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 convinced you’re about to be the victim of daylight robbery. 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 you’ll happily share
Places WHERE YOU CAN HAVE YOUR OWN PLATE OF FOOD
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.
One of the safest ways to guarantee your own portion is to head to a tasting menu restaurant. The only problem there is that they don’t come cheap. Enter Casa Fofo, a casual Hackney tasting menu spot that serves up seven courses for under £40. The food here changes daily and is at times experimental, but also at times 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.
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 Lambs 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.
If you asked for any small plate mains at Quality Chop House they would probably tilt their head and say, ‘but, neither bird nor beast comes in that size?’ There’s simply no chance that this place is going to breed some sad miniature pheasant to satisfy any sharing plate whims. Quality Chop House is all about the kind of proper meaty, juicy meal that requires using bread as a mop and a solid nap after dessert. Come here for a catch up when you’re feeling flush and hungry, or for their set lunch menu at those times when splitting a single scallop between you and three colleagues simply won’t do.
Dinner at Kerridge’s Bar And Grill has what we like to term ‘last meal status’. Mostly because they serve exactly the kind of upmarket British classics we’d like to devour right before joyously kicking it. But also because you might have to clear your entire life savings to be able to afford a three course meal here. Either way, between the super-high ceilings, their exceptional chips, and a banana and spiced rum soufflé you’d rather bite your companions hand off than share, it’s entirely worth the money.
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.
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.
If, like us, you’ve experienced the horrible realisation that your £30 has bought an oyster, a conversation with some pork chop via ouija board, and the fragrance of a lemon tart, then you’ll be familiar with the desire to eat chips in bed afterwards. Noble Rot is our favourite restaurant in London, and its £20 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 is classic, tasty, and (mostly) made just for you.
Few restaurants know how to serve a straightforward plate of food as well as The Delaunay. It’s the same restaurant group as The Wolseley, 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 stroganoff.
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.
The Drunken Butler is another tasting menu restaurant where you’re guaranteed your own plate of food. And, it’s also guaranteed to be good. This French and Persian influenced spot in Clerkenwell has a strong whiff of ‘life goals’ about it, such as the centrepiece marble table - with tasteful wild flowers and all - that you can imagine entertaining from. Only, the odds are you won’t be making anything close to as tasty as the cured mackerel with tomatoes, or the fish in miso and mussel sauce.
Places WHERE YOU CAN Happily SHARE FOOD
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.
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.
Sharing a burger usually feels a bit sad. Like watching half a film. Or going on holiday for a day. At The Compton Arms it’s the ideal situation, as you’ll more than likely want to eat everything else off the menu of this Islington pub. The people in the kitchen are Four Legs and the food they’re making, from the cheeseburger that’s all melted American, pink beef, and glistening bun, to spicy clams, pork belly skewers, and asparagus in XO sauce, are all things you’ll happily put away and happily share.
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.
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.
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.
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?