34

I am in London this weekend alone.

Is there any restaurants that cater specifically for the single eater or have sections for single diners?

Although confident, I don't think I am THAT confident to eat alone in a restaurant surrounded by couples and groups.

I don't really want to eat in the hotel or fast food joints either.

What are my options?

I am looking for any cuisine apart from Thai and preferably in Zones 1-2.

  • 1
    London is awash in coffee shops and cafes where single diners can eat without embarrassment. – TheMathemagician May 22 '15 at 8:37
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    There is absolutely no embarrassment about eating alone. Nobody cares. Go ahead and walk into any tempting restaurant you encounter and ask for a table for 1. ;) – JoErNanO May 22 '15 at 9:25
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    Even if people will judge you.. WHO CARES? There is 0.0001% chance you will ever see any of those people ever again in your entire life. – easymoden00b May 22 '15 at 16:43
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    Though not in London, I do live in another large UK city in the south east and do not think anything whatsoever is considered unusual or stigmatized about eating alone in a restaurant, pub or cafe. In fact, those who most frequently eat alone are travelling business people who tend to be well respected. – Vality May 22 '15 at 17:47
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    @davidb people need to eat while out on business ("business" business or personal business) all the time. Don't think of it as "everyone is too busy to notice you're doing something weird" — that would be true anyway, but you're also not doing anything weird. – hobbs May 23 '15 at 7:34
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I can reassure you that eating alone anywhere in London is not perceived as out of the ordinary. Any place you want to have lunch/dinner of just a coffee they will serve you with out any hesitation. London is a very busy city, individuals eating alone is common especially in the city centre where most businesses are placed.

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    +1 If you want to make it look even more "normal" (not that it isn't anyway), you can get out your phone and "do business stuff". I think this applies to pretty much anywhere on the UK. – Tim May 22 '15 at 15:34
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    @Tim: I've never heard Angry Birds described as "business stuff" before! – Mark K Cowan May 23 '15 at 12:06
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    @MarkKCowan hey, calculating the physics and taking into account elastic potential, gravity and yeah just no... :) – Tim May 23 '15 at 12:12
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    +1 it is very common. Sometimes people will have a book or some papers, or be reading on a phone. Sometimes they're just eating. If you take a photo of your meal, staff might think you're a food blogger and give you free desert :-). But seriously, in a mega-city like London, no-one looks at you, ever unless you do something outrageous like commit murder or stand on the wrong side of an escalator. You could walk down the street dressed as a chicken and people wouldn't look twice. I'm not exaggerating. – user568458 May 23 '15 at 20:59
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    @user568458 +1 for "stand on the wrong side of an escalator". Not that that happened to me ... :D – Dr. belisarius May 24 '15 at 1:26
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London has a constant flow of business travellers who are on their own and likely to be seen dining single. Also, there are several neighbourhoods that cater to the singles crowd. As a consequence, there is no stigma attached to eating alone like there might be in other cosmopolitan cities. But more to the point, London restaurants will happily accommodate anyone with the capacity to pay and is reasonably dressed. For starters, you can read Time Out's article on London's best restaurants for dining alone. This article presents a few upmarket restaurants that will seat singles at their bar.

Caveat: London restaurants come and go, so there's no guarantee that a list of specific restaurants will be helpful three months from now.

So rather than giving out links to specific restaurants, I will list some neighbourhoods and locales where there lots of restaurants to choose from and explain why they (in particular) are suitable for single travellers.

Marylebone High Street This neighbourhood is brimming over with great restaurants that are small and comfortable. There are lots of single pensioners in the residential flats at the top of the street, but more interestingly it runs parallel to the medical district on Harley Street and thus is a favourite haunt for doctors and nurses to eat lunch or dinner.

St Christopher's Place This is a small area abutting the south end of Marylebone High Street adjacent to Oxford Street (the shopping district). It is basically a pedestrian area filled with restaurants that cater to shoppers wanting to eat lunch or dinner. It's fine to dine either outside or in as a single, but towards about 9 PM or so, it becomes part of the 'singles scene' and is more likely to be populated by groups of 5 - 8 people.

