In a world of Tinder, speed dating and disastrous drunken snogging, don't be afraid to be an all-out, old-fashioned romantic. And nothing says romance like an utterly delicious dinner à deux. So, you got that all-important swipe right; you've spent a few days churning out hilarious witty banter; and you’ve even managed to secure that first date. But where should you woo your boo? You're in luck, because we’ve done the hard work for you.
We've tracked down London's best flower-filled dining rooms; epic sunset views over the city skyline; cute, cosy and candlelit tables; and simply excellent meals that knock your – and your date's – socks (or maybe even pants) off. Whatever you're after, you'll find something for every kind of date below.
Of course, they're not just for Valentine's Day; these restaurants are just as, if not more, romantic at any other time of year, from special-occasion dinners to date night treats. We're pretty confident we've done a good job, so sit back, relax, and let those second dates roll in. Just be sure to give us a front row seat at the wedding.
And if your date still doesn't like you? Sorry mate, you’re on your own with that one…
The Barbary Next Door
16A Neal's Yard, WC2H 9DP
We've been on a fair few dates in our time (no need to get out the tiny violin), and when it comes to suitable venues, we've got some very strong feelings on the matter. The Barbary Next Door, the pocket-sized spot from – you guessed it – The Barbary, manages to meet our standards and then some. It's counter dining, so plenty of opportunity for flirtatious body contact with your date; the lights are low and the music is vibey, creating an understated yet sexy atmosphere. And that's before we even get to the food and drink, which is inspired by North African and Moorish cooking. The sharing plates are both interesting and delicious, making them conversation starters should things get a bit quiet – Tunisian fricassee; a round knob of khobz bread with a variety of dips and sauces; and a navelina orange salad are among the standouts.
46 Lexington Street, W1F 0LP
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Stanley Tucci said that Andrew Edmunds is the most romantic restaurant in London, and Stanley Tucci is basically god so he must be right. He's a damn good cook, too, so you can trust him to choose somewhere with slap-up food. This long-standing Soho legend coos with cute, old-fashioned romance, with candlelit tables, wooden furniture and classic dishes like confit pork cheeks. But for all its atmosphere and central location, it remains very reasonably priced, especially when it comes to the stand-out list of Old World Wines.
The French House
49 Dean Street, W1D 5BG
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No, not the downstairs pub – although you could very easily romance someone over a series of the bar’s infamous half pins. We’re talking about the upstairs restaurant, which comes with all the conviviality of the ground floor watering hole, which seems to be packed to the gunnels on any given day of the week, but with some absolutely sensational cooking. The menu changes daily but will always feature a concise selection of delightfully Francophilic dishes – and will usually feature some oysters to kick things off with an aphrodisiac. What? It's the romance you’re looking for after all.
180 Strand, WC2R 1EA
Maureen M Evans
Maureen M Evans
Earthy tones, secluded booths, natural materials and some of London's best and most exciting food; Ikoyi is a shoe-in if you're hoping to pull out all the stops to romance your lucky date. The two-Michelin-starred restaurant has a focus on exploring West African cuisine through a fine dining lens, and it's an approach that has earned it numerous accolades over the years. The menu features anywhere between 8-10 courses (which can end up being up to 26 once you add on additional accoutrement like canapés and petit fours), so if your conversation is good enough to last the duration of the meal, then you may have just found the one.
35-37 Greenhill Rents, EC1M 6BN
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Is there anywhere better to woo someone than a restaurant where the signature dish quite literally features the word ‘cuddles’? The plate of food in question unfortunately does not involve an embrace in the most specific of terms, but rather serves as a hug for your insides: deep fried pillowy balls of dough ripe for the stuffing with prosciutto and stracchino cheese. Everything else on the menu is the kind of food to send you out with a full heart, too. Take the unctuous, peppery Tuscan peposo (peppered beef stew), or the penne alla vodka which is essentially a deeply naughty, creamy, tomatoey tumble of carbs. Wash it all down with a few of their outrageously well-priced £5 house negronis and you’ll be laughing.
26-29 Dean Street, W1D 3LL
If any restaurateur could convince your dining partner that you were worthy of love, it’s Jeremy Lee. The chef’s joyous presence and glowing demeanour is infectious, and a meal in any room when he sweeps in is sure to become one for the books. That’s before you get to his food, too, which is of peak romancing standards. I dare you not to fall in love over a meal of smoked eel sandwich, enormous golden pies and whatever fluffy, gorgeously decadent pudding happens to be on the menu at that time.
85 Leonard Street, EC2A 4QS
Picture this: you and your loved one, sitting amongst row upon row of wine bottles in a candlelit room, the delicate light flickering off the walls of glass as a waiter pops a cork on a bottle you’ve just selected from the shelf. A little while later, plates of homely, Venetian-style Italian food arrive at your table. You feast and drink and laugh and feel like you’re in your own little world inside this compact Shoreditch hidey-hole. Sound like your idea of romantic perfection? Then trust us, Passione Vino is the spot for you. Particularly great for those looking to expand their vinous repertoire, the store-by-day-restaurant-by-night has a team well-versed on the bottles in stock, so if you tell them what you like they can recommend something new and interesting.
