The secrets to booking a table in London’s most popular restaurants

(Press handout)

Each WhatsApp group chat has its own characters. There’s ‘the silent partner’, who doesn’t respond to any of the messages and yet somehow attends every meeting, ‘the meme-slinger’, who peppers the chat with a few weekly jokes, and ‘the absent one’, who hasn’t been seen in over a year. years and may or may not still be in the country.

Then there is “the organizer”. This is the one who gets a survey to confirm dates, discusses budgets and locations and, crucially, calls the restaurant for a table.

These are Britain’s unsung heroes: the restaurant bookers who stay organized enough to be the glue of the group. These are the ones who can put together an evening with a bar or two, a happy hour and a table that will please the motley crew.

The same can be said of couples; there is the one who always wants to go out, and the one who has to make that happen. And it will invariably be impossible to land the table you want; maybe there was a big review in the paper, or TikTok did its thing. But even the places that are “fully booked” tend to have a little space, if you know how. Here’s an overview of hacks and cheat codes to simplify your tabletop gaming.

    (Adriaan Lourie)    (Adriaan Lourie)

(Adriaan Lourie)

The base

  • To secure the hardest-to-book tables in town, it’s generally a matter of fastest fingers first. Most restaurants can be booked online these days, so it’s imperative to see how far the restaurant is taking reservations (usually between six weeks and three months in advance) and work backwards from there.

  • For example, if tables for a particular hotspot become available on the third Friday of the month at 11am, make the effort: book that meeting room in the office, have the laptop (and your phone) ready by 10:50am, and keep hitting refresh. Glastonbury Rules.

  • Sign up for restaurant newsletters, follow the right social media accounts and enable notifications for bookings. It may add to the volume of daily incoming emails, but if you want to get a table, accept the sacrifice.

  • Making an effort in restaurants in general shows there is interest, and ultimately restaurants want interested guests. Becoming a regular doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time. So to help any future restaurant bookings, go for a solo lunch one day, be nice, introduce yourself, remember the names of the people who served you, be nice and say hello to the maître d’. Then do it again, and again, and mean it. The restaurant will soon be happy to see your recurring custom, and scoring that table suddenly becomes a lot easier.

  • Most gamblers reserve tables of two, so if you’re stuck, opt for a larger reservation of four or six. Normally there are fewer of these larger tables in the restaurant, but the difference in demand for a four, compared to a two, is large. Two tops will always sell out first, so breathe new life into the double date.

  • Painfully obvious, but call the restaurant. Usually places have tables that don’t show up online, as well as cancellations that don’t load on the website immediately.

  • Oftentimes, the city’s hot tables have seats available early and late, also known as “shoulder times.” Embrace them; a booking at 9pm is a joyous affair, and the table is yours for the rest of the evening.

  • Restaurants are still getting a ton of cancellations, and you’d be surprised what pops up. Call two or three favorite restaurants a day or two in advance (or even on the day itself) and see if a table is still available. At the time of writing, two of London’s most sought-after three-Michelin star restaurants, Core by Clare Smyth and The Ledbury, both have prime table slots (between 7pm and 8.30pm) for the coming weekend, likely to result in cancellations (these hotspots are usually full at least two months in advance).

  • If you would like to come back, book that restaurant again as soon as possible. Not before. Do it before the bill comes. If the red wine and delicious food haven’t clouded the brain too much, discreetly approach the maître d’ and ask when you might be able to return. Done in person, tables can appear seemingly out of nowhere.

The Devonshire

    (Clare Menary)    (Clare Menary)

(Clare Menary)

There’s no doubt that the Devonshire is one of the most sought-after bookings in London and securing a booking is now rarer than spotting Kate Middleton. Restaurant bookings for the Devonshire go live every Thursday at 10:30am for tables within the next three weeks; set an alarm clock. If you want to dine here, go to the pub first, order a Guinness and eat the snacks, and then do that a few more times. It will take a long time before you become a “regular” here, but the team is good to those who see them often. Also, even the Devonshire gets cancellations, so get a chance to get a walk-in (first at lunchtime and after 8:30pm has worked for us in the past). It’s also worth following landlord Oisín Rogers on Instagram (@mcmoop), as he’s been known to announce an ad-hoc cancellation or two in his stories.

