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Britain has never been good at late night dining. For far too long your only option beyond 11pm was a questionable takeaway (bucket of deep fried, unidentifiable meat pieces anyone?) or you had to wait until the greasy spoons opened at dawn. There were notable exceptions such as a number of excellent takeaways dotted about the city, a few late-opening restaurants in Chinatown and classic 24hr post-party spots like Chelsea’s VQ and the Polo Bar (don’t expect to get into either if you’ve had too many).
But the general rule was if a restaurant stayed open after hours it either sacrificed substance or style. Happily, times are a-changing. As the distinction between café, bar and restaurant becomes increasingly fluid, one venue fulfils multiple functions. Take the 24-hour Duck & Waffle, one of the much-hyped openings of 2013 in the Heron Tower: it can morph from breakfast business meeting to lunch date to evening cocktails to late night party place.
Looking to far more civilized models of dining on the Continent, restaurateurs are filling the gap in the market for late night meals. There’s a hoard of twenty-something foodies currently hungry on the streets of London, who want to make an entire evening of eating out, and places like the Coal Vaults or Spuntino with their cocktails and small plates are perfect for that. Now you can have your cake and eat it at any time of night you like.