Everyone has that one friend. You know, the one who pretends to be allergic to mushroom, would rather spend an hour with a pack of cobras than a dozen eggs, and has recurring nightmares of being accosted by a cartoon tuna if you take them anywhere near seafood. They’re your beloved, and entirely difficult, picky eater friend who makes choosing a restaurant a bit of a minefield.
Luckily, there are plenty of restaurants in London where they won’t have to spend half the meal interrogating the menu. From where to go with your vitamin obsessed mate, to restaurants that are perfect for people that hate cheese (yes, they exist), here are the best places to go in London where both you and your picky friend will have plenty of options.
where to go with a friend whose food tastes are less sophisticated than a toddler’s
You’re not saying your friend has the preferences of a small child that just discovered sugar and chicken nuggets. But you’re not not saying that.
If you made a Venn diagram of things kids like to eat at sleepovers and carbohydrates that come in the shape of a smiley face, your friend’s dream dinner would be somewhere in the middle. The Colony Grill Room is an all-day brasserie inside The Beaumont Hotel that serves a menu of swish, big kid classics. Think hamburgers, buttermilk fried chicken, and made to order sundaes with your own choice of toppings. But with the dressed up servers and slick 1920s feel, this place still manages to be entirely sophisticated.
Fresh pizza, handmade pasta, and having a laugh - that’s what Pappa Roma is all about. A five minute walk from South Kensington, this great little spot has a long menu with fifteen different pizza options alone. So yes, there will probably be at least one that your friend likes. It’s also all pretty affordable and we challenge anyone to not get along with either the brick-sized lasagne or the giant margherita.
Much like with your four-year-old nephew, this picky friend’s preferences appear to be constantly changing. This week they love meat, but only meat that doesn’t look like meat. Next week, they hate meat, but have had a revelation about peas, but also now hate pasta. It’s confusing. Take them to Pergola where the constantly revolving street food vendors mean your pal not only has several different dish options but also several different cuisines to choose from. This place also has a mean cocktail menu that you should get involved in, if, of course, your mate still likes cocktails this week.
where to go with a friend who hates eggs, when you want eggs
This picky friend can usually be spotted telling long-winded stories about being five years old and finding out that eggs didn’t fall from the sky. Clearly, life was never the same for them. Or your brunch plans.
What came first, the chicken, or your friend’s paralytic fear of scrambled eggs? No idea, but you know which one of them rules out half of London’s brunch menus for your catch up. At first glance the menu at Newington Green’s Jolene might be a little egg heavy for your picky friend, but this super charming all-day cafe has a great menu of breakfast classics with plenty of pastries, and a banging ham and cheese toastie on offer.
The breakfast and brunch menus at this all day-diner has everything from a gruyere omelette to eggs royale, but, importantly, they also have pancakes, french toast, waffles, and granola bowls. And as well as house-press juices, fresh smoothies, superfood lattes, there’s also a range of teas and chocolate shakes. Basically, with this many options there’s bound to be something your pal likes. Expect big comfy red booths, 50% off if you’ve got a cinema ticket for next door, and an equally picky pal-friendly all-day menu should brunch turn into cocktails.
Bottomless brunches are arguably human kinds most ingenious way of making eating eggs whilst getting daytime drunk socially acceptable. And the weekend bottomless brunch at Timmy Green is a pretty sweet deal, with 100 minutes of unlimited mimosa potential, plus a savoury dish and a sweet dish for £39.50. But, the best thing about the brunch options is that there are plenty to choose from and several of the savoury dishes can come with or without eggs. Don’t miss the ridiculously named Unicorn Waffles.
where to go with a friend who doesn't like cheese
Befriending someone who doesn’t like cheese is a tough call, but we’re sure they’re worth it, and these places are perfect for anyone who’s a hard pass on everything from wensleydale to feta.
Screaming ‘what do you mean you don’t like cheese’ an inch from your mate’s face, again, won’t do your friendship any favours. It’s better to just take cheese out of the equation and head for the 12 piece omakase at Sushi Atelier. This Japanese spot in Fitzrovia does some of the best affordable sushi in London, and as long as you tell them you don’t want the parmesan-topped BBQ tuna, there won’t be any cheese in sight. In case your friend also doesn’t like sushi (because, of course) then they also do gyoza, rice dishes, and salads.
