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Good places to eat alone/at the bar [London]

I'm in London for business and have a weekend in which I'll be sightseeing. Other than a football game in Tottenham on Sunday (assuming the madness has calmed down and they actually play the game), my days and nights are wide open.

Staying near Grosvenor Square, but willing to travel for good food where I'll feel comfortable eating at the bar or alone. Bonus points for good wine, cocktails, and organic food. Thanks in advance!

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  1. Bocca de Lupo in Soho - ate there at the bar the other week (albeit with a friend) and it was very nice.

    1. My trips to the capital are almost always on my own. I've never felt uncomfortable anywhere - the city is used to the business /single diner.

      1. Some useful lists for Eating At The Bar - http://bit.ly/pbMCkr - and Solo Dining - http://bit.ly/p0zIx4.

        You could eat very well at Jose on Bermondsey St (combine with an early morning trip to Borough Market or Maltby St for foodie souveniers?), Salt Yard / Dehesa / Opera Tavern (wonderful small plates and charcuterie, same owners, all locations recommended; Koya for udon noodles; da Polpo for arancini, meatballs and other Italian bites; and the bar at Hawksmoor Seven Dials for one of London's finest burgers or their new Not Dog, plus a cocktail or two and a sticky toffee sundae (trust me). That's just a few ideas, check out the lists for more.

        1 Reply
        1. Go to the Southbank Food Festival near Waterloo Station. It is open Friday, Sat. and Sunday from about 11 am.

          1. Bistrot Bruno Loubet

            Sedap (probably won't be able to find Penang-style Nyona food in the US, let alone a rendition by family that was much lauded for this cooking in Singapore)

            Coach and Horses (Farringdon)

            102 Old St, Islington, Greater London EC1V 9, GB

            17 Replies
            1. re: limster

              'probably won't be able to find Penang-style Nyona food in the US'

              Really, Limster? I've found some in Philadelphia and New York, which, last I checked, were in the U.S. And tasty, too, last time I ate there. Perhaps they are not so lauded and I'd certainly agree with your Sedap recommendation, but I don't agree with this generalising about an enormous country with different regions.

              102 Old St, Islington, Greater London EC1V 9, GB

              1. re: Lizard

                I've searched for about 15 years and haven't found any (searched in person and also tapped the collective wisdom of CH). At least the ones that I've been to that claim to e.g. Penang or Nyona, are mostly doing more general Singapore/Malaysian dishes. Love to hear about your finds on the Philly or NY boards; would certainly look forward to trying them the next time in over there.

                P.S. I'm no fan of generalization without empirical experience either, hence the qualification with "probably."

                1. re: limster

                  Or you one just recommend the place for its cuisine, particularly if x cuisine is hard to find in one's region (the U.S. is simply too large). Sorry to say, I've not written these up, but often enjoyed Nyonya in NYC when I used to eat there way back when. Did not get the name of the place in Philly, I'm afraid-- and again, some years ago.

                  1. re: Lizard

                    Been to Nyonya in Manhattan; the food is more general Malaysian/Singaporean rather than Penang style nyona. I recommended Sedap because I think the food is great, just as I recommended the other places. But as a bonus, they serve dishes from a cuisine that is probably not found in the US. While the regions in the US are huge for one person, it's not too large if you have thousands of savvy chowhounds to help out, especially over a decade and a half.

                    102 Old St, Islington, Greater London EC1V 9, GB

                    1. re: limster

                      Agreed that Nyonya in Manhattan (I can't remember if the Brooklyn one was the same) carries a rage of food, but the point is that they also do carry Nyonya dishes. And that this does counter your 'probably won't be able to find Penang-style Nyona food in the US'. I think it's perfectly possible to recommend restaurants, to note rarity of certain forms of cuisine, or simply excellence, without sweeping statements. (Although if you have lived in every state of the union, I take it back.)

                      But you know what? It looks like my attempts to get chowhounds to stop making sweeping generalisations about continents or large nations are futile. I will continue to enjoy reading your reviews of UK places, as you rarely steer one wrong!

                      1. re: Lizard

                        About as futile as trying to contradict the regular stereotypical negative remarks on Chowhound about British food.

                        1. re: Harters

                          What sort of regular negative remarks? Are people attacking British food or a certain restaurant or chef? Talk about generalizations. Is this seen by you as another 'American' problem. That tack is getting old, John.

                          1. re: zuriga1

                            "Is this seen by you as another 'American' problem."

                            I wouldnt say I see it a "problem", although I bear in mind the overwhelming number of contributors to Chowhound's boards are, unsurprisingly, American.

                            Reading this UK/Ireland board, American tourists come and visit London for a few days; eat in a small number of the capital's restaurants which are regularly mentioned and think they have eaten "British food" because they've had a dinner at, say, St John.

                            But, the remarks that I find funny are the stereotypical negative ones about British food being poor as in contributions made on this thread, where the poster regards Pret a Manger as the high spot of her London eating and that, in spite of her "extensive research" she found British food to be "awful". She at least had the good grace to accept that this was a bit rich from someone coming from a country which has inflicted Subway on us.


                            1. re: Harters

                              I certainly won't defend American views, but Pret A Manger *is* popular with tourists for few reasons. They don't put butter on the bread, which is fairly traditional in England, and American that I've known do not like butter on their sandwiches. I am one of those! The fillings seem a bit exotic and 'different.' And it's fairly cheap if you don't want to spend a lot on lunch.

                              It seems to me that the British have warmly welcolmed places like Starbucks, McDonald's, Burger King and Subway. No one forces anyone to eat in those places and they have not left the scene for a good reason. Most people don't even realize that Blockbuster, Staples and many other companies here are American in origin.. or Campbell's soup or Heinz products either.

