The last few years have seen restaurants opening in a number of new formats, and amongst the most successful has been counter dining. Communal, convivial and often with no reservation needed, taking a seat at the counter allows diners to witness the wonders of the kitchen firsthand, meet fellow patrons and eat in style alone.
In recognition of this, a number of dedicated and acclaimed eateries have opened, predominantly in Soho: at Duck Soup, Polpo, Barrafina and Ceviche you take a seat at the bar and order. They follow the formula of tried and trusted destinations such as Arbutus, Randall & Aubyn and Hawksmoor Air Street. It's an interactive, multi-layered experience which allows diners to see into the world of the kitchen and observe chefs at work.
The open kitchen also provides an extra dimension of theatricality for those looking for it; this ‘theatre’ aspect is particularly apparent in a restaurant like L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, where the ‘workshop’ qualities of Robuchon’s vision are highly tangible. Counter service also works extremely well as a format for people visiting restaurants to dine on their own, as it sidesteps the stigma attached to sitting at a table and ordering alone, not to mention awkward eye contact!
In a city like London, full of business travellers, counter dining has become an integral part of the dining culture...
The cuisine is modern and on-trend, with the action focused on the open kitchen and wood-fired oven which is used to create dishes of simplicity and elegance.
Hunter 486 at the Arch: 50 Great Cumberland Pl, London W1H 7FD, Tel: 020 7724 0486, www.thearchlondon.com/hunter-486-brasserie
Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill
Richard Corrigan is one of London’s best-loved and most ebullient chefs.
Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill: 11 Swallow Street, London ¨W1B 4DG, Tel. +44 (0)20 7734 4756, www.bentleys.org
Bar Boulud is a superb addition to Daniel Boulud's empire and serves some of London’s finest burgers.
Dinner by Heston: Mandarin Oriental, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA, Tel: +44 (0) 207 201 3833, /www.barboulud.com
Robuchon’s L’Ateliers or ‘workshops’ give diners access to the precise workings of some of the finest kitchens on the planet.
13-15 West Street London, Greater London WC2H 9NE, Tel. +44 (0)20 7010 8600, www.joelrobuchon.co.uk
Scott's Seafood Bar
Scott’s serves a wide selection of superb grills, fish and other seafood alongside the finest wines in one of London’s most understated and charming dining rooms.
Scott's Seafood Bar: 20 Mount Street, London W1K 2HE, Tel. +44 (0)20 7495 7309, www.scotts-restaurant.com
Nobu Berkeley St
Nobu is now a global phenomenon, where the celebrated chefs whirr up a gastronomic storm of colour, noise, taste and scent in the Japanese tradition of old.
Nobu Berkeley St: 15 Berkeley Street, London, W1J 8DY, Tel. +44 (0)20 7290 9222, www.noburestaurants.com
The Hakkasan group are renowned for slick, sleek and sexy destinations that revolutionise Chinese dining.
HKK: Broadgate West, 88 Worship Street, London EC2A 2DQ, Tel. +44 (0)20 3535 1888, hkklondon.com
Cecconi's cicchetti menu transports the Venetian grazing concept into one of the locale's buzziest, most sophisticated and time-tested establishments.
Cecconi's Mayfair: 5A Burlington Gardens, London W1S 3EP, Tel. +44 (0)20 7434 1500, www.cecconis.co.uk
The Booking Office
Feast on classic English fare and sup on something delectable from the selection of Victorian-era punches, all the while gazing in awe at the Grade I listed interiors.
The Booking Office: St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, Euston Road, London NW1 2AR, Tel. +44 (0)20 7841 3540, www.bookingofficerestaurant.com