There’s no better way to experience the cuisine of a city than on your own. When travelling solo there are never any debates about where to grab dinner or issues with a picky eater—it’s all about creating your own journey through the food (and drinks). London is ideal for this sort of foodie adventure, especially because the U.K. capital is filled with eateries that cater to dining solo, making it easy to feel comfortable.
Where to Have Breakfast Alone in London
Start with a coffee at Fernandez & Wells, which has several locations around central London (including one in Somerset House). If you’re hungry, The Breakfast Club, an American inspired eatery, is beloved for its avocado toast and egg dishes. The Shoreditch location, in particular, caters to both groups and solo diners, which means you’ll feel totally at ease. Caravan, which is located near King’s Cross, is a weekend brunch favorite with a few seats at the coffee bar, perfect for a solo traveler.
The London Food Markets You Have to Explore
London is famous for its many markets, which populate all neighborhoods of the city. From Borough Market, a permanent fixture on the Southbank in walking distance of the Tate Modern, to Broadway Market, which pops up in Hackney every Saturday, there are plenty of spots to explore–and taste. Because eating at a market food stall doesn’t require a waiter or a table, you don’t have to worry about feeling out of place or needing a book to hide behind. Instead, you can stroll through the vendors while eating one of the insane grilled cheese sandwiches from Borough Market’s Kappacasein. On nicer days, visitors to Broadway Market often grab some grub and head to the grassy expanses of London Fields, a massive park adjacent to the market. It’s fair game to bring a pint or an Aperol Spritz along too–even if it’s early in the day.
Where to Have Dinner as a London Solo Traveller
There are so many good restaurants in London that it’s difficult to select the best dinner joint. Still, your first pick should be The Barbary, an intimate spot in Covent Garden where all the seats are arranged around a horseshoe-shaped bar. The small dishes are inspired equally by Israeli cuisine as they are by Moroccan spice blends. Be sure to order an Israeli bagel–and don’t forget dessert.
Two other popular restaurants with mostly bar seating (ideal for the solo guest) are Barrafina, which offers Spanish-style tapas, and Bao, a low-key Vietnamese eatery. Go early or risk waiting in a line (although, to be fair, both are worth the wait). If you’re looking for a quick, easy dinner, grab a slice of pizza at Homeslice, legitimately the best pizza in all of London. It’s also the biggest pizza in all of London, so kudos if you can manage more than two slices!
Where to Have a Late-Night Drink Solo in London
One of the most intimidating moments as a solo traveler can be when you want to grab a drink. Bars are not the easiest place to go in alone, but they can be some of the most rewarding socializing experiences if you can master the anxiety. Instead of a pub, which dot every corner of London, consider an intimate cocktail bar. There the bartenders are typically friendlier and the other patrons may be willing to engage in what Londoners call banter (essentially a nice chat). The Blind Pig, a darkly lit upstairs bar in Soho hotspot The Social Eating House, is a good option, particularly since their menu offers an alcoholic version of Butterbeer that will surely roll in the likes on Instagram.
Satan’s Whiskers, in east London’s hip area of Bethnal Green, offers affordable classic cocktails in an easy-going setting (think: hip-hop and taxidermy). Grab a few there and then head around the corner to Coupette, a French-inspired cocktail spot that serves up something called the “Champagne Pina Colada,” which is made with coconut sorbet imported directly from France.
Bars close relatively early in London, with last call usually happening before midnight, but your hotel bar is a great place to have a final nightcap before trying to sleep off all the food you’ve eaten. And, of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg. With enough time you may eventually get to explore more of the amazing food London has to offer, but this is a good starting place. Just don’t be too upset when you go home five pounds heavier.
Pro Tip: When venturing out into London’s many culinary pockets, it’s always best to start with your hotel. Every good London hotel, including St Giles London and St Giles Heathrow, serves up breakfast, of course, but most have great dinner and bar options that can allow you to gradually ease out into the hustle of the streets.
Emily Zemler is a freelance writer and journalist based in London. You can follow her on Twitter @emilyzemler.