It’s the end of the week and your phone is already blowing up with several dozen messages asking what the plan is for the weekend. Your friends have decided that rather than just hitting the usual local, you’re going properly out. ‘Out out’.
Naturally, the night is going to start with dinner - and you need to choose carefully. You want somewhere central, because although you’re cool and live in Zone 2, you have some mates who live in Richmond or something. You’ll also need somewhere lively, and not overly expensive or heavy.
Plan your pre-‘out out’ dinner at one of these restaurants and you’ll make it all the way to the 3 am cry-a-thon on the night bus home.
You know how ready you are to dance when you hear that 80s hit Gloria? Yeah, times that by ten and you’ve got the feel good factor of this huge, OTT Italian trattoria. This place has quickly become the spiritual home of drinking too much Aperol, sharing a carbonara out of a parmesan wheel, and feeling really fucking fabulous in Shoreditch. It’s loud, the service is friendly, the cocktail list is long. Think of your whole experience here as an aperitif for a seriously boozy night out.
Your friend is staying in tonight. No really, they are. Of course, that’s fine, but on the way home, why don’t you all just pop to Black Axe Mangal in Islington? It’ll be quick. Fast forward two hours, three glittering squid ink flat breads, and several beers later, and they’ll have forgotten all about that early night. Because if a Kiss themed oven, BAM’s soundtrack, and the buzz of this spot’s open kitchen isn’t enough to convince your friend that a night out is in order then you need better friends.
If Meatliquor W1 was a drink we have no idea what it would be. We just know it would be so strong that even Clint Eastwood would grimace as he downed it between bites of dirty fries. This bar meets burger joint is just off Oxford Circus and manages to be happy, angry, rock ‘n’ roll, and decidedly tasty all at the same time. Expect lots of neon lights, a ‘press for jaeger’ button, late night eats, and the kind of decibels usually reserved for heavy metal festivals.
Tomorrow will inevitably be for naps and Netflix. But tonight is for Bao And Bing. The bao at this slick Taiwanese spot in Marylebone are pretty decent but more importantly, the low red lighting is just the right amount of sexy and the cocktails are excellent. You’ll definitely want to get involved in the datong negronis, the gin packed Danshui Riverside, and - if you’re prepared to risk cracking out your dance interpretation of a jellyfish in public - get involved in their ice lollies too.
Sushi isn’t known for its stomach-lining properties, but at Sushi Atelier you can eat a hell of a lot of excellent sushi for an extremely reasonable price. The sushi is topped with stuff like truffle and whiskey jelly and BBQ sauce, which might sound poncy and weird, but it totally works. And it all goes particularly well with a couple of flights of sake, which has been scientifically proven to help groups of friends get the night started properly.
Bored of pre-drinks? What about pre-tacos? You could get on board with that, surely. Whether it’s the black cod tacos or the chilli crab wonton bombs, there’s nothing boring about the sharing plates at Freak Scene. These plates can be gobbled up before you run to the club, or picked at for hours whilst you slurp up several mango daiquiris. And sure, Freak Scene may sound like Chic’s comeback album, but there’s definitely no disco balls present. It’s grittier than that. There’s hip-hop nostalgia on the walls, Beastie Boys blasting from the speakers, and Japanese game shows on the TV. Honestly, if you miss free entry because you want to stay for the pavlova, we really wouldn’t blame you.
Do you like biryani? Would you like to eat biryani in a fun setting where Tupac and Kanye are coming out of the speakers? Bring your group to Dum Biryani, an excellent new Indian restaurant in Soho. The big biryanis are excellent and great for sharing, and you should be sure to get some hot wings and stir-fried prawns to start. The restaurant is underground, like one of those secret clubs you and your mates will no doubt be rejected from later in the night, and will accommodate a group getting lairy.
Your heart is saying, I need my bed and eight hours of Netflix. Your friends are saying it’s time to party. Meraki is a great spot for building up the party spirit, but in a relaxed way. The menu is full of Greek inspired dishes, like kebab skewers, courgette and feta pasta, squid, and a humous you’ll happily eat by the gallon. All of which make you feel like you’re on holiday, enjoying a meal before heading to the local beach party. You don’t go to Meraki for blaring pop music, but for Greek wines, classic cocktails, and an atmosphere that makes you forget all about that House of Cards binge you were planning.
