Some of London’s restaurants are notoriously hard to eat at. It can take ages to snag a table: I had to wait weeks to get into that famed celeb hangout the Chiltern Firehouse, and that’s a year after it’s been open.
If you’re in the same pool of frustrated diners, then welcome Uncover: a free new app that lets users book last-minute at some of the most popular restaurants in London.
On Friday, I tried Uncover out. With it, I managed to land a table for two in a prime time slot at the Aqua Shard. The restaurant is at the top (good thing it was payday weekend).
My girlfriend and I sat down at 8:30 p.m. Often at somewhere like this, you’ve got to plan in advance in order to tuck into some monkfish while gazing out across the capital’s twinkling skyline. Not anymore.
Not only did we get a table, we got one by the window, too.
Laura and I went from take-out with plastic cutlery to watching trains snake past London Bridge with crab and champagne. (The cheapest, I’d like to note, given the couple in question work in journalism and the other for the NHS.)
But when at the top of The Shard…
Uncover officially launched in January and is working on signing up more restaurants in London. But it’s already amassed a long list. There’s Shoreditch favourite Lyles, the Michelin-starred L’Amina, and the upmarket Japanese Nobu, to name but a few. The company hinted that Firehouse (the struggle is real) may soon be on the list, too.
Uncover is a simple and well-executed idea. The company forges partnerships with restaurants to find late cancellations, or unchecked openings that in the rush of weekend bookings might otherwise be overlooked.
Restaurants are divided into various categories such as hot new openings, places perfect for business meetings, hidden gems, and so on. It’s only on iOS at the moment, but in the future, it come to Android.
The restaurants appear at random, displaying whatever is available at the time. You can check out the places that take your fancy. When I checked last, for example, one option was The Square in Mayfair.
The app lists prices, times, and also gives you a bit of information about the spot if you’re not already accustomed.
Then, once you’ve decided, you pick a time, the number of diners (subject to what’s out there) and click book. Soon after, an email comes through to confirm and then all you’ve got to do is turn up and start drinking…
Categories can also be tailored to suit your needs. There’s a “favourite” places option, which means the app will alert you when the place you want to go most becomes available.
I put the Shard on my watchlist and snapped it up before lunch time.
Uncover is very much suited to travelling business people and PR types — those who need a high-end table quickly to impress clients and get their fill of scallops and Sancerre while talking deals and branding. But the truth is, it’s great for anyone.
With Uncover, you can discover a neighbourhood local, or get lucky and cut a month-long wait to a matter of hours. The app means that after a long week, you can be drinking whisky in no time.