Best casual restaurants in London: 20 places perfect for a mid-week dinner

We consider a casual restaurant to be the sort of place you can nip into last-minute for some tasty sharing plates or a bowl of ramen with a friend.

Updated on • Written By Ellie Donnell

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Best casual restaurants in London: 20 places perfect for a mid-week dinner

On the hunt for a great meal in London without all the fuss and frills? We hear you. While there is a time and a place for a tasting menu or a Michelin-starred meal, half the time we just want good grub in a relaxed setting. The good news is, there are loads of places in the capital offering just that. Discover our pick of the best casual restaurants in London, for excellent fare free from the faff of a dress code.

Firstly, what constitutes a casual restaurant? For starters, you can throw your starched white tablecloths and multi-course menus out the window. We consider a casual restaurant to be the sort of place you can nip into last-minute for some tasty sharing plates or a bowl of ramen with a friend – you know the type. Where the playlist is poppin’ and you consider the staff to be your best mates by the end of the night.


These are no-pressure places, where all you're expected to bring is an appetite and little else. We also want London’s best casual restaurants to not cost the earth. No one wants to be lumped with an astronomical bill after a chilled meal out, which is why we can promise that these guys won’t bring tears to your eyes when the cheque arrives – a rare thing in London these days.

If you’re looking for something more specific, we also have guides to the best burger restaurants in London, and London’s best pasta restaurants, which both major in great food, laid-back vibes and friendly service. Anything that doesn’t fit in with the above, we’ve included here, in our guide to the best casual dining in London. A truly tasty and always reliable bunch of places to have up your sleeve. May they serve you well, time and time again. Bon appetit!

Kolae, Borough

Interiors and skewers

What: The same team behind Som Saa opened this Thai bar and grill to barnstorming acclaim at the end of 2023. You can find it inside an old coach house in Borough Market, serving its signature skewers (kolae is a style of cooking that sees meat, fish and veg cooked in a coconut marinade then grilled over open flames). Think chicken bamboo skewers and curry minced venison with lemongrass and cumin leaf.
Where: 6 Park Street, SE1 9AB
Book now: Kolae

Balans Soho Society No.60, Soho

Fried chicken waffles

What: One of Soho’s worst kept secrets, this notorious restaurant and bar stays open until 5am every night. You can always count on Balans to be there for you when you need it most, be it a stack of its famous American pancakes at 11am, or a Pornstar Martini (for which its famous) at 3am.
Where: 60-62 Old Compton Street, W1D 4UG
Book now: Balans Soho Society No.60

Milk Beach, Soho

milk beach interiors

What: Following its original success in Queen’s Park, Milk Beach now brings a little slice of Sydney to Soho. The venue itself is designed to transport guests to warmer climes, with high ceilings, natural light and a soothing cream and beige colour palette. It’s open all day, and is just as good as a stylish dinner spot with friends as it is a vibey brunch date on the weekends. Choose from a global selection of modern dishes, from roasted delica pumpkin with sesame emulsion to chicken yakitori with goma dare and cucumber salad.
Where: 111 Charing Cross Road, WC2H 0DT
Book now: Milk Beach

Luci, Covent Garden

Courgette ciabatta

What: Aqua Restaurant Group might be famed for its luxe rooftop dining spots – hello Aqua Shard and Hutong – but Luci is by far its most casual venture to date. This Italian restaurant and bakery is in action from breakfast through to dinner, serving everything from delicious baked goods and its own roasted coffee to wood-fired pizzas and gelato. Pop by to choose something from its 18-metre ‘bancone’ counter, which is filled every day with fresh ciabattas, pizza slices and sweet treats.
Where: 136 Long Acre, WC2E 9AD
Book now: Luci

Shoryu, Various London locations

What: You’re never far away from a decent bowl of noodles with Shoryu Ramen in town. Boasting multiple sites across the city, these guys specialise in steaming bowls of tonkotsu ramen, which sees a creamy pork broth served with noodles made in-house, char siu barbecue pork, a soft-boiled egg, mushrooms, spring onions, red ginger and nori seaweed. Its Soho restaurant also offers the largest selection of sake, shochu and umeshu in the UK with over 130 bottles - in case that helps you narrow down which branch to visit.
Where: Various London locations
Book now: Shoryu Ramen Soho, Shoryu Ramen Shoreditch, Shoryu Ramen Covent Garden

