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How (not) to get a seat at a no-bookings restaurant

By Megan Carnegie

After navigating your way to London’s most Instagrammable new restaurant, you realise it’s no-bookings and the queue is already snaking round the corner. But don’t settle for Spaghetti House – bag yourself a table with one of our top tips…

Method 1: Feign illness

Dab your face with a little cold water, approach the line and grace your fellow queuers with a weak smile. Give it five minutes then do your finest wilting flower impression. With any luck you’ll be whisked into the restaurant by front-of-house staff. Cursing your low blood pressure, thank them profusely and suggest the octopus with capers as a remedy for your fainting episode. Or if it’s easier, the jamón and spinach tortilla?

Method 2: Tell them your Tinder date’s inside

Peer through the window and locate a solo diner – preferably one who hasn’t ordered yet. Walk in confidently, waving your phone in the general direction of your new companion, and introduce yourself as their internet date. Best case scenario: you break bread, bond like two medieval heroes weathering a storm and possibly end up having actual sex. Worst case scenario: you’re kicked out of your seat by their baffled significant other when they get back from the loo.

Method 3: Pretend you know the chef

Do some stealthy social stalking of the head chef, snap a few selfies with a lookalike and advance with an air of importance towards the front of the queue. Flash your pictures and start an impassioned monologue about all the good times you and Mr/Ms X shared in Ibiza/Soho/Leith’s. Eventually the maître d’ will get bored of listening to your anecdotes and you’ll be reluctantly let in. Just don’t come running to us when said chef interrupts your feasting for a ‘catch-up’.

Method 4: Propose in the queue

Get on your gladrags, take a partner in crime and kneel down outside. Offer up a ring (Haribo is fine) and cry, ‘I just couldn’t wait any damn longer – will you make me the happiest woman/man in this fair city?’ Judging by the fanfare when this happens in a restaurant, chances are you’ll get pushed right to the front and sat at the best table in the house – with bubbles. Alternatively, make your partner turn you down and storm off, leaving you to pity-party your way in. The challenge will be keeping your woe-is-me act up all the way to dessert.

Illustrations by Son of Alan.

Hungry? Tuck into our new list of the 100 best restaurants in London.

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