Your friend who works in PR has gotten you on the guestlist for that fancy party. There’s talk of a wristband. Soho spot Inko Nito is the perfect place to hit before a particularly swish night out. Not only is their spacious, counter dining area slick as anything, their Japanese fusion dishes are too. The menu of raw fish, kimchi, and grilled meats and fish will keep you feeling fresh. The sake and cocktails on tap will keep you feeling merry.
You know that friend who comes running at you, screaming ‘It’s Fri-YAY bitch!’, before embracing you in a bear hug that’ll leave your ribs bruised for a week? Temper Covent Garden is that friend in restaurant form. It’s loud, proud, and shameless fun. It’s a big, open space with a large kitchen/grill in the middle, which is exactly the kind of environment where you can have some loud and lairy fun.
It’s been a while. Saturday shifts, children, angry letters from your bank regarding something called an ‘unauthorised overdraft’. It doesn’t matter why you haven’t been out lately. The point is, you are now, and Olle on Shaftesbury Avenue is just the place to get you started, nice and slow. This Korean BBQ spot provides plenty of fun, but it’s what we like to think of as ‘gateway fun’. Fun in the way that you get to cook things like the wagyu beef on a grill in the middle of your table, but casual in the way that you can just have a Korean beer or two before moving on to something stronger.
Sometimes you need to call a spade a spade. And sometimes you need to call a pre-gaming restaurant a pre-gaming restaurant. That’s what Peyote in Mayfair is. They do modern Mexican food here that is neither authentic nor cheap, but which does taste good. At the weekends there’s a DJ playing dance music, and there’s always a party atmosphere. Come with a group and plan to drink a bunch of tequila.
If you have a small group of two or three, and don’t mind waiting for a seat at the bar, definitely hit up The Palomar. This is the ultimate restaurant to hit before going out out. The staff have the bants. There are great cocktails. The Israeli small plates are outstanding. There’s a banging playlist. Truth be told, we have yet to find a club that is better fun than this restaurant.
Yes, the queue at this particular location of London’s favorite Indian mini-chain will sober you up quicker than an up-down look followed by a ‘no’ from a bouncer. But if you’re in a crew of more than six, you can book a table, glide past the crowds like a VIP, and go in on some lamb chops and cocktails to get the night started.
Kev wants to hit somewhere casual for dinner. Sophia wants somewhere a bit fancy. The Duck and Rice is a happy medium that will guarantee neither of them can use their atmosphere preferences as a lame excuse to bail out early on the night. This restaurant has a posh-ish pub downstairs and a busy posh-ish restaurant upstairs serving very tasty and not too expensive Chinese food. Make sure that the crispy duck, dumplings, and Singapore noodles are on the table so all dish preferences are also covered.
You haven’t seen your mates in three whole weeks, and you’re about to average four beers an hour. Now is not the time for edible flowers and dessert spoons. Now is the time for fun. Now is the time for pizza. And Homeslice Fitzrovia has some of the best thin-crust in London, with toppings ranging from kimchi, to spiced lamb, to BBQ beef brisket. At twenty quid a pop, these pizzas aren’t cheap, but they are large. Actually, they’re huge, and definitely sharing-friendly. The drinks menu is a little limited but when it’s scientifically proven that sharing pizza is the ultimate bonding experience, who needs ten different wines to choose from?
Sometimes you and your mates have all the drive, ambition, and intent to go ‘out out’, but you subconsciously want to put little road bumps in the way to stop you getting to a club because you actually want to be in bed by midnight. Holborn Dining Room can be your night out enabler, and, if you wish, also your road bump. You’ll be enabled by the grand yet casual location in one of the poshest hotels in London - and by the 500 gins on tap. Your road bump will be Scarfes Bar next door, where they do classic cocktails and there’s a live 1920s swing band. You could go on to a club in Covent Garden… or you could just enjoy a few cocktails before getting in bed.
Roka is one of the few restaurants in London that can get you in the party mood any night of the week - the energy at this modern Japanese restaurant is always high. We suggest getting some sushi as well as a few small plates like the shrimp tempura and lamb cutlets to fill the group up, since things can get pricey quickly here. You can also hit up Shochu Lounge downstairs for more post-dinner cocktails before heading elsewhere.
Yauatcha gets its first ‘out out’ brownie point because if you get a table downstairs, it feels like you’re eating in a fancy nightclub. We’ll award a second ‘out out’ brownie point for its great cocktail list. Its third brownie point is for the enjoyable Chinese food. It loses a brownie point for occasional bad service. But when it’s good, Yauatcha lays the foundation for a great night ahead. With groups, we usually go for the set menu, which keeps things simple and gets you a good amount of food.