Best Counter Dining Restaurants In London

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.

PAVYLLON

Hamilton Pl, London W1J 7DR

Yannick Alléno is one of the most decorated Michelin-starred chefs in the game; he has 16 stars across his 17 international restaurants, including at his London outpost of Pavyllon inside the Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane. And you can get up close and personal to his brigade by taking a seat at the expansive – and very comfortable – counter for one of the restaurant’s set menus, like the four- or six-course Immersive Mayfair experience. The kitchen’s modern French philosophy is on full display with dishes like crispy curry tartlet with crab and tomato jelly, comté souffle with watercress and eel butter, roasted duck with marinated beetroot, and sweet spiced clouds with coffee and vanilla, and each dish looks like a work of art too. The service at Pavyllon is impeccable, as you’d expect from a high-end hotel restaurant, but the chefs and staff behind the counter seem to be enjoying themselves as much as the diners on the opposite side, which just makes a meal here even better.

TEMAKI

12 Market Row, London SW9 8LF

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.

HUMBLE CHICKEN

54 Frith St, London W1D 4SJ

Angelo Sato first opened Humble Chicken in Soho in 2021 with a focus on yakitori and ‘comb-to-tail’ chicken cookery, and he won us over with tasty skewers, inventive small plates and quick poured pints of Asahi Super Dry. Instead of resting on his laurels, Angelo overhauled the concept (the look of the restaurant hasn’t changed, so it’s still counter dining) and has turned the yakitori-centric offering into a broader Japanese eight-course tasting menu that takes inspo from his heritage, as well as his time spent in top kitchens like Eleven Madison Park and Restaurant Story. He’s showcasing some serious cooking without taking himself too seriously, with playful nods like chicken chopstick holders and piggy face bao buns and top-tier dishes like oysters with citrus kosho beurre blanc and burnt chicken fat; shokupan with chicken liver pate, fermented red cabbage and miso sesame butter; Wagyu Angus short rib served with pickled daikon, yakiniku sauce, barley miso and lettuce leaves; and chicken achilles yakitori with charcoal fat, daikon and kosho.

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BARRAFINA

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

The Coal Drops Yard branch of Barrafina is the biggest one in the group, with gorgeous counter seating plus some small tables if you want a little more privacy. They’ve got a mix of new dishes and Barrafina classics (like their famously oozy tortillas) at this location, but be sure to check out the daily specials as well because these can be magic.

THE PALOMAR

34 Rupert Street, London W1D 6DN

Getting a table at The Palomar might not be easy, but it’s so worth the effort. The menu brings together the cuisines 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.

THE BARBARY

16 Neal's Yard, London

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

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 an open fire. The jungle curry of brill is a winner (and spicy too) and the clay pot-baked glass noodles are an absolute must-order too.

SUSHI TETSU

12 Jerusalem Passage, London EC1V 4JP

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.

EVELYN'S TABLE

28 Rupert St, London W1D 6DJ

Evelyn’s Table is a 15-seat affair in the basement of Soho pub The Blue Posts. Out of the 15 seats, 11 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 booking 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 Street, London W1D 7PW

Opened in 2019, with a distinctive design identity, Paradise quickly established itself as a place to get standout Sri Lankan food (and somewhere that never held back on the spice), earning a Michelin Bib Gourmand to boot. Founder Dom Fernando has recently overhauled both the interiors and the menu, evolving Paradise into a more progressive Sri Lankan restaurant. The space has been refined into something more sophisticated whilst still retaining that signature brutalist aesthetic, with the bar has making way for a central counter and workstation where guests can sit and drinks can be prepared. There’s an a la carte offering running at lunchtimes with two six-course set menus on offer in the evenings –  Land + Sea and Veg + Plant. It’s a fantastic menu, with the snacks – Kimbula Banis, crispy doughy cheesy spicy sweet cubes of green chilli custard, date & lime chutney and Corra Linn and Mas Roll, a thin pastry case filled with dry-aged steak tartare, heady with curry leaf and finished with smoked charcoal oil – being highlights, along with pollock in a rich coconut and langoustine broth, and desserts of white chocolate & mango mini Magnums and ghee and cinnamon breudeur.

