Have you recently panic-Googled the birth year of all of your favourite celebrities? Or the average life expectancy for a human being in the 21st century? Or have you had any of your friends say the phrase ‘age is just a number’ to you in the past month? Congratulations, it sounds like you’re about to turn 30.
On top of suddenly becoming concerned about your own mortality and that you’ll never own a house - or a decent hoover - you also need to figure out where to go for a birthday that’s fun, without being ‘tequila slammer’ fun. Here are the spots that are worthy of your 30th. Have fun, ignore that impending hangover, and from us, happy birthday.
Those that can, do; those who can’t, teach, and those who write about restaurants full-time must confess when they actually pick a restaurant for their own birthday. Yes, we’ve had a birthday party at Meraki. The excellent lamb kebab compensated for the fact that our one grey hair had opted to bring eighteen friends to the scalp party that very morning. The zesty courgette and feta pasta gave us confidence that we actually would spend this next decade eating more vegetables. And the great assortment of Greek cocktails gave us a hangover that truly was the best way to kiss ye olde 20s goodbye. Plus, it’s in Soho and has a great sophisticated party atmosphere. Full-time restaurant writer approved.
Remember when you knew all the lyrics to The Libertines and, like, loved chatting about why Pete was just like, really misunderstood. Yeah, the adult equivalent is having a big fat crush on this restaurant on Clerkenwell Green. It’s undeniably cool, and being seen here - preferably online by everyone you’ve ever known - is also very cool. A beautiful yet purposefully distressed (just like Pete, right?) restaurant with enormous ceilings, candles flickering, and inevitable celebrity sightings, it’s just the place for an intimate birthday dinner in really flattering lighting. The best part is that the food, wine, and service totally lives up to the glorious hype of that oh-so glamorous setting. Get your booking sorted at least four weeks in advance.
We have a strong suspicion that your 20s are for finding out how to emergency block your debit card and your 30s are for purchasing really, really nice lampshades. You’ll find a whole bunch of those at Bibo (cc: your sudden horny habit for anything made of wicker) as well as huge lobster paella numbers, delicious little tapas dishes, and a somewhat rowdy crowd that never teeters over into clubstaraunt territory. You’ll find this boujie upmarket tapas spot inside Shoreditch’s boutique Mondrian hotel and it has booths that’ll work for a classy intimate dinner, as well as big group tables that are perfect for a proper boozy party.
Kudu Grill is a moody, broody restaurant in Peckham. Please note, we’re using ‘moody’ and ‘broody’ in the Ryan Atwood sense. You know, in the sexy way. A South African braai spot that’s all about creative little snacks, whole-grilled lemon soles, and big, sharing dry-aged t-bone steaks, it’s all deeply satisfying. So, picture yourself in a plush green velvet booth with your favourite people, sharing a bottle of South African merlot, a round of farmer’s spiced biltong, some obligatory oysters, and decide whether this looks exactly like the grown-up birthday dinner you envisioned. It does, right?
Welcome to your birthday month. Yes, you get a whole month, because we all know that the traumatic injustice of ‘turning 29 again’ better have some kind of pay off - especially if that pay off comes in the form of a whisky vending machine and London’s best lamb chops. City spot Brigadiers is just a really, excessively fun restaurant that happens to have a pool table, a slick bar, and serve an excellent bone marrow biryani. Whether you book one of the long tables in the dining room, a circular booth by the bar, or go a little crazy and take over one of their private dining rooms for the night, you’re pretty much guaranteed a whole lot of on-tap old fashioned fuelled hilarity.
You haven’t celebrated a birthday in a few years. Don’t worry, we took losing our 25-and-under railcard pretty hard too. The bastards. But The Camberwell Arms is perfect for a big birthday when you’re someone who doesn’t necessarily want to make a big deal. This merry old school pub is much more about sticky pork fat and scotch bonnet on toast than sticky carpets, and you can expect friendly, upbeat service, plenty of pints, and banging seasonal food. All without too much fuss. Be sure to book ahead to make sure you secure one of their bigger group tables.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter how many of your friends now claim to prefer podcasts over house parties and kombucha over cocktails. Stick a bunch of people on a boat and they’re going to have a laugh. Maybe it’s the motion, maybe it’s the sensation of feeling one step closer to being Jay-Z, maybe it’s the inevitable Lonely Island singalong. We don’t know. But a birthday dinner of great seafood and champagne on converted canal boat London Shell Co is definitely a unique way to ring in your birthday. It all might sound a bit novelty nightmare, but, trust us, the food’s great, and if you go for the full £50 cruising set-menu experience, you can toast to 30 whilst casually sailing past London Zoo and Regent’s Park.