Denmanstraat 17, W1D 7HW,


    (Benjamin McMahon)    (Benjamin McMahon)

(Benjamin McMahon)

Tomos Parry’s follow-up to the hard-to-book Brat is equally sparse in terms of bookings. Mountain in Soho was one of the biggest openings last year, later followed by a Michelin accreditation, making that 8pm booking even less likely. The solution? Reservations are taken 60 days in advance, but if you want to score a two-toner before then, the fairly comfortable dining bar is reserved for walk-ins. Tables for four are generally much more available than for two, but also put your name on the waiting list on a few preferred days and call the restaurant again a few days earlier.

16-18 Beakstraat, W1F 9RD,

The Arlington

    (David Loftus)    (David Loftus)

(David Loftus)

The Arlington is a reborn gem of a restaurant. Tables are very difficult to find here, but King is the ultimate maître d’, so accommodating maximum numbers and getting the right mix of people dining in the restaurant is in his blood. To do that, go into the restaurant and introduce yourself, and maybe sit at the bar for a drink. It is not a large restaurant and you will quickly recognize general manager Anke Agtha and bar manager Vitek Melichar. Say hello to these people. This isn’t about getting favors, it’s about showing you care, which is really important for restaurants. Generally speaking, reserving a table for four people online is also much more likely to get you a prime time slot than any availability for two.

20 Arlington Street, SW1A 1RG,


    (Press handout)    (Press handout)

(Press handout)

This modern Mexican with a Michelin star remains a tough place to get a seat. The secret here is to sign up for the priority booking mailing list. This special little newsletter gives its subscribers access to new table assignments 24 hours in advance. This means that while Joe Bloggs is stuck securing a booking for Friday night at 10pm in eight weeks, you’ve secured that prime-time table for date night.

9 Seymour Street, W1H 7BA,

The Dover

    (Press handout)    (Press handout)

(Press handout)

There’s no doubt that Dover is one of the hardest restaurants to book in London. Even so-called shoulder tables are almost impossible to find. The way to get a spot? Books open online three weeks in advance, so quickest fingers first, or book the recently launched Sunday Lunch Club. These monthly events offer exceptional value for money: £85 each for “all you can eat”. The tables run on one Sunday every month from 12pm to 4pm, proving that one of the sexiest places around isn’t just for dinner. If an evening meal is a must, popping in earlier in the week isn’t a bad choice. The Dover has a spacious bar at the front of the restaurant with a large counter and a number of decent tables. The snacks menu includes the famous mini hot dogs, the lobster roll and the crispy potato with caviar, so you’ll be well fed.

33 Dover Street, W1S 4NF,

Kurisu Omakase

Brixton’s eight-seat sushi bar remains the preserve of the city’s cognoscenti and securing a seat at this popular spot is no small feat. The “season” (reservations for the next three months) “falls” only four times a year on booking platform Resy, and it is a raging madness. While you can do your best to snag a counter spot on drop day, it’s better to check Resy regularly for cancellations and follow the restaurant directly on Instagram. Sushi master Chris Restrepo often posts a story about a last-minute outage. Often these are single seats, so it may not work for everyone, but making a booking is not as impossible as it may seem at first glance.

58D Atlantic Road, SW9 8PY, @kurisuomakase


    (Tony Buckingham)    (Tony Buckingham)

(Tony Buckingham)

One of London’s oldest restaurants, the original Scott’s opened in Covent Garden in 1851 before moving to the Mayfair sites in 1967. To be fair, it’s been a bit of a hotspot since then, but has seen a power lunch resurgence due to tabloids like Kate Moss, Kate Beckinsale and Rod Stewart dining there. It’s not easy to land a booking that ranks among the greats and the good, so your best bet is to head to the bar. It is a luxurious, comfortable bar where the full a la carte menu is available. This can be booked and they also have a few spots for walk-ins. As for standard reservations, it is usually necessary to book about a month in advance, but again, meeting with the maître d’ will do wonders.

20 Mount Street, W1K 2HE,

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