Where To Have A Last-Minute Group Dinner In London
From spacious ocakbasi grills to food halls with same-day booking, here’s where to go for a last-minute group dinner.
We often daydream about the day we successfully plan a group dinner more than 48 hours in advance. When we don’t just say “we’ll squish” while booking a four-person table for six grown adults, or end up at Shake Shack because it was the only place that welcomed chaotic groups on a Tuesday evening. Until that day, we’ll continue to find ways around our disorganisation. Because why bother yourself with pre-planning when there are some truly excellent places that you can head to at the last minute. From spacious ocakbasi grills to food halls with same-day booking, here’s where to go for a last-minute group dinner.
Roti King Battersea
Despite the fact that this Malaysian restaurant in Battersea Power Station’s arches is walk-in only, it’s spacious and still feels like it’s made for rowdy groups. There’s a whole section of the menu dedicated to the namesake roti, which you should absolutely get involved in (our favourites are the dhal and mutton), but they also serve great versions of Malaysian hawker stall staples like char kway teow, nasi goreng, and a proper laksa for under a tenner. Don't skip the beef rendang—after the roti it's our go-to order. Come with a crowd, get a roti each, a rice and noodle dish or two to share, and leave knowing you’ve tried the best of everything.
Anywhere that gives us the option to book a table of eight—without having to speak to an actual human on the phone—immediately has our hearts. And this lively food hall by Tottenham Court Road is an excellent option for exactly that. With spacious high tables for groups, that you can usually book the same day, and a menu with everything from tangy Nashville-style hot chicken burgers to a buttery wagyu keema pao, there’s something for everyone, and space for everyone too.
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Lahore Kebab House
The legendary Pakistani restaurant in Whitechapel has served groups of friends and family big and, er, even bigger for years. The canteen-like space isn’t so much ideal for hungry packs of people as it was built for it—there’s never a lack of space here. You could conceivably host a good old-fashioned east London wedding reception here of the most knees-up variety, complete with still sizzling lamb chops and bowls of chicken karahi. It’s also BYOB (which is always a touch), but you may be inclined to go for a gluggable jug of mango lassi.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
Saponara is a little Italian deli and restaurant in a quiet bit of Islington between the Essex Road and Upper Street, but nothing about this old-school restaurant is particularly quiet. The staff are joyful, there are bright Fellini posters and Ferrari flags on the wall, and the crispy pizza is something to shout about. It isn’t the biggest space in the world, but its long tables and many chairs are perfectly set up for groups of locals to enjoy gooey, expertly formed, blink and they're gone margheritas.
Taste Of Afghan
A single portion of Afghan naan at this Peckham spot is enough to feed a whole group of you. It’s properly huge. Unidentified Flying Object huge. This probably gives you an idea of why this is a great spot for groups, but it’s not actually what you should be ordering here. What you should be eating is the lamb kabali pilau, that arrives to your table piping hot with a tender lamb shank on top, and a large serving of the chicken karahi to share. And the best part? You’ll almost certainly find space for a group of you, even if you did forget to book. Again.
Hong Kong Restaurant is always ready and waiting. Whether you’re a group of four or six, you can usually get a table with same-day availability. And from the big pillow energy of the soft chicken and shiitake mushroom buns, to prawn siu mai that glistens like it’s actually trying to wink at you, the dim sum at this Chinese spot in Islington is some of the best in London. And, hot news for anyone who wants to end their night on a crab xiao long bao high, most of the dim sum is served until 9pm.
Tackling Orient’s menu isn’t something that can be done by a single person. The Chinatown spot has a huge variety of dishes to choose from and, quite frankly, trying every one would be an impossible task. But coming here en masse isn’t. It’s a Cantonese restaurant made for big groups—there are banquettes and big round tables with lazy Susans for you, your mates, and your peking duck to get comfortable in. Plus the wait for walk-ins is usually pretty short.
Wolkite Kitfo Restaurant & Cafe
There are few bigger groups than the 60,000-odd people who walk past Wolkite, towards Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, and, quite frankly, we’re wary of this superb Ethiopian restaurant being too full for us to get in one day. It’s slightly hidden on Hornsey Road, but those who know, know. Wolkite’s godin tibs—sizzling lamb ribs with crisply rendered fat—are superb. Especially with a few spoonfuls of spicy awaze sauce and a cold bottle of St. George lager. Combined with generous baskets of injera, it’s a restaurant that insists on big groups sitting down and getting stuck in.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
A ramen specialist on Great Russell Street, Uzumaki is an anime-themed restaurant, with a huge colourful mural painted on the wall, references to Naruto on the menu, and a gift shop at the front with figurines from popular shows. Plus some pretty great ramen. Huge bowls of piping hot, beefy gyuniku broth with egg ramen (or udon noodles), topped with your choice of anything from enoki mushrooms and menmma bamboo, to chashu pork and wagyu beef slices. The spacious dining room has plenty of benches for groups, as well as sharing tables, so it's perfect for an impromptu group meal if you’re in the area. The prices can stack up quickly, but the bowl is big enough to keep you very full for the foreseeable future.
photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli
Among the smouldering competition of Green Lanes’ ocakbasi grills, Diyarbakir is a reliable all-round choice. The ginormous, shiny space is loud and proud. Families hold court on round tables, and there are groups big and small in every banquette. Lamb ribs and carefully spiced adana kofte are excellent, while their lahmacuns, charred and blistered on the outside with an oozing smoky mince mixture in the middle, are brilliant handheld delicacies. If everyone’s overwhelmed by choice, confused or, worst of all, hungry on Green Lanes, then Diyarbakir is a guaranteed winner for last-minute groups.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
When the stars align and everyone happens to be free, it can feel too good to be true. And sure enough, some people start saying they just want a drink and some are ravenous. And you know the people who say they don’t want to eat, will do after a couple of pints. Head to Someday, a huge two-storey cafe/bar in Finsbury Park, with that whole cool band posters and low-slung ‘70s sofas thing going on. It’s open from lunch until late every day of the week, and come 5pm the indie soundtrack is turned up and the house margaritas really start flowing. It’s also home to street food brand Ace Pizza’s chewy crust slices, including the must-order Honey Pie, which matches chillies and spicy salami with a drizzle of sticky honey. There’s usually plenty of same-day availability too.