If Paris is synonymous with romance, London’s a city that loves a good night out with mates. There’s always a pub just round the corner, and a kooky new craze to try out – whether it’s high-tech darts, crazy golf, or Shoreditch’s millennial-friendly ball pit. The dining scene’s also great if you’re in a group, thanks to the unstoppable rise of communal tables and sharing plates. We’ve scoured the city for the best five best things to do on a budget, from sociable brunches to riotous nights out.
For a night out with a difference, try Flight Club’s high-tech take on darts. Forget any notion of a fading board in a grubby corner of the pub: this Bloomsbury address has steampunk styling and state-of-the-art digital scoring. It’s a blast even for beginners, and off-peak rates for a wood-panelled booth start from just £15. Post-match, hit the carousel-themed bar for a cocktail.
Slick steakhouse chain Flat Iron doesn’t take bookings: arrive early, get your name on the list, and wait for a pager alert. The payback? A juicy, chargrilled flat-iron steak for just £11, best accompanied by a side of crunchy, triple-cooked chips. There’s just one dessert at the London Bridge outpost, but luckily it’s superb: a show-stopping baked Alaska, blowtorched at your table.
If you’re in charge of booking brunch, you can’t go wrong with Grind, whose feelgood weekend menu caters to all tastes. There are açaì bowls, fluffy buttermilk pancakes and some genius inventions (think harissa-spiked sweet potato cakes, topped with an oozy-yolked poached egg). Naturally, you should say yes to the bottomless brunch: lashings of prosecco for an extra £14 each.
You have to be in the know to find Reverend JW Simpson, a quirky cocktail bar set in a Fitzrovia basement. Look out for the narrow entrance and discreet black signage. Rounds of cocktails soon add up, so book yourselves into a ‘sermon’ – a bartender-led cocktail class, held in the back room. Riffing on a different spirit every time, it’s a steal: a talk, tastings, and three cocktails for £15 a head.
Cast your dignity aside and join the mêlée at Ballie Ballerson, a grown-ups-only ball pit in Shoreditch. The kidult theme continues on the cocktail list, which riffs on old-school sweets: try a sherbet-fuelled Dibbie Dabberson or rainbow-hued Skittle sour. Admission costs from £7.50 for two hours, while VIP packages buy access to a pit of blingy golden balls. It’s Insta-heaven – just don’t drop your phone.