Romantic restaurants in London

Discover the best restaurants and cafés for a romantic meal in the capital

Momo © Ming Tang-Evans / Time Out

Whether you're looking for that first date venue, a chilled bar perfect for couples or somewhere to celebrate an anniversary, we've got it covered. Unfortunately, a cheap date is seldom a romantic date so do be prepared to splash some cash. Check out our guide to the best romantic restaurants in London. Do you agree with our choices? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions.

Berners Tavern

Restaurateur Jason Atherton has had a great year. Berners Tavern is the third restaurant he’s opened in the West End this year; the other two, Little Social and Social Eating House, were very well received for their playful and appealing dishes. This new venture is more of the same, but in a much grander setting. The huge lobby bar looks fabulous; but the vast dining room, with its ornate plasterwork ceiling, very low lighting and lively bar area, looks even better. The menu’s prices are alarmingly high – but most of the dishes we tried were very good. Any caveats? Sometimes dizzy service; too-frequent upselling of extras; lighting so low we could barely read the menu. But Berners Tavern is an utterly glamorous experience.

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Soho

Bob Bob Ricard

Critics' choice

This enthusiastically outlandish spot has managed to achieve what many London restaurants earnestly desire but rarely deliver – it is out-and-out good fun. There’s a joy evident in every element of the place, from the Roaring ’20s decor to little touches like the ‘press for champagne’ buzzers at each booth. The menu skips between Russia and Europe, cherry-picking treats: starters include platinum vodka shots chilled to -18°C, and venison tartare, while mains feature ‘humble pie’, three-birds burger and chicken kiev. BBR is the sort of venue you can imagine Bertie Wooster taking his pals after a day at the Drones. A meal here isn’t cheap, but if you’re looking to intrigue and impress, this place is hard to better.

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Soho

Claude's Kitchen

Set above Amuse Bouche (an inviting bar selling champers at friendly prices), this 'room above a pub' has found new purpose as a terrific neighbourhood restaurant.The weekly-changing menu is courtesy of Claude Compton, who trained at Club Gascon and Petersham Nurseries. ‘Claude is very experimental,’ gushes our waitress, ‘but he’s got a great palate, so it nearly always works.’ She’s not wrong. But, it’s not just good food that makes a restaurant, especially a local restaurant: it’s great service. And Claude’s Kitchen appears to have hired the nicest bunch of people in town. Ultra-efficient, warm and welcoming, they’re everything you want. For all these reasons, it should be applauded.

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Parsons Green

Clos Maggiore

Critics' choice

Romantic settings don’t get more splendidly over-the-top than this. Take your pick from the wood-panelled restaurant or the atmospheric conservatory, bedecked in a forest of fake white blossoms that seem to extend into eternity as they bounce off the restaurant’s mirrors. Fairy lights, candles and a fireplace add to the soft focus vibe. On our early evening visit, tables were filled with mature couples and curious tourists. It’s a Provençal-inspired menu, and although à la carte choices are pegged at the sharp end, the pre-theatre menu offering is a bargain.

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Leicester Square

The Delaunay

The Delaunay was Chris Corbin and Jeremy King’s 2012 follow-up to the Wolseley and, like that handsome behemoth, it looks like it’s been here for decades. Grand European cafés provide the inspiration, and the interior is a treat – a David Collins-designed mix of green leather banquette seating, dark wood, brass rails, antique mirrors and a black and white marble floor. There’s something for everyone, at prices that aren’t greedy given the setting, the quality of the service and the assuredness of the menu.

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Aldwych

Galvin Bistrot de Luxe

Critics' choice

The first of the Galvin brothers’ restaurant empire, this polished, much-loved Marylebone bistro is classically French (veloutés, soufflés, purées) with the occasional nod to Italy (risottos, lasagnes, panna cottas). The dining room is an inviting place, with its dark chocolate wood panelling, globe lighting and big bunches of scarlet gladioli. Service can be a little relaxed at times, and our table at the back felt cramped, but the excellent coffee ended things on a high.

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Marylebone

Hakkasan

More than a decade after it started wowing London’s big spenders with its classy Cantonese cooking, this Michelin-starred trendsetter remains a benchmark against which all high-end Chinese restaurants should be judged. The basement’s stylish interior (all dark wood lattice screens and moody lighting) still attracts the kind of beautiful people who might suppress their appetites – though there was little evidence of restraint on our midweek night visit.

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Soho

Les Trois Garçons

Critics' choice

London’s most extravagant restaurant interior gives the eye no idea where to settle. Inside this former pub is an entire zoo of stuffed, ceramic and other animals (a lion, a swordfish, an antelope with a tiara…), cascading glass, dangling handbags, giant, unearthly purple flowers and more – all to sustain the mood of ironic, decadent opulence. As a restaurant, Les Trois Garçons has two sides. It buzzes at night, when hip crowds come to enjoy inventive modern French cuisine at lofty prices.

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Brick Lane

J Sheekey Oyster Bar

Critics' choice

Like Paris’s Le Grand Colbert or Café Florian in Venice, J Sheekey is in danger of becoming an institution whose uniquely local appeal stretches far beyond London. The addition of this two-unit oyster bar creates an imposing procession of branded red canopies along St Martin’s Court. What could appeal more to tourists than the chance to knock back a couple of native oysters amid the nation’s finest stars of stage and screen?

