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London’s best no-bookings restaurants (and how to get a table without queuing)

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If you didn’t make bank holiday plans but still fancy great food - don’t panic. These buzzy turn-up-and-eat restaurants will seat the spontaneous so you can eat well without booking in advance. Here is our guide to avoiding the queues and getting a table at one of London’s hottest no-reservation restaurants. 

We’re busy. Like, really really busy. And that means we can barely think about that meeting we have to get to in an hour’s time, let alone pre-book that new cult restaurant for three weeks time. 

Luckily, London’s been taking a leaf out of New York’s book and seeing more and more no-booking restaurants springing up.

Here are the best of the bunch, for your unexpected bank holiday plans and beyond…

Barrafina

Barrafina Restaurant Covent Garden Prawn Dish
London’s best no-bookings restaurants: Barrafina, Spanish Tapas

Barrafina is a hugely popular (and delicious) group of Spanish tapas restaurants – with four locations so far across London, two in Soho, one in Covent Garden and the most recent addition, which launched at Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross in late 2018. 

Widely considered the last word on Spanish cuisine in the capital, Barrafina offers contemporary and traditional and tasty Spanish tapas in the heart of London, alongside tempting wines, sherries and cervezas. 

Dream menu item: The milk fed lamb is truly exquisite, and goes down a treat washed down with a delicious cold glass of Spanish cava.

Find out more about Barrafina here.

Meatliquor

Meatliquor

Walk past any of the many Meatliquor establishments, whether in Covent Garden, Brixton or Hoxton, and you’re sure to see a queue of hungry-looking diners winding around the block. That’s becauseMeatliquor prides itself on its strict instructions that “even if the Queen wants a reservation, she can’t have one”. 

Dream menu item: The dirty chicken cheeseburger is no doubt pretty bad for us, but unfortunately that doesn’t make it any less delicious.

Find out more about Meatliquor here.

Dishoom

Breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, Dishoom is where to head. Their website states that most of the tables in their restaurants are kept unreserved so they can accommodate anyone who visits, which sounds like an invite for Indian food whenever we fancy it. 

Dream menu item: The Dishoom naan rolls, stuffed with streaky bacon, is the weekend hangover cure we all need.

Find out more about Dishoom here

Hill & Szrok

London's best no-bookings restaurants: Hill & Szrok
London’s best no-bookings restaurants: Hill & Szrok

Unusual Hill & Szrok doubles as a master butcher and a cookshop, cooking what it sells and vice versa. Specialising in free range and organic meats from English farms, you can be sure of the quality of the meat you’re consuming, and there’s a great selection of wines to accompany your meal. It may be one to miss if you’re a vegetarian, but for all the meat lovers, you’ll love the daily menu that changes depending on what local produce they can get their hands on.

Find out more about Hill & Szrok here 

Homeslice

Homeslice
London’s best no-bookings restaurants: Homeslice

Homeslice is arguably one of London’s best pizza places, with everything from the simplest of Margheritas to the more complicated toppings (BBQ brisket with pickles and even a vegan mushroom pizza sold by the slice) tasting heavenly. They don’t take any bookings at their Neals Yard restaurant, and say they only take a “limited number of bookings in our Fitzrovia, Shoreditch, City & White City restaurants, ensuring there is always plenty of space for walk-ins”. 

Dream menu item: Pizza with chorizo, corn and coriander. It hits the spot in every way. 

Find out more about Homeslice here.

Flat Iron

Flat Iron
London’s best no-bookings restaurants: Flat Iron

With six joints in London that don’t take reservations, including London Bridge, Shoreditch and Covent Garden, and one venue in North Kensington that takes both reservations and bookings, you can rock up to Flat Iron for mouthwatering food on demand. Specialising in steak and a few sides, they’ve really got their menu nailed.

Dream menu item: A medium-rare rib eye steak (obviously) with some creamed spinach and chips on the side

Find out more about Flat Iron here.

El Pastor

These Mexican restaurants are walk-in only, meaning it’s taco time all the time. Serving authentic food wrapped in tortillas made in-house using heritage Mexican corn. 

Dream menu item: Chorizo, potato and salsa verde fresca tacos please.

Find out more about El Pastor here.

Spuntino

Spuntino
London’s best no-bookings restaurants: Spuntino

Spuntino is, quite simply, 27 stools and a popcorn machine. They describe themselves as “a scruffy small-plate joint”, and we say they’re a quirky, grungy diner in Soho that you’ll love. There’s no calling ahead to try to book, as they don’t even have a telephone, and are strict about their first-come, first-served rule. 

Dream menu item: Carrot crocchette & miso mayo sounds like the dream, and we will definitely be following up with the peanut butter & jelly sandwich from the dessert menu.  

Find out more about Spuntino here.

Koya Bar

Koya Bar
London’s best no-bookings restaurants: Koya

Koya Bar’s fuss-free, café-style Japanese restaurant is our favourite place to slurp up udon and tuck into Japanese-style fish and chips. No bookings are taken at their Soho branch, so head down for your last minute noodle fix.

Dream menu item: The Kinoko, a mushroom udon with walnut miso, sounds perfect for the bank holiday.

Find out more about Koya here.

BAO

Somewhat of a London cult now, BAO serves a selection of, you guessed it, Bao (those glorious, airy, filled dumplings). Each of their three restaurants also has unique menus, taking inspiration from different elements of Asian culture. Hearty, fun, and, with no booking allowed, the easiest answer for your cravings. 

Dream menu item: We couldn’t recommend anything other than the classic Bao. 

Find out more here

Padella

What has become known as potentially the most affordable Italian restaurant in London, Padella is strictly no reservations. Rock up to enjoy simple, hand rolled pasta dishes for between £4.50-£11, along with perfectly paired wines.

Dream menu item: Tagliarini with nettles, nutmeg and egg yolk (pictured above).

Find out more here.

Images: from restaurants

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