BAO, Various London locations

What: Well and truly stitched into the fabric of London’s dining scene, BAO has been proving the power of those fluffy Taiwanese steamed buns since 2016 when it originally opened. As its empire continues to grow, so too does its legion of fans, who will seemingly queue for an infinite amount of time to try its signature bao buns and small plates (you’ll find different items on the menu at every restaurant). From Soho and King’s Cross through to Shoreditch and Marylebone, we recommend partaking in some sort of BAO crawl so you can try every dish on the various menus.
Where: Various London locations
Book now: BAO Mary, BAO Soho, BAO King's Cross, BAO Borough, BAO Noodle Shop

Obica, St Paul's

What: Obica is an Italian chain that actually originated in its native Italy, and now has sites in St Paul's, Soho and Canary Wharf. Its restaurants all feature a mozzarella bar (yes, you heard that correctly) which is exactly as it sounds. Simply browse and choose your preferred mozzarella, then accompany with a selection of small plates from the menu, from a fresh tomato salad to oregano focaccia. It’s a pretty fun set-up if you ask us. You can also choose from a selection of pizza and pasta dishes either after, or instead of, your cheese course.
Where: 5-7 Limeburners Lane, EC4M 7AX
Book now: Obica

Miznon, Notting Hill and Soho

What: The cult New York chain known for its outrageous stuffed pitta breads has sailed the seas over to London and now has restaurants in Notting Hill and Soho. Expect lots of weird and whacky quirks both on and off the menu – every table dons a single fresh tomato, for example. Random. The fun continues with the food, which includes things like an erot-isserie pitta stuffed with roasted chicken, za’atar, spring onions, peppers and aioli, and a folded burger pitta crowned with cheese, tomato, pickles and soured cream.
Where: 14 Elgin Crescent, W11 2HX; 8-12 Broadwick Street, W1F 8HW
Book now: Miznon Notting Hill, Miznon Soho

Blacklock, Various London locations

What: Much-loved British chophouse Blacklock does Londoners the courtesy of serving top quality steaks and chops for an affordable price. Our favourite deal of the lot is the 'all in', which includes pre-chop bites followed by a mix of beef, pork and lamb skinny chops, plus charcoal-grilled flatbreads and a choice of sides for £26 a head. Not bad, eh?
Where: Various London locations
Book now: Blacklock Soho, Blacklock City, Blacklock Canary Wharf, Blacklock Covent Garden, Blacklock Shoreditch

Speedboat Bar, Chinatown

What: Luke Farrell’s sense-attacking Thai restaurant is a follow-up to his debut UK opening Plaza Khao Geng located above Arcade Food Hall on Tottenham Court Road. It’s loud, eclectic and kinda crazy, but yes, it is most definitely casual. Somewhere amidst a roaring 80s soundtrack and pints of Jelly Bia (ginger, Thai honey, calamansi and Singha beer) being directed to your table, you’ll find a tastebud-awakening selection of authentic Thai dishes, from crispy chicken skin to thick drunkard’s noodles.
Where: 30 Rupert Street, W1D 6DL
Book now: Speedboat Bar

Bar Crispin, Soho

What: The smaller, cosier and more casual cousin to its original restaurant Crispin in Spitalfields, this sweet little restaurant and wine bar finds its home in Soho where it offers a fine selection of seasonal sharing plates and low-intervention wines. Pop in for the likes of crispy polenta with aioli, oyster mushrooms with marmite butter and egg yolk, and sea bream with tomato emulsion and tarragon, washed down with a bottle of something organic and bio-dynamic.
Where: 19 Kingly Street, W1B 5PY
Book now: Bar Crispin

Roti King, King's Cross and Battersea

What: Malaysian and Singaporean street food finds a home at cult favourite Roti King. Here, you'll find fragrant curries - from mutton to fish - served with the flaky, pastry-like flatbreads, along with more authentic noodle and rice dishes. It's one of the best budgets eats in the city too, with all main dishes coming in at less than a tenner. Don't miss its sweet rotis for dessert, including one filled with coconut jam.
Where: 40 Doric Way, NW1 1LH; Circus West Village, Battersea Power Station, SW11 8AH
Book now: Roti King King's Cross, Roti King Battersea

