They may be the only seats left in the restaurant when you try to call up for a last minute reservation, but I think counter top seats are the best in the house. Whether it is at Riding House Cafe, my personal favourite, Bocca di Lupo or Mishkins, counter-top seating offers the same menu but with that little bit of added atmosphere and entertainment. What’s more, you’re more likely to get the waiter’s attention faster and therefore have your second (third, fourth....) cocktail in hand in next no time.
Most people seem fairly opposed to the idea of counter seating so more often than not you can walk in without a reservation (although it is always better to book!) It is perfect for a date as it is a little less formal, provides a constant talking point and you avoid that constant eye-contact which can, let’s face it, be quite exhausting!
Having said that, it doesn’t always work out for the best and sometimes you can feel a little bit like you have been shoved on the end of the bar and then forgotten about! So choose carefully. Here are my top ten, plus a few dishes to try, where I think the counter seats are superior to those sought after little tables.
(Not in order!)
Riding House Cafe
This Modern All-Day Brasserie is constantly buzzing and is my favourite restaurant for counter seating. You can choose to share small tapas dishes or order your own main meal off the a la carte. Get the best of both worlds and start with lots of little sharing dishes, then order the succulent Longhorn Beef and Bone Marrow Burger to share.
This is one of the most popular Spanish tapas restaurants in London and its menu will not disappoint. Get the Cold Meat Platter. Just do it.
Scott’s Oyster Bar
A well known seafood restaurant in the heart of Soho, counter seats are often still available, even last minute. The seafood display in the centre of the bar is mouth-wateringly impressive and the leather high-chairs are as comfy as can be.
A past celebrity hang-out, Le Caprice may have seen better days but with the reliably good menu, superb service and a live pianist, this counter-top option is still part of my top ten. The beef tartar is great and fresh dressed crab just so so so good.
Bocca di Lupo
Bocca di Lupo is the marmite of the restaurant world. You really do either love it or hate it. The menu isn’t exactly user friendly with half of it written in intimidating Italian so ask your waiter what they recommend. The Scottadito – (grilled, fatty 'finger buring' lamb chops) is a must though.
One of my latest ventures, the menu is designed for sharing and share you must cause you won’t be able to keep your eyes off what your guest has ordered! The Duck Hash was unrelentingly tasty, I loved the blood orange salad and The Reuben........ well it goes without saying that you order The Reuben.
Pollen Street Social
Don’t go for counter-seating for dinner as it is a little bit of an afterthought but head to the dessert counter for, you guessed it, desserts, and you can watch the pastry chefs at work.
Still one of the most sought after restaurants in London, Zuma always reserves its counter seating for walk-ins. Get there early (6pm sharp) to avoid having to wait and don’t go in a big group as they will only seat a maximum of three. The teriyaki steak is one of the nicest things I have ever eaten and the sparkling sake is like a little bottle of heaven.
Sister restaurant to Polpo, Polpetto and aforementioned Mishkins, da Polpo makes my top ten. The counter seats are busy without being overcrowded (as they can be in Polpo) and the staff are wonderfully attentive and helpful. Aperol Spritz is a signature cocktail and the spinach and ricotta pizzette is a popular constant on the ever changing menu. Order one to start with and you will probably end up ordering it again.
Author: Lyndsay Byres