Nothing ruins a group meal like an unexpectedly expensive bill. It changes everything. Happy chatter becomes the silent tapping of adding and dividing. Free flowing drinks turn into cautious counting. Love for your oldest friend is transformed into uncontrollable loathing (because they refuse to pay £1.50 for a bite of prawn toast). It is the ultimate mood kill.
This can be avoided. Not every group dinner has to be an overdraft extending event. So here’s our guide to where you can book a table, eat great food, have a few drinks, and spend around £30 a head.
Look, you and your mates all just want to simultaneously be freelance, wake up at 11, watch weirdly addictive crime documentaries in the middle of the day, and still be able to go out for dinner regularly. Have a heart London. Well, it turns out this city does, in the form of excellent Chinese restaurant Chang’s. This Bloomsbury spot is not only ideal for groups because of its size, but the more people you go with the more of their hand pulled noodles you can try, including our personal favourite the extra wide and chewy Shan Xi Yo Po noodle dish. You can easily get a full meal here for under £30, but be warned, they’re cash-only.
You haven’t seen the rest of the gang since you religiously started referring to them as ‘the gang’. Weird that. It’s time to re-brand the catch-up with pints and pizza at huge Hackney Wick warehouse spot, Crate Brewery. Thanks to their abundance of outdoor picnic tables and canal views, this is one of London’s best group hang spots in the summer but come winter their sweet potato, stilton, and walnut pizza make it worth a visit. All of the stonebaked pizzas here are affordable and as well as beers, you’ll also find plenty of by-the-glass options that are under a fiver.
As you’ve discovered at every group dinner, one person’s affordable is another person’s ‘How much? Bloody daylight robbery. I could probably make this at home. If I could afford to buy pine nuts’. And so it goes. Luckily, it’s hard to argue with how cheap and cheerful the £8.50 margheritas at Mother are. This pizza joint is inside one of the huge converted railway arches in Battersea and as well as having more fairy lights than a Tinkerbell convention, there are plenty of big group tables. All of their Neapolitan crust pizzas are under £13, and when it comes to toppings, you can expect things like salami, mascarpone, smoked salmon, and organic sausage.
You’ve all been too busy to meet up for a while. After all, Netflix isn’t going to just watch itself. Now that you’re all finally meeting up, there’s Radici in Islington. This big Italian trattoria might have a £27 lobster linguine on their menu, but if you split a couple of their pizzas, a few pastas, and the aubergine parmigiana, you can eat here for much less money than you might think. Heads up, they also do half-priced cocktails from 5 to 7pm on weekdays.
Much like lie-ins and singing Thong Song when gloriously smashed, Gökyüzü is pretty much universally liked. This all day Turkish spot in Harringay has been open for over 20 years. It has the kind of silence-inducing manti that will keep you coming back, and a price tag that means you’ll be able to afford to. Booking a big table here is easy and, before you even have to get involved in their legendary sharing platters, a lot of their best dishes are perfect for big group sharing sessions.
It’s weird how your mate who notoriously steals toilet roll from their office because ‘they’re so broke’ suddenly gets a taste for the finer things in life when it’s their birthday. Quite the mystery. But, that’s why Brasserie Zédel is perfect for big group celebrations. Despite looking like a film set from The Great Gatsby, this place serves a three-course prix fixe menu for £14.25. As group special occasion spots go, it’s hard to find anywhere cheaper, that also happens to have a live band, and a tarte au citron we’d ditch most birthday cakes for.
If in doubt go set menu, is not usually advice we give out or heed, apart from when it comes to Persepolis in Peckham. That’s because the £20 a head tasting menu at this Persian-inspired deli and restaurant is easily one of London’s most intelligent and delicious meal decisions. It begins with a meze plate packed with dips, falafel, and even a Wotsit, before moving onto soup, a couple of mains like sesame-topped halloumi in honey, before ending on an excellent dessert platter. It’s all vegan and vegetarian and, even better, is that it’s BYOB.
Born to do it. No, not Craig David’s first album, but Ciao Bella’s suitability for a generous, affordable, and raucous group meal. No other restaurant in London brings groups of friends and family together in quite the same way as this old school on Italian on Lamb’s Conduit Street. Spaghetti will be shovelled, wine will be spilt, and dessert will be ignored in favour of a smoke. That’s just the kind of restaurant this is, and that’s why everyone loves it.
Roll up to Song Que in a group on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday or, sod it, most nights, and you’ll find that approximately 90% of east London appears to have had the same idea. The reason being is that this now institutional Vietnamese spot is the best around, and it’s also excellent for when you need to book a big group dinner. Don’t be put off by the almost encyclopaedic menu. Just know that a £10 bowl of pho is essential, alongside some crispy squid and a pancake to share. Add a couple of beers in and you’re sorted.
The first thing you’ll notice when you walk into Zeret Kitchen in Camberwell is how diverse the crowd is. There are couples doing their best to romantically share a platter of injera with a load of misir wot. There are families with toddlers piling into the enormous platters (around a £10 for one person or 20-odd for two) topped with Ethiopian style chicken. And then there are friends doing a mixture of the two, making a little mess, and having a brilliant time.
A lager to start. A Guinness for main. And a gin and tonic for dessert. Plus a palate cleansing course of scratchings. That’s how most group dinners at the pub tend to go, but that isn’t the case at The Compton Arms. This little Islington pub is home to a superb small plates menu where nothing goes above £15, tops, and their now stalwart cheeseburger alone will keep everyone happy. Don’t let that information tempt you to order just that though as most, if not all, of the changing menu - from pappardelle to XO clams - is worthing checking out.
After the bill, ordering food is the most stressful part of a group dinner experience. There’s indecision, questions about sharing, and at least one idiot outside having a cigarette. You can control that, at least in part, by heading to Theo’s and getting a load of pizzas for the table. It’s almost impossible to order badly here, so get a few to share - the bufalina, salami, and marinara are go-tos - alongside a few salads. Then your only complication will be how many negronis you have.
Tayyabs is one of London’s most beloved group dinner restaurants. Not just because a curry is a classic group stable, or because the famous sizzling lamb chops are £8 for four, or even because it’s BYOB. The reason this Punjabi powerhouse in Whitechapel is so love is because you always have a good time.
Another irresistible set menu option is the classic fish supper from Fish Central in Clerkenwell. The fish is crisp, the chips are chunky, and if anyone in your group has a complaint with the £20 three-course set, then a chocolate brownie sundae will shut them up.