Staring into your fellow diner’s eyes is all well and good, but let’s face it, chances are they’re staring elsewhere – down at their smartphone. Sometimes you need to shake things up, sit somewhere different, look at something different. Which is why the rise of counter dining in London comes as no surprise, offering the chance to sit up close to the action and see the restaurant from a different angle. With our rundown of bar-stool hotspots you’ll be looking down on your fellow diners in no time at all. (In a literal sense of course.) These seats are in demand, so be sure to request a counter spot when booking.
Read more about the benefits of counter dining here.
1. ROKA Book ROKA
The central robata grill is the focal point at blogger and critic favourite, ROKA. Gather round the counter, and watch the chefs cook up contemporary Japanese dishes. Fresh sushi, rice dishes and tempura, as well as sizzling meats and fish from the robata grill should be more than enough to keep your eyes off that phone screen.
2. Tredwell’s Book Tredwell’s
From Michelin-starred master Marcus Wareing, Tredwell’s is all about British meat, quirky cocktails and rich flavour combinations. Sleek metal bar stools seem a fitting setting for watching live jazz, sipping on a craft beer, and tucking into Chateaubriand from the charcoal grill.
3. Counter Culture Book Counter Culture
Sister restaurant to Clapham institution The Dairy, Counter Culture is a laidback, BYOB snack bar overlooking Clapham Common. Wooden tables sit in view of the open kitchen, where quality produce is pickled, fermented, cured and bottled, and joined by meat, fish and vegetable snacks.
4. Wright Brothers Book Wright Brothers
Serving up oysters and small plates amidst the bustle of Spitalfields Market, Wright Brothers is up there with the coolest spots for counter dining in London. Leather-clad stalls, a marble bar and exposed brick walls ensure that this restaurant is as on trend as its Shoreditch location.
5. L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon Book L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon serves Michelin-starred food in a uniquely interactive fine dining setting. Seated around the open kitchen, guests can watch the chefs prepare rich French dishes like pan-fried seabass with lemongrass foam and baby leeks, or free-range quail stuffed with foie gras.
6. Native Book Native
Bursting onto the scene with rave critic reviews, Native is all about innovative, seasonal dishes, and letting their guests watch the magic happen. In secluded Neal’s Yard, the open kitchen offers an intimate view of chef Ivan and his team’s love for the finest in foraged ingredients.
7. Craft Book Craft
CRAFT is a breath of fresh air in the shadows of the O2. Innovation is at the forefront of everything here – produce comes from its own gardens, smoke house and bee hives, and unique dishes include Stichelton and Montgomery custard with kale, leeks and mushrooms. Floor-to-ceiling windows and a centerpiece bar ensure that the setting is as impressive as the food.
8. Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs
The back of a hot dog restaurant is not the place you’d expect to find a Michelin-starred restaurant. But Kitchen Table is no ordinary fine dining establishment. The best seats in the house are the only seats in the house – gather round the kitchen as the chefs talk you through every aspect of the tasting menu.
9. Counter Vauxhall Arches
The clue is in the name. London’s longest restaurant, Counter is housed in a 200-foot long arch and brings a touch of Manhattan to Vauxhall. Expect egg-heavy brunches, on-trend burgers, and a lengthy list of signature and classic cocktails.
There are simple, no-fuss menus, and then there’s Padella. Beautifully rolled, silky-smooth pasta is prepped in house by true masters of their craft (which you can watch from your counter stool.) Be ready to queue, however: this counter is currently one of London’s most in demand.