Table. You’ll find the restaurant through a discreet entrance on Charlotte Street and inside 20 diners can sit around a chef’s counter for a full on culinary experience. Headed up by Head Chef James Knappett, the menu changes daily and is meticulously sourced and foraged in Britain. Oh, and did we mention it has two Michelin stars? You might have to wait for a booking but it’s well worth it.
Undoubtedly one of East London’s top restaurants, Morito offers food inspired by the cuisines of southern Spain, northern Africa and the eastern Mediterranean – think of it as a holiday in the heart of Hackney. Book a table at the horseshoe-shaped marble bar to watch and smell the magic happening first-hand.
The Palomar was the restaurant on the lips for Londoners when it first opened thanks to its laid back vibe, tasty Middle Eastern-inspired menu and ‘grammable interiors. The counter dining/open-kitchen situation is cosy but that’s what makes it so charming. Nestle down, knock knees and tuck into their famous falafel, octopus and Jerusalem chicken.
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