Lots of dinners out are of the casual mid-week variety. In these cases, you want a place that’s easy to get into, that’s affordable, that serves great food, and which will get you home in time for your self-inflicted 10pm curfew so you can plough through a few more episodes of whatever you’re currently watching.
Here’s a round-up of some of our go-to spots, all over London, that are easily accessible, and will allow you to grab something on a Wednesday night without dropping too big a wad of cash.
Daddy Bao is full-on casual mid-week dinner turned amazing night out material. Think solid dumplings, some of the best bao you can get in London (please see: The Definitive Ranking Of London’s Best Bao) and a plum wine negroni we’re very into. It’s a little Taiwanese spot near Tooting Broadway, and it’s the perfect place to bring literally anyone. Mates, dates, mates who you want to date - anyone. And the best thing? You can come with some friends, eat a bunch of bao, some of their excellent chicken poppers, and leave just £20 lighter.
This pizza spot in Tottenham did what every 90s romcom tried - and ultimately failed - to do. It made us believe in true love. Our first bite of the Bang! Pepper pizza came with sweet balsamic peppers, mascarpone, and fireworks in our heart. A converted pub, with a great line-up of draught beers, this is one of the most deliciously straight forward spots to get some sourdough pizza for under a tenner.
Brixton Village isn’t lacking good (or good value) restaurants, but Okan is one of our go-tos. It’s a little Osaka-style Japanese restaurant where everything, from king prawn yaki soba to pork and kimchi okonomiyaki, is under £10. Pints are cheap too, coming in around the £5 mark, and although seating can be a little hard to come by at times, the hit-the-spot plates and excellent value make it worth the wait.
At Officina, a bowl of handmade pasta will cost you in-or-around £10, and it will give you all the carby-love you need on a dark and dingy weeknight in Old Street. Why stop there though? That’s what we think when we look at any menu, especially one that has a deep fried cacio e pepe raviolo on it. Pasta-aside, there are also profiteroles, and the lowkey, classy but cool atmosphere make it a safe bet any night of the week.
It may shock you to hear this, but My Neighbours The Dumplings specialises in dumplings, and they are absolutely what you should be spending 20-odd quid on for Thursday night dinner if you’re around Victoria Park. The prawn har gau and pork and prawn siu mai are essentials: lump and packed, like a carry on suitcase with a month’s worth of clothes inside. Plus they’re only £5 a portion.
If you want to sit down and eat a pizza in south London without having to open a box, then Theo’s is the place to go. Although Camberwell is where they first started making their Neopolitan-style pizzas, their Elephant and Castle location is bigger and better for a casual mid-week meal. All the pizzas are around £10 and, with a drink, you can happily leave here £20 lighter and a little bit heavier.
Padella feels trendy, but the food’s actually both really good and quite affordable, even if your usual jam is curry night at ’Spoons. The handmade pastas here are ridiculously tasty, and at a fiver a pop, you can easily order half the menu to share between you and a friend. The cacio e pepe is the best-known dish, but our favourite is the slow-cooked beef with pappardelle. This is the one exception on our list in that there’s usually a fair wait for a table, but it’s worth it because the pastas are really bloody good - get there early if you really hate queues.
At first glance, there is nothing casual about Brasserie Zedel. Chandeliers that look like they swung in from the 20s? Not casual. Enough marble and pink table cloths to make you think that Liberace had a hand in the decor? Not casual. So, why is it in this guide? Because the prices at Brasserie Zedel are affordable, notably the prix fixe which gets you a steak haché, fries, and a chocolate something for dessert for just £10.95. Under the shiny allure of all the gold detailing and art deco ceilings is the very real possibility of eating some good French food, splitting a bottle of wine, and leaving only £20 lighter.
Cây Tre is a sleek-looking restaurant that feels like it should be in an interior design magazine. The food’s good, and the ox cheek pho is particularly good when it’s on, while the spring roll noodle salad is a nice way to mix things up. Share a plate of summer rolls, and you’ve got a perfect mid-week dinner. They also have a branch in Shoreditch if you’re east of central.
We’d happily block out two hours of our diary every Tuesday from now until the apocalypse to ‘catch up’ with Gunpowder’s lamb chops, and their booths are a top catch up setting whether it’s a dinner for two or six. We should warn you though: much like when you go to that farmer’s market to save money on avocados and leave with £80 worth of matured brie, you can end up spending more than you need to at Gunpowder. Stick to the rabbit pulao, a couple of venison and vermicceli doughnuts, and the lamb chops, and you’ll be set for a good evening.
When you’re meeting a mate who has requested something ‘tasty, interesting, kind of healthy, and not too expensive’, we’d recommend Sushi Atelier. This spot in Fitzrovia does a truly fantastic six piece sushi or sashimi omakase for under £20. Everything here comes with a twist - expect to find foie gras, ponzu jelly, or a bit of parmesan on sushi. It’s definitely a little more exciting than your usual Tuesday night spot.
Flour & Grape is another pasta-focused spot, and it’s where you should be if the lines at Padella are just too long, and much like Padella, you can get an excellent plate of pasta for a tenner or less. We suggest ordering the roasted pork shoulder tortelloni which is so good, it will make you temporarily forget that other pasta-focused restaurants even exist in London. Then forget some more with some G&Ts in the gin bar downstairs.
