There are few experiences more romantic than enjoying a meal with the person you love. Luckily, London isn’t short on enchanting dining spots, whether for an intimate brunch, champagne afternoon tea or a candlelit dinner a deux. From ornate 19th-century drawing rooms and grand halls filled with gilded artworks to maximalist trattorias and the prettiest of cafés, we’ve rounded up the most atmospheric places in the capital for date night.
Bob Bob Ricard
No ‘most romantic restaurants in London’ list would be complete without a mention of this Soho institution, where every detail is guaranteed to make you fall in love, again and again. The retro leather booths, the gilt, the marbled table-tops and mirrored ceilings, the hand-printed Japanese wallpaper… this is David Collins at his flamboyant best. Then, of course, there’s the ‘Press for Champagne’ buttons, an absolute must when playing cupid. But this is a place for eating, too, with a menu of English and Russian classics given an exquisite twist. If the lobster mac and cheese or the beef wellington for two doesn’t sweep you off your feet, the crème brûlée, flambeed at the table, certainly will.
1 Upper James Street, Soho, W1, bobbobricard.com
Housed in an elegantly restored 19th-century drawing room, Skye Gyngell’s restaurant at Somerset House is one of the most enchanting in London. The light-filled dining room is both impressively grand and warmly inviting, with stone columns and enormous arched windows offset by soft pastel hues (mint green walls and pale pink banquettes), though evenings are best for a more seductive vibe. The menu is designed around wholesome, seasonal ingredients, with dishes like scallops with celeriac and sea beets, and guinea fowl with grilled fennel. Sustainability is a key focus – if your date night plans include a show, their pre-theatre “Scratch” menu features dishes made solely from“waste” produce, like leftover potato skins or trimmings from their house made pasta.
Somerset House, Lancaster Place, WC2, springrestaurant.co.uk
For head in the clouds romance, whizz 32 floors up the Shard to Hutong, the London flagship of revered Hong Kong-based restaurant group Aqua. As the lift doors open and you climb the sweeping staircase to the 33rd level, the opulence of it all, combined with 360 views through floor-to-ceiling windows, will capture even the steeliest of hearts. Decor – described by one critic as “sexy gloom” – is traditional oriental, a combination of dark wood, intricately carved furniture and glowing red lanterns. The northern Chinese menu takes inspiration from the dishes once served in the imperial palaces, with everything from dim sum to dumplings, seafood to tofu-based delights. Feasting on crispy soft-shell crab with Sichuan dried peppers, London twinkling beneath you… it gives a whole new meaning to a heavenly night out.
The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, Southwark, SE1, hutong.co.uk
Not everyone wants to woo amidst a backdrop of flickering candles, gleaming silverware and oh-so-serious waiting staff. If you’re after bright, buzzing and good old-fashioned fun, this 70s Capri-style trattoria from restaurant group Big Mamma is a blast of sunshine in Shoreditch. Set over two floors, interiors are a kitsch mash-up and the service is joyful, while the food is as theatrical as the surroundings. Feast on Italian classics made with love by chef Filippo – next level fresh pasta with black truffle, creamy burrata filled with pesto, pizza Napoletana served bubbling from the Marana oven, gelato… As you’d expect, the cocktail list is as explosive, making this larger-than-life restaurant the very definition of la dolce vita.
54 – 56 Great Eastern Street, Shoreditch, EC2, bigmammagroup.com
The Gallery at Sketch
Walking into Sketch is like entering a delightfully quirky art gallery, with hopscotch tiles painted on the floor in the foyer and curious sculptures dotted around the hallways. It’s just as wonderfully weird in the main restaurant, which is a vision in bubble-gum pink. Designed by British artist David Shrigley, his irreverent drawings line the soft pink walls, with pictures of swans and poodles sitting alongside headlines proclaiming witticisms like “Fools to Receive Less Encouragement”. Afternoon tea is the most popular occasion here, with the delicate finger sandwiches and cakes perfectly offsetting the pink velvet booths and adding to the romance.
9 Conduit Street, Mayfair, W1, sketch.london
This restaurant in Covent Garden has long been hailed as the most romantic spot in London, and with good reason. The main dining room features a ceiling covered in branches laden down with blossom and twinkling fairy lights, above a crackling fire. There are also smaller, more intimate rooms featuring walls covered in foliage. The Provençal – and Tuscan – inspired menu features dishes like roasted Black Iberian pork loin and shoulder of Loire Valley rabbit, while their wine list is one of the finest in the city – their impressive cellar includes over 2,500 selections from 18 different countries and vintages spanning four centuries. Date night will never be the same again.
33 King Street, Covent Garden, WC2, closmaggiore.com
Tucked away in the backstreets of Richmond sits one of London’s most magical spots. The beautiful café (which is a lot more impressive than it sounds) is draped with Indian blinds and filled with bougainvillea and jasmine climbing across the ceiling. Antique furniture and mirrors sit alongside the fragrant foliage, while the tables are laden down with vases of flowers and pots of herbs. It’s as much of a feast for the taste buds as it is for the eyes. Sip on a spiced pear bellini and peruse the menu, which focuses on seasonal, Italian-inspired food (Petersham is owned by the Boglione family, whose patriarch, Francesco, hails from Turin) – highlights include chargrilled monkfish with wild mushrooms, and rhubarb and almond tart with stem ginger ice cream.
Church Lane, Richmond, TW10 , petershamnurseries.com
Hidden away in Mayfair, this ever-popular restaurant may be small (it seats just over 40 in two rooms) but it’s perfectly formed. Cosy, low-ceilinged and intimately lit, the dark green walls, velvet banquettes and flickering candles lend it a Dickensian charm. The kitchen is tiny too, sending out a concise, unpretentious menu that changes with the seasons and might include monkfish, cauliflower and curried butter, followed by Jerusalem artichoke cake, crème fraiche sorbet and quince (definitely a two-spoon number). The wine list is from Les Caves de Pyrenes, Berry Bros and O.W. Loeb, while the famous Bad Kitty cocktail (gin, sloe gin, elderflower, lemon and Cava) is obligatory on a date. If you’re Covent Garden way, sister restaurant Cora Pearl is equally as warm and welcoming.
10 Shepherd Market, Mayfair, W1, kittyfishers.com
This picturesque terrace in Bloomsbury is worth a visit at any time of year, with an ever-evolving theme that changes with the seasons. In winter, it’s a magical secret garden adorned with twinkling fairy lights, where you can snuggle under furry blankets (at Christmas, the addition of fake snow adds to the Narnia-esque wonder). Visit in spring and summer, and the al fresco space bursts with colour and scent as the vines, trellises and canopies of flowers come into bloom. This is surely one of the prettiest places for a romantic weekend brunch, with dishes like buttermilk pancakes with berries and lemon curd and rainbow acai bowls competing with the enchanting décor.
16 – 22 Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, WC1, dallowayterrace.com
Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton’s restaurant in the chic Edition hotel is home to one of the most impressive dining rooms in London. Every inch of wall space here features a different gilt-framed artwork, from enormous portraits to elegant still lifes and miniature studies, while the ceiling is covered in the most exquisite original cornicing. Tuck yourselves away into one of the cosy leather booths and order the chateaubriand to share with roasted baby parsnips, wild mushrooms and smoked bone marrow butter, washed down with one of their excellent cocktails – our top picks are the Symmetrical Sunset, made with Remy Martin 1738, Palo Cortado sherry rose syrup and rhubarb amaro – or Sweet Darkness, a heady mix of Jack Daniel’s single barrel, espresso, sweet fig texture and cocoa liquor.
10 Berners Street, Fitzrovia, W1, bernerstavern.com