The Drunken Butler
20 Rosebery Ave, EC1R 4SX
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Stepping into The Drunken Butler is like entering someone’s particularly sexy living room. The space is awash with jewel tones, sumptuous rugs and the kind of mishmash of vintage furniture that feels both extremely chic and immensely timeless. Service is friendly and informed, and the food is both impeccable and seamless, with the tasting menu taking away the stress of choice, you simply sit back and let the team bring you plate after plate of glorious Persian food. Owner Yuma Hashemi has a particular passion for wine, which manifests itself in a wine list full of unique and exciting bottles. It’s the kind of restaurant that you could easily fall in love in (even if it is simply with the restaurant itself).
88 St John St, EC1M 4EH
If your definition of a romantic restaurant is one where you are wooed by the eatery itself; being drawn in by its dark, moody lighting, joyous atmosphere, friendly and immensely helpful staff and, above all, seriously good food, then Luca is likely to bump fairly highly up your list. This glorious Italian joint is an iconic favourite for a reason. It welcomes you in like an old friend and leaves you with a desperate desire to return. Food is perfect for sharing, so you can have your very own lady and the tramp moment over a plate of some of the city’s best pasta. Just be sure to leave room for dessert (innuendo very much intended).
300-302 St Paul's Road, N1 2LH
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The dark-wood floors; the navy accents; the white curtains; Tuscan trattoria Trullo brings plenty of romance to the table, alongside its plates of perfect pasta. This is the original site from the guys behind Padella, which is where all that pasta began – but Trullo is about more than the carbs. At the time of writing, there's 42-aged belted belted Galloway wing rib; whole mackerel with fennel; and Black Hampshire pork chop with polenta and salsa verde; but still plenty of pici and pappardelle if you're planning to recreate The Lady & The Tramp.
40 Blackfriars Road, 14th Floor, SE1 8NY
Sunsets, rooftops, and London's longest list of oysters: Seabird, perched atop The Hoxton Hotel in Southwark, is one of the sexiest date-night spots out there. Not to mention that golden light will do you wonders, dahling. Lovebirds can nest on the terrace with its truly unparalleled views across the London skyline, kept warm by a short but sweet cocktail menu; then settle in for a night of Med-inspired seafood feasting (probably not one if your date doesn't like fishy flavours).
16 Henrietta Street, WC2E 8QH
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Forget popping over to Paris: head to one of the city of love's finest exports instead. Gregory Marchand originally opened Frenchie (his nickname given to him when he worked under Jamie Oliver) on the Rue du Nil in Paris, which then rapidly expanded to Frenchie Wine Bar and Frenchie To Go – and now Frenchie Covent Garden, a beautiful dining room with equally beautiful food with French and Italian influences, like Elwy Valley lamb ragu with pappardelle, kalamata olives and lemon. And it serves bacon scones.
10 Shepherd Market, W1J 7QF
Kitty Fisher's, located in a 17th-century former basement bakery, is probably one of the most romantic London restaurants going. It's a low-key but elegant, candle-lit venue, and chef George Barson's cooking over a wood fire guarantees you'll impress your date. Heck, even we'd be impressed. This, of course, has its drawbacks: you'll have to book way in advance. Worth it, though.
70 Wilton Road, SW1V 1DE
Want to really impress your date? You'd be hard pressed to do better than a meal at A.Wong. The two-Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant from Andrew Wong is easily one of London's most interesting places to dine. The space is sufficiently sexy, all jewel tones and low lighting, and the menu is a lyrical celebration of the depth and diversity of Chinese cuisine. A meal at A.Wong is not simply about consumption, but rather a journey through history and a true celebration of the magic of food.
33 King Street, WC2E 8JD
For what it's worth, we reckon it would take someone with a heart of stone to resist Clos Maggiore's gorgeous, flower-filled grotto-come-dining-room in Covent Garden. Head chef Marcellin Marc uses locally sourced ingredients to create a menu inspired by Provence and Tuscany, and executes it to perfection. Tip: make sure you book a room in the courtyard for maximum romantic effect.
Somerset House, WC2R 1LA
Skye Gyngell's debut London restaurant needs little introduction, but with its high ceilings and stunning decor – not to mention excellent food – it's undeniably one of the most elegant restaurants the city has to offer. Veg and greens come directly from Herefordshire farm Fern Verrow, so you can be sure that the focus is on seriously fresh ingredients, which, as we all know, makes for the best-tasting food. If you're looking for something a little less formal, book yourself into the Salon, which occupies an airy courtyard festooned in fairy lights.