SABOR

35-37 Heddon St, London W1B 4BR

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.

BOCCA DI LUPO

12 Archer St, London W1D 7BB

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, as well as 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

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.

ROJI

56b S Molton St, London W1K 5SH

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.

BEHIND

20 Sidworth Street, London E8 3SD

Even if you’ve never been to Behind in London Fields before, you may well have heard of it – the restaurant made headlines back in 2020 when it won a Michelin star after being open for just 20 days, and it’s still going strong. The restaurant is set up around sweeping semi-circular bar surrounding an open kitchen, with 18 spots around the counter, each with a front row seat to watch the chefs prepare and serve the dishes. Behind is all about fish and seafood, sustainability sourced from across the UK via suppliers such as Broadway Market’s Fin & Flounder, with dishes including mackerel and kaki sorrel with prawn consomme; Cornish skate wing with onions, olives and sea lettuce; and gilt-head bream with girolles and a vin jaune sauce. We’d really recommend the wine pairing too for a special occasion treat that doesn’t involve journeying into central.

THE COUNTER

108 Golborne Rd, London W10 5NR

Fans of counter dining, you’re in luck because The Counter in Notting Hill is exactly what it says on the tin. At The Counter, the dining room is set up with an open kitchen and ocakbasi grill as the central feature with, of course, a counter around it where guests can sit and have a peek at all the grilling action. The food takes inspiration mainly from the southeastern Anatolia region, with a menu of seasonal dishes, including the likes of chocolate babaganoush, humus & Medjool dates, kebabs, koftas, stews and desserts such as kireçte kabak (pumpkin, clotted cream, tahini and dukkah) and supangle (dark chocolate pudding with a pistachio crumb). There are plenty of Turkish wines on the drinks list alongside cocktails and traditional Turkish soft drinks, so there really is something for everyone.

AULIS

16 St Anne's Ct, London W1F 0BF

Aulis, Simon Rogan’s London chef’s table restaurant, has reopened with more seats (12) as well as a lounge for pre- and post-dinner drinks. Head Chef Charlie Tayer is still looking after the stoves alongside wingman Oli Marlow, Simon’s Exec Chef for the group. The tasting menu, based around British ingredients, uses produce from Simon’s own Lake District farm and tries to be as sustainable as possible, replacing citrus for vinegars and the like. Happily it’s as good as, if not better, than before with dishes like pig and eel donut; crispy chicken skin with Cornish crab; cheese and truffle pudding; crab bone custard with rosehip vinegar and marinated trout roe; peas from Simon’s farm served with beef tendons in broth; and a delicious spin on a cheese course, frozen Tunworth cheese with truffle honey and hazelnut. For a tasting menu experience in London that’s well worth the money (£175 a head) Aulis might just be the most failsafe option there is. Brilliant cooking, interesting wines and just enough story telling to keep you interested but not send you to sleep. All you need to do now is score yourself a seat.

FIREBIRD

29 Poland St, London W1F 8QR

Madina Kazhimova and Anna Dolgushina, the St Petersburg-based restaurateurs who run Wong Kar Wine, have opened low-intervention wine bar and open-fire restaurant Firebird in Soho. The menu includes the likes of tuna tartare with ponzu & cured egg yolk; choux bun with chicken liver pâté & hazelnut; halloumi with truffle & apricot; scallops with mash, truffle, peas & parsley oil; chicken breast with bacon jam & king oyster mushrooms; and baked Alaska with earl grey ice cream. The wine list focuses on natural and biodynamic producers from across Europe and the cocktails are well worth a go, with serves like strawberry-infused mezcal negronis and seaside martinis with oyster shell-infused vermouth on offer.

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