When it comes to acronyms, there is none a Londoner enjoys more than BYOB. In fact, we tend to enjoy it so much that it can lead to so many G&Ts that we might end up in A&E. That shouldn’t be the case though. Because London has quite a few BYOB restaurants that you’ll want to remember, not just because you won’t have to pay a fiver for a bottle of beer, but because all of them - from a handmade pasta spot, to an Indian café - are very tasty.
Although there’s a small corkage charge at Xi’an (£5 or so) it’s worth it for the drop on one knee food they serve here. Specifically those cold noodles. Bang opposite the Arsenal stadium, this Chinese restaurant is a place to bring your own booze and friends. Just not too many of the latter. Firstly because it’s not too roomy, and secondly you want there to be room next time you go. This place becomes a regular, fast.
Ask anyone from north London about a decent BYOB restaurant and Anime e Cuore, in varying degrees of pronunciation, is likely to be said several times. This homely Italian spot is perfect BYOB for a celebration or family get together, but it can only seat 22 people, so book in advance. The menu changes daily, but expect pasta with sauces you’ll want drink up.
KaoSarn is the kind of restaurant one of your parents walks into and makes a barbed comment about how ‘cosy’ it is. Don’t worry, they’ll forget about their want for legroom after a couple of glasses of wine and some chicken larb salad. This small, cash-only, café in Brixton Arcade serves up decent Thai food at decent prices. Plus there’s no corkage charge.
If you’re looking for a kind of last minute BYOB group dinner spot, then Mangal 1 in Dalston is one of your best bets. This Turkish restaurant has become synonymous with good times and the therapeutic chiming of blue bags from the offie. As is the case with many Turkish restaurants, it’s delicious for meat eaters and vegetarians alike. Just try not to fill up on flatbread and grilled onion salad.
Of all of London’s BYOB restaurants, Tayyabs is perhaps the most famous. This enormous Whitechapel institution once sent some of their famous Punjabi lamb chops into space. Because, why not? That’s the sort of thing you can tell your group whilst queuing outside, because this place gets very popular with big, big groups. It’s the ultimate lairy lamb chop night, and the food is everything you want it to be.
Every Londoner claims to have ‘the best shop in the world’ down the road from them. Mainly because that’s the shop most reachable when in dire need of a Rubicon mango. For those close to Persepolis in Peckham, they’re actually right. A Persian deli cum cafe, this BYOB spot serves fantastic mezze at fantastic prices. Their ‘tasting menu’ - a £20 series of seemingly unlimited vegetarian courses - is the best move. Though any mezze and dessert combo is a winner.
To some people, queues are an unnecessary pre-meal annoyance. To others (us), queues are an opportunity to whet one’s appetite. You may as well lighten your load, right? Roti King is mega-popular cash-only Malaysian restaurant in Euston that serves tasty and delicious flatbreads with bowls of curry. As well as laksa, and more. As long as the weather’s on your side then queuing isn’t a terrible thing with friends or family. Otherwise we’d recommend a tactical solo visit.
Indian Veg is the all-you-can-eat-buffet that you’ve always dreamt of: freshly made, tasty, with an unlimited supply of onion bhajis. It’s one of Islington’s best spots for a very tasty and very good value Indian meal (it costs under a tenner, cash) with as much or as little booze as you like. The room is pretty basic, and it isn’t enormous, so it’s best for ones or twos.
Although it’s not our favourite Vietnamese restaurant on the Kingsland Road, Loong Kee is our favourite Vietnamese restaurant you can bring your own booze to. The food here is decent. Go-tos like salt and pepper squid, bun noodles, and papaya salad are all solid. If you’re in a group that’s used to silver service, this isn’t your place. But if you’re looking for some tasty food alongside a few drinks in east London, this is a no-brainer.
A BYOB spot that suits groups and solo diners alike is a bit of a rarity, but it exists in Andu Café. This vegan Ethiopian café serves up platters of six vegan dishes alongside injera or rice, and that’s it. It’s a tasty and straightforward meal, full of spiced stews and delicious sauces. There’s no other choice to make here, aside from what you’re drinking.
Little George in Islington is a lot less precocious than most of the other versions in the surrounding area. This Georgian is a combination we like: fun and delicious. Mixed mezze and any salad-y bits are a must, as is the cheesy khachapuri. Depending on the weather, and your tipple, you might go for a stew, but anything poussin should be a definite.
If a load of you are in Whitechapel craving lamb chops, and the queue at Tayyabs is longer than your group chat after an evening of shots and questionable decisions, then Lahore is where you want to go. This big Pakistani grill serves up kebabs and curries in a basic, no frills setting. Although the lamb chops aren’t quite as tasty as they are up the road, they are still very tasty. And that goes for the curries as well.