No reservation? No problem. We’ve rounded up the best no-booking restaurants in London that really are worth a short queue…
Words Helen Brown
No-booking restaurants are popping up everywhere at the moment. There’s something about the spontaneity of it all that means people are fine to hang around in a queue before an in-an-out supper. If you’re fine to spend a chunk of the evening jostling for pavement space with a crowd of hungry Londoners, read on. These no-booking restaurants in London really are worth the wait.
Join Padella’s queue and prepare for some of the most delicious and authentic tasting Italian food outside of Italy. The menu is short, sweet and frequently changing and the atmosphere lively. It’s mostly centred around a marble bar on the ground floor which means that queue moves pretty swiftly.
What started out as a makeshift taco shack in a Hackney car park is now a mecca of Mexican gastronomy. We suggest you try everything on the menu.
This Soho hotspot has all the hipsters queuing for Thai barbeque. Big on authentic flavours, the menu is incredibly inventive and changes regularly. Permanent fixtures include the addictive fish sauce wings and a variety of spicy Thai sides like som tam (green papaya salad).
Sister to the hugely popular Smoking Goat, this is primarily a counter dining restaurant serving small Thai plates with a kick. Put your name on the list, head nearby for a drink and they’ll give you a shout when a table is free.
Springing from its pop-up spot in Pop Brixton, Kricket brings their original take on Indian small plates to the heart of Soho. Bag a counter seat and tuck into the very best of Mumbai. Dishes include Lasooni scallop with Goan sausage and wood fire pigeon with pumpkin chutney.
The Barbary is situated in the iconic Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden. It takes inspiration from the Barbary Coast, an infamous for pirates and the Barbary Lion. The culinary heritage is about seasonality – food available at that moment from that piece of land, cooked in the purest way. That is the basis of this teeny-tiny London kitchen. Some history, a little bit of romance and a bar.
The queues snaking their way out of Barrafina say it all really. Diners can usually expect to wait up to an hour on any given evening but it really is worth the wait. The menu features tapas dishes from Mallorca and Catalonia, of which the brothers turned owners know a thing or two about. Make sure to try out a few from the wine list. It’s a showcase of some of Spain’s finest.
Hoppers brings Sri Lankan cuisine to the London masses with a pioneering approach and bargainous prices. Their moreish bowls justify the crowds, although a wait of 90 minutes can stand between you and your dinner at peak times.
From the iconic Polpo interiors to its Aperol spritzes and brown-paper menu, Russell Norman’s successful mini-chain of Venetian-style eateries pack in the crowds. 8pm is peak time, but those after an early dinner or post-theatre supper can normally grab a seat.
This natural wine bar and restaurant in the heart of Soho serves an eclectic array of European food. The menu changes daily, the venue is cosy and the crowds love the vinyl collection and record player.