Everyone loves a BYOB restaurant: you get to pair your meal with your fave bottle of wine or beer — plus when the bill arrives, it's pleasantly cheap(er).
Macellaio, Soho, Southwark, South Kensington and other locations
'Teatro della carne', runs the tagline for Macallaio's website. 'Theatre of meat.' The Italian take on a steakhouse specialises in six-eight week cured Fassona beef — a breed from the northern Italian mountain valleys, known for its leanness — in various cuts, along with a wider meat-reverential menu. Non-steak highlights include the lardo on toast with black pepper honey, and the unbelievably rich Flesh & Bone — a signature dish of bone marrow topped with Fassona tartare, capers, and olives.
Like you'd expect from a good steakhouse with a great, all-Italian wine list, you could rack up a sizeable bill here. One way to offset that is to hit up Macellaio at lunchtime, when you can BYO — at all of their six London restaurants, every day, from 12pm till 3pm.
Macellaio, Soho, Southwark, South Kensington and other locations.
Hawksmoor, Seven Dials, Air Street, Knightsbridge, and other locations
A trip to Hawksmoor is never going to be cheap, but you can make your bill a bit less eyewateringly steep by going on a Monday — when it's BYO with a £5 corkage charge. Spend the cash you save on their gloriously rich mac and cheese.
Hawksmoor, Air Street, Knightsbridge, Seven Dials, and other locations.
Xi'an Impression, Highbury
Specialising in local Xi'an dishes from her childhood, chef Wei Guirong serves hand-pulled noodles, potstickers and buns — many of Xi'an's traditional dishes involve a lot of dough: stretchy, tensile biang biang noodles, toasted flatbreads stuffed with slow cooked pork, delicate wheat noodles served cold — in a small restaurant near the Emirates Stadium. The decor's spartan, the flavours are big, and the crowds are a testament to how good the food is. The modest £5.50 corkage fee (£1.70 for beer) doesn't hurt.
Xi'an Impression, Highbury.
There isn't a shortage of BYO curry houses around town, but Tayyabs is in a league of its own. The north Indian meets east London restaurant's legendary in the neighbourhood — with starters from £4, mains from £10 and free corkage, it's a bargain, and the food's spectacular. Tayyabs is as busy as it is beloved — so very — but it's also huge enough that there's a steady churn of diners, and you rarely have to wait long for a table. Loud, busy, friendly, and doing portions so cartoonishly generous you can think you're ordering modestly but yet still leave weighed down with boxes of leftovers. In summary: yes please.
Lahore Kebab House, Whitechapel
'Since 1972', proclaims the website. 'The years of Burt Reynolds.'
The exact nature of the Burt connection remains unclear, but if the moustachioed sex symbol ever found himself roaming the streets of east London in search of a late night lamb chop and a chilli naan, he could've done a lot worse than this low frills, high spice Punjabi curryhouse. Lahore Kebab does great naans, seafood curries, kebabs, and a big vegetarian offering, at decent prices — and the big dining spaces with room for long feasting-style tables make it a favourite for group dinners.
The rivalry between fans of Tayyabs and devotees of LKH would have you believe the two are wildly different in quality and vibe. Official Londonist policy is that they are equally great, and that you should go to both, often.
Lahore Kebab House, Whitechapel.
Little Georgia, Hackney
If the cheese-heavy Georgian gorgeousness of the menu weren't reason enough to drop by their Hackney restaurant, the tiny welcoming space — warm lighting, smell of aubergines and ajika (a spicy Georgian paste) cooking — and the fact that Little Georgia offers zero corkage charge on BYO should have you hammering that reservation button hard. It helps that so many of the Little Georgia dishes are perfectly geared towards staving off winter blues and soaking up wine — Exhibit A: the Adjaruli Khachapuri, a long flatbread with curved edges, with a blend of cheeses baked into the hollow, topped with butter and an egg. Heads up that this doesn't apply to their Islington branch, which doesn't offer BYO (but has a licence to sell alcohol).
Little Georgia, Hackney.
Hanar Kurdish Restaurant, Peckham
Casually lovely, Hanar Kurdish Restaurant — tucked under a railway arch, down a Peckham alley — is filled with candlelight and the smell of tahini, pomegranate, and oven fresh flatbreads. Read about our visit here.
Corkage is £2.50 a head, and Peckham's crammed with nearby places to stock up on drinks, including craft beers from the Brick taproom, a great selection of wine at Peckham Cellars, and a bunch of newsagents along Rye Lane selling everything from fancy IPAs to canned Christmas cocktails (cannot recommend the latter).
Hanar Kurdish Restaurant, Peckham.
Yada's Green Kitchen, Peckham
Another Kurdish Peckham restaurant, Yada's used to sit in Hanar's current spot. Now it has a more prominent (but no less cosy) spot at 104 to 106 Rye Lane, with a menu of Kurdish classics, including dalooja — roasted peppers blended with pomegranate and walnuts into a rich, nutty-sweet dip — chicken stew with saffron rice, and a good range of vegetarian and vegan options. No corkage charge makes it extra good value — but the generous portions and friendly buzz would make it feel like a bargain regardless. Closed on Mondays.
Yada's Green Kitchen, Peckham. No website — call 07490 324354.
A demure-looking little caff packing some anything-but-demure heat, the menu at Singburi's a short, regularly-changing chalkboard of dazzling Thai masterpieces. With dishes between £7-£14 — invariably amazing, deeply rich, extremely hot, and fiercely satisfying — you can eat like an emperor here for £20 a head, not counting the four-pack of very cold lager you're going to want to arrive with. The pro move is to turn up with enough people (three-four, probably) to be able to order everything on the menu between you. Some of them twice.
Mien Tay, Hoxton
There's a nice group of Vietnamese BYO restaurants in Shoreditch and Hoxton, but based on some extensive bành xéo eating over the years, we think Mien Tay's up there with the best. A family business with its roots in southwestern Vietnam and the Mekong Delta, highlights of the menu include deep-fried sea bream with fish sauce and mango, clay pot seafood stews, softshell crab crusted with salt and chilli, and a liberal way with garlic, ginger, and lemongrass. Corkage is £4 a head.
Mien Tay, Hoxton.