Some small plate restaurants menus are like T&Cs. You’re taken through them, explained how they work, and then, by the end of the spiel, you’re fairly certain you may have signed up to an edible ponzi scheme. The thing is, small plates are great if you’re into sharing lots of things or eating tiny amounts and pretending you’re a Borrower. But they add up fast, and your jaw gets bored of doing not very much after a while.
That’s why we’ve split this guide into the two restaurant options you need instead:
Places where you’ll get your own plate of food.
Places where there’s more than enough to share.
RESTAURANTS TO HAVE YOUR OWN PLATE OF FOOD
The side streets off of Gillett Square aren’t lacking in Caribbean options but All Island Grill should be top of your go-to list if you’re after a straightforward, generous, and delicious portion of jerk chicken, curried goat, fried chicken, around Dalston. Like many Caribbean spots in London, the chicken is pre-cooked and warmed up, but that isn’t to All Island Grill’s detriment. The skin is charred, the meat is tender, and the fruit jerk sauce homemade.
One of the safest ways to guarantee your own portion is to head to a tasting menu restaurant. But, often, they don’t come cheap. Enter Casa Fofó. It’s a casual Hackney restaurant that serves up seven courses for under £40. The food here changes daily and is at times experimental, but also often delicious. Best of all is that this place caters to whatever dietary requirements, so call ahead and everyone can have their own (seven plates of) food.
Whether you’re sitting at the bar or hunkered down at the table, you’re going to be happy with the food that’s put in front of you at Trattoria Brutto. The Tuscan-influenced spot in Farringdon has a load of rich and hearty secondis that are very much made for your eyes and mouth only. The Tuscan beef and peppercorn stew with a slice or two of St. John sourdough is a brown bowl of goodness that’s made for spooning and the same goes for plump pork and fennel sausages with lentils and mustard.
A steaming hot plate of traditional leghmen from Etles can make you revert to your youth in the best possible way. Not the Lambrini on a bench, Dappy na-na-nai-ing from your phone stage, but one before that. Where you eat in the crane position, back straight, head down, eyes lasered on the glorious heap of sweet peppers, onions, cabbage, and strips of caramelised beef hiding in plain sight on top of hand-pulled noodles. The Uyghur restaurant in Walthamstow is superb for sharing too. Their big plate noodles, specifically.
Everyone at Ciao Bella is treated like family, and that’s why everyone at Ciao Bella gets a portion of food that could, feasibly, feed a family. This old-school Italian on Lamb’s Conduit Street is a classic. Not just because of its enormous portions of spaghetti al cartoccio (seafood spaghetti in a bag) and risotto di mare, but also because you’re guaranteed a (relatively inexpensive) good time when you come here.
As a nation we’re quite good at one plate wonders. From the roast, to the fry-up, to a plate of double pie, mash, and liquor: we know how to serve ourselves a solid portion. Maggie Jones’s in Kensington follows this age-old tradition with a variety of impeccably cooked British classics. It’s food that reads homemade until you taste it, at which point you’ll have to silently admit that their fish pie, or gesture of vegetables covered in cheese, or apple crumble—is, probably, much better than anything you’ve ever made at home.
Noble Rot is one our favourite restaurants in London, and its £22 three-course set lunch menu is just one of the reasons. The others are pretty much everything about the place, from the wine, to the service, to the room. But not least because the food, ranging from its peerless bread to its superbly cooked European classics, from roast brill to middlewhite pork loin and caponata.
The City outpost of Koya Bar is a killer spot for a meal that involves a bowl of steaming curry atsu-atsu, and your face. Other people are of course welcome, but the beauty of a meal at Koya is that a bowl of udon and broth is meant for you and just you. Of course we’d recommend sharing the evening-only tonkatsu as well, but if you’re looking for a casual table or counter dinner with a bowl of goodness just for you, then this is the place.
The Drapers Arms
The Drapers Arms has a slightly wild menu by today’s standards in that it has starters, mains, and desserts on it. It’s one of the best food-serving pubs in London. This Islington local is a literally-everyone kind of place, especially if you’re looking for a hearty three-course meal. Mains—from cod to steak, and pigeon to plaice, are all around the £20 mark, while starters are all under a tenner. It’s an excellent place to come en masse, or for a solid plate of food to yourself.
Few restaurants know how to serve a straightforward plate of food as well as Fischer’s. It’s a Corbin & King restaurant, the same folks group as The Wolseley, The Delaunay, and Bellanger, so you know you’re going to get some reliable brasserie classics here. This is a fail-safe spot in central London, where you’re under no expectation to let anybody else have your schnitzel or spätzle.
You’re about as likely to have the menu explained to you in Sweetings as you are to find a gel in one of the dishes. That stuff is reserved for the hair of its clientele. Sweetings is the oldest of old school City restaurants. And if you know anything about City boys and girls, then you know they don’t like to share. Don’t let that put you off though. It’s an institution to be experienced by everyone. Not least for some fish pie and sticky toffee pudding.
