I need help and I have a challenge for you guys! I need a restaurant for an early weekday birthday dinner for my mum, but my sister’s one-year-old is also coming. I don’t want to go to a chain restaurant or - insert eye roll emoji - Rainforest Café. We all really love food but nowhere pretentious please.
Have a fab day,
Dear Isla, Isla’s mum, and presumably adorable baby,
You told me this would be a challenge and you’re not wrong. Birthday restaurants? Easy peasy, that’s my bread and gold-detailed, pinot-guzzling butter. But as someone who had a very brief stint as a nanny, I can confirm that London is not particularly child-friendly. Dragging a buggy up two flights of stairs whilst being elbowed out the way by a Very Important Asshole, I’m looking at you. Saying ‘no no that nice gentleman is just borrowing that bike, don’t stare, STOP STARING’, I am also looking at you. Having someone audibly tut because the baby in your care has crafted a Jackson Pollock knock-off out of an Ella’s Kitchen banana pouch on a white table cloth? Been there, got the vom’ stained t-shirt to prove it.
So, where can you go that will make your mum feel like the legend she is on her special day without the primary memory being having to craft a highchair out of decorative plant pots? I’m going to come in strong and say La Mia Mamma, a family-feel restaurant in Chelsea, run by a troupe of excellent Italian chefs, known as ‘the mammas’. I have sent countless people here for their birthday with strict instructions to order the cacio e pepe - it’s the best in London - and prepare for the mammas to perform a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday with heartwarming sincerity and tambourines. Did I mention that they do the best cacio e pepe in London?
Now, I have seen my precious little nephew demand ‘cheee-sssy pastar’ like someone just informed him Peppa Pig’s being held hostage by a vegetable. Good for him. I don’t want to eat my brussel sprouts either. So whilst we all know that pasta tends to be a safe bet for a special occasion with little humans in tow, Greek food is also a strong contender. I’m talking thick, creamy hummus. I’m talking proper garlicky lip-smacking tzatziki. I’m talking a sun-trap Soho terrace where nice servers will bring you barbecued octopus, lobster orzo, and some truly glorious, oh-so-tender lamb chops. Isla, it’s time to meet Meraki.
This Greek restaurant on Great Titchfield Street is just a truly lovely place to be and, for full disclosure, it’s where I chose to have my birthday dinner this year. Babe, I once spent a childhood birthday in an honest-to-god Egyptian pyramid, and I still found plenty of reasons to complain - ‘This would be so much better if they played Spice Up Your Life, I’m sure Pharaoh Khufu wouldn’t like, mind.’ - so I can confirm my bar is high, but no one heard a peep out of me at this haven of hummus. Everything on the menu comes with a side of sunshine feelgood factor and I can already picture your mum leaning back in her chair circa 6.30pm, swirling a glass of sparkling wine from Macedonia, contemplating whether she can convince one of you to give her a foot rub (go on, it is her birthday after all). Plus, they have the holy trinity of al fresco kid-friendly dining: highchairs, heaters, and helpful staff who won’t mind if the baby decides to grace you with some quality high-decibel ‘acoustics’.
If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea and / or you’re worried your mum might get a bit carried away with the spicy palomas, then another great option is Hide. According to your ‘must not be pretentious’ clause, I’m slightly worried about recommending this place because it is a fine dining situation but it also has good reason for being proud of itself.
Although their exceptional upstairs tasting menu situation is quite OTT, downstairs is much more casual and we’ve seen many kids here merrily tucking into spring vegetable tartlets like they’ve never even met Dairylea Lunchables. My game plan would be a table on their terrace that’s across from Green Park and to call ahead to request one of their incredibly boujie highchairs. Be warned, the prices are, erm, fucking expensive, but in my humble opinion, worth it for a memorable meal.
In case you were wondering, all of the above also have a good energy on weekdays and you can opt for that early, CBBC-friendly 6pm slot. You can also check out our guide Where To Eat With Screaming Children - hello, relatable content - if you need more ideas for the future. I hope your mum has the best day and please give the little one’s cheeks a squeeze from me.