You could quite happily go toe to toe with a block of mature cheddar and come out as the champion, but your friend enters a sweaty panic at the mere mention of parmesan. Mr Bao is an entirely loveable Taiwanese spot in Peckham that has a great menu of fluffy bao, dumplings, fried chicken, sweet potato fries, and absolutely zero cheese. Whatever your mate goes for, make sure the shitake mushroom bao with miso mayo and crispy shallots is on your order.
If you’ve ever seen someone attempt to peel melted cheese off of the top of a pizza like they’re permanently haunted by a cheese string, then you’ve witnessed true suffering. Voodoo Ray’s is a by-the-slice and full pie pizza joint in Dalston that can make your friend’s sans mozzarella pizza dreams happen. Their cheese-free Queen Vegan pizza is covered in green sauce, artichokes, red onion, and sunblush tomatoes, with the option to add toppings like pepperoni and pancetta for an extra 50p. In summer months, their £6.50 frozen house margaritas are also a must-order.
where to go with a friend who likes to only eat things containing lots of vitamin b
Whether it’s for health reasons or because Supersize Me just had a really profound effect on them, this friend likes to stick to their greens, and anything you can imagine Gwyneth Paltrow sticking in a blender.
No, your friend isn’t on a diet. They just really like the way ‘eating clean’ makes them (exhale) feel. Pachamama East do a whole selection of interesting vegetable small plates, from a mushroom ceviche to a miso cured carrot dish that covers the categories of being really, really tasty, and good if you’re looking to keep it kind of healthy.
Your friend that spent the entirety of uni eating instant noodles finally ate a salad a few months back and is now absolutely hooked on anything involving coriander or the word ‘slaw’. Enter Granger and Co. As well as small plates like courgette chips with saffron yoghurt, they also have deceptively filling ‘bowls’ from a classic chicken caesar to a roast red pepper aubergine spaghetti. You might want to consider the shrimp burger with jalapeno mayo if you’re looking for something a bit more substantial.
Rovi is doing the kind of creative things with vegetables that will impress even your friend who has stocks in an up-and-coming spiralizer company. This all-day Fitzrovia spot serves excellent sharing plates that involve dishes like tempura stems, spaghetti squash with mandarin yoghurt, and a celeriac shawarma you’ll happily ghost a kebab for. This place gets bonus points for doing a top seasonal kombucha and having one of the best spaces in which to while away a few hours in London.
where to take a picky eater for a special occasion
Yes, your mate tried truffle once and has now sworn off 90% of London’s special occasion restaurants. But these places are perfect for a birthday or anniversary without your mate having to ask if they can please, please, no, seriously please, remove the caviar.
Nobody, absolutely nobody, wants to spend their birthday showing a waiter a Powerpoint presentation entitled ‘things I don’t want on my plate’. When a picky eater needs a special occasion restaurant, Kerridge’s is always a good shout. This place serves British classics in a big classy space full of oxblood leather seating and a slightly ridiculous statue of a gold suit. Think, treat for your eyes and a treat for your friend who basically wants a nice version of the things they already know they like. And that’s exactly what Kerridge’s is about. Expect some pretty hefty price tags, but the space makes it worth the money for a big shebang.
Like Anna Wintour with the cover of Vogue, or your mum on potential partners, when it comes to picking a special restaurant your choosy friend should always have first approval. One wrong move and they’re going to spend an expensive night playing Surgery with their fork and flecks of pepper again. Frenchie is a cool, sophisticated restaurant that’s got the perfect atmosphere for birthdays or special occasion catch ups. The menu involves pappardelle, parmesan gnocchi, and an incredible bacon and maple syrup scone, and though it can can get expensive, fast, there’s a three course £30 set menu that makes it pretty doable for everyone involved.
Luca is one of those places where you sit down and think ‘oh yeah, this is the good life’. It’s a very good looking, upmarket Italian spot in Farringdon with a menu that’s just the right compromise between dressed up versions of things your friend definitely knows (risotto, gnocchi, ravioli) and things you can try when you want something a little more adventurous. But, whether you come here and just order a couple of primi, or go full throttle on a four course dinner, be sure to get some of the parmesan fries. They’re excellent.