Shakespeare was onto something when he declared music the food of love. But, sometimes, food is the food of love – as seen in our list of London’s best romantic restaurants. Looking for a classy joint for Valentine’s Day? A sensuous spot to impress a first date? Or just a year-round location to keep the fires of love from going completely cold? From chic French spots to elevated Japanese joints, we’ve got something for every amorous encounter (including some of London’s best restaurants, full stop). Of course, a cheap date is seldom a romantic date so do be prepared to splash some cash.
London's most romantic restaurants
A bastion of old Soho since 1986, Andrew Edmunds wine bar-cum-bistro was doing shabby chic long before the term became common currency, and regulars are still hooked on its charms. As a diamond in the rough, it has nurtured countless love affairs with its cosy nooks, candlelit tables, big-hearted food and a gloriously oddball wine list stuffed with bargains.
Brassy, energetic and classily cosmopolitan, this NYC import mixes Gallic joie de vivre with snappy US-style customer service in a glammed-up setting of red leather banquettes, mirrored walls and mosaic floors. Manhattan meets Montmartre on an all-day menu that’s just the ticket for that special date – Balthazar’s must-try breads and pastries are guaranteed to melt the hardest of hearts.
Venue says: “A relaxed, all-day, traditional French restaurant on Islington Green. Join us for a simple cup of coffee with cake or enjoy a 'grand repas'.”
From the crew behind The Wolseley, The Delaunay, and Brasserie Zédel comes this gorgeous homage to the golden era of the European grand café – a stunning art nouveau creation complete with polished wood panelling, smoky mirrors and flattering golden lighting. Cosy up over ‘up-luxed’ prawn cocktails, crunchy-coated veal schnitzel, buttery coq au riesling and a roster of irresistible desserts.
Surely the grandest and most glamorous of Jason Atherton’s Midas-touch restaurants, this place is a real humdinger and a shoo-in for seduction. The huge lobby bar looks fabulous, but the vast baroque-style dining room, with its ornate plasterwork ceiling and portrait-lined walls, is even more alluring. Prices are high, but the lights are low, and lovers can expect luscious indulgence from the off.
With a naked babe above the bar, this Shoreditch offshoot of Soho’s Blanchette clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously. Food-wise, think decent bistro fare with a few exotic inflections, all rejigged into small plates that you’ll want to share with your beloved. Secluded tables towards the rear are also tailor-made for romance with their frosted glass and velvet drapes.
Imagine Jay Gatsby on the Orient Express – that’s the in-excess vibe at this rakish spot, a lavishly OTT haven for out-and-out good fun. Dig the glitzy Roaring Twenties decor, the Anglo-Russian menu and little touches like the ‘press for champagne’ buzzers at each booth that are sure to win over any prospective suitor. Chilled vodka shots will get things off to a racy start.
Like a beautiful blast from the past in theatreland, this double-height grand café summons up visions of la belle époque complete with wood panelling, cosy lighting and bartenders in crisp white jackets – all very romantic. Hot tip: the best seats are in the upstairs gallery. Crowd-pleasing French brasserie food is the deal, although few can resist the chocolatey thrills of the sensational sachertorte.
A teasing spoonful of provincial France in all its rustic warmth, this infectiously cosy eatery is a delightful squeeze. Greeting kisses and chatty personal service set the tone, while the brief blackboard menu (scribbled in French) promises big-hearted, boldly chosen and smartly executed takes on the bourgeois classics. Nibbles of cheese and charcuterie make the whole thing even more intimate.
Venue says: “A complimentary glass of house wine at Champor Champor in London Bridge. To receive, please mention you booked through Time Out.”
Batik textiles, colourful masks, incense and acres of carved teak spell exotic romance at this South Bank stalwart – a long-time favourite for self-styled ‘Thai-Malay’ cooking. Champor Champor means ‘mix and match’, so share the fusion-inflected spoils with your date (don’t panic, there’s plenty for veggies and vegans too). Book a table à deux on the mezzanine if you’re going for broke.
Set above the Amuse Bouche Champagne bar in Fulham, this bijou room now does duty as a terrific neighbourhood restaurant with a charmingly casual vibe that’s ideally suited to amorous couples. Chef Claude Compton serves up serious modern bistro food with help from some of the nicest staff in town – it’s all ultra-efficient, warm and welcoming, exactly what’s needed in such neighbourly surrounds.
Read our list of London's Michelin star restaurants
London is one of the top-ranked cities in the world for fine-dining. We're happy to report that London’s status holds year after year, the capital decorated with Michelin stars aplenty. Here's a full list of all London restaurants that have earned the accolade of a Michelin star.
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Wulf & Lamb
Got a sweet-toothed vegan in your life? Take ’em to Wulf & Lamb. This Chelsea newbie, on the faintly magical Pavilion Road (a pedestrian-only cobbled mews opposite Peter Jones that’s a bit of a local secret) has a terrific line-up of posh cakes and exotic desserts. It’s stylishly minimalist – all glass, high peaked ceilings and marble tables – not too shabby for spoiling a friend, even if the lights are far too bright for romance. Just be careful about bringing them for sit-down savouries. One side of mac ’n’ (cashew) cheese, was a true star: creamy and crunchy and utterly addictive. Another, a tersely described seasonal salad, turned out to be two kinds of apple with bergamot, walnuts and a persimmon dressing. Not too shabby. There was also a decent green coconut curry, plus an ackee and black bean burrito that needed punchier seasoning but was otherwise fine. But steer clear of the Wulf Burger. This signature dish featured a seitan patty that was so grainy and chewy, it was like eating sawdust (and, to add insult to injury, came served in a too-dry bun). Happily one of the kick-ass puds – an intensely fragrant mango and passionfruit ‘cheesecake’, served on a macadamia and pistachio base – ending things on a high. Final point: ordering here is a pain. There’s table service for drinks, but not for food (for that you have to go downstairs and pay at the counter). So if you’re having both, you can end up with two bills. Fix this, and that dreadful burger, and W&L could be m