London's Best Affordable Group DinnersWhere to get dinner with a group when you want the food to be more memorable than the bill.
Nothing ruins a group meal like an unexpectedly expensive bill. It changes everything. Happy chatter becomes the silent tapping of adding and dividing on phone screens. 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 eat great food, have a few drinks, and spend around £30 a head, tops.
£15–£20 A HEAD
Gifto’s Lahore Karahi has rows of long, canteen-style sharing tables where families pile in as sizzling skillets of fragrant chapli kebab are whisked to tables. Booths pushed up against bare walls feel like somewhere you could hunker down with a group, as attentive staff buzz about. The interiors might be stripped back, but this Pakistani spot in Southall is ideal for a low-key catch-up over rich and buttery chana masala. Get a spread of dishes to share and make sure the chef’s special peshwari chicken with fall-apart meat is one of them.
Normah’s is the kind of place where sharing is essential. The tiny Malaysian spot in Queensway Market has it all (and by all, we mean that’s the kind of approach you should adopt when ordering). Tender beef rendang with the flakiest of roti, sweet and spiced king prawn coconut laksa, crispy chicken wings that will have your gang crying out for more. Considering mains are around a tenner each and extra roti—which is essential— is a few quid, more is exactly what you’ll be getting.
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 diving into enormous platters (around £15 for one very hungry person or £30 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.
The Kurdish restaurant on Rye Lane always has two big glistening shawarmas on the go. The chicken qozi is fantastic—it glistens with honey and lemon with the potatoes cooked under the meat absorbing all the fats and flavours to evolve into an entirely new kind of carbohydrate. But it’s the vegan mezze we think about most. The perfect group sharer, it’s got crunchy and light falafel, pistachio hummus, and dalooja (a red pepper and pomegranate dip).
We could go on about La Chingada’s crispy al pastor or soft suadero tacos for hours. Or one of its hot salsas, a deep brown habanero number. But it’s not just the food. It’s the brightly coloured plastic chairs, easy-to-wipe tables primed for messy meals, and the clinking of glass Jarritos bottles as you cheers with your nearest and dearest.
£20–£25 A HEAD
At polished spot Happy Lamb Hot Pot in Holborn, there are comfortable booths and big round tables for groups, all of which belie the potential mess you might make fishing out a bouquet of enoki mushrooms last seen in your spicy broth 10 minutes ago. You need a couple of broths—one fizzing with chilli and Sichuan pepper is a must—and from there it’s a case of how many things you want to dip, dunk, and slurp up over a bowl of rice. Finely sliced rib-eye and lamb shoulder go down a treat, as do chunks of tofu, cabbage leaves, and hand-cut noodles.
Much like lie-ins and Jeff Goldblum, 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, as well as their legendary sharing platters, a lot of the best dishes are perfect for big group sessions.
You always want to be at Sadaf with a group. That way you can get the mixed starters selection—which means more opportunity for scooping excellent kashk e bademjan in warm bread—as well as some meaty koobideh skewers, perfect lamb chops, and juicy charred joojeh for the table. We’d recommend ordering the chicken biryani because, well, it’s just that good. While the service can be a little slow when this Persian spot in Kensington is busy, one thing you never have to worry about when hitting Sadaf is whether all stomachs in your party will leave satisfied.
No other restaurant in London brings groups of friends and family together in quite the same way as this old-school Italian on Lamb’s Conduit Street. Spaghetti will be shovelled, wine will be spilt, and dessert will be ignored in favour of a cigarette out front. That’s just the kind of place Ciao Bella is, and that’s why everyone loves it.
A single portion of naan at this Afghan spot in Peckham is enough to feed a whole group of you. It’s properly huge. But it’s not actually what you should be ordering here. What you should be eating is the lamb kabali pilau, that arrives at 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.
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 come their birthday. Quite the mystery. But that’s why Brasserie Zédel is perfect for big group celebrations, because despite looking like a film set from The Great Gatsby, this place serves a three-course prix fixe menu for £19.75. 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.
Roll up to Sông Quê 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 when you need to book a big group dinner. Don’t be put off by the almost encyclopedic menu. Just know that a bowl of phở is essential, alongside some crispy squid and a pancake to share. Add a couple of beers in and you’re sorted.
£30–£35 A HEAD
“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 £30 a head feasting 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, before a couple of mains like sesame-topped halloumi in honey, and ends with an excellent dessert platter. It’s all vegan and vegetarian and, even better, it’s BYOB.
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 and always-changing rotation of kitchen residencies. Currently, it’s Tiella, with a 10-dish menu of rustic Italian dishes like crunchy sage and anchovy fritti with perfectly unsociable aioli and a scoop of sheep’s ricotta smothered in honey and Calabrian chilli.
Few things are more painful than going to a Cantonese restaurant and realising, thanks to the cruel limitations of biology, that you can only eat so much of the enormously enticing menu. So, any trip to Orient should be with many bellies and many dishes in mind. The dim sum at this classic Chinatown restaurant is always enticing: fried and steamed, pork and prawn-filled, with more dishes than there are twitchy fingers at the table. The big round tables or banquettes can also fit double-figure groups with ease.
Plaza Khao Gaeng is a Thai curry house full of fire and flavour, plastic tablecloths, and white strip lighting. The ratio of brows being mopped to beers being drunk at this Tottenham Court Road spot is pretty even, and the 12 or so-dish menu is built for hungry groups who want to have a bite of this and an inhale of that. Curries reign supreme here but don’t miss out on the miang phuket: a sweet and startling spicy starter that simply has to be accompanied with a bucket of beers.
Bao’s south London location has a private 14-person karaoke room. This is important information. Mainly because your legendary Kate Bush impression will be greatly improved by having a chicken nugget bao to smother your mouth at the same time. Plus, your friends will be all the more thankful that there are multiple soft, pillowy props to muffle the horror. There are lots of excellent plates on offer like glazed tofu, fried chicken, xianjiang mushrooms, and aged beef with rice.
Tayyabs is one of London’s most beloved group dinner restaurants. Not just because a curry is a classic group staple, or because of the famous sizzling lamb chops, or even because it’s BYOB. The reason this Punjabi powerhouse in Whitechapel is so loved, is because you always have a good time. As far as multi-room, always buzzing, legendary restaurants go, Tayyabs is a true part of London’s furniture.