BYO restaurants are a haven for wine lovers - a way to avoid extortionate bottle mark-ups and bring along a wine of your choice. Decanter selects some of London's best...
See Best London restaurants with corkage – updated November 2022
Best BYO restaurants in London
The London eating scene is thriving and restaurants seem to open almost daily. Bubbling under this gastronomic frenzy is the BYO restaurant subculture, where you are encouraged to bring your own booze…
What fascinated me was the diversity of unlicensed restaurants. From the simple café that transforms into a Thai restaurant by night, to the sophisticated bistro-style venue offering contemporary fusion food. What these restaurants lack in flashy decor they make up for in friendliness, cosiness and eccentricity.
Scroll down for London’s best BYO restaurants
Bringing your own wine to a restaurant has one obvious advantage: it’s cheaper. This gives diners a sense of freedom, as they can order plenty of dishes without having to compromise due to marked-up wine lists. In some it’s possible to eat out for as little as £10 per head – at that price it’s possible to eat out more often, meaning more exploration of the London’s hidden gems. It’s also fun to take Champagne – something that’s normally off-limits in a licensed restaurant.
Another advantage is that these restaurants are usually small or family-owned businesses. Added to this, the proprietor is often the chef. The result is that all the attention is focused on food and not frills. For example, if you happen to have chosen a Thai BYO you can guarantee that the chef is also going to be Thai, so the food will be authentic.
Thanks to BYO restaurants, you can sample some of the most delicious and unusual food, visiting places that you may never otherwise have been to, and can be more adventurous with the wine you have. The restaurants are scattered all over London, from Brick Lane to Chelsea and from East Dulwich to the Strand. This selection gives you an idea of the variety, quality and fun to be found among BYO restaurants.
Since 1946, the India Club of the Strand Continental Hotel has been bringing classic South Indian cuisine to the heart of London. Its enduringly colonial setting has all the the worn trappings of the British Raj – green leather upholstered chairs, red floors and velvet curtains. A truly unique throwback to a bygone era of imperial history.
143 Strand, London WC2
+44 (0) 20 7836 0650
Café 209 in Fulham is an excellent choice. The colourful interior and the glittering lights of this restaurant create a friendly and vibrant ambience. The bubbly character of its owner adds to its lovable quirkiness, but above all it serves exquisite Thai food.
209 Munster Rd, London SW6
+44 (0) 20 7385 3625
Brick Lane is lined with Bangladeshi BYO restaurants. It is hard to know where to start – you can just take a chance… But I would suggest Nazrul, which has been popular since 1979 for its hearty and authentic cuisine. Be warned – the curries are hot!
130 Brick Lane, London E1
+44 (0) 20 7247 2505
Down a side street off of King’s Road you can find this Chelsea favourite, famed for its impressive breakfasts and casual diner-style atmosphere since 1984. However, for those in the know, the Chelsea Bun is also a great spot to bring a bottle and enjoy a long lunch or early dinner. They serve a great range of fresh garden salads, gourmet sandwiches, pasta dishes and hefty beef burgers.
9a Limerston St, London SW10
+44 (0) 20 7352 3635
Mandola is a warm, mellow enclave which single-handedly spreading the popularity of Sudanese cuisine among the local crowd. Catering for both vegetarians and meat lovers, you can sample spicy lamb cutlets or fillets of tilapia, which are delicious with toasted pitta bread and green chilli sauce.
137–141 Westbourne Grove, London W11
+44 (0) 20 7229 4734
Dining in Alounak gives you a sense of being transported to a Mediterranean tavern. You can try all sorts of Iranian dishes that are mainly lamb based. All are succulently marinated and served with generous portions of saffron rice and freshly made Persian bread.
72 Russell Rd, London W14
+44 (0) 20 7371 2350
Thai Corner Cafe
The Thai Corner Cafe immediately became one of my favourites – a perfect place for a small group of friends. It’s painted indigo on the outside and the interior is really light and pretty. It has been family run for 14 years, and their traditional Thai food is utterly delicious. Well worth the journey south!
44 North Cross Road, London SE22
+44 (0) 20 8299 4041
Written by Victoria Alers-Hankey. Editing by Laura Seal for Decanter.com
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