If it's not open till at a minimum 1am, it didn't make the cut — but most of these are spots you can drop into much later slash earlier. In pursuit of a decadent, confit-heavy banquet at 4am? Heart set on tensile, chewy lahmacun, or fresh-off-the-stove gozleme while you watch the sun rise? 5.30am craving for beans on toast with a bottle of Dom Perignon? We've got you.
Duck and Waffle, the City
Better than your average skyscraper restaurant, Duck and Waffle's not just trading off its views. Up on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower, it's London's highest 24-hour restaurant. The food menu blends finance-bro swagger, last-days-of-Rome indulgence, and some interesting nose-to-tail stuff — basically, if you're in the market for a 4.30am foie gras creme brulée with pork crackling garnish, BBQ-spiced crispy pigs' ears, bacon-wrapped dates with Manchego and mustard, and, obviously, the signature confit duck and waffle with mustard maple syrup, this is the place for you. And, surprisingly, they haven't dialled the prices up as hard as the panoramic views and 24-hour offering would probably let them: snacks are £4 to £15, main courses are £15 to £24.
Duck and Waffle, the City. Open 24 hours (food menu changes depending on timing).
Beigel Bake, Brick Lane
One of two major veterans of Brick Lane's salt beef beigel scene, Beigel Bake's been stanned over the years by Henry Winkler, Action Bronson, and rumour has it, the Krays (though you'd be hard put to find a venue in east London that somebody isn't prepared to claim the Krays loved/owned/did some stabbing in once). We do a deeper dive into the BB mythos here. Immaculate at all times of day, but there's something special about the midnight to dawn stretch in winter, when it's a beacon of warmth and hot carbs. Even the inevitable queue's usually good: a place of camaraderie and chaotic flirting.
Beigel Bake, Brick Lane. Open 24 hours.
Beigel Shop, Brick Lane
And, obviously, also Beigel Shop. 'Britain's first and best beigel shop', says their sign, trollingly. Heated debates rage over which is better, Beigel Shop or Beigel Bake. Official Londonist policy, refined and nuanced over many years and exploratory beigels, is that: Both Are Great. One does not have to sink for the other to rise. There is room in our hearts and lives for two amazing 24-hour salt beef beigel-slingers.
Beigel Shop, Brick Lane. Open 24 hours.
Polo Bar, the City
For the people — the visionaries — who recognise that breakfast isn't just for the morning. At Polo Bar you can sit down to a hearty fry-up or a syrup-heavy waffle stack at midnight, 3.30am, whatever damn time you like. This caff 's been open since 1953, and while it doesn't just do breakfast food, it's their forte. Londonist actually spent a solid 24 hours at Polo Bar back in 2017.
Polo Bar, the City. Open 24 hours.
Ranoush Juice, Kensington
Consistently good Lebanese food from this outpost from the Maroush restaurant group — and it's open until 2am, seven days a week. Highlights of a long menu — with a strong mezze game — have to be the shawarma wraps. It's a beautiful, delicate thing — spiced lamb or chicken, thinly sliced, with tahini, tomato, and outstanding in-house pickles. There’s no alcohol licence, so home in on the very good fresh juices.
Ranoush Juice, Kensington. Open till 2am, every day.
Balans has a pair of Soho restaurants, both on Old Compton Street — but while the smaller, newer No. 34 closes at midnight every night, Balans No. 60's serving up late night/early morning comfort food classics and breakfast greatest hits till 5am. Think breakfast burritos, lobster with poached eggs, and gochujang-laced fried chicken burgers. Nothing even resembling a salad on this menu. You love to see it.
Balans, Soho. Open till 5am, Weds-Sat.
Gökyüzü, Green Lanes
Green Lanes is crammed with amazing late night food — thanks to the huge string of Turkish restaurants along the road, many of them open till 2am. Your options in this neighbourhood are legion, but one of the best by day or post-midnight has to be Gökyüzü. It's a huge, constantly packed dining room, and they take reservations (but it's big enough that ten minutes of loitering with an Efes near the door will usually get you a table). A great pitstop for late night mezze and baklava, but most famous for their Meat Platter: a heaped stack of everything on the grill that the menu claims is supposed to serve 2-3 people, but tbh ordering it with fewer than four of you to work on it is wildly ambitious.
Gökyüzü, Green Lanes. Open till 2am, every day.