RESTAURANTS PERFECT FOR SHARING
The Kurdish restaurant on Rye Lane has two big glistening shawarmas on the go at all times, but their menu is evenly split between meat, vegetarian and vegan options. The chicken qozi is fantastic. It glistens with honey and lemon and the potatoes absorb all the fats and flavours to evolve into an entirely new kind of brick-like carbohydrate. The vegan mezze is also excellent, full of crunchy falafel, a smattering of herbs, pistachio hummus and dalooja, and hajeri bread.
Sharing a burger usually feels a bit sad. Like watching half a film. Or going on holiday for a day. At The Plimsoll it’s the ideal situation, as you’ll more than likely want to eat everything else off the menu of this Finsbury Park pub. Four Legs’ food, from their famous cheeseburger that’s all melted American, pink beef, and glistening bun, to spicy clams, pork belly skewers, and pigeon bhuna, are all things you’ll stuff and be stuffed by.
Thanks to science, primary school level maths, and pizza cutters, a circle of dough with marinara and cheese is the world’s greatest sharing food. Fact. Which is to say that sharing a few pizzas, an aubergine parmigiana, and a tiramisu for pud from Theo’s in Elephant and Castle will never, ever, leave anyone unhappy (or wanting). Even better is the price. £20 will go far here. And the more you get, the more you get to share.
An intrinsic part of any sharing and nibble-focused meal is bread. You spoon a dollop of shallot yoghurt, you wipe it up with bread. You eat a chunk of lamb, you wash it down with bread. You enter a conversation you’re not keen on, you muffle yourself out of it with bread. It’s key, it’s essential, and Patogh’s big special Persian bread—roughly the size of a sombrero—is sensational. The Persian restaurant in Marylebone is doable and delightful for one person, but with lots it’s even better.
The Camberwell Arms
Pubs are traditionally environments where everything is shared: rounds, scampi fries, your friend’s pint on your jeans. They’re the foundation of sharing and (sometimes) caring society, so it makes sense The Camberwell Arms is one of the best places in London to share a load of food. This gastropub only deals in flavour and fullness. Everything from a bowl of beer fried onions with homemade focaccia, to one of their legendary pies, is made with friends and family in mind.
Watching your martyr of a mother insist that she’s full after having exactly seven strands of spaghetti and three edamame beans is painful. Sharing food can be a harsh and undemocratic experience in the wrong places, but Song Que is not one of them. Come for the pho or bun, and get everything else in between. Nobody will be leaving unsatisfied, we can guarantee you that.
Some of our favourite restaurants in London are made for sharing. But there are places where the food is made to be shared, and then there are menus ‘designed for sharing’. The former is food you want to eat. The latter is what the chef wants you to eat. Brigadiers is the former. And that’s definitely a good thing. This Indian BBQ restaurant has an enormous menu. Literally, it would make a good mozzy-slapper on holiday. It also means there’s a tonne to choose from. Just don’t miss the chicken wings, lamb chops, or the bone marrow biriyani.
The third restaurant from Kudu Collective, nothing on the menu of this South African Peckham spot should be knowingly entered into alone. There’s an enticing choice of braai-cooked meats and whole fishes to be shared with sides like beef fat fingerling potatoes or charred gem leafs with a sesame lemon dressing.
If anyone you know thinks that vegetarian or vegan food can’t be both delicious and filling, then, frankly, they need to step out of their cave and stop washing themselves with a rag on a stick. Alternatively take them to Persepolis in Peckham. This shop and BYOB restaurant serves brilliant Persian-inspired meze and their tasting menu - a conveyer belt of falafel, dips, stew, ice cream, and fruit - is an almost overwhelming amount of food for just £20 each.
Sometimes you want to start with sharing before having something to yourself. Moro is perfect if this is what you’re thinking. This Mediterranean-inspired spot is a London classic. You can share a bit of squid and salad to start before tucking into your own charcoal grilled meat or fish, or sharing the fattee if it’s on the menu.
Bocca Di Lupo
It doesn’t feel particularly Italian to be politely cutting a single orecchiette in half when you don’t get as much as you expect, does it? Fear not, because there’s no danger of that at Bocca Di Lupo, one of our favourite Italian restaurants in London. Whether you’re at the bar or in the dining room, this is a lovely restaurant to share a few pastas and something off the grill. Whatever you do don’t miss out on the truffled radish salad. It’s a reluctant sharer.
The beauty of BBQ is that, often, you simply have to share. Not through menu design, or restaurant concept, or guilt tripping peer pressure. Rather, it’s because you’ve got a whole bloody pig in front of you and if you try and do that alone an ambulance will have to be called. Although Smokestak don’t do the whole hog, they do do a whole brisket. That aside you should definitely be getting the brisket bun (to yourself) plus ribs, aubergine, and charred greens to share. Maybe.
Of course you could share the omakase, some rolls, and some gyoza at Sushi Atelier for around £30 each between two, but if you’re anything like us, you’ll probably want that to yourself. This is probably the best high quality sushi at a reasonable price in London. Plus, if you order a lot and your friend can’t finish it, that’s still sharing right?