As a country girl with a penchant for fine dining, it still blindsides me when I’m told the waiting list for a destination restaurant is weeks long. Hell, I even remember walking around Peckham one Saturday night about a year ago, and I couldn’t get a walk-in table anywhere. My dinner date and I had to haul ass to Morrisons, pick up some ingredients and cook for ourselves (heaven forbid the lady feeds herself). And that’s Peckham. Go to a busier spot in the city and you’d be laughed out of the door for thinking you can just waltz in for scallop ceviche.
However, there are a couple of ways to get around this, so I thought I’d share my tips for tables at London’s most sought-after eateries. Happy chowing, chaps!
1) Download Uncover
This is the important one. If you urgently need to impress at the drop of a hat, Uncover is your friend. Basically, the lucky, lucky team goes out on the hunt for delicious eats around the city, gathers together a network of the ones that cut the mustard, and strikes a deal with them whereby last minute cancelations are published via their app. It’s the only way – and I mean the only way – you can find yourself eating at Hutong in The Shard at short notice.
One of the things I really like about it is you can filter by function; if you’re looking for something romantic, off-the-beaten-track, Michelin-starred, or business-meeting-friendly, you can search for it. There’s also a Neighbourhoods search function, but I’m afraid SE15 has yet to be listed ☺
Download the app here and let me know what you think!
2) Try a daytime menu (like Umai Saturdays at Sake No Hana)
Many of the restaurants that are full on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings are often decidedly less busy in the daytime. I recently took Friday afternoon off work to meet my pal at Michelin-starred Bibendum in South Ken, and by the time we’d finished our delicious lunch, we were one of only two parties in there (and good thing too; after one too many Brandy Alexanders, she shouted “Jagerbombs!” across the restaurant, much to the amusement of the waitstaff).
For those of you who aren’t willing to spend precious annual leave on eating, peruse the lunch menus of your desired eatery. Sake No Hana has long been one of my favourite restaurants in London for its fresher-than-fresh sushi, and my boyfriend and I were recently invited to sample their new Umai Saturdays menu (more on that later). The restaurant full enough to provide atmosphere but quiet enough to retain its typically Japanese calm hospitality (which you can almost gauge in this most charming picture of me sipping on a cocktail with one hand and spilling a shot of sake with the other); so I doubt there would be a weeks-long waitlist.
3) Buddy up with the chefs
One of the places I’ve wanted to go for ages is Forza Win. It’s a seasonal pop up in various locations and they ticket the event to make sure they don’t waste any food. This season, I finally managed to get tickets (because I stalked their Twitter account with my creepiest hawk’s eye). I had a chat with them on Twitter and, being lovely, hospitable gents, they recognized me when I came in. While we were chatting, they let me in on the fact that they’re thinking of adding an extra table, freeing up a few extra tickets for this season! I’m definitely going to try to go back; these guys roast their 100 day chickens over an open fire (did you know most chickens only live to be 35 days old?!) and it’s the smoothest, most succulent chicken I’ve ever had. If I didn’t know, I’d have assumed it was a fowl I hadn’t tried before, but nope; these guys are just effing good at what they do.
So there you have it; just a few ways you can make sure you never, ever have to begrudgingly go to Bella Italia again.