Much like preheating the oven and resisting the urge to eat an entire tub of Nutella at 4pm on a Sunday, privacy is a critical part of your wellbeing as a grown-up. Privacy is nice because you get to see the people you like without having to mix with the people you think you don’t like because their laugh reminds you of your Year 7 PE teacher who permanently haunted you via the medium of hurdles. You see, private dining slaps.
But, hold on to your overdrafts, because in London restaurant privacy comes at a cost. That cost being a small fortune and the stress of asking your friend if they could, like, forego rent and just donate it to the booking fee instead. But not on our watch and not at these restaurants and bars. From booking hacks that will give you the chance to take over cosy corners of some of London’s best restaurants to private dining rooms that cost as little as £30 per person, these are the spots that will give you privacy and more bang for your buck.
The PDR situation: A private room that will speak to your Tuscany-loving soul.
Cost: £35 - £45 per person (food included)
What do we want? Pasta and privacy. When do we want it? Well, minus the two weeks of the year when we optimistically attempt intimacy on Hinge, pretty much always. Bancone is one of our go-to spots for great affordable pasta and their private dining room is really quite the looker. There isn’t a booking fee but you will need to order the feasting menu which will set you back £35 per person for lunch or £45 per person for dinner. Yes, it involves lots of handmade pasta, delightful nibbles, and cannoli too. Their private dining space in Covent Garden can seat up to 12 but they also have a private area at their Soho spot for 14 with the same set feasting menu. Hello fresh pappardelle and big laughs.
The PDR situation: an indoor cabin and some very cute outdoor sheds. Yes, that’s a thing.
Cost: it’s totally free, baby.
We owe Barge East a great debt. Not because we ran off with one of their mulled cider teapots without paying–although tempting–but because we once forgot to book a place for a mate’s birthday and Barge East just so happened to have a free table. We looked incredibly thoughtful for booking a private table on a boat ‘weeks in advance’. Thank you Barge East. And you’ll be thanking them too because not only do they have a private ‘Captain’s Cabin’ onboard that you can book for up to 8 people, they also have charming big ski energy cabins for 6 in their garden that come complete with blankets and hot water bottles. That’s right, hot water bottles. We love to see it.
The PDR situation: A basement room involving corduroy and candlelight.
Cost: £30 per person (food included)
Corduroy seating, crispy potatoes, chicken. Yes, Sidechick has all of the important Cs going on at their Marylebone restaurant and they’ve got cheap, cool, and candlelight covered too. On a completely unrelated note, we like alliteration. Can you tell? Anyway, this roast chicken spot from the people behind Patty and Bun has a retro room in their basement that you can rent out for just £35 per person. Yes that includes their winning roast chicken and importantly, dessert too. They’ve also got a great selection of natural wines and a no-brainer central location that makes it perfect for birthdays and casual work hangs.
The PDR situation: Book for six plus and casually take over their shop room.
Cost: £39 per person (food included)
Life hack: go to Quality Wines. That’s it, really. If you ignore everything else on this website, that intel will serve you well. A daytime café and shop that turns into the most charming little restaurant come evening, this place has our hearts. That’s just how good their British small plates are. All of this is made even better by the fact that they have a big group table in their adjoining shop that you can book online for the whole evening. It can seat up to ten people and although there’s no booking charge, you’ll need to get involved in their £39 chef’s menu–what a tragedy, you’re all going to have to eat delicious osso bucco and some of London’s best focaccia. Plus, there is something deeply lovely and memorable about having dinner surrounded by jars of homemade jam and neatly stacked cans.
The PDR situation: rustic and deeply adorable little outdoor huts.
Cost: No charge, no fee, no fuss.
If you’re a sucker for colourful awnings, plaid blankets, and checked tablecloths, then boy oh boy do we have the private dining space for you. During the pandemic, Greenberry Café set up their own homemade sheltered outdoor dining pods that can seat up to eight people. Being a quaint little cafe in Primrose Hill, they’ve filled them with William Morris wallpaper and given each pod a name like Bora Bora or Capri. Hello, adorable. On the menu you can expect things like arancini, lamb burgers, and classic salads, but the real power move is to come for a big private birthday brunch over eggs royale and one too many bloody marys.
The PDR situation: converted toilets that are actually very cool, okay?
Cost: £39 per person (food included)
Spending your night in an old public toilet might sound more like the birthdays of your student years than the sophisticated private dining experience you’re looking for these days, but that’s exactly what Coal Rooms has to offer. They’ve converted the old ladies toilets of Peckham station into a moody, candlelit private dining room perfect for a grown-up birthday or an opportunity to get merry on wine and porchetta with 16 of your nearest and dearest whilst working your way through the £39 sharing-style menu.
The PDR situation: a warm first floor dining area with—swoon—foliage.
Cost: £40 per person (food included)
Bubala are experts at giving vegetables sex appeal. Okay yes, we will expand on that, thank you for asking. A small vegetarian restaurant in Spitalfields that’s big on halloumi, confit potato latkes, and a tahini ice cream we love more than 98% of our friends, we can pretty much guarantee that you’ll leave here with a happy stomach and with a renewed obsession for aubergine. Their private dining room on the first floor has no minimum charge or booking fee, you just need to order their ‘Bubala Knows Best’ set-menu. You’ll also have access to the speaker, so might we suggest a little Prince to match the seductive prowess of their salty but sweet mushroom skewers.
The PDR situation: big private booths in their downstairs cellar.
Cost: no booking charge or minimum spend
Don’t get us wrong, we love all pubs. That’s just what watching Eastenders during our formative years taught us. But we do have a real soft spot for The Prince Alfred in Maida Vale. Thanks to its setting just off of the canal, authentic Victorian details, and friendly locals, it’s just a deeply lovely place to have a pint and some polite little nibbles. Or, as luck would have it, it’s also a great shout if you’re looking for a private space for the grand booking fee of zero pounds. Although their downstairs cellar area will set you back £200 if you exclusively hire the whole space, you can just call them up and request one of the private booths free of charge. If exposed brick and candlelight isn’t your thing, you can also ask for one of the big group tables at the front of the pub. The original Victoria divides are still in place so it very much feels like you’ve got your own private area. Long live The Prince Alfred.
The PDR situation: those rooftop party pods you always see on Instagram.
Cost: approximately £25 per person
We’ve all dabbled with the idea of hiring one of those fun igloos for our birthday. That’s until you realise that you’d have to bring all of your worldly possessions and a sleeping bag because you’re not going to be able to make rent. Call us traditionalists but we like having a working internet connection and not spending our life’s savings on an hour in a glorified tent, but Bar Elba’s party pods are much cheaper than most. Although the booking fee for three hours is £300 that actually works out as a nice 25 quid per person if you’re rolling with a big group. Expect great views, cocktails, burgers, a designated server, and plenty of squabbles over the in-pod AUX cable that connects to your personal party pod speaker. FYI if you join their mailing list you can also get a free cocktail. You’re welcome.
A confession: Soma is technically a bar so unless you consider vermouth to be one of the major food groups then don’t expect to have a meal here. But what this bar lacks in food it more than makes up for in cocktails and a zero-charge private table. Their secluded little booth area is the perfect place to enjoy their vermouth and aged gin Oak cocktail–it’s one of our top five cocktails in London, don’t you know–and the service is reliably excellent. There's a big private hire fee for this area on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, so although it won't work for any weekend shindigs, they're open until 1AM throughout the week and if your birthday or event happens to fall on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, then you're in luck.