The Best Walk-In Restaurants In London

Been struggling to get a reservation since restaurants reopened? If spontaneity is more your style, a walk-in restaurant is the way to go. Luckily, the capital is full of great places that you don’t need to book in advance. From truffled pasta in Shoreditch to steak in Soho, here are 16 of the best places to head to on the hoof…
DISHOOM

Flat Iron, Various Locations

If you’re after somewhere cheap and cheerful for steak night, Flat Iron is your best bet. While the menu is small and prices pleasing – you can grab a steak and salad for £12 – you’ll be guaranteed good quality cuts of meat, cooked to perfection. The sides are great too: think dripping-cooked chips, creamed spinach and blue cheese salad.

Locations in Soho, Shoreditch, Hackney, Covent Garden, King’s Cross, London Bridge & Notting Hill

Visit FlatIronSteak.co.uk

Bao, Various Locations

At locations in Soho, Fitzrovia, Borough Market and now King’s Cross, Taiwanese steamed bun experts Bao makes the best buns in the capital. There’s often a queue outside, so be prepared to wait, but once you’re in, expect signature buns stuffed with the likes of tender pork belly with peanut powder and pickled lettuce; soy milk marinated fried chicken with kimchi and Sichuan mayo; and lamb shoulder with coriander sauce, garlic mayo and soy pickled chili. Save room for something sweet – there’s a fried Horlicks ice cream bao on the menu that’s worth sampling.

Locations in Soho, Fitzrovia, Borough & King’s Cross

Visit BaoLondon.com

Brasserie Zédel, Soho 

A French restaurant from the team behind The Wolseley and The Delaunay, Brasserie Zédel offers traditional Gallic dishes in beautiful art-deco surroundings (it’s been described by Pierre Koffmann as “the only real brasserie in London”). We like the surprisingly affordable set menu, which allows diners to tuck into a carrot salad, followed by steak haché with French fries and pepper sauce for just £10.50. Away from cassoulet and escargot, there are cracking cocktails to be had in Bar Américain, and live music in cabaret bar Crazy Coqs. 

20 Sherwood Street, Soho, W1F 7ED 

Visit BrasserieZedel.com

Koya, Various Locations

Since co-founders John Devitt, Shuko Oda and Junya Yamasaki launched Koya on Frith Street in 2010, it has become renowned for its handmade udon and dashi. In fact, it’s still the only restaurant in London to make its own udon. The menu – also served at its newer site in Bloomberg Arcade – has evolved over time, but many staples have remained, alongside its blackboard of innovative specials that push the boundaries of Japanese cuisine, such as Asian kedgeree and an English breakfast udon, featuring noodles, egg, bacon and shiitaki. 

50 Frith Street, Soho, W1D 4SQ & 10-12 Bloomberg Arcade, Bank, EC4N 8AR

Visit Koya.co.uk

Padella, Various Locations

There’s no better place to indulge your pasta fix than at Padella, one of London’s most popular Italian eateries. Guests can feast on classics including tagliatelle with nduja, mascarpone and parsley; pappardelle with eight-hour Dexter beef shin ragu; and ravioli of Neal’s Yard goat’s curd with marjoram butter. Each dish is priced between £4 and £10, which means you can either be frugal or order twice as much as usual. As it’s no reservations, you’ll likely have to queue, but it’s well worth the wait.

6 Southwark Street, Borough, SE1 1TQ & 1 Phipp Street, Shoreditch, EC2A 4PS

Visit Padella.co

Blacklock, Soho

Blacklock is in the basement of an old brothel on a side street in the centre of Soho. With a week-round focus on quality meat (mostly cooked over fire), Sunday sees the restaurant come into its own. We recommend kicking things off with a ‘Breakfast Martini’ and the pig’s head on toast (don’t be squeamish – it’s delicious). Grab a group and go all in: for £20pp you’ll get a whole Cornish leg of lamb, 55-day aged beef rump and Middlewhite pork loin, with all the trimmings (plus bone marrow gravy) for the whole table.

24 Great Windmill Street, Soho, W1D 7LG

Visit Blacklock

El Pastor, Various Locations

This cool taqueria group comes from the team behind Quo Vadis and Barrafina. It’s great for plates of tasty, authentic tacos. Guests can tuck into toppings such as chipotle chicken and prawn al mojo de ajo, while sharing options come in the form of carnitas with confit pork, and short rib specked with guajilla rub, salsa la maya and optional bone marrow. As well as the first site in Borough Market, there are two outposts at Coal Drops Yard (Plaza Pastor and Casa Pastor), Tortilleria El Pastor at Maltby Street Market and – as of this month – one on Brewer Street in Soho.

Locations in Soho, Borough, Bermondsey & King’s Cross

Visit TacosElPastor.co.uk

Breddos Tacos, Clerkenwell

The brainchild of Street Feast stalwarts Nud Dudhia and Chris Whitney, Breddos Tacos opened in 2011 and serves its followers authentic Mexican cuisine alongside a collection of rare mezcals. The food is addictive: feast on Galician rib-eye with buttermilk onion rings; clam and sea urchin aguachile (Mexican-style ceviche) tostadas; or kung pao pork belly with jalapeño. Although you can’t book a space round the large communal table, they’ll take your number so you can head elsewhere for a cocktail while you wait.

