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12 of the most romantic restaurants in the UK

Looking for somewhere extra-special to take your date? These are the most romantic restaurants in the UK

Written by
Tom Howells
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Many relationships are founded on a well-curated dinner date – but what the hell makes a ‘romantic’ restaurant, anyway? Traditional metrics would suggest something a bit French and a bit floral, with dark corners for salacious doings. A safe bet, sure, but the UK’s brilliantly diverse dining scene means you can opt for something a little more original than that.

If amorous appeal is in the eye of the beholder, then we’ve got the whole sordid gamut covered. From timeless Soho refuges to chichi hotel dining rooms, super-cosy country pubs, lime-washed Venetian villas, art-strewn former churches, rolling vineyards and winsome waterside hatches, these are the most romantic restaurants in the UK. As the old adage goes: if food be the music of love – fill your face. (And no, you at the back, the tumescent ick of Naked Soho didn’t make the cut.)

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Most romantic restaurants in the UK

Argyll and Bute

Nothing gives romance like being perched on the side of a loch and chomping through a carte of seasonal, New-Nordic-inspired Scottish chow, does it? That’s rhetorical: Inver, on a wild stretch of Loch Fyne’s shore, is a gem. Chef-owner Pam Bruton’s artfully rustic menus draws on local farmers and foragers for greenery, Scottish producers for meat and cheese, and the loch itself for langoustine and crab. Such is the isolation, they have several bothies and shepherd’s huts for overnighting: perfect for post-dinner canoodling by the lake’s shining waters.

Bruton, Somerset

Merlin Labron-Johnson’s Osip might be Bruton’s big-ticket eatery, but At The Chapel – stumbling distance up the main street of the beatific Somerset town – has decidedly more amorous vibes. The dining room is found in the modernised, eighteenth-century congregational chapel itself, dotted with modern art and enormous lancet windows. Lofty it may be, but come nightfall, with the candles glowing, the atmosphere is one of hallowed intimacy. Where better to scarf brasserie-style salads, simply grilled fish, pastas and the finest pizzas in Somerset while staring doe-eyed at your beloved? 

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London

Sessions Arts Club is London’s most seductive restaurant: a former judge’s dining room in Clerkenwell’s Grade II*-listed Sessions House, wilfully distressed into something approaching a cod-Palladian villa replete with atrium-ready ferns, crumbling cornicing and splatterings of jade green paint. It is resplendent. As are chef Florence Knight’s poetic plates, all of which sound like they’ve been pulled from Bougie London Literary Woman’s Twitter: red mullet, violino and crab; eel, potato, crème fraîche and roe; quail, watercress and coco de Paimpol beans. Swoon-worthy stuff.

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Halifax

Tucked into a secluded crease of the verdant Shibden Valley (aka, sapphic Gentleman Jack country), the Shibden Mill Inn is a vine-covered seventeenth-century pile and rural pub. Slump into an armchair by the gnarly-beamed bar’s fireplace, and then mutter lurid euphemisms to your paramour over elevated gastropub plates like hen of the woods crumpet with root vegetable jam and fermented mushroom butter, or an XO-glazed pig cheek with langoustine bisque and turnip. There are 11 bijous bedrooms for the taking, too. 

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Usk, Monmouthshire

Fresh from a day clambering the nearby Brecon Beacons? Make for the Monmouthshire village of Bettws Newydd, and specifically The Black Bear Inn: a gorgeous, Lilliputian pub-restaurant recently included on Estrella Damm’s ‘Top 50 Gastropub’ list. The allure is twofold. First there are the unprepossessing but warm interiors, tile-floored and bare-stoned, with plenty of snug corners in which to while away the hours. And then there’s the barnstorming hyper-local menu, loaded with mood-making titbits like deep-fried Jersey rock oysters, Welsh rarebit, Cornish sardines with brown crab and Jerusalem artichoke, and so on. 

Hythe, Kent

Part of the the appeal of this Michelin-starred dining room on Kent’s south coast is its relative proximity to Dungeness: lighthouse hotbed, actual desert, former home to Derek Jarman and perfect day-date fodder (all reachable via an adorable steam train from Hythe). But you will have to eat, and Saltwood’s foxy number is the one. It’s super cosy, beautifully decorated in a palette of serene blues and deep browns, and the food (modern European with pan-Asian inflections) and wine are immaculate. 

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Manchester

Sometimes a fruity encounter demands cold, hard luxury: something Adam Reid at The French (a not-at-all-French misnomer of a restaurant at Manchester’s bougie Midland hotel) serves up in troughs. The ostentatious Belle Époque dining room – a vision of mossy leather and zorb-sized chandeliers – and honed modern British cooking is enough to get pulses zipping into triple figures, and that’s before the bill arrives (tasting menus start at at a hefty £120 a head). One for the splurgers.

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Cornwall

The approach to The Gurnard’s Head is unforgettable: a golden beacon erupting from Cornwall’s wind-whipped West Penwith moor. Things are even finer inside. This is the platonic ideal of an isolated pub – wood-panelled, hearth-warmed, dotted with books and old pictures, and serving up nourishing takes on gastropub classics. Once sated, retire to one of the farmhouse-y bedrooms, with views over the mist-covered peninsula. A sleepover has extra appeal in the wonderful breakfasts: nothing says love like a slab of crab rarebit.

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Lyme Regis, Dorset

Chef Harriet Mansell’s sleek and pastoral Robin Wylde put Lyme Regis on the gastro map – but this wine-focused little offshoot (set in a 400-year-old cellar) is bona fide lovebird fodder. The space is a cool visual mishmash of bare masonry, Scandi-style furniture and inky, autumnal paint shades, dotted with bushels of dried flowers; the veg-heavy plates painterly; the cocktails (a titular lilac Manhattan or seasonal rhubarb sours, say) and low-intervention drops woozily ace. Coastal Dorset doesn’t come more chic. 

London

Sure, Lexington Street’s Andrew Edmunds has long been Soho’s romantic standard, but when it comes to old-school dining rooms, chef Neil Borthwick’s bolthole above The French House is the aficionado’s choice: compact, claret-walled, clattery, and with better food. Take a window seat and neck a half-bottle of champagne and some oysters while soaking up the clamour on the street below, before wolfing various gutsy Anglo-Gallic things on toast and sensually giant chops. Second date? Superlative birthday? Salacious encounter? The French fulfils all remits.

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Rye, East Sussex

Set across 70 arcadian acres of woodland and hills near Rye, Tillingham – a natural vineyard with restaurant and rooms – is faultless ‘big date’ material. Kick off with a tour of the vines – getting simultaneously squiffy on tasters of their excellent pét nats, flinty whites and vibrant rosés – before ambling to the estate’s wooden viewing platform for a sunset smooch, and settling into the candle-lit, design-mag dining room for a ‘garden menu’ of things grown and reared around the smallholding (or fished nearby).

Southwold, Suffolk

Sometimes you need a cheap date in a pristine setting. The murky stretch of the River Blythe between Walberswick and Southwold in east Suffolk delivers the latter, while the Sole Bay Fish Company – a smokehouse restaurant and takeaway hatch on the wharf – is a perfect drop-in for your aphrodisiac austerity feed. The indoor dining room is less of a bargain, but there’s no doubting the effect of demurely stuffing your face with dover sole, lobster or chargrilled crevettes, while the boats that landed them bob languidly outside. 

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