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Leicester Square

Momo

Critics' choice

Venue says: Renowned for its fabulous atmosphere, friendly and attentive service and sumptuous decor, Momo Restaurant has, for 17 years, firmly established itself as the leader in providing London with the very best of North African cuisine. Momo encompasses music, food and visual aesthetics consisting of four spaces: restaurant, café, outdoor terrace and basement bar. Open everyday, whether it's al fresco lunch on the shaded terrace, mezze in the café or dinner in the bustling, ambient restaurant, Momo has delights for everybody at all times. The cuisine offers a North African-inspired menu with a Mediterranean accent - a fusion of fresh local ingredients and spices to fashion more contemporary dishes. Sample mezze delicacies like courgette stuffed flowers with seafood, cheese briouats, king prawns kataifi, fresh mechouia (charcoal roasted peppers with tomato and garlic) and traditional kofta tagine - beautifully spiced minced lamb with charmoula sauce. Off the weekend brunch menu, try the full Moroccan that definitely gives the full English a run for its money. The Momo burger is fast becoming the most popular item on the menu. Make sure you leave room for Momo's homemade desserts. The Berber crepes or French patisseries such as an apple saffron tart will satisfy even the most discerning gourmet.

Still London’s most glamorous Moroccan restaurant, Momo attracts a fair smattering of beautiful people alongside couples on special dates, hen parties and business types. The soundtrack of classic Maghrebi beats and attractive young francophone waiting staff create a seductive buzz. Sexy Marrakech-style interiors, sparkling with light from intricately latticed mashrabiya-style windows and ornate metalwork lanterns, add to the allure. Tables are small and tightly packed, but somehow this rarely seems an imposition.

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Soho

Opera Tavern

Venue says: Despite growing competition, the Opera Tavern remains one of Covent Garden's best dining options and among London’s top tapas restaurants. Formerly a pub, it’s split into a slightly charmless upstairs restaurant and a cosy, mirror-backed bar at street level. The latter has been stylishly updated with chocolate leather bar stools, copper spotlights and an open grill; the main kitchen is in the beer cellar. The Spanish-Italian menu is kept fresh with regular specials.

Despite growing competition, the Opera Tavern remains one of Covent Garden's best dining options and among London’s top tapas restaurants. Formerly a pub, it’s split into a slightly charmless upstairs restaurant and a cosy, mirror-backed bar at street level. The latter has been stylishly updated with chocolate leather bar stools, copper spotlights and an open grill; the main kitchen is in the beer cellar. The Spanish-Italian menu is kept fresh with regular specials.

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Aldwych

Sushisamba

Japan, Brazil and Peru come together here. That’s not an eye-opener these days, but the entrance to this expensive New York import is. Take the glass elevator that clings to the side of Heron Tower, shoot up 38 floors in a few stomach-flipping seconds, then walk into a bar from which you can practically browse workers’ emails in the Gherkin. Go on through to the double-height glasshouse of a restaurant, with its magnificent bamboo-lattice ceiling, and your table will likely face north across Spitalfields towards Alexandra Palace or east over Stepney and out to Essex.

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City

Wild Honey

Wild Honey underwent a revamp in autumn 2012 – the dining room still has the same wood panelling meets modern art vibe as before, but it’s now possible to look from one end of the vibrantly accessorised (the soft furnishings, in particular) restaurant to the other. The quirky nooks and crannies have been lost, but it no doubt makes things easier for the staff. Like sister restaurants Arbutus and Les Deux Salons, wine from a global list comes in 250ml carafes as well as bottles.

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Mayfair

Yauatcha

Critics' choice

Such acutely stylish venues rarely last, but after a decade Yauatcha can add longevity to its enviable list of attributes. So why do people still glide down the stairs of this self-styled Taipai tea house into its sensual basement? The design helps: the long bar, spot-lit black tables and illuminated fish tank still have allure, and the nightclub vibe is boosted by beautiful staff and bass-heavy beats. Even being shunted away to seats behind the staircase has benefits (privacy). And there’s substance behind the style.

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Soho

Comments

1 comments
C.W.
C.W.

I just wanted to write a review about an excellent romantic date restaurant called About Thyme in Victoria I went to the other evening. I don't know how or where to post this sort of thing so I just hope it ends up in the right place (sorry! you know there is a generation of us that can only manage about 60% comprehension on the internet). Anyway I am gay, this was our third date and nearly passing out from anxiety about getting it right on this vital date. I wanted somewhere where the atmosphere was gay friendly, food, service and attitude needed to be just right and totally romantic. I took a chance on this place and hit the jackpot. It was just lovely, brilliant sensitive service, warm reception, the food was divine and the wine excellent. I had booked thankfully - it was only Monday night and packed, so I think you would have to book. The date went so well I happily report there may be many more and this will be the anniversary restaurant because we loved it. About Thyme is a short walk from Victoria Station which helps a lot when you've had such a good time. Thank you.