You don’t just pop to a Soho restaurant that has a ‘push for champagne’ button on any rainy old Wednesday. Or maybe you do - in which case, tell us more about your savings plan. But realistically, Bob Bob Ricard is the kind of flash OTT restaurant you need an excuse to go to, and there’s no better excuse than getting through a casual three decades of life. Expect decent French meets Russian food, lots of caviar, and countless tipsy photographs that you probably won’t ever want to show your grandkids.
You’re still rock and roll. Of course you are, it’s just now you’re rock and roll, rarely smoke, and have a skin care regime. Good for you. Islington spot Black Axe Mangal has a Kiss themed open oven and a lot of offal on the menu, which, somewhat surprisingly, is actually an excellent recipe for a great night. If you’re planning a birthday dinner with everyone you’ve ever known / loved / or drunkenly shared a toilet with in your 20s, this might not be the place for you because it’s a relatively small spot. Honestly though, it’s worth cutting a few stragglers off the invite list for a loud and proud night of noisy toasts, and a glittery squid ink flatbread that we’d take over a lousy cupcake any day.
The laughing heart. That sounds nice doesn’t it? At the very least, it sounds distinctly nicer than last year’s one person attempt to shepherd all your closest mates and colleagues into a bar for lowkey birthday drinks that resulted in a not very lowkey mess. This rustic little wine bar in Hackney not only sounds like the world’s most feel good tattoo parlour, but it serves great, eccentric modern takes on everything from British classics to Vietnamese dishes, and is open until 2am Monday to Saturday. Will you intend to have a couple of glasses of natural wine? Yes. Will you inevitably end up getting super hammered in their wine cellar? Absolutely. But you’ll be doing it in a very cool, grown-up, candlelit way, and really that’s what matters.
Classy. Cool. Sexy. If those are your turning 30 buzz words, then it’s time to book a table at Covent Garden’s Frenchie. This modern brasserie spot is not only very, very good-looking, but it’s home to a bacon and maple syrup scone that’ll make you wonder why you ever allowed your birthday plans to be reliant on the whims of an over zealous bouncer. This place can be expensive, but their £30 three-course set menu makes it totally reasonable for a birthday group, and if there’s 8 to 12 of you, ask to be seated downstairs for a more intimate, broody plush-velvet situation.
You know the saying: it isn’t dirty-30 without an entire suckling pig at your table. Okay, we just made that up, but it sounds legit right? St John is a London institution - it deserves respect for all the years it’s spent making people black velvets, feeding people giant trotter and pheasant pies, and baking madeleines so good that you’ll shamelessly pull the IT’S MY BIRTHDAY, DO NOT TOUCH THE LAST ONE card. If you’re thinking white table clothes and fresh game is boring for your birthday, think again. We’ve spent several hours here, accidentally downing proper cocktails, and if St. John knows how to do anything better than great meat, it’s showing people a great time. Book ahead, but also consider that it’s probably one to avoid if you’re looking for vegetarian options. Obviously.
Birthday drinks at Noble Rot is the kind of experience that you’ll merrily turn 30 again, and again, and again, for. Strange colleague telling you to ‘make the most out of your prime’? Tacky card with a zimmer frame on the front from that super witty relative? We’ll take it. This Bloomsbury wine bar is one of the best ways you can spend an evening in London. It’s classy without ever being pretentious. It’s lively without being full of teenagers. You can go for the full dining room experience for dinner and drinks, or just sit in the walk-in only bar area for drinks and drinks - they’ll usually find a way to squeeze you all in. Think of your birthday here as running through the finish line of your 20s, into your even better 30s. It’s a winner.