COUNTER DINING

The restaurant counter seats are a popular haunt for those who want to *really* feel like a part of the action. Typically at the centre of the room, the counter is a vantage point where you can peer around at the chefs working away or at all the other restaurant-goers if there’s a lull in conversation, and is ideal for serial turn-up-to-the-restaurant-with-no-booking-ers (no judgement here!) who are delighted to have their dinner at the bar. Whatever your reason for being a counter dining lover, here are our recommendations.

Restaurants with counter dining in London come in all different cuisines, levels of formality and sizes. Bitesize spots like Bao Fitz almost exclusively seat people at the counter, with just a few regular tales outside in warmer months. And in traditional informal Japanese dining style, places like Temaki are counter dining only, making them perfect for a solo dinner out. While larger restaurants include Humble Chicken in Soho,  the fiery yakitori joint where you can enjoy all the sights, smells and theatre of an open kitchen.

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BAO FITZ

££
31 Windmill St, London W1T 2JN, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: 5:30 – 10:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 5:30 – 10:00 PM
  • Thursday: 5:30 – 10:00 PM
  • Friday: 5:30 – 10:30 PM
  • Saturday: 12:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Sunday: Closed

If you love a bit of counter dining, you’ll defo want to pull up a stool at the Fitzrovia outpost of Bao. A U-shaped wooden bar dominates the main space (although there is outdoor seating for warmer weather and larger tables for groups downstairs). The Fitzoriva menu includes classic buns like the pork bao, daikon bao and beef short rib bao plus an exclusive black cod one, alongside other plates like Taiwanese fried chicken shop chop with soy cured egg, beef cheek & tendon nuggets, bone marrow rice, and the Horlicks ice cream fried bao. Order up a couple of sweet potato sours and umeshu negronis and you’ve got yourself a real good time.

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TEMAKI

12 market row, London SW9 8LB, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: 6:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 6:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Thursday: 6:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Friday: 12:30 – 3:30 PM, 5:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Saturday: 12:30 – 3:30 PM, 5:00 – 10:30 PM
  • Sunday: Closed

Temaki, London’s first authentic hand roll bar, is overseen by restaurateur A.M Dupee and chef Shaulan Steenson, who has gained experience at some of Japan’s most coveted sushi joints as well as at London’s best Japanese restaurants. The rolls are available individually or in sets and are rolled to order before being handed over the counter. If you order a set – we think this is the best and easiest way – they all start with the akami tuna in honour of the first roll Shaulan had when working in Japan. The unagi (BBQ eel), otoro tuna with spring onion and crab with egg yolk & white soy are also excellent. It’s a handroll bar so naturally these are the main attraction but you definitely don’t want to skip the small plates, especially the monkfish karaage. The quality of sushi at Temaki is right up there with the best in the city, with the added bonus of not costing a bomb and the informal and friendly atmosphere make it great for solo dining.

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HUMBLE CHICKEN

54 Frith St, London W1D 4SL, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: 5:15 – 10:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 5:15 – 10:00 PM
  • Thursday: 5:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Friday: 5:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Saturday: 12:30 – 3:00 PM, 5:30 – 11:00 PM
  • Sunday: Closed

No prizes for guessing which animal is the star of the show at chef Angelo Sato’s restaurant – yes, it is indeed the humble chicken. Sato, who also owns Omoide in Bermondsey and previously worked at Restaurant Story, showcases ‘comb to tail’ cooking, with every part of the bird cooked on skewers over charcoal – feet included. Despite the ‘humble’ moniker, there’s plenty of extra bells and whistles to elevate this far beyond being just ‘chicken on a stick’; you can order everything from chicken oyster and breast to tendons and cartilage to liver and neck. And if you want a break from the bird, check out the small plates like miso foie gras tart, cured mackerel with tomato ponzu, and tuna with fermented white asparagus. Drinks are a huge part of it too – it is an izakaya after all – and Humble Chicken delivers the goods with sake, wines, Japanese whisky, cocktails, and, best of all, pints of Asahi Super Dry poured from an automatic tap for that full on futuristic feel.

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BARRAFINA

Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross, London, N1C 4AB

The CDY branch of Barrafina is the biggest one in the group – very handy as it’s still strictly no ressies – with gorgeous counter seating plus some small tables if you want a little more privacy. It’s a Calalan-inspired menu, with a mix of new dishes and Barrafina classics (like their famously oozy tortillas) but be sure to check out the daily specials as well because these can be magic.

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THE PALOMAR

34 Rupert Street, London W1D 6DN, United Kingdom

Getting a table at The Palomar might not be easy, but it’s SO worth the effort. The menu brings together the cultures of Southern Spain, North Africa and the Levant and their Stone Bass Machluta and Jeresulam Mix of chicken liver, heart & veal sweetbread al-ha-plancha are must orders.

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THE BARBARY

16 Neal's Yard, London, UK

The Barbary is situated in the iconic Neal’s Yard and offers food inspired by countries that span the Barbary coast, from Israel to Morocco. Its dishes are made for sharing and kicking off with the freshly baked super light naan and dips is always a good start. Don’t miss the Moroccan cigars which are deep fried pastry rolls filled with a spicy cod mix, and then there’s the cauliflower Jaffa style which is incredible. It’s a bloody great dining option in Covent Garden, but with only 24 seats and food this good, expect queues.

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KILN

58 Brewer St, Soho, London W1F 9TL, UK

It was named the UK’s best restaurant at the 2018 National Restaurant Awards and we can confirm that Kiln defo lives up to the hype. The food is inspired by the Thai borderlands, including Burmese and Yunanese spices and flavours, and there’s lots of cooking over open fire. The jungle curry of brill is a winner (and spicy too) and the claypot baked glass noodles are an absolute must-order too.

