Half of you looks forward to your birthday every year, because by law, people have to be nice to you, and you also enjoy receiving free stuff. But the other half of you wants to dunk your head in ice water and stay at home with a takeaway, because it’s such a headache to plan. It’s your birthday, which means it’s up to you to corral all of your mates into somewhere with enough space, liquor, and good vibes to keep everyone happy.
Worry not. A cursory glance at our guide will give you options for a range of birthdays to work for you and your individual wants, whether you want something simple and fun, or somewhere a bit special. Here’s our list of restaurants that are great for you to book for your birthday.
As evidenced by the collection of Skepta tracks on your playlists that you never actually listen to, you like the idea of things that seem trendy, but deep down you kind of still love Ariana Grande. Blixen is a swish brasserie in Spitalfields with a laid-back East End feel that makes an appropriately happening setting for a birthday dinner, but with tasty European bistro food that isn’t challenging at all. There are loads of comfy leather booths and a cool-looking bar, and plenty of space for groups of various sizes.
Telling your friends that you’ve booked at Luca is basically signaling to them that shit’s about to get real. You’re all about to drink way too much wine, eat some amazing pasta, and have the kind of night that you’ll tell your grandchildren about (assuming you’re still friends in 50 years). Luca is one of the city’s best posh Italian restaurants, but it’s also just a place you come to feel good. If you’re six people or fewer, you can book in the main dining room and order a la carte, or if you’re really ready to go all in for a big birthday, reserve one of the private rooms where you’ll have a set menu.
Your Sophie B.Hawkins-themed party last year was an unmitigated disaster, and you need to redeem yourself. Do it at Blanchette East, where everyone will love the cool Brick Lane vibe and pretty Belle Epoque decor. The tasty France-by-way-of-North Africa bistro food will also keep both adventurous and picky eaters happy. Everything’s served sharing style, so feel free to over order, and then make tracks to one of the bars in Shoreditch afterwards to keep the party going.
Having your birthday somewhere in Soho is a double-edged sword. There are loads of good restaurants and bars, and pretty much everyone’s drunk after 10pm. On the other hand, most of the good places don’t take reservations. Ceviche’s good - really good - and it also takes reservations. The Peruvian sharing plates are excellent, and the dining room is the sort of place you want to be celebrating with your friends, especially when the pisco sours are flowing. After a few of those, even your most timid mates will be getting stuck in. Get the pork tequenos.
Dishoom, the excellent modern Indian restaurant that we all want to move into, sounds perfect for a birthday. As you picture you and your mates laughing over Old Fashioneds, sharing brilliant plates of Indian snacks and starters and being very happy when the chicken curry and lamb chops arrive, you remember that it’s no-bookings. Or is it? You can actually book if you’re in a group of six or more. So find more than five mates, and you’ll be set. As a bonus, the Carnaby location is incredibly easy to get to for nearly everyone.
Your parents have just called to give you the ‘good news’ that your extended family is popping down from Scunthorpe to ‘surprise’ you for your birthday. Great. Now you have to find somewhere that fits everyone at short notice, with food that’ll be acceptable for a palate used to Frankie & Benny’s and Kebab King. Book a table at East End classic Tayyab’s, because not only is it great for big groups, but it’s BYOB and everyone will love the brilliant Indian food. As a bonus, it’s loud enough inside so that your mates won’t really be able to hear the kind-of-offensive jokes your Nan occasionally busts out.
Each of your past birthdays has been a bit underwhelming, and you still haven’t quite forgiven your mate for convincing you that having it at a Toby Carvery one year would be ‘hilarious’. Not this year. This year, you’re going to Pizarro, and it’s going to be fucking amazing. The Spanish tapas is incredible and so are the wines, but beyond that, it looks like an Andalucian hideaway that you won’t believe is on a quiet street in Bermondsey. Book the private room and order the Presa Iberica pork for your group, and watch as it blows their minds.
Everyone keeps asking what you’re going to do for your birthday, and though you appreciate the sentiment, you’re not really keen on all the attention. Edwins is the perfect spot for a low-key birthday shindig - hidden up a flight of stairs next to Borough tube, it’s an understated modern British restaurant that has a rich guy’s townhouse-meets-country manor vibe. It’s a lovely, cosy place to sit with friends in an understated, I’m-too-old-for-Las Iguanas kind of way, and the food and service are always on point. Your mates will still embarrass you by singing happy birthday, but you’ll be too drunk on negronis by that point to care.
Maybe you’re just trying to be healthier and save the planet at the same time. Maybe you’ve been vegetarian your whole life. But all that matters is that you want somewhere for your birthday with food that’s good for you, at a restaurant that isn’t the yawnfest that many vegetarian places tend to be. Nopi is a stunning, upmarket Soho restaurant that’s totally occasion-worthy, with small plates that would make any veggie happy. To be clear, this is not a completely vegetarian restaurant, but the majority of the menu is plant-based, and the Middle Eastern-influenced food is genuinely fantastic.
You really want to have your dinner somewhere that, for once, isn’t Pizza Express, and you kind of want to try some interesting food in general. But your friends keep holding you back because all they can eat is chicken and steak, and presumably still need a night light. Hit up Foxlow, where your mates can get excellent chicken and steak, but you can get salmon crudo and five-pepper Brixham squid with posh mayo, not to mention a ridiculously good short-rib with kimchi. The Chiswick branch used to be a factory floor, and has lots of cool-looking vintage posters on the walls that give it a retro vibe. More importantly, there’s plenty of space for a group, and the cocktails are excellent. Not that your friends deserve it.