The Most Fun Dinner Spots In LondonA night out at one of these restaurants will never be boring.
Those seeking a polite meal, click away now. This guide is reserved for anyone who’s wondering, “Where’s the place to be?” and might have a penchant for mid-dinner photoshoots and post-dinner bar hopping. Chairs aren’t just for sitting in some of these restaurants and, while food is important, a good time takes priority. These spots aren’t animatronic wildlife, rabbit rillette-and-a-top-hat kind of fun. No, they range from old-school classics that gave your grandad a complimentary shot back in the day to hot and geotag-heavy new spots that are all glugging bottles and acrylic nails. They’re the “it” dinner places in London.
Vongole is slurped, slip dresses are smudged, and Vogues are smoked on Ciao Bella’s legendary pavement terrace. This raucous old-school Italian spot on Lamb’s Conduit Street is a much-celebrated part of London restaurant lore that’s been responsible for innumerable bleary eyes the next day. Everyone has a soft spot for Ciao Bella. Not because the food is mind-blowing—even if troughs of spaghetti and slabs of tiramisu rarely do us wrong—but because the sing-a-long and wine-swigging vibe of this restaurant is completely infectious.
If Poseidon got the Disney live-action treatment and was reimagined as a #underwaterinfluencer, Manzi’s is where he would eat. Silliness and seafood are given top billing at this Soho restaurant where human-sized mermaids prop up the bar, booths curve like waves, and weighty salt and pepper shakers are shaped like crabs. While this isn’t the best seafood in London, it mixes flavours and theatre. Get a seat upstairs by the bar where the glamorous under-the-sea vibes really shine.
Fans of Twin Peaks and biodynamic wines, look no further. Papi’s bathroom, complete with red chaise lounge, is a truly magnificent facility. But that’s not the only thing to love about this European-leaning small plates spot in London Fields. This restaurant feels like the bubbly pre-drinks before a night out. The disco ball twirls, oysters with strawberry vinegar glide around, and the reassuring thunk of bottles being popped reverberates around the room. While Ganni enthusiasts sit at tables to pull at gooey wild garlic bread, chancers head straight down to the basement bar for a cocktail with a side of smoked eel chicken wings.
One sniff of your smoke-fragranced clothes is enough to send your senses right back into the mix of Tsiakkos & Charcoal. The lively Greek spot in Notting Hill isn’t just a good neighbourhood restaurant, it’s a great night out. Sizzling souvlaki, ice cold beers, and outdoor voices are the name of the game here. But, whatever you do, don’t go à la carte. The excellent £35 a head meze option will get you everything on the menu, from garlic-heavy, vampire-proof tzatziki to gooey slow-roasted pork shoulder. You’ll want plenty of food to soak up the ouzo.
Start as you mean to go on at Rita’s—with a jalapeño popper gilda and a mini martini—and believe us, you’ll never look back. The moody, new American restaurant in Soho is all dancing candles and a Roy Ayers-ish soundtrack alongside fried chicken and Texas toast. The big booth is perma-booked and the courtyard is full of buzzing voices, clinking glasses, and groups of penny loafers clip-clopping in from a gallery opening nearby.
To have the best evening at Mountain, request a table downstairs. The moody basement of the Spanish-inspired Soho restaurant is where the party is at. Red lipstick stains are left on expensive wine glasses and Salomons rest on foot rails around the counter. Everything reverberates a little deeper, as sound bounces from the huge speaker mounted at the bar. It’s more sexy and fun than upstairs. The food isn’t an afterthought either. When dishes hit, they really hit. Case in point: sweet raw prawns with oozing fresh stracciatella, and tender grilled squid with onion chutney and softened red pepper.
Pub? Pub? Yes, pub. Everyone’s most popular fall back for a good time is tried and tested, but real heads know to combine it with London’s best cheeseburger. A strong contender for north London’s most sceney restaurant-cum-boozer, this Finsbury Park go-to is what happens when mullets and small plates join forces over a pint of Guinness. Any given night is a big night at The Plimsoll. The black stuff is just as likely to flow on a Monday as it is a Friday, and if a gloriously madcap creation like pigeon bhuna is on the menu, you know what to do.
Sporting Clube De Londres feels like a holiday restaurant that’s fallen off the Westway and decided to plug in its disco lights, fire up the grill for piri-piri chicken, and get going anyway. It’s simply impossible not to love this Portuguese party in Notting Hill. Families, friends, and fearless solo fellas after a cheap pint fill this social club on weekends to spectacular aplomb, while middle-aged crooners on stage maintain the sing-a-long atmosphere. A plate of chargrilled sardines and hand-cut chips is, it turns out, the perfect fuel for dancing after dinner.
Namak Mandi is a riot any day of the week but no meal is quite as fun, or as gluttonous, as a lamb feast in this Tooting restaurant’s private upstairs rooms. With some careful planning and a wad of cash, you and a group of friends (up to 20) can find yourselves sitting cross-legged eating a sumptuous, slow-cooked whole lamb with an extremely necessary fan going full pelt overhead. Even without the pre-booked extravaganza, this Pashtun restaurant is thrilling. Just know that without a reservation you’re not getting a table.
It should be no surprise that a Borrower-sized wine bar off Newington Green, lit by flickering candles and filled with heads being thrown back in laughter, is one of London’s most gratifyingly buzzing see and be seen spots. If you’re into walk-in only wine bars and lazily eating charcuterie at the bar, then Cadet is a no-brainer. There are snacky bits and seasonal small plates but what this N16 hot spot truly excels in is a kind of innate charm. A charm that means every plate of turbot or slice of peerless pâté-en-croûte tastes even greater than the sum of its ingredients.
On a summer's day and a winter’s night, the scene in and outside of Crisp Pizza W6—a pizza residency inside The Chancellors pub in Hammersmith—is something everyone desperately wants to be a part of. The sounds of peoples’ names and orders being shouted out blends into the background noise of beer glasses clinking, dogs loudly chewing on crispy pepperoni chips that have escaped from the plate, and the crunching of perhaps London’s finest NYC-style pizza. Just don’t leave it to chance. Pre-ordering via Instagram is essential.
Speedboat Bar isn’t a restaurant for hushed tones and whispered catch-ups. No, it’s somewhere to order a phed pokati margarita, eat MSG-smothered chicken skins between mildly competitive rounds of pool, and debase yourself in front of friends, colleagues, or lovers courtesy of the Singha beer towers. From the people behind Plaza Khao Gaeng, this knowingly cheeky Thai spot off Shaftesbury Avenue combines extroverted energy with some exceptional food. In fact, the life-affirming heat of the drunkard’s noodles trumps the cocktail umbrellas as our favourite thing here.