Pavilion Road in Knightsbridge also caters to professionals and shoppers who are looking for an up market restaurant. As a single, it's best to hit this area early because after about 9 or 10 PM it becomes populated by the 'Sloan Rangers' (the posh singles set like Prince Harry when he was younger).

And of course the London Docklands, which is further away from the centre, but is often frequented by bankers and other professionals who worked late and are looking for an appropriate place for dinner before heading home.

That's not an exhaustive list, there's also the western end of King's Road in Chelsea and Brick Lane in 'the city'. Other answers have mentioned Soho. These are neighbourhoods where you can find excellent restaurants where a single diner can get a nice table and not appear out of place at all. And if you find yourself overwhelmed, you can always take a seat at the bar.

Finally, you can always check Trip Advisor for any specific restaurant and see what others have experienced. It's not perfect but might save you from a "let down".

16

Eating Alone Rocks!

I will not deny that there might be a social stigma associated with eating alone in some cultures/countries. Comments like "what a loser" immediately come to mind. Truth be told, people will always watch/stare/comment/judge since curiosity is an intrinsic part of human nature. The bottom line is that you should not care. There is absolutely no embarrassment about eating out alone. It's a free world (mostly), and eating alone is definitely not something illegal nor immoral. This is ever more true in a city who's seen it all and done it all (or most) like London. I think you can be pretty sure that nobody will care. So my advice is: go ahead an do it. Walk into any tempting restaurant you encounter and ask for a table for one.

Since my opinion-based advice is obviously not sufficient on SE, here are some references to back my claims up. The internet is scattered with online newspaper articles discussing the topic. Most of the recent press backs up the fact that solo-eaters have become a trend in the past couple of years. Various reasons behind this phenomenon include an increasing number of solo-travellers, as well as businessmen on the move. Another reason could be that no-reservation restaurants are becoming more and more trendy, and these make it easier for solo-eaters to find a table. Some also bring divorce statistics into the picture, saying that broken couples inevitably produce more potential solo-eaters.

Looking for Inspiration?

Eenmaal is a restaurant franchise catering to single diners, originating in Amsterdam (see here for their (somewhat unfriendly) official homepage). As of January 2015 they have opened a restaurant in London, which is just off New Oxford Street, according to google maps. You might want to give this a try.

If you don't feel like ordering a table for one, you can always target restaurants with seating at the bar/counter-top. These include traditional pubs, oyster bars, Japanese restaurants, market stalls, and even some new recent concept-dining joints, to name a few. Here is a selection from Food Verdicts, although I am sure there must be many more around London.

  • Umm, that article does not say "solo-eaters have become a trend", it says that the trend toward no-reservation restaurants has made it easier for people dining alone, which is a lot less weird – Ben May 23 '15 at 8:36
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    "Truth be told, people will always watch/stare/comment/judge since curiosity is an intrinsic part of human nature." - I suspect they don't watch/stare/comment/judge any more intensely when someone's eating alone, but the one eating alone is simply more aware of it for lack of anyone else at the same table to focus on. – O. R. Mapper May 23 '15 at 12:12
  • Maybe it's because I'm from NYC, but I'm shy, even partly paranoid (I hear someone laugh in the distance and think it's about me, and then reason kicks in), and yet I've never felt any stigma about eating alone. People eat alone all the time, especially for lunch breaks at work. When I see people eating alone, I don't think, "What a loser," in the least—that's ridiculous! But again, maybe it's just NYC. The lone diner is looking at his phone (probably on Imgur or Reddit) or reading a newspaper or looking at the passerbys outside. Seems like a normal person to me. I'm usually reading a book. – Andrew Cheong Sep 30 '15 at 21:00
8

Borough Market, near Southwark Cathedral, very often has a lot of stalls selling good food during the day with a few benches to sit on, but maybe not so much at night. I spend a lot of time in London on my own and there are a lot of "apartment" style hotels, where you get (essentially) a studio flat. There will be a kitchenette, plates and cutlery and it means I can consider buying food from M&S, Tesco, etc.

