Brits love to queue so it’s no surprise that London is brimming with no-reservation restaurants. Strangely, this no-bookings trend can actually make a restaurant more successful – have you ever not seen a queue snaking down Kingley Street for Dishoom? Or a hoard of people outside Padella hankering for plum cheese-filled ravioli?
While the queuing in the rain thing isn’t fun, it does create a certain buzz around restaurants and you can bet your bill that every seat in the house will be taken in these seriously popular places.
Read on for our favourites…
One from the Parisian bar and restaurant group that can do no wrong, Big Mama, Gloria is like walking into a Gucci campaign thanks to its seriously, anything goes granny chic interiors.
You’ve probably seen the big wheels of melted cheese they smother spaghetti in at the table on a slew of Instagram feeds. And while the food won’t blow your mind, you’re guaranteed to have a fun night.
Gloria, 54-56 Great Eastern St, Hackney, London EC2A 3QR
Hands down one of the best, most affordable steaks in London. They basically do one thing and they do it well – a flat iron cut of beef, cooked to perfection and served with salad.
With smashing sides like chips and creamed spinach, good wine and welcome beef dropping popcorn, this unpretentious restaurant offers warm, friendly service and dinner for less than 20 quid.
The only downfall? The might have to queue.
Soho, Covent Garden, Shoreditch, Kings Cross, London Bridge, Spitalfields, Oxford Street and Aldgate
If you’re familiar with Soho’s Lexington Street you’ll be familiar with Bao’s ridiculous queues around the blog. The wait is worth it though, when you tuck into pillowy soft Taiwanese buns and their delectable fillings.
Not a fan of queuing? Book online at the Borough outpost instead for karaoke or a table for four or more.
BAO Soho, 3 Lexington St, Soho, London W1F 9AS
This Bombay street food-inspired restaurant gets that queuing in the London rain might not be the same as the Mumbai heat, so they kindly bring customers hot drinks to warm up with while they wait to be seated.
The wait is worth it, though – we deplore you to not find something (or 100 things) you don’t like on this menu, from the bacon naan baps at breakfast to the Dishoom family recipe chicken tikka, this restaurant offers a journey through spices, day to night.
Kensington, Shoreditch, King’s Cross and Covent Garden
Michelin-starred tapas is served up in this no-reservations restaurant and everything from the small plates to the swooping marble bar are delightful. In fact, it was voted Britain’s Best Restaurant at the National Restaurant Awards in 2015 and it’s been charming Londoners ever since.
One tip: get there early and prepare to queue.
Covent Garden and Soho
Of the handful of times we’ve been to Bone Daddies the experience hasn’t been great – queuing in the rain, watching other people queuing in the rain on the opposite side of the street for the latest Supreme collection to drop makes it hideously British, which is weird for a ramen joint. And once in, the staff are never particularly welcoming amidst the quick turnarounds and endless walk-ins.
But the food IS good – deep bowls of salty, sweet ramen laded with chilli that will warm you up after the long wait.
Bone Daddies, 31 Peter St, Soho, London W1F 0AR
If you’re yet to try Borough restaurant Padella’s sage butter pasta, get yourself in that queue. We could wax lyrical about this place and have tried just about every dish on the menu. It’s almost criminally affordable but the queues are intense. Totally worth it, mind.
Padella, 6 Southwark St, London SE1 1TQ
This world-famous dumpling restaurant is a must try for self-confessed foodies. In fact, when they opened their first London outpost people really lost their sh*t with queues snaking round the corner.
Since then, however, you have been able to make bookings for five or more (except Saturdays). Who’s coming?
Din Tai Fung, 5 Henrietta St, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8PT
The late food critic AA Gil famously loved the place and you’ll often spot big actors dining low key thanks to the theatre town location. The menu is basically a French menu from 1972 – think duck confit, salmon en croute and French onion soup – but the interiors make you want to pretend you’re in a Wes Anderson film. Worth a visit for those alone.
20 Sherwood St, Soho, London W1F 7ED
Essentially posh fried chicken, CHICKS’N’SOURS is next level junk food. Except that it’s not really junk food at all, just damn good, tasty, chicken – crispy and satisfying on the outside, juicy and succulent on the inside.
They opened the OG of their restaurants in Dalston back in 2015 and now boast outposts in Seven Dials, the City and Angel.
Book in for some of the best fried chicken in London and sour cocktails to wash it all down with.
390 Kingsland Road, Dalston, London E8 4AA