It is an evident truth among those who know that the best nights are the impromptu ones, the ones that start halfway through dinner. Maybe it’s the cosmos; maybe one of the group got a raise; maybe it’s only Friday night (and the sentiment is correct), but somewhere between the entree and the bill comes a silent agreement that no one is going straight home.
There’s a crackle in the air, a cheeky glint in each eye. Any ideas for dessert are immediately abandoned in favor of espresso martinis. Google maps appear, bars, clubs and pubs are triangulated, and an exciting debate breaks out about what, where and how to get there as soon as possible. It is a magical, inimitable feeling; one that is nearly impossible to plan or even design, beyond booking a restaurant that can generate it. These are our favorites, selected because they have great music, cocktails, tasty but not filling food, and are well located for fun. Let’s toast to the nights of 3 am; fun is back in style.
Of course, every rule must have its exceptions, and while the best nights creep up, some start with a bang and a pitcher of frozen strawberry margarita. For these, head to Mestizo, which in addition to 50 shades of marg, offers teetering mountains of tortilla chips and generous helpings of guacamole. They bring the party, as do the staff who joke with diners and dance with each other to the irresistible beat of mariachi music. It’s true that Mestizo has plenty of fried cheese dishes (the fried chihuahua cheese sticks with tomatillo sauce are excellent, as are the potato flautas), but these have their merits when it comes to soaking up the tequila, and the ingredients are meticulously obtained.
103 Hampstead Road, NW1 3EL, @mestizo_camden
Where better to design an after-meal nightclub excursion than a restaurant that began life in the back of a nightclub? FKABAM, the restaurant formerly known as Black Ax Mangal, is the dark, loud and dramatic brainchild of one of London’s most music-obsessed chefs, Lee Tiernan (pictured above with Quo Vadis’ Jeremy Lee). It started with bouncers doubling as waiters in the back of a nightclub in Copenhagen, then was reborn at Highbury Corner as Black Ax Mangal, a mix between a bistro and London’s beloved Turkish mangal steakhouses. He was once again born in the exact same place after the pandemic, marking it as a tribute to himself. There are worse testimonials. The cocktails are strong and the flavors are more intense: think foie gras and prune donuts, ox tongue and Ogleshield flatbread, prawn toast and mango chili sauce. It’s a set menu at £50 per person, and the shared nature encourages an easy, friendly feel – a prerequisite for a night out on the tiles. However, it’s the music that does it: eclectic, loud, danceable tunes that lift your spirits even more than the drinks and neon lights on the walls.
156 Canonbury Road, N1 2UP, blackaxemangal.com
One absolutely sure way to ensure that the night continues after dinner is to choose a restaurant that turns into a party night after dinner. The Montpelier is one such place: by day, a decent pub serving small plates of modern British food, and by night, a dance floor lit by a disco ball and DJ. The food is simple but carefully created from locally sourced, seasonal produce. Opt for small plates like pakora with mint and harissa or cod cheese, seared prawns and wild garlic butter; they’re much better, and won’t overwhelm you when it comes to the event they call simply Pub Dance, during which the wooden tables are pushed to the sides, the lights go down; then, courtesy of some of Peckham’s best DJs, the music begins.
43 Choumert Road, SE15 4PE, themontpelier.net
I have never knowingly been in Caso do Frango and I have not been out afterwards. That should be reason enough in itself for inclusion, but for exposure’s sake: This Southwark Portuguese restaurant serves affordable shareable dishes inside a light-filled 19th-century covered warehouse, and features a speakeasy, The Green Room, behind an unmarked door. . The restaurant revolves around the chicken, which in turn revolves around a rotisserie suspended above a charcoal grill that slowly roasts the bird to seared perfection. The chickens come cut in half, enriched with house-made piri-piri sauce and hot golden chips and a variety of tapas-style garnishes like their delicious feijoada, rich in sweet potato, velvety white beans and crispy kale. You can have as many or as few tapas as you like before going to The Green Room: a sensual and shabby chic space in which to enjoy its characteristic negronis while planning the next stage of the starry night.
32 Southwark Street, SE1 1TU (plus two other locations), casadofrango.es
works for piano
Like The Montpelier, Piano Works is dinner, drinks, and a night out in one place; perfect for that group of friends who demands maximum reward for minimum effort. Those looking for a club atmosphere should opt for Oxford Street; those in the mood for more of a concert setting should head to their second venue in Farringdon. Both offer a six-piece house band, a daily happy hour, and a concise menu of bistro-style food that’s reliably excellent thanks to good sourcing and simple delivery. Drinkers and dancers of all diets are welcomed here, with vegan lasagna and burgers, steak, butter chicken, hake and three types of potatoes. Piano Works also caters to a variety of musical tastes, as the band takes requests all night long; Tipping is recommended on busy nights to ensure your favorite tune can jump out of line.
