Keeping the romance alive can be tricky in the face of so many modern distractions. The sheer bombardment of new crime documentaries on Netflix. The siren song of checking Twitter before bed even though it’s the weekend so you could technically indulge in some beige heavy petting without ruining the old sleep routine. And, of course, the fact that sending those cheeky nudes has been off the cards ever since they read that thing about #WifiPervs from a very reliable source on Reddit. Yes, 21st century romance is a tricky business, but that’s where the age-old lovey-dovey practice known as date night comes in. Dress up, attempt to locate that matching set of underwear, and promise each other you won’t mention the state of the recycling bin until you’ve at least finished your mains. Onwards for the best London restaurants for a properly romantic date night.
Heads up, if you’re specifically looking for somewhere for a your First Proper Sit-Down Dinner Date or First Date Drinks, we have guides for that too. On a budget? Check out The Best London Restaurants For An Affordable Date.
Honestly, we could be on our fourth divorce this decade and Frenchie would still make us feel like getting a little bit handsy. This place has all the hallmarks of a great date restaurant. There’s a marble bar perfect for sipping cocktails, and a modern brasserie menu, although we warn you, there’s also a bacon and maple syrup scone you’ll 100% fancy more than your partner. Whether it’s a third date or an anniversary, Frenchie has pretty much got you covered.
What is love if not being able to spend 18 hours watching a box set with another human and getting to simultaneously eat pasta whilst flirting? A great spot for the latter is Manteca in Soho, an Italian-inspired restaurant that makes some pretty excellent food at a reasonable price. Everything from the brown crab cacio e pepe to the ox cheek pappardelle make this place popular, so unless you want to find yourself in the dog house claiming that ‘Resy is clearly trying to break us up again, and we shouldn’t let them’ then be sure to book ahead.
Like that single rose you 100% meant to buy on the way to the restaurant, Café Deco is small but perfectly formed. This bar, restaurant, and wine bar in Bloomsbury is the kind of place where you whisper sweet nothings over a plate of incredibly tasteful - and tasty - food. Think Dover soles and the aphrodisiac prowess of a whole confit pig’s head with a crouton salad. That’s right, a whole pig’s head, we know romance. But just in case that doesn’t ring your bell, you should also know that they have a truly brilliant selection of low-intervention wines.
If you’re the kind of person who tends to obsessively wonder whether you’ve left the oven on every time you leave the house, then you’ll probably want to book a table in the back area of The Palomar. But the real action here goes down at the walk-in only bar that takes up the front room. Go on, take a risk. Spontaneity, and importantly, Palomar’s 80s soundtrack, is very sexy. Your wingman (the bar staff) will keep the drinks flowing and will help you navigate the menu, which contains some of the most creative and crowd-pleasing small plates in London.
Your beloved comes from a family with high income, high expectations, and a high regard for the Cayman Islands. Good for them. If you sense any jealousy in our tone, please know that it’s just because Poundland hasn’t started selling tropical islands just yet. Anyway, when you need somewhere that shows you’re comfortable being classy, Meraki is your place. This is a Greek restaurant for gods and goddesses, where the kebabs look like they’ve been formed by some sort of ceramic master, where donuts come in mini-form to dip into a variety of decadent dips that you may or may not end up feeding your date. Basically, this is a place where you go to the toilet and spend five minutes checking yourself out in the mirror because yes, you do look bloody gorgeous tonight.
Bringing someone here means that you’re either very much in love or are seriously considering giving them the key to your flat. So that they can let the cleaner in for you every Wednesday morning. Either way, the Italian food is excellent. The wine list is a winner. The restaurant is beautiful. The handmade pasta is dreamy. On second thought, can people date restaurants?
It’s time to throw in one of those activity dates, but the only activity you’re really into is drinking alcohol and eating amazing food? Noble Rot has you sorted. They sell excellent glasses by 75ml measure here, so our typical move is to order a few at a time to start off the night and call it a do-it-yourself “wine tasting”. Sit in the bar area up front for a more casual date, or go for a full-on dinner of exceptional British food in the main dining room.
n.b. during Covid recovery, the bar area has been suspended.
Phone down, smile on, and get ready to talk over some fantastic jollof rice. Akoko is a West African fine dining restaurant that makes some seriously delicious food and unlike many other tasting menu spots, you won’t feel like someone’s giving you the stink eye for having the audacity to audibly laugh. Be warned that the prices are high but it’s entirely worth it for a little food theatre and a lot of sensational dishes that will give you something to talk about all the way home.
