Our favourite restaurant memories aren’t usually from places that involve ten courses, a sonnet about smoked salmon, and the name of a chef who you would otherwise call wostheirname. Our favourite meals are usually in restaurants where you can have some fun. Where you can be loud. Where staff won’t wince because your laugh is borderline offensive. Not every restaurant is made for getting a little bit rowdy in, but these ones are.
Ciao Bella is the undisputed champion of the party meal in London. It’s the only restaurant that will have you pomodoro-stained, standing on top of a chair, grissini conducting happy birthday to a table of people you’ve never met in your life. It’s the only restaurant that does tobacco-heavy dates on the terrace as well as it does 20-person pasta parties inside. It’s the only restaurant that insists you turn it up, not keep it down.
Two parts bar and one part kitchen counter, Tayer + Elementary is a rare thing in London: a bar that serves very good food. The people in the kitchen are Tata Eatery and aside from their famous sando, they’re serving a range of tasty and Japanese-influenced dishes both in the front and back bar area. Save the front for after-work drinks and the back for a date. As for the kitchen counter, well, if you want some serious food soundtracked to French trap: we’ve got you.
Any place that feels more bar than restaurant isn’t likely to take offence at your two-martini-possessed-raccoon laugh. Throw a couple of pork belly baos in there and that may change, but the odds are that the people at Bao and Bing will just ask how much more you want. Of everything. That’s because the atmosphere at this Marylebone restaurant is more, more, more. When it comes to drinks, when it comes to bao, and when it comes to good times.
Estate agents and Croc-wearers aside, there aren’t many groups of people that have a worse reputation than City boys. This might put you off when you’re thinking about going to Brigadiers, a booze and butter wing filled Indian restaurant in the City, but it shouldn’t. That’s because this is a restaurant for everyone to get a little loud in. Where the lamb chops aren’t optional and nor is a go on the whisky vending machine. It takes a special restaurant to have you come back again and again. And Brigadiers is just that.
A haven in the day but a scene at night, Theo’s is our kind of restaurant. Aside from the fact that this Camberwell pizzeria makes arguably the finest pies in London (the bufalina is our personal favourite) it’s also a great restaurant to come to on a Saturday night. It’s dark, it’s noisy, and it’s full of chilli sauce. The six person booth is the setup you want here. Six friends. Six negronis. Six pizzas. And many, many decibels.
There are some restaurants where drinking is not an option. As in, not no drink, lots of drink. Aperitif, wine, whatever that table’s drinking, grappa, the lot. Gloria in Shoreditch is definitely one of these restaurants. This glitzy Italian trattoria is a riot. Only instead of punny placards and megaphones there are enormous profiteroles and the sound of glasses clinking. Upstairs is where you want to be boozily brunching in the day. Downstairs is where you want to be at night, all night long.
Black Axe Mangal is that restaurant that you, we, and lots of other drunk people have discussed opening with someone you met an hour ago, sitting on a sofa, at around 4am. “It’ll have... like, loud music... yeah yeah... and mental food with glitter on it... yeah weird stuff... and paintings of Gene Simmons on the oven... yeah... do you want another drink?”. Only, B.A.M did it. And it’s brilliant. This place is like the best house party you’ve ever been to, only the food options are far better than cheese and onion crisps.
Your office has decided to ‘work remotely’. From the pub. Since 4pm. It’s now 5pm, and another bottle of prosecco has just been put down because you’re celebrating the end of the week, or something. The pretence of work has finally ended. Cheers. You’re going to need to migrate to somewhere with edible food and a celebratory atmosphere. And you’re going to need to go there very, very soon. Tayaabs is the place. This old-school Punjabi restaurant is a classic for a reason. People come here for good times, and to bring as much booze as they like. You may have to wait a little, but the lamb chops make it all worth it.
Going to Greyhound is a bit like going to one of those events that your friend put you on the list for. Everything’s very hectic, a bit daft, and not entirely right. But you can have a good time here with your friends if you don’t let the wrongness get to you. The food here - Thai - is a bit of a mixed bag. Some things are really good, like the satay, laab and pork knuckle. But other things aren’t so good, like the burger or pasta dishes. That said, order right and it’s a lively place to have a meal.
People often say they want to go somewhere ‘with character’. Max’s has certainly got character, mainly because the man himself is such a character. This restaurant has transformed sandwiches from a lunchtime snack into proper dinner. It simply puts everything, sides included, between the bread. Turn up here in a twosome, threesome or whateversome, and you’ll be greeted like an old friend by someone you’ve never met. Then you’ll probably have a shot. And be offered some Haribo.
“Ooh shall we meet after work for a nice romantic dinner”. “Of course darling, let’s take it easy tonight.” Two hours later you’re sitting at the bar in the Palomar, having the time of your lives. You’re ordering (and drinking) something called the Bumblebee like they’re going out of fashion, and eating a load of Israeli salads and dips. You’re talking with your mouth full, you’re laughing at everything, and nobody’s batting an eyelid.
You’ve done it. You’ve truly changed. You are not the person you once were. You’re all grown up. You are going on a triple date. The best way to feel like you’re not totally past it is to book Som Saa. It’s a raucous Thai restaurant that has big drinks, big flavours, and big booths. Get a round of cocktails at the bar first, and before you can say “one nahm dtok pla thort, please” (deep fried seabass) you’ll be having the time of your life, rather than sitting there wondering how long it will be before you start looking forward to watching the Antiques Roadshow.
Even though Meat Liquor can have a bit of a Tiger Tiger vibe to it nowadays - lots of trainers, few socks, and the background possibility of somebody taking an irrational dislike towards you - it’s still a really fun place to eat with friends. Nothing quite beats getting a tray of buffalo wings, burgers and fries, all watered with a load of drink. This place is loud and it suits a sloppy meal when conversation isn’t the highest priority.
Sure most restaurants have bars. A sometimes semi-awkward space to sip a drink before going to your seat and finally feeling comfortable. What most restaurants don’t have are downstairs sake dens where you can wet your whistle before heading up to My Neighbours The Dumplings for a load of delicious dumplings, and other bits and bobs. Come for the dumplings. Stay for the sake. Then stay a bit longer for some more.
There are some foods, for some reason, that don’t seem to be made for polite conversation or a discussion about the economy. Eating ribs, brisket buns, crispy baked potato, and then some sticky toffee pudding are those kind of foods. Smokestak is barbecue food to share, enjoy, and order more of, between a load of you. This is a restaurant where they do whatever they want to do, and you can do the same.
Whenever a restaurant has some sort of mention of alcohol in its name, you get the feeling they aren’t going to be too prissy about everyone having a good time. And when a restaurant is all about fried chicken and sour cocktails, you get the feeling you’re going to have a lot of fun. These feelings would be correct.
Your keys have been temporarily lost twice (in coat pocket), your phone once (in back pocket), and your dignity on numerous occasions (current whereabouts unknown). You need a meal. In fact all of you need a meal. Praise be that you’re in Soho, and Hung’s is round the corner. Here is a restaurant where nobody will bat an eyelid, despite the fact your group’s lost any sense of volume, etiquette, and self-control. A bit of no-nonsense duck and rice will do everyone a bit of good.
Nan, grandad, aunt, uncle, mum, dad, brother, sister in law, cousin, cousin’s boyfriend, and the dog. They’re all coming. And the dog will probably bring a mate as well. You need somewhere relaxed, tasty, and able to deal with your family’s penchant for drinking wine like water. Little Georgia is ideal. It’s laidback, has loads of great salads to share, and some great poussin and bread to pair it with. You’ll probably wish Georgian wine wasn’t quite so affordable once all the family are on it.