                        2. re: Lizard

                          Thanks -- I'm grateful for your kind words.

                          A few things to clarify -- I was trying to say that Nyonya does not serve Penang-style Nyona dishes; I could be wrong, but while they do carry dishes that *might* be considered Nyona, but those are common to Malaysian/Singaporean cooking or other styles of Nyona (e.g. Singapore or Malacca, rather than being specifically Penang). I haven't lived in every state of the union, but thousands of chowhounds have -- that's what I meant by tapping the combined wisdom.

                          As I've mentioned, I dislike generalisations as much as you, but it's not generalisation when it's based on large-scale empirical data. Furthermore, it's a statement on probabilities, rather than absolutes.

                2. re: limster

                  Thanks all for the suggestions- since I'll be coming from Singapore not sure how much Singaporean cuisine I want to have in London :-) as to the conversation around misconceptions around British food, where could I go to best dispel this myth (while keeping the original request in mind of it being somewhere that's not completely awkward to eat at the bar/alone)? Thanks all!

                  1. re: cactuschowdah

                    The Coach and Horses will still fit the bill, but the Bull and Last, which is further away, is (to me) better, and more pub-like insofar as the food is concerned (C&H's food is a little more restaurant-ish, which doesn't make it bad, just different).

                    Have enjoyed Hereford Road near Bayswaters in the past, but haven't been in a long while.

                    Hix is also good; liked the branch in Soho - nice bar too.

                    Hereford Road
                    3 Hereford Road, London W2 4AB, GB

                    1. re: limster

                      Forgot to mention - The Newman Arms for pies.

                    2. re: cactuschowdah

                      Rules is probably my favourite place in the capital and it is entirely geared up for the single diner. Tables for one (and I mean small single tables - not normal sized ones just set for one). Newspaper offered as you sit down. And, of course, very traditional British food. If you want to understand our food heritage and culture there really is nowhere better.

                      1. re: Harters

                        The bar at Rules is also a nice place to have a drink alone - one of few places a single woman won't encounter a misunderstanding about her profession

                        1. re: gembellina

                          LOL. I know the feeling. You should try visiting Moscow on business alone...But agree with Rules. The barman makes a mean Dirty Martini.

                          1. re: helen b

                            I can imagine, it's bad enough in Harrods

                  2. Surprised no one has mentioned Corrigan's Mayfair, just round the corner from Grosvenor Square. You can eat at the bar and the layout makes you almost feel as though you're in the main room. And Corrigan's food remains as good as ever.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Al Toon

                      Thanks everyone for the great suggestions. Based on these replies and some additional research, here is where I'm thinking-

                      Friday Dinner- Opera Tavern or Newman Arms
                      Saturday Lunch- graze at Borough market and/or Wright Brothers
                      Saturday Dinner- Bocca di Lupo or Newman Arms
                      Sunday Lunch- early lunch or late brunch at Hawksmoor on my way up to White Hart Lane for the football match
                      Sunday Dinner- I want to fit in Fernandez and Wells somewhere- do they do dinner, or is it strictly a sandwich shop/lunch type of place? Also considering Great Queen St for this night or one of the other dinner nights- thoughts?

                      Any additional advice on my choices and/or fun pubs for the solo guy who isn't looking to "make the scene" on a weekend night are much appreciated- thanks again for your help!

                      157 Commercial St, Poplar, Greater London E1 6, GB

                      Bocca di Lupo
                      12 Archer St, London, England W1D 7, GB

                      1. re: cactuschowdah

                        You could do dinner at Fernandez and Wells - it's a nice place to sit at the bar and have a glass of wine with antipasti or bocadillos. I think only the Lexington St and St Anne's Court are open in the evenings.

                        1. re: cactuschowdah

                          Super choices. As Newman Arms is a bit of a trek, if Bocca is full I'd try Barrafina/Polpo/Polpetto/Spuntino first as all in Soho. Or if you get up to the Newman and it's full try Saltyard or (sp?) Barraca? (the one on Goodge St just past Saltyard)

                          1. re: helen b

                            So just thought I'd report back on my trip. Tried to go for pies at Newman Arms on Friday- there were hundreds of people in the street, never mind getting in the place- note to self- try a mid-day lunch if you want to go there. Hit my "backup" plan for Friday dinner at Opera Tavern- glad I went- best meal of the trip. Those burgers are to die for, and the chicken and lamb tapas dishes were also fantastic.

                            Saturday afternoon went to Wright Brothers at Borough. It was alternately just OK and really good- the service was fairly shoddy for how empty they were- the fish chowder was completely "meh" but the salmon and whitefish pie was really good. I had half a quadrant of empty stomach left so I wandered around Borough and noshed on some of the hot food there- I probably would have put together a better meal with what I found there, so I was kind of regretting my choice. Had an AMAZING coffee at Monmouth coffee just next door to Wright Brothers. There was a huge queue and I had to see what the fuss was about. Totally worth it. Ended up meeting a business colleague for dinner at a somewhat forgettable sushi place in Chelsea, so I didn't get to try Bocca.

                            Sunday had brunch at Hawksmoor Spitalfields- the place was completely empty and service was painfully slow, but the food was amazing- had this greasy english muffin, sausage egg and bacon sandwich. It was ridiculously good. I ended up getting roped in to watching American Football at this terrible sports bar in Picadilly Sunday night, but the good news was that it was close to Fernandez and Wells for a late night nosh- had the prosciutto and mozzarella tasting board- Oh. My. God. It was amazing- again, left me full of regret that I didn't leave more room for that.

                            Overall, great trip, thanks to everyone for your advice!

                            157 Commercial Street, London E1 6BJ, GB

                      2. make sure you have a salt beef sandwich at the tottenham match
                        they're very good I hear.