Going to Lina Stores is basically like walking into a Dulux campaign entitled something along the lines of Pastels, Always Pastels, Forever. As well as being very good looking, this handmade pasta spot also has some great pici, ravioli, taglioni, and more, on offer and whether you’re here on that crucial first proper dinner date or your casual third anniversary before heading back to your sofa, you should order the orecchiette with chilli and lamb sausage - it’s excellent. If you’re looking to make a proper night of it you’re also going to want the tiramisu ice cream sandwich and several of their negronis on your table.
Having just spent 40 minutes dissecting people on Hinge with your single friend, you’ve just remembered that being in love is really, really nice. So it’s time to treat the person that’s saved you from online dating to a nice dinner. Trullo is a very nice Italian restaurant, with very nice lighting, very nice food, very nice wine, and very nice booths. There’s pasta made fresh daily, and great meat coming off the grill. As we said, nice.
Do you like playing games? Well, here’s a game to play with your partner: trying to find Westerns Laundry. It’s on an anonymous stretch of road near the Emirates Stadium next to a car chop shop, with literally nothing to indicate that there’s a brilliant little wine bar and modern French restaurant inside. Once you do get inside though, the vibe and food are worth the orienteering class in order to find the bloody place. Ask for the tables for two when you book, or sit at the bar to keep it casual.
Looking for a restaurant that says ‘god, you’re so fit when you’re not flossing your teeth’? Introducing Decimo. A loud and proud Mexican-inspired spot on the tenth floor of The Standard in King’s Cross, we once claimed that this evening-only restaurant ‘gives you the feeling that everyone here knows at least ten more sex positions than you do’. If that doesn’t scream hot date night away from the comfort of your sofa, then we don’t know what will. The dishes here can stack up quick, so stick to the must-orders like the pork tacos, lamb chops, fried potatoes, and some mandatory flirty margaritas.
Some people will tell you that love is about grand gestures, sexual frisson, and a lifetime of pretending you’ve read something by John Keats. We’re here to say that all you actually need is a candle shoved in a wine bottle, some top dim sum, and a carafe of sake. You’ll find all of the above at My Neighbours The Dumplings, a buzzing little restaurant that’s a casual - and some might say romantic - five-minute stroll from Victoria Park. Don’t snooze on the har gau. They’re fantastic and perfectly chewy.
Right. You’ve been dating for a while now and they’re starting to see the ‘real you’. You know, that person who’s been known to class a Smint as the same as brushing your teeth, or who’s often to be found eating gherkins from the jar with mayonnaise and watching iPlayer. Keep up the cool, refined, tasteful pretence for a little longer by going to P. Franco. This little Clapton wine bar is an excellent spot for a date - as long as you get two seats on the main island - and is perfect for an evening of intimate conversation, delicious food from changing chefs, and gallons of wine. Oh, and elaborate false pretences.
This airy Shoreditch corner restaurant works for date night, two-fold. Plan one: have a proper sit-down meal, enjoy several modern European sharing plates, and chat about your week. Plan two: grab two seats at the bar, order some charcuterie, and forget about your week over a bottle of great wine. The setting is sophisticated and adult. And no, we don’t mean boring. We mean it’s a top place for grown ups to hang out in. It’s kind of like taking a glimpse into your idyllic future together. You’ll think, we could live like this one day. We’ll throw dinner parties and maybe own a wine rack. It’ll be lovely. Whether you go for plan one, or plan two, be sure to get involved in the snacks. They’re great.
Love is love. And that’s true despite the fact that you’re a proud vegetarian but your partner regularly goes all hyena with a rack of ribs. Head for a cool and casual date night at Bubula, a vegetarian restaurant in Spitalfields, that’s not just serving some of the best Middle Eastern vegetarian food, but some of the best Middle Eastern food, full stop. You’re definitely going to want to get involved in the fried aubergine, black seed honey-covered halloumi, and for extra brownie points, phone ahead and ask for a couple of spots at the counter in the window. They’re the best seats in the house.
So you’ve arrived on #datenight and discovered that you have a snail trail of toothpaste down the front of your shirt. The course of true love never did run smooth. Luckily aptly-named wine bar, The Laughing Heart, is the kind of feelgood spot that will do all the hard work for you. Think exposed brick, a bowl of mussels to whimsically giggle over, and enough natural wine to remove all memories of aforementioned toothpaste faux pas. Plus, they have a basement bar that screams ‘one more drink before my place’.
The excellent Spanish/Moroccan food and the amazing drinks list are not the main reasons to come to Morito for a date. The reason to come here is because it has great lighting. So you can relax in the universal truth that everything and everyone (including you) looks good here. A jug of their sangria won’t hurt either.