One thing to consider if you take that approach in future, though, is that there is always a lack of salt and pepper, but that can always be remedied by a trip to an Eat or Pret A Manger, which all have complementary salt, pepper, sugar and even good plastic cutlery if you decide to eat in your hotel.

  • 1
    Whitecross Street market down Old Street has a pub that lets you take in food brought at the stalls providing you buy a drink. Thought I'd add another option for a market/sitdown combo – Bojangles May 24 '15 at 10:22
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I often end up eating alone, and you won't stand out. You particularly won't stand out if you are in a hotel aimed at business men/women, but the food / atmosphere may be boring, and you want to avoid that.

I know of no restaurants in London that cater explicitly for single diners (and it would seem a very odd concept). You just get a table for two. Bring a book or a newspaper. My only problem has been being served unnaturally quickly (presumably because the waiters think you have no one to talk to).

You would certainly not stand out in (e.g.) any Indian restaurant or a Chinese in Soho. Perhaps avoid restaurants with candlelight, lots of linen and waiters with violins.

It's difficult to make a recommendation without any idea of price range, cuisine or location (beyond zone 1-2) because there are simply so many; I can think of nowhere I go that wouldn't be OK, so choose by cuisine or location and ignore the fact you are eating alone. But if you want some company for your meal, one useful technique is to find somewhere where you can eat at the bar. In general the restaurant welcomes this because they have you paying for food but not using up a table. This works best in a wine-bar / bistro type environment. They may offer you snacks at the bar but I have never found ordering a full meal an issue. On a good day the bar staff will chat to you. The only risk on a Saturday night (particularly late) is that the bar might be too busy (but many restaurant bars are not). In that case they'll give you a table!

  • 2
    "I know of no restaurants in London that cater explicitly for single diners (and it would seem a very odd concept)." - and I'm not sure it would be less awkward sitting amidst many single people in a place that particularly attracts single people. – O. R. Mapper May 23 '15 at 16:37
  • +1 "choose by cuisine or location and ignore the fact you are eating alone" – A E May 24 '15 at 19:47
  • I think you get served quickly because the staff may want the table available;eating alone means the bill will not be large, and nether will the tip. Whether this is good or bad depends on you. – TimLymington May 24 '15 at 23:34
5

What you want is a casual dining place. Any formal restaurant tends to have all groups and couples, so you'd stand out.

If you like Mideastern food, try Edgware Road. There are many Mid-eastern cafés. One of my favourites is Beirut Cafe. (Nearest Tube: Marble Arch)

If you like Vietnamese food, try Kingsland Road. There are half a dozen Vietnamese restaurants here at least. All quite casual, maybe a bit noisy; but a single person wouldn't feel out of place. (Nearest Tube: Old Street)

I'd say anywhere food is cheap (relatively) is casual dining, so you'd be OK.

  • I have been at the Beirut Cafe also, nice friendly atmosphere -- +1 – Gayot Fow May 22 '15 at 15:48
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    I disagree with your claim that "any formal restaurant tends to have all groups and couples." There's nothing even slightly unusual about being a single diner and it's very common to see people eating alone. – David Richerby May 22 '15 at 19:32
  • I agree with @DavidRicherby, it's totally normal for people to eat alone in formal restaurants. Me, for one. – A E May 24 '15 at 11:41
  • Agreed with the other comments -- you will not 'stand out' because nobody will notice or care. How many times have you noticed someone who's dining alone -- I'm guessing probably never, because most people are more focused on the food and their group to bother about anyone else. – SpaceDog May 25 '15 at 5:02
2

Wong Kei on Wardour Street (in China Town) used to have tables up stairs for bigger groups, and singles and pairs were sent downstairs to sit on these long bench-like tables. This is sort of catering for eating alone, as everyone else downstairs is as well. I haven't been since they refurbished though, so it may have changed (can anyone confirm or deny?)

Talking of long benches, chain Japanese restaurant Wagamama have these benches where you're not particularly separate from the groups next to you, so even if you're alone you blend into the crowd.

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    Sitting alone next to a big groups is not always comfortable. Sitting alone on a table filled with people who are also alone or with two is often a good thing. – Willeke May 24 '15 at 10:03

protected by JoErNanO Jun 2 '15 at 13:41

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