WC2 and EC1, pianoworks.bar
Situated on the tenth floor of the brutalist block that is The Standard hotel, Decimo is an unreservedly cool restaurant that makes one feel happy to be alive, and even happier to be a Londoner. Drinking in the view of St Pancreas silhouetted against North London, it’s impossible not to want to be outside; out, even, and that’s before having a marg made with Mexican lime and mezcal. The food—manchegan quesadillas, pork belly tacos, octopus habareno aguachile and other choice dishes—is created by Peter Sánchez-Inglesias, a Michelin-starred chef of Spanish descent who grew up working at his parents’ Italian restaurant. in bristol. This combination of heritage, experience, and extensive research and travel is manifested in a menu that skillfully fuses Mexican and Spanish techniques and ingredients. Big on vegetables, meats, and fish, the menu lends itself to groups, as does the dimly lit dining room, with its red velvet chairs, round polished wood tables, and seductively long marble bar.
10th Floor, 10 Argyle Street, WC1H 8EG, tenth.london
The key is in the name; Before you’ve even entered the door, Quo Vadis is asking you where you’re going (Latin translates as: “where are you going?”). The answer will be decided with a dry martini, one of the best in town, courtesy of the skilled bar team, and a smoked eel sandwich with sweet pink onion, courtesy of acclaimed chef Jeremy Lee. Plenty of great nights out have been fueled by just that, but one could and ideally should continue, because Lee’s cooking is almost second to none. Baked salsify is another classic snack that hits the spot without being heavy; the same goes for any of Lee’s cakes and mixed salads, always perfect and changing seasonally. However, it’s the atmosphere, as much as the food, that begets a night here: lively, pseudo-sophisticated and sociable, with a constant pulse of fun (and booze), Quo Vadis will make sure you get the night out. with twice as many friends as you had when you entered.
26-29 Dean Street, W1D 3LL, quovadissoho.es
Maybe it’s the wine list, lovingly curated to oscillate between solid French classics and favorites from elsewhere. Maybe it’s the moody-chic cocktail bar buried downstairs, half full of unlucky guys who couldn’t get a seat in the restaurant and half full of lucky guys who don’t want to leave. Maybe it’s the staff, serving with a twinkling happy eye that says they might as well go out dancing later. The food certainly has something to do with it: fun, flavorful French fare ranging from the familiar paÌ‚teÌ en crouÌ‚te, onglet and frites, comteÌ gougeÌ€res, to more unconventional dishes such as duck offal skewers and anchovies, Stracciatella and smoked chili. Whatever it is, Maison Francois leaves one feeling a bit seedy; a bit heady with hedonism, as if the party had just started and you were the guest of honor. A quick evening downstairs and you’ll walk away convinced that some dance floor somewhere needs you.
Calle Duque 34, SW1Y 6DF, maisonfrancois.london
Few people fit the phrase “life and soul of the party” as well as chef Richard Corrigan; and few places embody this as well as Daffodil Mulligan, his third London outpost. As soon as he flung its doors open, the staff and regulars called it Daffy’s; it’s just that kind of place. The food is leaden fire, international but with roots in the Emerald Isle. Recommended appetizers include Black Velvet and Jameson and Ginger; Standout dishes include rock oysters, of course, pork cheek skewers with tamarind and crab ‘chip shop’ curry sauce, and a Tipperary Hereford sirloin steak with smoked marrow, anchovy and black onion. It’s the food that grabs even the most lackluster by the lapels and drags them to the dance floor, which isn’t far away, since Daffy’s is just a stone’s throw from Shoreditch. In fact, a dance floor can be found on the ground floor – Gibney’s is Daffy’s basement bar, a dark and cozy place with live music and even livelier spirits. One could head straight here with some of Corrigan’s bar-inspired snacks and have an exciting evening that quickly turns into a whole night.
70-74 City Road, EC1Y 2BJ, narcisomulligan.com
Mexican food is tailor-made for a night out, so much so that the Venn diagram between this list and the best Mexican restaurants in London could easily have been a perfect circle. The tequila helps, of course, and there’s plenty of it at El Pastor, but it’s also the nature of the food itself: light, fresh, alive with chile, and heady with citrus and herbs, every bite of a taco or tostada feels like a legal high. . Conceived by two Mexican nightclub veterans, Crispin Somerville and Sam Hart, every El Pastor serves as a gateway to the good old days. Borough is the original and the best, but Soho has mezcalria in the basement and Kings Cross has live music. The drinks are strong in taste and sensation, the food is as you’d expect but skillfully made, but what El Pastor packs in even higher concentration than the wealth of London’s Mexican restaurants is that ever-elusive concept: ambiance.
Many places, tacoselpastor.es