There are few things Londoners are better at doing than going hard, eating, and then going home. Remember sleeping pizza woman on the tube? She is all of us. A box of hot wings or a pizza duvet aren’t your only options late at night though, even if they often seem to be. London has got plenty of post-12am sit down restaurants dotted across the city, offering everything from hand-pulled noodles, to pizza by the slice, to small plates and wine. This is the late night guide you and your desperate stomach have been waiting for.
When it comes to reassuring, comforting smells, people always go on about their loved one's fragrance, or their special blanky. Sod. That. We’re much more about the smell of the charcoal grill at Gökyüzü circa 12:30am. This Green Lanes stalwart is what you need most times of day, but the fact it’s huge, open till 1am, and always buzzing is a massive bonus. The complimentary warm flatbread, dip, and salad means you won’t be waiting long to eat - around 60 seconds, to be precise - and by the time you get onto a bowl of manti, or a bit of beyti, you’ll be extremely happy indeed.
Open till 3am from Thursday to Saturday, Cecconi’s is the Soho pizza bar that you need in your life. There’s a very nice counter to sit up at, or, if high seating would be a dangerous decision, plenty of seating that will make sure your feet are firmly on the ground. The pizzas are decent - the thin kind with a fat doughy crust - and they’re all priced around £10 - £15.
Everyone dreams of having a cool little US-style diner they can return to each time the world gets the better of them. Spuntino in Soho is as close as you’re going to get in London, and even if you were to sit with a burger and beer in the middle of a summer afternoon here, you’d feel it was the wee hours - this place was made for nocturnal hangs. It’s open until 1am Wednesday through Friday, and it’s perfect when you’re craving a burger or some mac and cheese.
You’ve stumbled out of your mate’s Hackney house party at 1am, and you want pizza. Walking down Mare Street, you see the lights of Martello Hall up in the distance, like a beautiful, shimmering oasis of mozzarella and red sauce. It’s true - this laid-back pizza restaurant serves food until 2am from Thursday to Saturday, and what’s more, the pizzas are actually good. We once saw Robert Pattinson crushing a margherita pizza in here at midnight on a weekday, in case you needed convincing.
You and your pal Milly have been chucking back negronis in Shoreditch, and you’ve stumbled out after midnight, starving, and staring down the prospect of a kebab or braving the zoo at Duck & Waffle. Jump in a cab to the Laughing Heart, an eccentric and very trendy wine bar on a quiet stretch of Hackney Road that does food until 1am Wednesday to Saturday (though not Friday). You can get tasty Chinese-style fried rice, and tasty little plates of mussels in a spicy Vietnamese broth that taste great with the wine you’ll doubtlessly have moved onto. It’s great for late night vibes, and they receive bonus points for Hugo, their friendly rottweiler.
Making the decision to head to Duck & Waffle isn’t one you should make lightly. On paper, it sounds barely believable - an actual 24-hour restaurant, that just happens to be perched at the top of the Heron Tower in the City. The views are impressive, and catching the sunrise here is worth cancelling your brunch plans for, because there will always be pancakes, but you’ll do this precisely once in your life. The downsides are that it’s an absolute shitshow once you reach the bar at the top, and each one of your crew needs to order a main course to sit in the restaurant itself, where it’s much more civilised but still upbeat. As a bonus, the food’s pretty good, especially for this hour. It’s a commitment for sure - just know what you’re getting into.
A plate of Cantonese roast meat and rice is one of the best things you can eat at any time of day, but at 1am, when it’s just you and a few survivors left, it’s pretty much the greatest thing in the world. There are a few good restaurants in Chinatown that serve late, but the consistency at old-school Cantonese spot Hung’s has always sorted us out. The dumplings and noodle soups are also excellent, and while it isn’t trendy, it will make you ridiculously happy. It’s open until 2am every night except Sundays.
Midnight in Dalston. You’re starving. Your friend has informed you, around 38 times (in a very questionable Australian accent) that she’s ‘abso-lute-ly ravvo, mate’. You need something quick, filling, and delicious. With the option of more, mate. This is where a couple of slices of Voodoo Ray’s pizza come in. The New York style pizza is as tasty as it is big. A slice of margherita is £3.50, but options with meat, vegetarian, and vegan toppings are just 50p more. It’s open until 3am on the weekends, meaning it’s also an excellent late-late option.
