It's a truth universally acknowledged that champagne on your birthday is mandatory.
Naturally, to follow this cardinal rule and to celebrate my 19th birthday in style, my sister and I headed to Soho's iconic English-Russian restaurant Bob Bob Ricard for a glass of bubbly.
Pass by the colourful facades of Carnaby and you'll see it perched proudly on the corner, adorned in luxury with all things art deco in gold and deep blue.
Though the inside is where things really make your jaw drop.
Step inside and you'll be seated at your 'booth' which very much feels like a little cart on a vintage train - blissfully private and glamourous.
The waiter arrives promptly at your feet to bestow you the menu, where you'll feverishly analyse every ingredient in every dish to decide what you want.
You know this is a place of lavish excess when Russian Vodka shots at -18C are sold as a starter...
We played things a little safer and went straight for a main.
In his dusky pink uniform, the waiter talked us through the menu, revealing the clientele favourites and his personal choices. BBR is most famously known for it's beef wellington for two (sold at a hefty £46 per person), but I'll admit the price had slightly averted our eyes to more purse-friendly options. Though, it's a famous dish for a reason and when we saw it arrive onto other tables, we more than turned green with envy.
But after much deliberation we settled for BBR's second-best of the Bavette Steak (I say "settled" in the most positive way as I had actually decided on this before seeing the price of the wellington!)
The menu is English-Russian at its finest and boasts a variety of interesting, yet comfortable and unpretentious dishes - Pork Belly, Steak Tartare and Chicken Kiev all share a spot, alongside some delicious vegetarian options too.
With our food on its way (we ordered up the Truffled French Fries with Parmesan too), we selected a cocktail.
I know - "NO CHAMPAGNE?", I hear you cry.
I for one love champagne, it beats prosecco hands down in my opinion any day. But we both fancied something a little sweeter, still and fruity. The extravagant and extensive cocktail menu proffered a beautiful variety of options but we eventually opted for a classic Black Cherry Amaretto Sour.
You can always put a restaurant to the test when you order a cocktail. If done right, or even if they succeed all expectations, you know you're in for a treat. I think you can already guess which way BBR swayed.
It turns out BBR pours more champagne than any other restaurant in the UK. And with those 'Press For Champagne' buttons at every booth, no wonder! These handy little booths also have iphone charger sockets for those who are spending a little too much time instagramming away...
The décor is mighty fabulous and something Jay Gatsby would most certainly approve of.
But I'll admit. A lot of these "instagram famous" restaurants in London are all style-no-substance. There's all the fancy-pants interior and glamour but the food, staff and unworthy prices are a real let down. And trust me when I say there are only a select few in London that actually liken to this (Grind Co. I'm looking at you...), BBR is thankfully not like this.
It's a healthy balance of style and substance.
And we have the steak and fries to thank for this (please order this when you go!)
It really was quite something, a spectacularly glamorous re-take on the Gallic dish of steak and fries. Yes, that is truffle gravy...
After dinner, you'll find yourself pouncing on the dessert menu, possibly even pressing for more champagne only to hear the waiter say: "Ladies and gentlemen, you pressed for champagne? What can I get you?"
We ordered two and decided to have half of each...in my head that seems to mean less calories right?
A shimmering golden sphere of chocolate that melts as more hot chocolate is poured on top, revealing a mousse.
And the Strawberries and Cream Soufflé.
Both were fabulous but the golden sphere stole the show.
Before I thought the wonderful team at BBR could get any nicer (honestly...some of the best staff I've ever encountered), they surprised me with a birthday cake complete with a sparkler, red glitter, and a passion fruit flavour. This was actually Jess' favourite dessert of them all (I just about let her try a spoonful).
We giggled, nattered and ooh-and-aahed all evening before eventually deciding it was time to leave.
BBR is no place for a 'quick' meal. It's a real treat, and deservedly so with swanky interiors, a champagne-summoning button and pink silk-adorned staff.
Don't go expecting the prices to be cheap, but they are worthy prices and the perfect spot for celebrating any occasion, be it with friends, family, a loved one or work colleagues.
Unpretentious, friendly and fun, Bob Bob Ricard is definitely on my top ten places to eat in London.
Just don't wear anything with zips or buttons.
Bob Bob Ricard, 1 Upper James Street, London, W1F 9DF