Where To Go For Drinks With A Big Group
The best places where you can easily roll up and drink with a big group.
Maybe someone’s leaving your place of work. Maybe someone’s leaving London altogether. Maybe it’s your birthday, or maybe you just have a glowing personality and have a lot of friends. Whatever the reason, you’ve found that you now need to plan a drinks gathering for a not-small group of people.
The easy option, of course, is to choose your nearest local as a place to meet. And we endorse that decision. But if you’re looking to mix things up and you feel this is a situation that warrants a proper cocktail or some nice wine rather than a real ale, choose one of the options below. They’re all suitable for larger parties and they’re all places we enjoy hanging out.
Below Stone Nest
From the live band on the stage to the distressed tall walls, there is something distinctly Left Bank Paris about this moody basement bar on Shaftesbury Avenue. Below Stone Nest’s concise cocktail menu keeps things simple for anyone who’s indecisive and the abundance of tea lights keeps the group hang tone set to sophisticated. But with a closing time of 2am from Wednesday to Saturday, we can’t promise things will stay completely sophisticated. Know that it’s walk-in only, but we’ve never had a problem just rocking up, and you might have to lean at the bar then pounce on a free table if there are a few of you.
All bars part of glassy new build developments are questionable by virtue of looking like a shiny Be At One you’d find at Terminal 5. But, at Buster Mantis in Deptford, you’ll find a low-key spot under the arches that suits group gatherings that grow and grow as the night goes on. The moodily lit cocktail bar has a Jamaican influence that appears in its food as well as its drinks. Wray & Nephew features heavily, particularly in homemade punch, and their tropical martinis go down very easily indeed.
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photo credit: Karolina Krasuska
Whoever designed Varanda is very smart. They clearly understood that London is probably the best city in the world and also has the worst possible climate for an outdoor bar. Behold, a huge alfresco drinking space in Crystal Palace that’s entirely covered with huge tented canopies and has those jazzy fire heaters that make you think you’re on a boozy camping trip, if you squint hard enough. Weather considerations aside, it’s also home to a long list of cocktails that goes far beyond lukewarm G&Ts. You’re definitely going to want to get involved in the margaritas and there are also some decent tacos in case you get peckish.
There’s no lack of shipping container-filled yards around east London but the only one really worth going to is in Dalston, where you’ll find The Dusty Knuckle, Acme Fire Cult, and 40FT Brewery. The shared and covered outdoor space has room for 100 people (!) and some brilliant beer options, not to mention food ones as well, on their doorstep. The taproom is open Thursday to Sunday.
Outside of circus acts, there’s very little that this Balham bar doesn’t have. It’s got a karaoke lounge, stand-up comedy, puppy yoga, a cinema, bottomless brunches, happy hours, multiple terraces, and a fish tank—shoutout to our aquatic species enthusiasts. Set over three floors, the energy is always set to maximum fun and you’ll see plenty of other big groups catching up, sinking beers, and inevitably sharing a £20 pitcher of Pimm’s if the sun is out. If you’re in the market for a serious hangover, you can also get involved in the pre-order group drinking packages.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
Let’s break this down shall we. Arcade—there isn’t actually an arcade here, Pac-Man fans we’re sorry. Food—excellent edible stuff ranging from fried chicken to momos to unmissable bao. Hall—a hot tell that this place is big and therefore good for groups. Put it all together and you’ve got this huge glossy space near Tottenham Court Road. Unlike many of its food hall contemporaries, Arcade Food Hall genuinely isn’t naff, the endless assortment of nibbles slap, and the smart oval bar serves everything from spritz classics to a great range of mezcals and Japanese spirits. FYI you can make a booking for up to 10 people on the website.
St. John probably isn’t the first spot that comes to mind for a bit of group drinking. But the bar area at the original St. John in Clerkenwell is actually vast, with plenty of seating, and it’s become a favourite of ours for drinks with several people. There are a lot of beers on tap, a great wine selection, and if you get peckish, order the legendary bone marrow salad.
The Coral Room
‘Come on lads, let’s get onnnn ittttt!’ is something you should never ever say within the achingly glam coral walls of this hotel bar. This place is perfect for commandeering a sophisticated sofa and casually sipping on a champagne cocktail. We’re not going to lie to you, the cocktails will set you back £15, but they also serve beers and affordable glasses of wine.
OK, so you’ve got the whole team together. Except now a quarter of them have brought their partners, you’ve befriended a group of Dutch tourists on the way from the station, and that annoying cousin interpreted ‘oh, don’t worry about coming’ as ‘yes please come and bring everyone who works with you at HMRC’. Go to Crate in Hackney Wick and go there right now. This place is huge, the pizzas are decent, and there are wine options/cocktails/craft beers that all sound like landfill indie band names. A round of Soundwave and one pint of Broken Dreams, please.
The Light Restaurant And Bar
Arguably so Shoreditch it hurts, The Light Bar is undeniably a cool place for a bev with some of your favourite people. The service can be a little precious, but we can totally overlook that in the face of three floors of exposed brick, moody bar, good time potential. Set in a converted power station, you can opt for a big bench on the heated outdoor terrace, banquette seating in the ground floor ‘Engine Room’ area, or head on up to the mezzanine cocktail bar if you’re after something a little more special. You can book a space for up to 20 on the website but please note, you will need a booking. Don’t rock up with your entire friendship circle and expect to get a table, it gets super busy throughout the week.
Pergola Paddington Central
Pergola On The Roof is one of the most popular outdoor hangs in Paddington in the summer, thanks to a tonne of large tables, beachy vibes, and street food hanging around the sides. In the winter, a roof gets added because you know, rain, cold, and London. It’s a good place to gather a group any time of year.
Is this a somewhat silly name for a bar? Yes. Is said silly-named bar a fabulous mix of cool, grand, and extremely handy if you need to book a table for 10 like, right now? Also yes. When you first walk into Amazing Grace in London Bridge, look up. A converted church with blues on the speakers, a mezzanine overlooking the candlelit stage where the live music happens, and a whole lot of green leather seating, it’s a swish solution for the eternal riddle of where to go for group drinks when you’re definitely not freshers anymore. You can make a reservation for up to 30 on the website.
photo credit: Karolina Wiercigroch
Martello Hall in Hackney has it all: a big space that feels like a cool pub, wines on tap, a bunch of craft beers, an extensive gin collection, and most importantly, decent pizza that’s served until late. You’ll find a combination of booths and long tables downstairs, and living room-style seating upstairs.
Peckham is home to some pretty epic sunsets. We know this because Peckham is also home to a lot of rooftop bars. Skylight Peckham is one of them, and importantly, it’s probably the fanciest. Less industrial low-key cool and more swanky private beach club, it serves weekend bottomless brunches, live jazz events throughout the week, and a spritz-heavy cocktail menu. In winter it’s prepared with a pergola, heaters, and blankets out on the big terrace, plus there are tarted-up nibbles. But really you’re here for two things: the cocktails and that incredible view.
Sometimes you must ask yourself, is the aim of this big group drinks situation to politely dissect the current state of your mate’s love life, or is it to ensure that everyone wakes up with a glorious hangover and lifetime aversion to Jägermeister? If it’s the latter, Meatliquor is your guy. This loud and proud diner just off Oxford Circus is open until 3am every single night and there are plenty of long tables to crowd around. Whether you’re here at 1pm or 1am, expect a dive bar atmosphere, affordable bevs, and plenty of neon lights. Because neon lights are fun, right?