Where To Have Your Birthday Dinner In London guide image


Where To Have Your Birthday Dinner In London

The best restaurants for your birthday meal, assuming that Hollywood Bowl is no longer an option.

Birthdays are simultaneously fun (food, drink, presents) and a pain in the arse (organising food, drinks, and pretending to like presents). We get that.

One of the questions we get asked most is: "Where should I have my birthday dinner?” You’re probably looking for something fun and informal, where you can get a table for a group between four to 10 people. Well, guess what? These restaurants do exist in London.

Whether you’re looking for a relaxed pop-in-whenever type affair, something with a celebratory soundtrack, or a no-budget, slap your plastic on the table type thing, we have some suggestions.

£20–£30 A HEAD

For intimate groups, big BYOB gangs, and those unbothered about swanky shebangs.

La Chingada

If your goal this year is to prove how fun and low maintenance you are—La Chingada can do that reputation massaging for you. Huddled around a table with a large group, this taqueria is where you go for an al pastor taco that will require multiple napkins. The flavours, the aesthetics, the one-more-margarita atmosphere. It turns a grey patch of Surrey Quays into glorious technicolour.

For birthdays when you want to keep things low-key, but still have great food, there’s Crisp Pizza W6 at The Chancellors pub in Hammersmith. It’s buzzy enough to feel special and the hype is justified—these are some of the best thin-crust, New York-style pizzas in London. On a sunny day, make it a wholesome takeaway picnic by the river with a short stroll and drinks from home. Or get there early and hunker down in the pub if not. Just know that you’ll need to be organised before you visit because pre-ordering is essential.

This Pakistani restaurant in Tooting is a non-stop party in a fake palace. Starters of dynamite chicken are served in silver goblets with a side of billowing dry ice. And if it’s your birthday, a conga line of sparklers will weave its way to your tables as a birthday song blasts out over the speakers. Some of the food reads a bit gimmicky, like pizza samosas, but this isn’t where you come for a life-changing lamb biryani. This is where you come for unabashed birthday mania surrounded by all gold everything.

For those who crave the nostalgia of childhood birthdays, when you ate pizza and ice cream with a group of friends—Theo’s is for you. The Camberwell spot has an adult upgrade on that classic combo, with scotch bonnet ‘nduja pies and hazelnut affogato. When the weather’s good, grab a table out back in the garden. If not, fill your table with bottles of prosecco and mozzarella croquettes, and settle in for the long haul.

You want to keep it low-key this year. Just some tagliatelle and three of your closest friends. Sorella is that effortless (but still special) situation that you’re after. The rustic, Italian-inspired spot off Clapham High Street has a buzzy but intimate feel, moody lighting that welcomes long catch-ups, and a menu with creamy carbonara arancini, earthy wild mushroom pastas, and hearty braised pork shoulder ragus. Plus, who wouldn’t want to play a game of balancing the candle in the buttermilk panna cotta?

If your favourite birthdays revolve around booze, then keep scrolling. Because at this Pakistani restaurant, the only shots they have are filled with citrussy water and come with the pani puri. This Tooting restaurant is a bit OTT, with samosa chaat arriving atop a cauldron filled with smoke and mocktails presented in a top hat—with yet more smoke. But theatrics aside, the food is really great. Our go-to order is the spicy prawn karahi and pillowy, perfectly charred naan. 

The slogan for this little Nigerian tapas restaurant is ‘Chop, Chat, Chill’, which is superior to ‘Hip, Hip, Hooray’ in every way. Birthdays at this cheerful spot in Seven Sisters involve several rounds of refreshing Ginger My Swagger rum cocktails and caramel-infused kuli kuli chicken wings—which are sweeter than any gift you were given this year. The people-pleasing menu, combined with the feelgood soundtrack, makes Chuku’s a box-ticking hit. 

A big slap-up Turkish meal is our idea of a brilliant birthday celebration. Obviously, Gökyüzü is always going to be at the top of the list. The legendary Turkish restaurant is one of many options on Green Lanes but there’s something about its comforting familiarity that we always come back to. Virtually every day and night of the week there’s some kind of kebab-heavy celebration going on. It would be rude not to join the party.

It’s your birthday. You’re a winner, you’re adored, you’re a gift to all who know you. Yes, you’re an icon. And yes, you’re also painfully broke. At Brasserie Zédel, a French restaurant near Piccadilly Circus, it’s very easy to pretend that you’re not. There are chandeliers, swish pink tablecloths, and enough marble to make Michelangelo happy. There’s also a three-course set menu involving a perfectly passable steak haché and fries. C'est magnifique.

Undoubtedly the king of London’s BYOB options, Singburi is also London’s best Thai restaurant. You’ll have to hustle for a table at this fantastic Leytonstone restaurant but just know that once you make a big group booking, you’re going to have a brilliant birthday dinner. Make sure you focus on the specials board—the moo krob and chilli ribs are always a winner—and don’t forget to bring cash. Not that you should be paying.

This vegan Ethiopian spot in Dalston is a smart move for multiple reasons. Firstly, there’s no messing about with decisions as the sampler platter is the only thing on the menu. There are only two choices: big or bigger. Secondly, Ethiopian food is one of (if not, the) best choice for shared meals. Piles of moreish spiced yesimir wot on injera are made for many hands and familiar faces. Lastly, it’s also BYOB.

If your vision of an ideal birthday involves your friends and family talking and hugging, laughing and spilling, pouring and spaghetti-twirling, cackling and cigarette-stealing… then you’ve probably already booked Ciao Bella. The old-school Italian in Bloomsbury is a celebratory classic and the food is satisfying, but Ciao Bella is about great times, not gastronomy.