Acme Fire Cult, Dalston

What: A barbecue is arguably one of the most casual dining set ups you can think of, although to be fair to this barbecue restaurant in the heart of Dalston, its offering one-ups your standard hotdogs and burgers. This veggie-focused live-fire concept serves up a low-waste menu centred around pickling, fermenting, and making use of unusual ingredients. You can watch the pros man the barbie while you dine on its outdoor terrace, with plates spanning the likes of coal roast leeks with pistachio romesco, to coal-roasted celeriac, mushroom-kelp XO, coco bean miso and salsa verde. 
Where: The Bootyard, Abbot Street, E8 3DP
Book now: Acme Fire Cult

Koya, Soho and City

What: Originally opened in Soho in 2010, this buzzy little udon bar serves up freshly-made noodles and dashi along with weekly blackboard specials. Proper noodle fans will understand the difference between hot and cold udon bowls, of which there are many of both on the menu. Think hot udon in curry soup, to cold udon served with a pork miso sauce. It doesn’t take reservations, so simply turn up and grab a seat (you might have to queue for the Soho branch).
Where: 50 Frith Street, W1D 4SQ; 10-12 Bloomberg Arcade, EC4N 8AR
Book now: Koya Soho, Koya City

TOZI Grand Café, Battersea

What: This all-day Italian restaurant from the TOZI brand has moved into the ground floor of art’otel opposite Battersea Power Station. It has a menu to suit every time of day and occasion, from breakfast through to dinner, cocktails, weekend brunch, afternoon tea and pre-theatre. Whatever you’re in the mood for, this artsy spot is always a great bet for classic Italian favourites. Think zucchini fritti, veal and pork meatballs, pappardelle with braised wild boar, and a pistachio tiramisu to finish.
Where: 3a Electric Avenue, SW11 8BJ
Book now: TOZI Grand Café

Bubala, Soho and Spitalfields

What: Middle Eastern veggie restaurant Bubala is a please-all option delivering soulful small plates in two of London’s liveliest districts: Soho and Spitalfields. It’s open for lunch and dinner all week and welcomes walk-ins if you need somewhere tasty last minute. Highlights from the menu include charred oyster mushrooms with tamari, coriander seeds and agave, halloumi with chamomile and fennel honey, and toasted challah with burnt butter hummus.
Where: 15 Poland Street, W1F 8PR; 65 Commerical Street, E1 6BD
Book now: Bubala Soho, Bubala Spitalfields

Temaki, Brixton

What: Temaki – the name given to rice rolled into a cone shape and served with a variety of fillings – is a cosy little sushi bar in Brixton. The interiors are minimalist and comprise a mix of stool seating and benches, keeping the focus quite rightly on its signature rolls. Fillings include egg yolk, miso and citrus; trout, cucumber, shiso and sesame; and prawn tempura with spicy mayo.
Where: 12 Market Row, W9 8LB
Book now: Temaki

Pastaio, Soho

What: Perfect plates of pasta and pocket-friendly prices is the name of the game at Pastaio. It’s always packed to the rafters with punters looking to grab a quick bite at a quality and cost that's impossible to refuse. Dishes change fairly often, but examples include nettle and ricotta ravioli with butter and Parmesan, wild garlic pesto gnocchi and a classic carbonara.
Where: 19 Ganton Street, W1F 9BN
Book now: Pastaio

Brutto, Farringdon

What: Ex-Polpo founder Russell Norman’s spellbinding riff on a rustic Italian trattoria is entirely brilliant. Everything from the interiors to the food and service channels an old-school neighbourhood vibe, from red and white checkered tablecloths to industrial ceiling fans and paper menus. All the classics are present, from anchovies on sourdough to a rich tagliatelle al ragu. Remarkably modest prices are the cherry on top – including house negronis for the criminally-good price of £5. Cin cin!
Where: 35-37 Greenhill Rents, EC1M 6BN
Book now: Brutto

Casa do Frango, Various London locations

What: Ok, so the even more casual version of this Portuguese restaurant would be Nando's, but we’d still class piri piri spot Casa do Frango as a chilled-out joint. Flame-cooked chicken is the thing to go for here, which you can order alongside a selection of sides and sharing plates. We like the Portuguese cod fritters with roasted potatoes, caramelised onions and lemon aioli, and chargrilled hispi cabbage with roasted red pepper yoghurt and a garlic and parsley sauce.
Where: 32 Southwark Street, SE1 1TU
Book now: Casa do Frango

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