Weeknight steaks can be a recipe for mid-month bankruptcy. Luckily, you can easily wander into Blacklock, eat some great steak, down some red on tap and only risk a score. Also, did we mention the beef dripping chips and five quid cocktails? You should probably order those too. There’s also an ‘all in’ deal where you can get ‘pre chop bites’, chops with coal flatbread, and a side for £20.
Yes, the weekend will forever be reserved for roast chicken. That’s just the law of this land. But, there’s something distinctly satisfying about eating piri piri chicken on a weeknight. Casa Do Frango’s half chicken comes with either piri piri, oregano, or lemon and garlic glaze for £10. Their sides include batatas fritas, African chorizo rice, and fresh salads for a fiver and under, as well as some very affordable small plates, like piri piri grilled prawns. They’ve also got a selection of cocktails if you’re looking to transform your casual school night chicken-fest into something a bit more boozy.
This old school Italian spot in South Kensington is the kind of place to have an evening of inexpensive pizza, handmade pasta, and a bottle of red. Our game plan would be to split the primavera pizza and the lasagne al forno. Not because of the prices, but because, realistically, you need both. The candles, tastefully rustic decor, and little Italian touches will make you feel like the Circle and District line stops in Tuscany now.
At Tanakatsu, you can get a really good pork katsu curry for £12.50 in a slick, grown-up restaurant, any weeknight you fancy. If that’s not reason enough to head there after a soul crushing day in the office, then we don’t know what is. But, just in case, we’ll give you some more. There’s sushi, and a selection of teriyaki dishes, but if you leave here without eating at least one portion of chicken karaage, we don’t know who you are.
Arguably, there are only a few places in London where you can use the words ‘suave’, ‘laidback’ and ‘cheap’ in the same sentence without sounding like an entitled asset manager who got his own Smythson diary embossed with ‘BIG BOY’. But, that’s kind of what Old Compton Brasserie is. They have a long menu, with everything from wild mushroom gnocchi to dressed up fish and chips, and if you stick to wine rather than cocktails, the night will be fairly easy on the purse strings.
Briciole is the kind of place that you wish would open up in your neighbourhood, but it’s in Marylebone because that’s where all the nice things tend to end up. The bastards. It’s a cute but actually kind of nice Italian restaurant, and it takes the trattoria you knew growing up and makes it somewhere you’d actually be chuffed to go and eat. The pastas are nicely made, and we particularly like the gnocchi and rigatoni with pork ragu. Order a big glass of wine and split a plate of burrata, and you’re all set.
You finally booked tickets to see that play at the Old Vic on a Wednesday night, but it’s left you a little bit skint on the other side? Yamagoya is just down the road and a great place to hit up for a quick bowl of affordable Japanese ramen. Their signature Yamagoya ramen is a rich, fatty, almost creamy broth, and will set you up for sitting through that long and hopefully interesting play.
We love the sharing plates at Koya Bar, but it’s very easy to go wild and overorder and end up eating Heinz baked beans for the rest of the month. Stick with the udon noodles and donburi rice dishes though, and you’ll be golden - they’re affordable, very tasty, and the combination of a seat at the bar-slash-open kitchen and nice Japanese food makes a nice change to the usual mid-week fare. It’s no reservations, but the line’s usually manageable.
The udon gods have graced us with a second location of Koya, and it’s exactly where you want to be on a Wednesday night. This Bloomberg Arcade location is more spacious, takes reservations, and has got more of the same excellent udon noodles, donburi rice dishes, and sharing plates. And once you come here, you’ll want to be back every week.
We’re of the opinion that affordable pasta spots make for great mid-week dinner spots, so here’s another one, located in Soho. Although the lines can get long, they go fast as the canteen setting doesn’t invite you to hang around too long. The pastas are good, but the tiramisu is even better, so save some room for that.
Look, we’re just going to be honest. If you don’t like Mr. Bao, then we don’t like you. And honestly, we don’t trust you either, because anyone that doesn’t like Mr. Bao’s excellent shiitake mushroom bao with a side of sweet potato chips, fried chicken, and a cold pint of Asahi for under £20 is pretty weird in our books. This casual Taiwanese spot in Peckham is also just as good for an affordable catch-up with mates as it is for a solo pork belly bao situation, when you’ve decided that any form of cooking is your nemesis.
Like finding out that the word ‘slang’ is short for ‘shortened language’, you might do a double take when you realise that yes, Granger and Co is open in the evenings, and yes, their dinner menu is actually pretty good. The restaurant is pretty enough to linger in on a Wednesday night, and though the casual Aussie bistro-style food won’t blow your mind, it doesn’t need to, as the whole experience is totally likeable. The shrimp burger and fish curry are the ones to get.
Hit up Baozi Inn in Chinatown for some excellent Sichuan-style food. Order the dumplings in chilli oil, the dan dan noodles, and the spicy beef noodle soup. It makes for a perfect casual dinner with a few friends, especially if you’re down with amping up the spice factor, and you should know that they have further branches just across the way in Soho, and also at London Bridge.