£40–£60 A HEAD 

For when you want the food, feel, and maybe some fancy wine.

From the tasteful striped awning to the jazzy zigzag wall lamps and maximalist interior, Knightsbridge restaurant Cicchetti gives fancy yacht crossed with a classic New York brasserie energy. Lots of shiny deep brown wood and huge avante-garde art pieces are the perfect backdrop to your very grown-up birthday. One that includes deep-fried pizza and daydream-worthy truffle and pecorino ravioli. There’s excellent Italian food, a relaxed atmosphere, and the kind of staff who’ll go that extra mile (read: complimentary dessert) to make your birthday special.

This Italian restaurant is decked out in chandeliers, booths designed for big birthdays and perfectly positioned for date night selfies, and such a large selection of indoor plants that we fear for local garden centres. The Kensington spot is pretty amazing, in an OTT caricature-of-Italy kind of way and suited waiters go the extra mile to make you feel special. Despite the food ranging from “eh?” to “that’s actually decent”, it’s worth getting a birthday booking to feel like a member of Donatella Versace’s posse for a few hours. 

The food at The Drapers Arms is classic, comforting stuff. Bone marrow baked camembert, roast beef sandwiches, chops, and the like. It’s stuff you might make at home if you could be arsed, but even then it would never be as good as this. The Islington pub is that rare place that’s excellent for intimate dinners or celebratory get-togethers featuring many pies and a superb wine list. It also has a quaint garden which is a joy for long summer lunches.

If being in the heart of Soho, knocking back mini martinis and popping chilli water-laden gildas to the soundtrack of LCD Soundsystem sounds like your kind of birthday meal, then we’ll probably get on. At Rita’s, the new American medley of chicken parmgiana and punchy low-intervention wines make for an extremely fun evening. It’s not a big restaurant, nor is it particularly elaborate, but no other restaurant is doing Americana like this in London. Plus, you can book the restaurant's small backyard in summer.

Royal China’s lengthy dim sum menu is legendary for good reason. It ranges from the familiar (prawn cheung fun, say) to the fancy (crispy rolls with scallop and foie gras), so don’t be surprised that it can easily add up to west London club prices. But remember, it’s your birthday. So head to its flagship restaurant on Baker Street, book yourself a big round table, and do some serious damage to the menu.

£70–£100 A HEAD

For big blowouts where the food, the room, and the booze are all top priority.

When you commit to spending over £70 at a restaurant, you expect a USP. And Seabird has two. Panoramic views of London that encourage endless alfresco cocktail sipping, and a top-notch oyster experience. On the 14th floor of The Hoxton hotel, this Côte d’Azur by way of Southwark restaurant screams birthday. Book a table on the foliage-filled terrace for some champagne and oysters, or bring the whole gang for lobster waffles and the glorious fishy freak show that is the octopus roll. Big tentacles, big booths, big potential for an impromptu photoshoot with the skyline and your martini. 

Candlelight and champagne make for an excellent birthday combination. That’s one of the reasons why we repeatedly visit modern European spot Noble Rot. Another reason is that its location on Greek Street is right in the heart of Soho, complete with a private dining room and all. The wine list is spectacular, the service the same, the bread slaps, and there is seldom a year when we can’t imagine wanting to be here.

Hidden in plain sight on a corner just seconds away from the chaos of Oxford Street, Bibi is a small but significant Indian restaurant. Its menu—à la carte at lunch and set at dinner—includes melt-in-your-mouth orkney scallop and tender grilled chicken in a cashew and yoghurt whey sauce. Plate-licking is actively encouraged. At least, we think it is. It’s one of the best Indian restaurants in London. Fancy, yes. Fantastic food, without doubt.

Sessions is the kind of restaurant you daydream about when you’re thinking about the perfect restaurant for your birthday dinner. It’s almost entirely lit by candles, the ceiling feels 100-feet-high, and the artfully dilapidated room looks like it should be the setting for an raucous party scene in a Paolo Sorrentino film. The food is rustic, tasty, and European-leaning and the wine list is similarly brilliant. Come for something intimate, or bring your nearest and dearest and settle into one of the booths upstairs.

Hunan operates a strict ‘trust us’ policy when it comes to its food. The swanky no-menu Chinese spot in Pimlico allows for allergies but aside from that, the chef is the boss. The results are excellent. Deep-fried green beans, crispy pork that comes in a tearable paper bag, duck pancakes and, of course, banana fritters with ice cream. If you’re after a quiet room built for conversation and constant delight, this one’s for you.

St. John’s original restaurant in Clerkenwell is where you go for a birthday dinner with any number of people who refuse, at any point during the meal, to stop consuming. The seminal British restaurant is all about red wine stains on white tablecloths, slabs of Welsh rarebit, and mid-meal cigarettes to gain some composure. You can fit a decent number of people in the bar area, although it is walk-in only. Otherwise book a table in the main room or pitch up in their private dining room if you’re looking to seriously settle in for the evening.

Last year you decided to throw a big old soirée at your flat, only for it to end with your cat swallowing a balloon and an infestation of confetti that no hoover has been able to defeat since. This year, go to Frenchie in Covent Garden instead. This restaurant has great food, a grown-up feel, and all the potential for a bloody good laugh. Tell your mates that birthday cards are bad for the environment and get them all to chip in for the banoffee, nutmeg, and caramelised pecan dessert, or the bacon scone instead. They’re both absolute must-orders.

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photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Where To Have Your Birthday Dinner In London guide image