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Several days in London - and eating at the bar

I am traveling to London with my sister at the end of November, and as two women we prefer eating at the bar......any recommendations, particularly in central London, where this is possible?

Many thanks

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  1. No recommendations, I'm afraid but may I ask why "as two women", you prefer eating at the bar, rather than at a table. I ask as bar eating is fairly uncommon in UK and don't understand why gender issues might affect choice (if choice is available).

    2 Replies
    1. re: Harters

      I was going to ask the same question. Maybe they like to talk to bartenders?

      1. re: zuriga1

        Barrafina is good in Soho -- its even got bar in the name!

    2. Conversely to Harters I would say there are actually now loads of places with bar seating- my other half and I are also big fans of this style of seating.

      Off the top of my head, some places I'd unreservedly recommend with such seating are:

      Barrafina- soho tapas
      Bocca Di Lupo- soho Italian
      Spuntino - soho grungey/hipster American diner/Italian
      Nopi - ottolgenghi creative middle eastern influences
      J-Sheekey oyster bar- covent garden- traditional
      Duck soup- soho- hipster

      To be honest there are many options - if you can narrow down with what food/area/price range you are after then I can offer some better tips

      1 Reply
      1. re: mjgauer

        Harters wasn't denying bar seating exists, but rather, doesn't have suggestions because he lives closer to the Terrestrial North Pole than to London.

      2. My two favourite places to eat at the bar are:

        Terroirs-Charing Cross. Good wines by the glass and charcuterie. Also do some more substantial plates.

        Donostia- Basque place near Marble Arch. I prefer sitting at the bar here as you can see the cooking and the staff are really engaging.

        1. As Harters says bar eating is much less common than in the US and if you limit yourself to that you may risk missing out but...

          Tapas: Opera Tavern, Donostia, Morito and Barrafina. The former two you can book and request bar seats, the latter two are turn up and queue jobs.

          The queues are big at the weekends - although Morito is a more civilised experience as they take your number and you go to the pub whereas Barrafina you stand along the wall.

          Ceviche in Soho also has bar seats, as does Koya but you have to get lucky for those.

          Hedone certainly used to seat people at the bar which I imagine is an amazing experience.

          St John Smithfield you can eat in the bar but not at the bar.

          Wright Brothers would be great for seafood.

          Dredging the pot L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon is obviously designed largely around bar dining.

          1. Many thanks to all posters so far...we are staying in the St Paul's/barbican area, but of course will be wandering all around. As we come from New York and San Francisco, we find that sitting at the bar is a lot more fun and social than being stuck away at a romantic table for two........and I can't believe that eating at the bar is that uncommon in London!!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Mwyler

              Thanks for the explanation - appreciate now that it's an enjoyment thing, not a gender thing. I visit the capital most years and have never come across bar eating - but then I've never been looking for it. Perhaps places that offer it are places that havnt appealed to me for other reasons. By the by, I also don't know of anywhere in my region of the UK that offers it - perhaps if we got north American tourists visiting us, places might consider it.

              Enjoy your holiday.

            2. There is a quite a big slant towards Spanish influenced places above, perhaps that's no surprise. Zoilo is mostly bar based.

              The other obvious cuisine for this is Japanese: Zuma (really like sitting at the bar there), Roka, Yashin, Umu, Tetsu (if lucky enough to get in) etc.

              Would Kitchen Table count?

              1. I had a lovely meal sat at the bar downstairs at Wright Brothers Soho on Friday.

                Langoustines, irish oysters and razor clams were all excellent as you would expect, although I am still nursing a langoustine-inflicted injury.

                A tuna tartare with ginger, chilli and soy was lovely, as was crab on toast.

                Crispy squid with very spicy harissa mayonnaise had a lovely texture to the batter, very lightly fried but a lovely texture to the squid underneath.

                Bit of a mix up with the bill but they were very good about it.

                Make sure you reserve the bar when booking if that's where you want to sit.

                1. I've sat at the bar at Po Chung Ma Cha (Korean) and at Great Queen Street (British pub with great food, especially soups and pies) - enjoy!

                  1. Pizarro for Spanish (non-tapas) - the braised beef cheeks are particularly suited for this cold weather, and the chocolate fondant dessert is outstanding.

                    Casse-Croute for classic French - the menu changes daily, but some of the best things I've had are the rabbit with mustard sauce, pigs trotters in filo, pork wrapped in ventreche, comte soufflé, profiteroles.

                    Magdalen for modern British - loved the grouse I had there a few months ago. For dessert, the French toast is outstanding.

                    Noodle Bar for hand pulled noodles, pulled to order. But more a counter than a bar.

                    Elliot's for modern European - good ingredients cooked relatively simply.

                    Bistrot Bruno Loubet for impeccable French cooked with brilliant technique. Loved the quenelles that last time I was there.

                    Green Man & French Horn for French/European cooking with a lovely wine list. Same folks as the excellent and nearby Terroirs, which also offers bar dining.

                    1. A few places that you also might like that I can think of are:

                      Arbutus in Soho - modern European Michelin star restaurant. Has a small counter of maybe 8 seats at the bar. I've always found it to be very good. Pre-theatre menu is great value.

                      Pizza East in Shoreditch. Not really a bar, but you can sit at the counter and watch the chefs making the pizza. They're busy, but I've had some fun banter with the chefs and other diners sitting there. Good, thin, Italian style pizza... my American friends have always liked it. Fun, buzzing dining room.

                      Riding House Cafe near Oxford Circus is a decent brunch/lunch spot (not had dinner there). There's a large communal table that often gets some chatter going. Think Schiller's or Essex in New York's Lower East Side. The ground floor at Smith's of Smithfield in Farringdon is also a similar proposition with some big communal tables.

                      As mentioned, Opera Tavern in Covent Garden has dining at the bar too. Very good Spanish tapas . I still have dreams about the scallops I ate there once.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Bloomsbury

                        I think the food at the Riding House Cafe in the evening is fairly average; however, I would still recommend it if a lively atmosphere and good drinks are important to you.

                      2. The J Sheeky Oyster Bar is great. It is in a lively area of town and the food is really good.

                        1. Though not living in London I am there several times a year and often traveling alone which means that I sometimes go for a bar seating. Some of the places I enjoyed with bar seating are:
                          Bubbledogs - hot dogs and champagne.
                          28-50 - wine bar with classical wine bar food and some true bargains on the wine list. I like their Mayfair restaurant the best.
                          Burger and lobster - exactly what the name suggests.
                          I would also believe that Hawksmoor would allow bar seating, at least at the Seven Dials location. If you do go they have excellent meat naturally, but also a very savoury kimchi burger. I also know that Bistro Boulod does bar servings, but since at least one of you are from NYC I don't see the point in going there.