BYOB is probably one of our favourite acronyms – it's right up there with BBQ and C.S.I. (Miami, not New York). Mainly because we're the sort of folks who love eating out but regularly feel stifled by limited drinks menus and our own even more limited budgets.
The option of bringing your own alcohol into an establishment can be a godsend in those cash-strapped situations. Nevertheless, it can also be treacherous territory. Taking along the lovely little bottle of Riesling that your spouse's sibling bought you for Christmas can seem like a great idea at the time. But if you end up in a restaurant that has nothing but a bland and uninspiring fare, it can also seem like a bit of a waste. Good alcohol requires good food to go along with it – and not just a good quantity of it, either. Because, let’s face it: your favourite IPA deserves more than a disappointing döner as its culinary counterpart.
To ensure that you don't end up in a BYOB where the food is BY "Oh, my goodness this sucks", we've carried out the arduous task of eating and drinking to excess at a range of London's finest bottle-friendly joints. Yes, it was a hard old job, but someone had to do it. From £0 corkage fee hole-in-the-wall joints to restaurants where they literally cool your drinks in the fridge for you, London is a city that's fully hopped aboard the BYOB. wagon. Full steam ahead.
83-89 Fieldgate Street, E1 1JU
It's pretty likely you've already heard the legends surrounding the lamb chops at Tayyabs. Even if you’ve never personally stained an entire wedge of napkins after working your way through all four of the charred bastards, we guarantee you’ll know at least one person who has. Because Tayyabs – a Punjabi restaurant that’s been feeding Whitechapel locals and away day hipsters since 1972 – is not only exceptional value for money, but exceptional fun, too. Order enough curry, grilled meat and naan bread to fell a fully-grown shire horse and you'll have the makings of a real good night on your hands. The service is wonderfully awful and no corkage fee means any trip to Tayyabs is an inevitably messy affair. But, honestly? We wouldn't have it any other way.
93 Kentish Town Road, NW1 8NY
Bintang is Kentish Town's resident Pan Asian restaurant specialising in an assortment of dishes from Malaysia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Want to bring your own tart little bottle of vinho verde along for that ride across Asia's ace cuisine? Not a problem. On Fridays and Saturdays, you can expect to be charged a reasonable corkage fee of £5 to bring a bottle of your own choice into the premises. That goes down to just £3 between Sunday and Thursday. Bintang admittedly hasn't changed much since it made its Camden debut back in the late '80s. But the restaurant runs like a well-oiled machine with executive chef Omar Shah in the kitchen and, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, you know. Dive head-first into a fiery ulek curry and the chef’s special dirty fried rice as a means to soak up your tipple. What you’ll receive in return is a lovely sweat moustache and utter ecstasy.
209 Westbourne Park Road, W11 1EA
Emily Roux and Diego Ferrari’s Caractère in Notting Hill is a truly fine place to find yourself. Providing even more value for money on top of their reasonably priced £39 three-course ‘‘Spontaneous Lunch Menu’, the Franco-Italian joint have introduced a Bring Your Own Wine offer on Tuesday and Wednesday lunchtimes. Simply bring your favourite bottle from home to go along with your lovely weekday lunch for a corkage of £10.00 per bottle or £20.00 per Magnum. You definitely don’t want to be going back to the office after this one.
90 Lower Marsh, SE1 7AB
It's not strange to see queues snake outside this Lambeth local thanks to its glowing (and ever-growing) reputation as one of the area’s best BYOB's. A nominal corkage charge of £1 per person is applied to anyone who wants to bring their own alcoholic beverage into Marie's Cafe. Hell, not only that but they'll even keep your booze in the fridge for you. The service is fast, the food is cheap, and the fact that you can get such punchy Thai dishes out of a greasy spoon that also serves English breakfast throughout the entire morning provides endless fascination. You won't find any acute accents on this caff.
The Hawksmoor is a far-cry from your typical BYOB establishment. Mainly because it's not that sort of place 90% of the time. Come Monday, however, you can find Hawksmoor's signature wine club running at all of its London restaurants. The corkage fee for bringing your own bottles of wine into the steak specialists will set you back a mere £5. Get that meaty Bordeaux you've been meaning to crack open out of the wine rack and give it a worthy dinner companion in the form of a juicy bone-in prime rib.