See also: Izmir Kitchen, 361 Green Lanes, and Devran Kitchen, 485 Green Lanes. Similar opening hours to Gökyüzü, similar menus. Gökyüzü has clawed its way to the top of our go-to list in the neighbourhood through a lot of late-nite lahmacun, but these others would be our back-ups.
Refill Eaterie, Brixton
Open 24 hours, and delivering basically all the things you want when you've been out till dawn: jerk hot enough to blast the late night cold away, and carbs substantial enough — fried festival, saltfish fritters, big slab of mac and cheese — to soak up a night of drinking.
It's probably not the best Caribbean spot in town, or even in the neighbourhood, but Refill will be there for you with jerk seabream and rice when you're spilling out of Brixton Academy at midnight, there for you with all sorts of offal, curry goat, and hot sauce wings, when you're rolling out from a house party at sunrise. Good range of vegetarian food. Good pound sterling to kg of comfort food ratio. The catch: it's a takeaway.
Refill Eaterie, Brixton. At 500a Brixton Road. Open 24 hours.
Bar Italia, Soho
Serving late night tiramisu and fiercely strong espresso to the 4am Soho crowd for more than 70 years now, Bar Italia's an institution. Opened in 1948, businesses have opened and closed around them at a rate of knots, with Bar Italia remaining like a neon constant in the centre of a flickering timelapse video.
Pulp included a dubious homage to the bar on their 1995 Different Class album, with a song named after it. Don't worry, despite Jarvis Cocker's grimly grey take on the place — 'It's morning, and there's only one place we can go, it's around the corner in Soho, where the other broken people go' — we've been to Bar Italia at all times of night, and it's always been 1) loud, welcoming, exuberant, and 2) circulating cannoli and cheese-heavy panini and coffee and shots of amaro in amounts that mean it's a place where even somebody who arrives feeling broken shouldn't stay that way for long.
Bar Italia, Soho. Open till 5am, every day.
Cafe TPT, Chinatown
An unassuming little shopfront on Wardour Street — jaunty orange lettering, a few racks of bronze, roasted duck hanging in the window, a few photos of hot pots stuck to the door — gives way to, imo, one of Chinatown's finest. Across two narrow, relatively spartan rooms upstairs and downstairs, Cafe TPT's serving up Chinese and Malaysian street food till 1am every morning. Order hawker-style roasted meats on rice, and hot stone bowls with the aubergine and minced pork or chicken in rice wine or prawns in ginger broth still sizzling inside. Despite the hugeness of the menu, in a handful of visits over the years we've never known a misstep.
Cafe TPT, Chinatown. Open till 1am, every day.
Lanzhou Lamian Noodle Bar, Soho
Steamingly hot hand-pulled noodles are a god-tier way to end (or better, bookend) a night out: it is known. That's the speciality at this little lo-frills Soho caff — tensile, taut, fresh off the prep board noodles — though their menu takes in a lot of other things you didn't know you wanted till you see them being shipped out to other tables at 3.30am. Don't miss the ma po tofu, or the fiercely chillied fried aubergine.
Lanzhou Lamian Noodle Bar, Soho. Open till 1.30am Mon-Thur, and 4.30am, Fri-Sat.
Selale, Green Lanes: Open till 1am every day, and 2am at weekends. Reportedly great, not included in the main list only because we haven't been yet. See also: Hanedan (at 5-6 Grand Parade, Green Lanes, open till 2am every night), and Diyarbakir Kitchen (52 Grand Parade, open till 1am every night — don't confuse it with Diyarbakir Restaurant, further down the road, which closes earlier).
Bloodshot Supperclub, Bermondsey: Every few months, chef Robin Gill throws a dinner that began life as a way for hospitality industry people to get together after they finished work. Bloodshot starts post-midnight, goes on to whenever. Tickets run to about £100 for a set menu with all drinks (a lot of drinks) included.
Voodoo Ray's, Dalston: Open till 1am, but just on weekends. Serving NY-style pizza by the slice, or by the 22 inch pie.
VQ Restaurants, Chelsea: Short for Vingt-Quatre, in reference to their opening hours at the OG branch, the VQ restaurant group has two other venues in its portfolio, but not all of them are doing 24-hour opening. Chelsea, though, you can roll up at any time of day or night. Be warned that, despite its diner-meets-bar vibes, you can only order alcohol there if you're having a substantial meal — but it'd be hard to have an insubstantial one. Pancakes, prawn linguine, chicken milanese, fried chicken burgers. And some token salads.