May 2019: We’ve added a heap of amorous eateries, including Hide Above (the beautiful fine dining restaurant from Ollie Dabbous), intimate Covent Garden spot Cora Pearl, the obscenely elegant Dinings SW3 (set in a Grade II-listed Chelsea building), and the atmospheric all-day bakery Jolene (from the folks behind Primeur and Westerns Laundry) along with pub dining room The Coach, and the bigger, better, Borough Market branch of Native, which looks like something straight from the pages of a magazine.
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).
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.
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 – like duck breast and braised ox cheeks – alongside a couple of exotic inflections, such as baked Moroccan eggs, peppers and flatbread. 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, alongside some Italian classics and a dessert menu packed with traditional European treats (think lemon tart, crème brûlée and tiramisu).
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.
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.
Romantic settings don’t get more splendidly over-the-top than this. Take your pick from the wood-panelled restaurant or atmospheric conservatory, bedecked in a forest of fake white blossoms with fairy lights, candles and a fireplace adding to the soft-focus vibe. Either way, expect fine-tuned Provençal cooking with add-ons and a serious wine list to boot. Pre-theatre deals are a bonus for loved-up luvvies.
Head into the dining room of this old school pub, which dates back to 1790, for its warmly lit and cosy atmosphere. It’s like a cross between a cottage and a conservatory, with a high, pitched ceiling and glass walls. With a menu created by the mighty Henry Harris (former owner and chef of upmarket Knightsbridge bistro Racine), expect a line-up of rustic Gallic food (plus a few trad Brit faves).
The team behind Mayfair’s Kitty Fisher’s have set up another restaurant named in honour of a notorious English courtesan. It’s low-lit and atmospheric: just the place for a midweek date. There’s parquet flooring, ceiling fans and sumptuous upholstery, with drinks served in antique glasses. The cow’s curd stuffed into parcels of agnolotti, with a smooth jerusalem artichoke purée, is delicious.
This long-awaited sequel to Dinings W1 is not cheap. But if sushi is your desert island dinner, it’s worth it. The setting is amorous in itself – it’s in a Grade I-listed building with pale walls, double-height ceilings and gorgeous, arched windows. The signature wagyu bun (£7.95) is bang-on, while the sushi is ‘modern’ – try the sashimi of fatty salmon belly with a microscopic ‘Nikkei salsa’.
If your idea of romance is waltzing round old Vienna to the sound of Strauss, you can capture some of that old ‘Blue Danube’ magic with a trip to this instantly comforting Mittel-European number from Messrs Corbin & King. Schnitzels, sausages, ice-cream coupes and – of course – incomparable viennoiserie provide welcome sustenance, with excellent hot chocolate and coffee adding that vital X factor.
Venue says An informal neighbourhood café-restaurant with a classic Viennese menu. Buzzing from breakfast until late, seven days a week.
Squirrelled away in a basement off Tottenham Court Road, the trendsetting Michelin-starred Hakkasan made Chinese food sexy with its combination of revelatory Cantonese-themed cooking, intoxicating clubby vibes, latticed screens and black-lacquered interiors – all backed by big-ticket wine flights and cool Asian-themed cocktails. Our tip: bring a hot date, and bag one of the sultry nooks for an intimate tryst over some top-notch dim sum.
The Hawksmoor name means masculine clubby interiors and a penchant for the best of British beef, but this capacious offshoot overlooking Regent Street also adds a generous helping of luxury seafood to its offer. As ever, the atmosphere crackles and engaging staff are bang on the money, while cosy booths, snugs and corners make it irresistible for couples.
Above is the more expensive first-floor restaurant of super-chef Ollie Dabbous’s Michelin-starred restaurant-and-bar complex Hide. It’s a tasting menu only here, with romantic views of Green Park from the light-filled dining room. The current tasting menu for dinner is a steep £115 per head, but worth it.
Like the original Hutong in Hong Kong, this offshoot half way up the Shard is a glitzy rendezvous with amazing views, ersatz Old Beijing decor and a Sichuan/Northern Chinese menu. Tuned-in service and high prices come with the territory, but Hutong is a City date restaurant par excellence serving carefully rendered, offbeat food that’s guaranteed to jangle and soothe curious palates.