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SUSHI TETSU

££
12 Jerusalem Passage, London EC1V 4JP, UK

Sushi Tetsu is a seven seat sushi bar and it’s the hardest restaurant to get into in London. With only two sittings a night, plus the fact that you have to ring at certain times on particular days to book, it’s very difficult to actually bag a reservation. Run by husband and wife Toru and Harumi Takahashi, it’s known for serving the best sushi in town though so it’s worth the hassle. Go for the omakase menu and just sit back and enjoy as Toru prepares and serves whatever is best that day.

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EVELYN'S TABLE

28 Rupert St, London W1D 6DJ, UK

Evelyn’s Table is a 15-seat affair in the basement of Soho pub The Blue Posts. 11 of the 15 seats are at a counter around the kitchen and this is where you ideally want to be, so you can see the chefs in action and chat with them throughout the meal. It’s hard to get a ressie here but it’s well worth the effort because the food, like smoked eel,served with super soft potato blinis and beetroot; brill with celeriac puree and mushrooms; and tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream, is incredible.

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PARADISE

61 Rupert St, London W1D 7PW, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 5:30 – 11:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 12:30 – 4:00 PM, 5:30 – 11:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 12:30 – 4:00 PM, 5:30 – 11:00 PM
  • Thursday: 12:30 – 4:00 PM, 5:30 – 11:00 PM
  • Friday: 12:30 – 4:00 PM, 5:30 – 11:00 PM
  • Saturday: 12:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Sunday: Closed

Modern Sri Lankan restaurant Paradise takes inspiration from Sri Lankan cities Colombo and Galle, and its menu even includes some of the chef’s own family recipes and curries. Obviously the hoppers are a must order, but we’d also recommend the date and pistachio hand-stretched godamba roti if you fancy trying something new. Most of the dishes on the menu have quite a kick to them, so you’ve gotta be able to handle your spice. From the dishes and drinks to the design, the whole thing is well executed and shows off the best Sri Lankan food has to offer.

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SABOR

£££
35-37 Heddon St, London W1B 4BR, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: Closed
  • Wednesday: 12:00 – 2:30 PM, 5:30 – 10:30 PM
  • Thursday: 12:00 – 2:30 PM, 5:30 – 10:30 PM
  • Friday: 12:00 – 2:30 PM, 5:30 – 10:30 PM
  • Saturday: 12:00 – 2:30 PM, 5:30 – 10:30 PM
  • Sunday: Closed

Founded by Nieves Barragan and José Etura, Spanish restaurant Sabor has taken London by storm, winning a Michelin star in 2018. Sabor means flavour in Spanish, and they have it by the bucket loads. You even get to choose which area you fancy dining at. There’s the Counter, which serves fresh fish and daily-changing regional dishes from across Spain, and the Bar for snacks and tipples, both on the ground floor. Up top is El Asador (where you make reservations) which serves dishes from Galicia and Castile, including suckling pig and rib of beef, cooked in a traditional wood fired oven.

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BOCCA DI LUPO

£££
12 Archer St, London W1D 7BB, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 12:00 – 3:00 PM, 5:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 12:00 – 3:00 PM, 5:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 12:00 – 3:00 PM, 5:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Thursday: 12:00 – 3:00 PM, 5:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Friday: 12:00 – 3:00 PM, 5:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Saturday: 12:00 – 3:00 PM, 5:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Sunday: 12:00 – 3:30 PM, 5:00 – 9:30 PM

Bocca di Lupo has quickly become a Soho classic since opening in 2008, with its buzzy vibe, ever-changing and ever-crowd pleasing menu and impressive wine list. The beautifully designed dining rooms and the comfortable, convivial vibes consistently draw mixed crowds of Londoners night after night to dine on some choice Italian food. The menu changes every day, but you can be sure to get plates of delicious fresh pasta, grilled meats and fish and handmade gelati from Gelupo. We definitely recommend getting a seat at the counter, if you can, for a chef’s table experience right at the heart of the action.

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KEBAB QUEEN

4 Mercer Walk, London WC2H 9FA, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: Closed
  • Wednesday: 7:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Thursday: 7:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Friday: 7:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Saturday: 7:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Sunday: Closed

Tucked away behind pink curtains downstairs from Maison Bab, Kebab Queen is not your typical kebab shop (despite the kebab shop signage out front). The speakeasy-style restaurant is decked out with chandeliers, electric blue stools, neon lights, herringbone wooden flooring and a marble countertop (that’s heated), which is where you’ll be served your six-course kebab tasting menu. Counter dining is the only kind at Kebab Queen, so you’ll watch the chefs assemble various courses of uniquely-styled kebab, like acorn-fed Iberico pata negra pork and barbequed foie gras served directly on the countertop. Even with the fine dining elements, eating with your hands is strongly encouraged, so get stuck right in.

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ROJI

56B S Molton St, London W1K 5SH, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: 6:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 6:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Thursday: 6:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Friday: 6:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Saturday: 6:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Sunday: Closed

Husband-and-wife chef team Tamas Naszai and Tomoko Hasegawa, who’ve worked at Tokimeite and Sake No Hana between them, have opened ten-seat Japanese restaurant Roji in partnership with the group behind Chisou and Sushi Atelier. Roji, which can translate to ‘journey’, ‘path’ or ‘hidden alley’, is tucked away on South Molton Street in Mayfair and serves up a seasonal menu of sushi, pickled and preserved dishes, and charcoal-grilled dishes, with a focus on British produce like Cornish seafood and veggies from Nama Yasai farm in East Sussex. The pair are also showcasing crockery made by small family producers in both the UK and Japan.

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