82 Goswell Road, Clerkenwell, EC1V 7DB

Visit BreddosTacos.com

Gloria, Shoreditch

When Gloria launched in 2019, much of Great Eastern Street was taken over by its well-dressed queues – partly due to the restaurant’s no-bookings policy and partly down to the warm welcome the venue has received from restaurant critics and Instagram snappers alike. The venue was the first UK launch from Big Mamma Group, the French team that has since gone on to open Circolo Popolare in Fitzrovia and soon Ave Mario in Covent Garden. The two-floor restaurant’s menu is vast and demands repeated visits: spaghetti carbonara for two is served in a whole wheel of parmesan; the ‘Ten Level Lasagne’ is as decadent as it sounds; and the signature la vera pasta al tartufo – fresh pappardelle, black Molise truffle, mascarpone and button mushrooms – is beautifully presented at the table in a vintage copper pan.

54-56 Great Eastern Street, Shoreditch, EC2A 3QR

Visit BigMammaGroup.com

Mr Ji, Soho

Taiwanese-inspired Mr Ji recently reopened with a fresh new look. Working closely with friends Ana Gonçalves and Zijun Meng of Tātā Eatery and Tóu on the redesign and menu development, founder Samuel Haim has transformed Mr Ji from a grab-and-go spot to a buzzy space with table service. Taking cues from Taiwanese canteens for the daytime and late-night bars for the evening, the restaurant now offers a more refined, expanded menu that’s centred around the chicken dishes for which it is known, alongside newcomers such as ‘Prawn ‘In’ Toast’ – a toasted brioche box filled with prawns in a bechamel sauce with sweetcorn and parmesan.

72 Old Compton Street, Soho, W1D 4UN

Visit MrJi.co.uk

Dishoom, Various Locations

Dishoom has become a London institution among Indian food lovers, with venues popping up all over the capital – and each one is always packed. You can’t book any of them in advance for fewer than six people, but if you arrive early enough, you’ll be able to bag yourself a table. And with highlights on the street food-style menu including chilli cheese toast, gunpowder potatoes and minced lamb kebabs, you’ll be happy enough to wait until a spot becomes available.

Locations in Shoreditch, Kensington, King’s Cross, Soho & Covent Garden

Visit Dishoom.com

Barrafina, Various Locations

These Barcelona-style tapas joints – which are arguably the best in London – serve everything from tortillas, croquetas and jamón to deep-fried lamb’s brain. Pull up a seat at one of the no-bookings counters for delicious, fuss-free dining – and make sure to order a sherry over ice for company during the queue.

Locations in Covent Garden, King’s Cross & Soho

Visit Barrafina.co.uk

Kolamba, Soho

Sri Lankan hotspot Kolamba now takes bookings, but always holds back a number of tables for walk-ins. The team serves a great weekend brunch menu alongside its more traditional lunch and dinner offerings: think egg hopper with perfectly seasoned kithul-glazed bacon; a pol sambol toastie with date and lime chutney; and Kolamba granola with fresh shavings of coconut.

21 Kingly Street, Soho, W1B 5QA

Visit Kolamba.co.uk

Hoppers, Various Locations

Another award-winning eatery from the Sethi family, who also own Trishna and Gymkhana, Hoppers is one of the very best Sri Lankan restaurants in the city. Aptly named after one of Sri Lanka’s popular dishes – egg-topped pancakes – Hoppers offers a menu brimming with flavour. Of all the hoppers on the menu, we love the one topped with aubergine kari, which is one of the best veggie dishes in Soho. 

Locations in Soho & St Christopher’s Place

Visit HoppersLondon.com

Nanban, Brixton

Nanban means ‘southern barbarian’, a term once used to describe the first European visitors to Japan centuries ago. Here, MasterChef champ Tim Anderson celebrates this ‘barbaric’ side of Japanese cuisine with new takes on traditional dishes that incorporate the international flavours of Brixton Market. Guests can tuck into ramen, gyoza and curries, burgers laced with gochujang, and matcha affogatos for dessert. The deep-fried ‘Electric eel’ is a must-order.

426 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, SW9 8LF

Visit Nanban.co.uk

The Palomar, Soho

If you fancy something a little lively, head to The Palomar. The menu celebrates contemporary Jerusalem cuisine, serving up inventive fusion food with Jewish, Mediterranean and Arabic influences. While the tables out back provide a more intimate setting, the counter spot is where it’s at – you’ll get front row seats watching the chefs work their magic in the kitchen, but be prepared for a fairly interactive experience. It isn’t uncommon for the chefs to do shots with the customers.  

34 Rupert Street, Soho, W1D 6DN 

Visit ThePalomar.co.uk

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