Most of the celebs have moved on, but the splendidly re-energised Ivy is still one of London’s more covetable treasures. Come here for five-star service, supreme hospitality and the chance to eat upscale shepherd’s pie (or anything else you fancy) in a beautiful room emblazoned with harlequin stained-glass windows. It’s the epitome of glamour, and a prize ticket for romantic assignations.
From the folks behind Primeur and Westerns Laundry, Jolene is a supremely beautiful restaurant opposite the park in Newington Green. Everything about it evokes romance: the candle-lit tables, the warehouse-style space with its long, classy bar, the dimly lit loos that smell of cinnamon. It's a great low-key options for almost every occasion; a brunch spot and bakery during the day, but at night a small-plates menu featuring fresh pasta and rustic hunks of meats comes out to play.
J Sheekey’s two-unit Atlantic Bar lures lovers in with its red canopies on St Martin’s Court. What could appeal more than the chance to knock back a plate of native oysters overlooked by photos of the finest stars of stage and screen? Not into aphrodisiac bivalves? There are plenty of hot plates for sharing too – including the legendary fish pie.
Whether you choose the hugely atmospheric, velvet-hued basement dining room or the street-level wine bar, this Mayfair neighbourhood restaurant (named after an eighteenth-century courtesan) will put a big smile on your face. Sample the cod with fennel and artichoke, or the Iberico presa (a thick cut of pork shoulder).
If you’re searching the vibe of a vintage lounge bar to woo your date, try Kudu – a friendly neighbourhood restaurant in Peckham. The look is retro with a feminine side: dusky pink plaster walls and marble tables. The small plates menu is inspired by South Africa (a kudu is an antelope), including several dishes served in traditional cast-iron skillets, having been cooked in or over open flames – the way it’s done in the rainbow nation.
This townhouse, on a quiet Chelsea street, is the first solo project from Rohit Ghai, one-time exec chef of JKS restaurants (Trishna, Gymkhana, Hoppers), Bombay Bustle and Jamavar. It’s modern Indian but not faddish. The sea bass curry was particularly delicious, with heavy coconut cream and the mustardy kick of curry leaves. At £16 for that main, it’s a steal.
Don’t be fazed by the X-rated frontage – this is no invitation to a sleazy date night. Instead, La Bodega Negra’s dark basement rendezvous is dressed to thrill with its glamorous party vibe, homely Mexican food and killer margaritas. In the end, it’s all about Bodega’s good-time atmosphere and secretive charms – although canoodlers should be wary of the two-hour table limits.
Lucky Herne Hill to have Llewelyn’s on its doorstep. Set up by a team with hot credentials, this place deals in super-seasonal British cooking – although that’s only half the story. Also check out the serene interior and the super-chic terrazzo bar, as well as the tables out front for alfresco carousing. A perfect local date spot with some low-key romance thrown in.
This is the neighbourhood restaurant of Pimlico’s dreams. Elegant enough for its mature Sloanes, stylish enough for the yuppies. If you’re here for an informal bite, head for the airy front bar. Or, at the back, the dining room is more formal, but still feminine and cosy. The smart, skilfully cooked modern European food is a similar mix: good-looking but unfussy.
If you fancy spoiling someone special with lashings of Covent Garden class, we suggest splashing some serious cash at Margot – a gloriously old-school Italian complete with a behatted doorman, a jazzy crooning soundtrack, flattering lighting and a wealth of brasserie luxe trappings. It’s all about luxuriating in sumptuous vintage glamour, aided by cosseting service, smart food and a dizzying list with more than 350 wines.
Venue says Italian flavors in the heart of Covent Garden. Open seven days a week, serving lunch, dinner, pre-theatre and post-theatre.
Be warned: Minnow’s flirty ambience will steal your heart away as surely as any dewy-eyed proposal. This is a teeny little fish with a serious romantic streak – just look at the period panelling, the gorgeous silk roses climbing up the pergola, the window boxes in the bijou walled courtyard. The owners know all about effortless hospitality, and the cooking’s pretty good too.
Still London’s most glamorously ornate Moroccan restaurant, Momo wows couples on special dates with its sexy Marrakech-style interiors and tightly packed tables – all sparkling with light from intricately latticed windows and ornate metalwork lanterns. Classic Maghrebi beats and attractive young staff add to the seductive buzz as punters soak up the exotic thrills of couscous, tagines and other culinary delights.