Thai West Cafe
87 Brewer Street, W1F 9UX
Thai West Cafe isn't exactly what you'd call a refined restaurant. That's not meant to be a slight against the place, either. All we're saying is that subtly isn't at the top of the to-do list at this Soho institution. Nor should it be. What Thai West is more focussed on is keeping you happy and fed. Which is why the flavours are large and the portion sizes equally so. A big ol' bowl of Thai green curry here will set you back as little as £8. The pad thai delivers on everything you'd ever want and expect: a spicy, mouth coating and super cheap concoction of peanut-y noodle goodness. Takeaway is always an option for the less brave. But we’d personally recommend raiding the off license directly opposite, getting more than an adequate amount of drink and grabbing a seat inside for some late night Soho people-watching of the highest order.
4 Stoke Newington Road, N16 8BH
A night out in Dalston's not the same without a trip to Mangal 2. This local favourite is home to an ocakbasi charcoal barbeque that grills some seriously mean kebabs and kofta alongside its special house döner. Sure, there's falafel and vegetarian friendly mezze on the menu. But the meat is the real star of the show. Bring your own bag of cans along for the ride and you've got a guaranteed good time on your greasy ham hocks. Corkage is charged and you'll have to order a starter and a main course per person to get the BYOB experience but, honestly, all that feels like a worthy donation and a fitting way to pay homage to one of the finest Twitter accounts to ever grace our timeline. A mainstay of food media Twitter feeds across London, the @Mangal2 account was responsible for some of the most entertaining restaurant clapbacks on the site. That was, at least, until Ferhat Dirik retired the account in April 2018 to focus on being... a father. Which is just hugely selfish if you ask us. RIP @Mangal2. Gone but not forgotten.
181 Tooting High St, SW17 0SZ
KaoSarn is an authentic Thai restaurant run by a hell of a big family. That blood connection really shines through in the unwavering quality of the food served at all three of its London premises. The generously portioned dishes are exactly the kind that you'd fight for first dibs over at the dinner table. Pad kra praow is tart and refreshing; tom yum noodle soup has more depth than a Philosophy postgrad; minced pork larb proffers a happy-as-larry marriage of fat and spice. The ability to ordered an entire fried sea bass as you drink a six-pack of cold ones brought straight from your own home? Priceless. The charge for bringing those beverage? Also priceless. As in, there isn't any extra cost. Get yourself down to KaoSarn. Stat.
106 Kingsland Road, Shoreditch, E2 8DP
Having continued to expand outside of its original Kingsland premises, the Mien Tay restaurant quasi-chain now consists of four family-run outlets across London. All of them specialise in the same home-style cooking emanating from founders My Le and chef Su Tran's native south west Vietnam. A bowl of pho at Mien Tay will have you hunched over in bliss, siphoning spoonfuls of rich broth and slivers of rare beef into your mouth at an unrepentant pace. The remainder of the dishes are equally fresh while the overall price point remains more than fair. For a corkage of £2.50 per person Sunday to Thursday and £3 on Friday and Saturday, you can bring your own bevs, too. Mien Tay does, however, employ a strict no spirits policy. Follow the rules and you’ll be in for some fun feasting.
Like its sister restaurant – the Hawksmoor – Foxlow gives you the option to divvy out your own desired number of units during dinner. Bring-your-own Tuesdays at Foxlow allow you to get a bit silly by charging absolutely zero corkage on bringing your own bottles of wine and fizz. The best part of it all, though? Tucking into everything from the Foxlow's delicate sea bream to its opposite-of-delicate-but-still-totally-delicious fried chicken. Will you crawl into work on Wednesday with a crippling hangover and a stomach still half-full of excellent grub? Yeah, probably. Will you regret it for one second? Absolutely not.
117 Benwell Road, N7 7BW
Carefully toeing the line between cramped and cosy, this tidy little Chinese restaurant specialises in Shan Xi street food and serves what are likely the best damned hand-pulled noodles in London. Founder and head chef Wei Guirong has casually gone about the business of creating a cult classic. Be warned though: it's cash only and they don't take reservations. But, with a £4.50 corkage charge and an atmosphere that borders on the aggressively familial, once you’re inside the premises, you won’t ever want to leave. You'll be close to folks, knock on wood, and have a wonderful time. At least, that’s the Xi'an Impression that I get. Invite us along the next time you go and we promise not to make any more ska music references.