The best counter dining spots in London

The best counter dining spots in London

Get involved in the capital’s counter culture

Gone are the days when being placed at the counter was a potential night ruiner – the stools overlooking the kitchen are now often the best seats in the house. Whether you’re after a quick catch-up with a friend over lunch or an all-engrossing evening of high gastronomic theatre, we’ve picked our favourite places to perch.

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The PalomarThe Palomar

34 Rupert Street, Soho

Squeeze onto a stool at The Palomar’s marble-topped counter and you’ll be bombarded with the flavours, sound and smells of North Africa, Spain and Israel. It’s this collision of cultures that brings so much life to the place and you’ll have front row seats as the fun-loving kitchen staff create, plate and serve dishes that wouldn’t be out of place in any of Tel Aviv’s hippest dining spots.

José the barJosé

104 Bermondsey Street, Bermondsey

Now with three eponymous ventures, José Pizarro started out with this tiny tapas bar in 2011. It has limited seating, but loyal patrons are more than happy to stand and balance plates of calamari and garlic prawns on the upturned barrels or nab one of the places at the tiled bar. You won’t find any innovations here – it’s all about doing the classics to perfection and nothing on the menu is short of excellent.

J Sheekey Oyster BarJ Sheekey Oyster Bar

28-34 St Martin’s Court, Covent Garden

The horseshoe counter at the centre of the dining room affords an equally good view of the open kitchen and your fellow diners as they slurp away at the nine varieties of oysters or tuck into the excellent fish pie or surprisingly delicious shrimp and scallop burger. Thankfully the stools have back rests, meaning you can lean back and take a break in between gorging sessions. Crisp whites and champagne take centre stage on the wine menu.

Bocca Di LupoBocca Di Lupo

12 Archer Street, Soho

When this opened in 2008 chef Jacob Kenedy introduced a menu designed to sate adventurous diners by offering almost every dish in small or large portions. Traditionalists can stick to a time-honoured starter-main-dessert format, but the selection of dishes deserves to be explored and shared, tapas-style. At the counter, it’ll be hard to resist the grilled rib of Tuscan beef with parmesan and rosemary as you watch the meat being perfectly charred. Also pictured top

Scott's Crustacean BarScott’s

20 Mount Street, Mayfair

The reservations book at this institution has been full since day one. The counter seats at the centre of the beautiful art deco room remain some of the most in demand and look over a boat-shaped plinth displaying all manner of crustacea. From the traditional to the experimental, there is something to please every palate – the sautéed razor clams with prosciutto are a solid choice with a glass of crisp Gyéjacquot Champagne.

Portland © Patricia NivenPortland

113 Great Portland Street, Fitzrovia

While most of the best counter seats have views of the firing grills and bubbling pans of the kitchen, this Michelin-starred joint’s best vantage point looks out onto the street. Complement people watching with Merlin Labron-Johnson’s bold, modern cooking which gives vegetables and seasonal game starring roles. Behind you, the dining room is a calming space and the staff ensure you’re well looked after.

Chiltern FirehouseChiltern Firehouse

1 Chiltern Street, Marylebone

If you’re not fussed about surveying the dining room for celebrities and are more interested in Nuno Mendes’ wondrous cooking, we suggest asking us to book you a spot at the kitchen counter where you can watch the Portuguese chef command his team from the pass. The plates of food are beautiful to look at and even better to taste – try the monkfish cooked with pine.


12 Stoney Street, Borough

This rustic spot under the arches in Borough Market has been leading the charge for ingredient-led cooking and its menu is shaped by what the traders across the cobbles are peddling that day. There are cosy candlelit tables to the rear but we love the buzz around the bar area at the front, especially for a quick bite to eat and a glass of fizz after shopping.


16 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden

Chef Gregory Marchand’s Parisian neo-bistro is one of the hottest reservations in the French capital, so lifestyle concierge members were understandably excited when he crossed the Channel in early 2016. The menu is inspired by his international culinary experience and the stripped-back decor oozes mid-century chic, brought into the modern day with clean lines, Scandinavian furniture and, of course, a lamplit counter overlooking the bar.

Bob Bob RicardBob Bob Ricard

1 Upper St James Street, Soho

From looking at the outside of this venue, you couldn’t even begin to imagine what’s inside. Picture the elegant booth dining of the Orient Express and add plenty of gold art deco lines with a splash of electric blue. While most of the other tables have a button to request more champagne, a seat at the counter means you can be kept topped up at all times by the pristine bar staff.


45 Great Queen Street, Covent Garden

In a world where stripped-back decor and uber-casual staff have become the norm, the old-world pomp of Margot offers a welcoming change. All plush booths, flattering light and low-level jazz, this time-warp restaurant also happens to serve some of the most traditional Italian cooking in central London – just try the perfectly al dente tagliatelle with hare ragu to see what we mean. There’s not a bad table in the house but the counter is right at the heart of the buzz.

Last updated on 30 August 2017

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