Venue says We are excited to announce our newly revitalised afternoon tea menu! We can't wait to welcome you at Momo
Native, formerly based in Neal’s Yard, opened up a larger site in Southwark Street in 2018. Dine with your lover among exposed, grey brick walls and spindly silver birch trees that they’ve foraged themselves. This restaurant celebrates all things wild and just-plucked from these fair isles. It changes depending on seasonal availability, but past dishes have included smoked ox hearts from Northfield Farm (a Borough Market supplier) and the media-savvy grey squirrel lasagne.
One of Covent Garden’s best and a high ranker when it comes to hybrid tapas in the capital, this conversion of a theatreland pub is split into a slightly charmless upstairs restaurant and a cosy, mirror-backed bar at street level – think leather stools, copper spotlights and an open grill. The Spanish-Italian menu is kept fresh with specials that are bound to impress your Romeo or Juliet.
Pink cherry blossoms, swathes of rich red velvet and taffeta, a jazz quartet playing – welcome to Park Chinois, Mayfair’s sumptuous take on a 1930s Shanghai speakeasy. It’s a long way from spaghetti and meatballs, but you can indulge your deepest ‘Lady and the Tramp’ fantasies here by ordering their udon ‘carbonara’– an Asian ode to Italian trattoria richness that’s perfect for the restaurant’s slinky boudoir glitz.
Venue says Live songstress and in-house band, nightly in the iconic Salon de Chine at Park Chinois. London's most luxurious supperclub!
Every inch of this bijou Covent Garden fish restaurant has been put to good use – just look above the door to see the carousel of customers’ coats (well, that’s one way of making sure nobody does a runner). Fish arrives fresh off day boats, with specials – grilled sardines, say, or dover sole – scrawled on the tiled walls or mirrors. For something more memorable, do have a rummage through the snacks, like the smoked’s cod roe.
A stately greenhouse complete with a meadow on its doorstep, plants all around and horticultural paraphernalia in abundance, the daytime Café at Petersham Nurseries is the ultimate in muddy-booted, green-fingered rustic charm. Channel all your romance into a sprightly seasonal lunch replete with sunny Mediterranean overtones and ingredients picked fresh from the gardens.
Quirky Gallic charm personified from the folks behind Bermondsey hit Casse-Croûte, Pique-Nique occupies a 1920s mock-Tudor pavilion on the edge of Tanner Street Park. Even the kookiest backdrops can be romantic, so take advantage of P-N’s cosy vibe, affable staff and a menu stuffed with gutsy pleasures redolent of rural France. Old-school flavours, yes, but immensely comforting.
Take the glass elevator clinging to the side of Heron Tower, shoot up 38 floors in a few stomach-flipping seconds, walk through the pulsating bar and find your way to the double-height glasshouse of a restaurant, with its magnificent bamboo-lattice ceiling and wraparound views. Japan, Brazil and Peru come together here, making Sushisamba a sure-fire hit for a showy date night.
The latest outing from London’s uncrowned oyster kings isn’t the grandest in the Wright Brothers’ armoury, but it has atmosphere by the sackload – and the bonus of a standalone oyster and cocktail bar (The Mermaid). Briny bivalves are the romantic’s nibbles of choice, preferably washed down with champagne – although there are rich piscine pickings galore. Also check out WB’s atmospheric original on Borough Market.
You know all about Bao and its buns, well the same team is at it again – this time exploring the byways of Taiwanese regional cuisine in a smart vintage setting. This love letter to 1930s Taipei may be an awkward space, but it’s filled with discreet nooks and the food is magnificent – subtly nuanced and bursting with unexpected flavours. Wondrous teas too.
Venue says XU's new brunch menu comes with free-flowing Perrier-Jouët Champagne, for just £25 extra per person! Available Saturdays and Sundays!
If romance is on your mind, you need to bypass Yauatcha’s frenetic ground-floor canteen and head down to the brick-lined basement with its illuminated fish tank, twinkling lights and nightclubby vibe (bass-heavy beats included). Luxe dim sum (and some dazzling larger plates) are offset by spectacular east-west desserts, while heady teas, exotic cocktails and jet-setting wines complete a sexy Michelin-starred package.