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London's best no-booking restaurants

Left it too late to book? Find great restaurants in London that don't take bookings

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By Time Out London Food & Drink |
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Struggling to book somewhere for dinner tonight? You might have to queue, but London's top first-come, first-served restaurants are all worth the wait. Enjoy great food in the capital without a reservation. 

No-booking restaurants in London

Restaurants, Contemporary European

10 Greek Street

icon-location-pin Soho

There’s no flashy name, no flashy decor. Yet this small Soho spot punches well above its weight, delivering exceptional cooking in relaxed, buzzy surroundings. At face value, the menu – Modern Brit via the Med – seems fairly straightforward, but the results are impressive. Bookings are taken at lunch times only.

Time Out says
Restaurants, Italian

40 Maltby Street

icon-location-pin Bermondsey

There’s a real charm to sitting in a railway arch on a Southwark back street, trains trundling overhead, a skip of construction detritus your view through the window (this is an‘up-and-coming’ area), while enjoying great wine and food. 40 Maltby Street is not a West End dining experience – and is all the better for it.

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Bars and pubs, Gastropubs

Anchor & Hope

icon-location-pin Southwark

The Anchor & Hope has dominated Waterloo’s gastronomic scene for over a decade, and is still among its highlights. The well-known ‘no reservations’ seating policy doesn’t seem to deter punters, meaning that diners wanting to sample the robust seasonal British cooking must often wait in the pub area (separated from the restaurant by a heavy drape) until a table becomes free.

Time Out says
Restaurants, Middle Eastern

Bababoom

icon-location-pin Clapham Junction

Is there such a thing as a classy kebab joint? According to this Battersea newbie, there is. Pride of place is a bespoke charcoal grill complete with sections for ‘slow-burning’ and ‘intense heat’. They won't take booking after 7pm, so evenings are opened up to walk-ins in the 'hood.

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Restaurants, Taiwanese

Bao

icon-location-pin Soho

Bao is possibly London's most famous no-bookings restaurant, thanks to the ever-flowing queue down Lexington Street. Those who've stuck it out in line in the past know these fluffy Taiwanese buns and street food snacks are very much worth the wait.

Time Out says
Restaurants, Israeli

The Barbary

icon-location-pin Covent Garden

The Palomar's little brother is little indeed, with just 24 seats round its horseshoe counter bar offered out on a first-come, first-served basis. So come early and prepared to have your mind blown by Middle-Eastern eats like you've never seen before.

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Restaurants, Spanish

Barrafina

icon-location-pin Covent Garden

Any preconceptions about tapas bars being pleasant but unmemorable places with routine menus are dispelled by this slick mini-chain. Barrafina is very much a bar, with prime seats up on a gleaming steel counter, behind which chefs display their skills in grilling seafood and assembling complex salads with stunning panache.

Time Out says
Restaurants, Thai

Begging Bowl

icon-location-pin Peckham Rye

Missing from the Begging Bowl’s colourful contemporary interior are the orchids and pictures of the Thai royal family typically on display in a neighbourhood Thai restaurant. Plus, two of Thailand’s most famous street food dishes – pad Thai and som tam (the spicy green papaya salad from the north-east) – are absent; instead there is a far more interesting selection of less usual stir-fries, salads, curries and grilled dishes. Bookings are only taken for groups of eight to ten.

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Restaurants, Grills

Berber & Q

icon-location-pin Haggerston

This Middle Eastern grillhouse on the southern fringe of Dalston is a buzzy little railway arch where Josh Katz works his barbecue magic. The vibe’s like a bar or nightclub, except that here the staff greet you like old friends and guide you to a low-lit table... if there's space. 

Time Out says
Restaurants, French

Brasserie Zédel

icon-location-pin Piccadilly Circus

It's a surprise to many that this classy, classy dining hall from the people who brought you the Wolseley and the Delaunay doesn't take bookings for small parties. It's like you've literally struck gold in the centre in London should you have left it to late to book a table for two for date night.

Venue says Every Saturday night, join us in Crazy Coqs following the 9.15pm ticketed event to enjoy our free, late-night music show – Round Midnight.

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