Bar Italia is a legendary institution, mostly because it attracts the entire spectrum of Soho on any given day. It’s an old-school Italian cafe by day, serving strong espresso and sandwiches, but at night it turns into a magnet for everyone who’s up way past their bedtime. The food’s totally fine - you’re looking at snacks, Italian desserts and so on - but you’re really here to watch the weird mix of people come and go, from actors finishing for the night at local theatres, to eccentric artsy types and career lushes. It’s about 100% better than stumbling around looking for a kebab. They’re open until 5am every night, except Sundays when they shut at midnight.
Posh cider ads might have you believe that the best nights end with you and your mates hugging it out, emerging in the light of a new day after a night involving festival stagedives, photobooths, and some Indian-style coloured chalk. Do they f*ck. The best nights end up with a few of you stood around a bollard on the street, eating cream cheese bagels, or salt beef sarnies, and ripping into your mate’s new online dating profile. Beigel Bake on Brick Lane has set the scene for this countless times, not only because it’s open 24/7, but also because the bagels and salt beef are brilliant. It’s a classic go-to if you’ve been drinking in Shoreditch and just want something cheap and delicious.
There are some nights when you’re happy to settle for a cheeseburger and call it a night. And there are some nights when you just want to keep feeling good. For the latter, Bob Bob Ricard in Soho is the ticket, with a ridiculously plush Art Deco interior, cushy booths and tasty British and American comfort food that is far posher than anything a human being deserves to eat at midnight. Everything comes with caviar and champagne, and even though it’s expensive, it’s worth it for the occasional splurge to cap a memorable evening. It’s open until 1am from Thursday to Saturday.
Rarely of your choosing, a night in Covent Garden at the weekend often involves drinks at Dirty Martini, before ending up at a terrible nightclub frequented by teenagers from Basingstoke. Politely exit said charnel pit, and make your way to the refuge of The Hoxton hotel near Holborn station, where you can grab a drink at the bar or a seat at one of the booths at their brasserie Hubbard and Bell. The food’s fine and while amusingly overpriced, if you’ve had one of those nights, it’ll feel like you’re at Le Gavroche. There’s always a vibe from the adjacent bar, but it’s relaxed enough that you can chat with friends without feeling like you’re eating in a nightclub. It closes at 2am.
It’s a familiar story - your evening of drinking in Shoreditch escalated far too quickly, and in lieu of making bad life decisions and going to Cargo, you’ve decided you want something to eat instead. There’s Brick Lane beigel but then again, maybe you just really like sitting, because you feel old, or you’re just lazy. Pizza East is an excellent shout, mainly because the up-for-it crowd and vibe won’t make you feel totally lame for bailing on your epic session at midnight, but also because being a smart person can sometimes involve shovelling warm lasagne in your face while other people pretend to enjoy themselves in a club. It’s open until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays.
The sign outside this place just reads ‘Noodle House’, and there’s an unappealing line of bright orange dishes up front. While the first signs might tell you to make a run for it, rest assured that this place does proper Chinese hand-pulled noodles (la mian) until 2am most nights, and until 5am on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s extremely basic in setup - cheap and cheerful cafe interiors, cash-only - but if you just want a delicious, satisfying bowl of noodles, it’s a good call this late at night when your options involve either a lamb doner, or a night bus. Go for the roast pork or beef brisket noodle soup.
While 24-hour cafe VQ has outposts in ‘Bloomsbury’ (really, the crap bit behind Centre Point) and Notting Hill Gate on its books these days, the original on Fulham Road has been taking care of drunk Imperial College students and Fulhamites for years now. It’s literally the only place around that you can get a plate of pasta or a sticky toffee pudding at five o’clock in the morning, and their booze license runs around the clock - happy days.
There are a lot of things that suck about London. Your flat smells of damp, your roommate left their underwear on the shower rail again, and you’re going to be renting for the rest. Of. Your. Life. You know what doesn’t suck though? Being able to get a posh sausage roll, or eating ham, egg and chips with proper silverware, while reclining in Scrooge McDuck’s own armchair past midnight in Soho. Dean Street Townhouse is a go-to for British comfort food that always hits the spot, all dished up in an upmarket but relaxed restaurant. It’s open until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays, and unlike your choice of roommates, you’ll never regret ending up here.
Balans is where you go when you’ve been out in central, you’re winding the night down, but you want the option of hanging out with your mates until the sun comes up. The restaurant isn’t quite open 24 hours, but since it closes around 5-6am most mornings, you won’t find most people complaining. They do a solid all-day breakfast, but you can also literally get anything your drunk face desires, from a Thai red curry, to a burger or some pasta. It’s important to note that the food is mediocre here, even during the day, but as a place to hang with a few mates, it’s everything you want during the wee hours.