Where To Have Your Birthday Dinner guide image


Where To Have Your Birthday Dinner

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.

Sorella review image



148 Clapham Manor St, London
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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 arancini, earthy mushroom pastas, and hearty ragus. Plus, who wouldn’t like a malt and salted caramel tiramisu with a candle poking out of it? 

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Spice Village review image

Spice Village

If your favourite birthdays revolve around booze, then keep scrolling. Because at this Pakistani restaurant, the only shots they have are filled with a 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. 

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The slogan for this little Nigerian tapas restaurant is ‘Chop, Chat, Chill’. But honestly we think it should be ‘Chop, Chat, Cheer For The Truly Magical Experience That Is Eating The Caramel Kuli Kuli Chicken’. Catchy, right? The point is, this bright, cheerful spot in Seven Sisters is serving some of London’s best food. That, combined with the feelgood soundtrack and the people-pleasing menu, makes it a box-ticking hit. Our favourite thing to order are the tender chicken wings covered in caramel-infused kuli kuli. Think sticky, sweet, spicy goodness that pairs perfectly with their refreshing Ginger My Swagger rum cocktail. Sip, chew, sip, chew, it’ll be a happy birthday. 

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.

Birthdays and BYOBing are a match made in heaven and you’ll get that feeling as you ascend the stairs of the India Club. The Indian institution on The Strand has been a go-to for donkey’s years and every night of the week is cause for celebration. There are £24 set menus involving dosas, curries, and bhajis and plenty on the menu to suit anyone. You can’t go wrong here: it’s a homely and hearty place.

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, 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 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 (lentil stew) 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, full of friends and family cheersing anything and everything. 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.

 Nothing ruins a birthday like the drama of splitting the bill when one of your mates had the lobster and another just had a side salad, and now they’re in a passive aggressive stalemate over who pays what. At cosy Southwark spot Tatale, those kinds of worries are non-existent. The pan-African set menu is served sharing-style and dietary requirements are catered to with the likes of gluten-free groundnut soup, vegan black eyed beans with a plantain crumb, and shito fried chicken wings for everyone else.

From the tasteful striped awning outside, 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.

Ave Mario is big. Big space, big booths, big old stracciatella gelato cake that gets wheeled around the Dolce & Gabbana meets Italian church ground floor. This Henrietta Street restaurant understands the kind of big party energy you need when you’re turning 21 for the fifth year in a row. It's just as likely to induce smiles as it is a glorious limoncello-sponsored hangover. Whether your mates are after 24-hour leavened pizza or truffle-packed pasta, the Italian menu has got you covered. Get a slice of that giant cake and ask for extra caramel, obviously. 

If your childhood birthdays were all about jolly women overfeeding you, laughter, and everyone singing happy birthday, well, you’ll like La Mia Mamma. This handmade pasta spot in Chelsea serves excellent Italian food and the kitchen is run by Italian ‘mammas’ who will continue to fill up your plate with gnocchi and pollo ripieno even after you plead that you’re full. FYI there’s a whole tambourine, saucepan-banging, mammas-in-a-conga-line situation that occurs on peoples’ birthdays. So take that friend you want to watch squirm. 

photo credit: Jamie Lau

The Drapers Arms review image

The Drapers Arms



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The food at The Drapers Arms is classic, comforting stuff. Baked camembert, sardines on toast, pies, 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, if you don’t mind taking a punt on the weather, you can book out the restaurant's small (unsheltered) backyard patio in summer, for set-menu meals for groups of up to 14.

photo credit: Karolina Wiercigroch

Royal China Club review image

Royal China Club

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—because no one can tell you to stop being extra on your birthday. 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 always come to Noble Rot on our birthday. Another reason is that its second 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. Luckily, neither of those things are going to happen at Frenchie in Covent Garden. 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 to the banoffee, nutmeg, and caramelised pecan dessert, or the bacon scone instead. They’re both absolute must-orders.

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Suggested Reading

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