We’re not technically meant to play favourites with restaurants. But hey, your mum isn’t meant to have a favourite either and we all know that your brother gets a lot more ‘well done sweetheart x’ messages in that family Whatsapp chat, so we’re just going to say it. Llewelyn’s is our favourite date night restaurant in London. A wildly charming neighbourhood spot in Herne Hill, this is binge-watching Richard Curtis films in glorious, two-person-lasagne-packing form. Seriously, we once saw an actual bird’s nest in their fairy light-wrapped tree outside. The best part? The food is both sophisticated but still downright comforting and delicious.
Look, we know that having met your potential future in-laws, the name Daddy Bao might fill you with fear. It shouldn’t. Partially because there’s minimal chance of anyone asking you about your feelings towards Boris Johnson here, but also because this is one of the best low-key restaurants for a cool and cosy date night. You’re going to want to go heavy on the buns here, but you should also get involved in the dumplings, Taiwanese fried chicken, and as many of their plum wine negronis as possible. The best part is that this place is surprisingly affordable and you can easily make a night of it for £50.
When you realise you really like someone you need to level stuff out. Maintain expectations. Not too high, not too low. You want to show this person what life will be like on the reg - basically, pretty good and pretty cool. That’s pretty much what Theo’s is. This is the neighbourhood pizza place that everyone wishes they had. The pizzas are delicious and taste very fresh. Mainly because they are. There’s a trendy buzz to the place and, if you’re local, you’ll both want to make this ‘your place’.
Bar Tozino on Maltby Street is an ‘I know this little place…’ power move. This intimate space is the perfect setting to discuss what you ‘really want from life’ (to move to Barcelona, world peace, a shag) over some Spanish wine and some excellent tapas. Finish it off by taking a romantic stroll over Tower Bridge, ideally before sharing a taxi back to your place.
If you’re looking for a date night that will cost the equivalent of your signature sexy move - buying their favourite chocolate bar and doing two thirds of the washing up before they get home - then Flor might be somewhat (astronomically) over budget. But what this tiny wine bar, restaurant, and bakery, lacks in affordability it makes up for in what we like to define as ‘serious charmability’. In Borough Market, this place serves excellent small plates for big prices, so it’s best reserved for when you’re really in need of a knockout night involving great wines and some orange yuzu scarlet prawns that very well might be our soulmates.
So you speak five words of French fluently and you want to impress your potential new beau with all of them? Naughty Piglets in Brixton is where to throw down the language in a cosy and intimate setting. The creative French food and natural wines will also have you showing off your “merci beaucoup” at least 10 times whenever the staff bring your order to your table. They’ll be tres impressed by the end of the evening.
You’re in that phase of the relationship where a pigeon could literally shit on you whilst you miss your bus and you’d still be all ‘life is so beautiful’. Whilst you’re riding high on all that oxytocin, you might as well throw an aphrodisiac into the mix at the same time. That’s right. It’s oyster time, baby. Wright Brothers is a no-brainer when it comes to picking somewhere with Big Seafood Energy, and their Battersea location also happens to have views across the Thames. You’re obviously going to get a round of oysters in, but if you’re really looking to impress then the whole Devon lobster is quite the romantic showstopper.
Six Portland Road is not only a very helpful name if you’re prone to forgetting the address of where you’re going, it’s also a great little neighbourhood restaurant in Notting Hill. That translates to: it’s calm, it’s cosy, and it has plenty of tealight candles come evening. Their menu changes daily but you can expect a bit of British, a bit of French, a touch of Italian, and usually some seafood that you should definitely get involved in.
You have the imagination of an amoeba on a good day, but you know that the person you’re going out with deserves better than a pizza chain. That said, you really want pizza. Take them to Santa Maria Chelsea, a hip restaurant with fun and casual vibes. You’ll look semi-creative. Even if you order the margherita.
The only thing that could possibly go wrong on a date at Shikumen is if you didn’t do your pre-selection dim sum due diligence before arriving and get in an argument over which fantastic round of appetisers to order from their long menu. For future reference, the answer to this question is the xiao long bao, the seafood dim sum platter, and the enoki mushroom spring rolls. That being said, be sure to save room for the main attraction, their signature roasted peking duck. It’s one of the best in London.
You can tell almost everything you need to know about this upmarket Greek spot within ten minutes of being here. You’ll be greeted by a smile. You’ll smell fresh fish and mint. You’ll be taken to a table either inside, or out on their vine-covered terrace that you’ll recognise from every episode of A Place In The Sun. You’ll be presented with a shot glass of salmon coloured liquid, and they’ll say “welcome, in here we have mastika, lime, watermelon, and sparkling water, enjoy.” One part fun, two parts tasty, and the rest pure adult. That’s basically the recipe for date night at this Notting Hill restaurant and trust us, you’ll like it.