Organising a group dinner is an absolute mare. You’ve got a lot of people with a lot of different criteria prepared to do a lot of moaning, and not much else. Finding a restaurant that has a BYOB policy, its own mixologist, three types of wagyu beef, one heritage carrot risotto, a jazz fusion band, and toilets filled with that exfoliating Aesop soap is, frankly, impossible. You need to accept that not everybody is going to be happy and if they all say they are, they’re all probably lying.
Instead, what you need to do is focus on pleasing the majority, and that’s why we’ve got a whole load of excellent restaurants with different foods, vibes, price points. Different everything really. So whether your group is friends, family, or colleagues, you’ll be able to keep almost everybody happy.
For those times when half the group ‘just wants to go to the pub’ and the other half wants ‘a really nice meal’, The Coach is your saviour. It’s...wait for it...both. This excellent pub-bistro hybrid has got a room for everyone. The downstairs bar area is suitably woody and has a very good choice of beers. The dining room next door looks out onto the garden and is perfect for a big lunch with drinks and chips a-flowing. While upstairs there are more rooms that have a bit more of a night-time, let’s drink lots of wine, vibe. It’s French food in an English setting, which is a pretty good combo in our books.
Suggest going to Ozone for a group meal and some smart arse could say “isn’t that just a coffee shop though?”. No, no it isn’t. Ozone is an all round restaurant that’s perfect for pleasing lots of different types of people. This place is made for extremely frazzled people attempting to find a place to have a 15 person dinner that serves everything from buttermilk fried chicken to roasted cauliflower with pomegranate. It literally has something for everyone and if you’re with someone who says it doesn’t, then you need to not be friends with them.
Pizza is a big group no brainer, and Homeslice make some of the best around. Their massive pizzas come with a load of toppings - from aubergine, to butternut squash, to a classic salami - which should keep everyone happy. Their cocktail selection is also pretty serious for a pizza place. If you’re looking for somewhere cheap, cheerful, and central, you can’t do much better.
You want somewhere epic to have dinner with your bum-ass friends - you know, the ones who still nick pint glasses from the pub - but they’re all too broke for Balthazar. Brasserie Zedel is the answer to your prayers. It’ll provide a grand Art Deco backdrop for your group dinner, while also allowing you and your mates to dine on a fancy French feast for prices that are totally affordable. The food’s very good and easy to love (so long as you like butter) and your friends will appreciate that it’s a short wander to all the bars close to Piccadilly. Funny that they can always afford booze, eh?
Everyone loves large-format Chinese dinners. You know, the ones where you share a roast duck and order way too much and spend the tube journey home with the top button of your trousers undone. Shikumen’s the absolute best place to have one of those. The restaurant’s dark and moody in an upmarket kind of way, and it elevates every element of your favourite Chinatown spot into something occasion-worthy. There are big tables if you’re with a large group, and while the duck’s fantastic, almost everything else on the menu at Shikumen is worth travelling to Shepherds Bush for too. Just as well, as you’ll definitely be travelling home with your top button undone.
Tayyab’s is where you go to make new friends, and get loose with old ones. This legendary Punjabi restaurant in Whitechapel is famous for sizzling lamb chops and the immense scrum of people at the entrance every night. You can book, but there’s always a queue because it gets bumrushed every night without fail - it’s ridiculously popular, with good reason. If there are enough of you, feel free to muscle through the crowd and to your table where you’ll get horribly plastered (it’s BYOB) and eat excellent curries, grills and biryani. A classic.
Along with K-Pop and Starcraft tournaments, Korea’s greatest gift to the world remains it’s barbecue. Koba isn’t the best Korean restaurant in town, but it’s certainly the best in central London, with a plush feel straight out of a coffee table book on interior design, and high-tech ventilation so you won’t leave reeking of smoke. The food’s uniformly tasty and it’s ideal for a small group of around six. Keep it simple and order one of the mixed BBQ selections to go with your soju cocktails. Because you’re there for that too, right?
Convinced that your ends are superior to everyone else’s, you’ve dragged your mates from all over town so that they can get a bit of East London in their life. Book your shindig at Bistrotheque, where everything from the sort of hidden location to the arty vibes will have them furiously tapping away at their phones to put a deposit down on a flat in Bethnal Green. It’s one of the East End’s OG trendy restaurants and one of the first to nail the minimal, industrial vibe that’s taken for granted these days. The trendy bistro food’s tasty without being particularly challenging, and your mates will talk about how awesome the restaurant was for years to come.
Hixter’s all about British comfort food in upbeat, cushy surroundings. It’s loud, there’s art on the walls, and it’s located in an old warehouse so there’s a trendy vibe and plenty of space to move around. In other words, it’s perfect for when you need a place with a party feel that doesn’t try too hard, and one that serves food that both food snobs and plebs will enjoy. They do a very good roast chicken and steak, and there’s a separate vegetarian menu that your veggie mate will actually be happy to eat. If there are loads of you, they’ll set up a feast menu involving lots of courses and more food than you can possibly eat. Except maybe Neil - that guy’s an animal.
You’re having a big group shindig out east, with the aim of hitting some bars in Shoreditch afterwards. Pizza East should be your plan A, not just because it’s spacious enough to cater to a large crew, but also because it has a real Shoreditch vibe that won’t make you feel like you’re in a Zizzi. Good vibes aside, their pizzas are solid (and often very good), and there’s enough grilled meat, lasagna, and tasty salad on the menu to make the inevitable gluten dodgers happy as well.
Showing up to Dishoom with a group is a bad idea because it’s no bookings, right? Well, yeah, for the most part, but you can actually book if there are more than six of you. So you’ll get all of the excellent Indian street food dishes, cocktails, and laid-back ambience, with none of the hassle. It’s worth gathering up a motley band of mates for, and your nan and mate Chango will become fast friends over bhel puri and the chicken ruby curry. The King’s Cross Dishoom has the most space if you’ve a big group in mind, but the Soho and Shoreditch ones are also good.
In essence, you come to Berners Tavern to celebrate and drop a wad of cash on dinner, in a dining room that looks likes the Sistine Chapel had its way with a posh restaurant. The food’s upmarket while still being satisfying, and the booths are excellent if you’re with a small group. Berners Tavern is a great spot for people-watching, and while your mates might dress up for dinner, the power move is to show up in Adidas. Because, you know, you come here all the time. (Don’t actually do this.)
You and your friends want to go get some Mexican food, but you’ll be damned if you’re ending up in Wahaca seated next to some mortal 19-year olds from Surrey again. Mestizo is one of London’s best Mexican restaurants, and where actual Mexican people go to eat chicken mole and tacos in town. They have real tablecloths, comfy leather seats, and a proper tequila list, but it’s definitely relaxed enough that you can order nachos and enchiladas along with more of the authentic things on the menu.
Olle is a Korean BBQ spot on Shaftesbury Avenue where you’ll get to cook things like like wagyu beef on a grill in the middle of your table. In addition, you’ll find a pretty extensive menu of other Korean food, from seafood pancakes to tofu stews. There’s plenty of drama here but it’s a relaxed atmosphere that’ll suit a quick lunch or a fun dinner for a large group.