UPDATED JANUARY 2017
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner it’s time you locked down a table reservation; and with our pick of the best dining spots in the capital, make this the year you really treat yourself and your other half. From intimate, rustic eateries to blow-the-budget luxury, we’ve found the most amorous restaurants for some good, old-fashioned romance.
Clos Maggiore, Covent Garden
Settings don’t come more romantic than Clos Maggiore. With a forest of white blossoms, fairy lights and candles, this is amour in its purest form. Peel your eyes away from the décor and take a peek at their Provençal-inspired menu, where you’ll find dishes like pollock fillet and gazpacho.
Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, Mayfair
One of the world’s most decorated chefs, Alain Ducasse’s unrivalled, elaborate French cuisine is a sure-fire way to impress your dinner date. The pared back restaurant is where to book if you're really looking to win points – and don't mind blowing the budget.
Bob Bob Ricard, Soho
For romantic dining with a side of fun, head to the brilliant Bob Bob Ricard, where there is a palpable energy you’ll struggle to find elsewhere. Slip into one of the Orient Express railcar-inspired booths and ‘press for Champagne’ – trust us, you won’t be disappointed.
50 years after its launch by theatre agent Daphne Rye, this renowned Draycott Avenue Italian reopened in 2014 with a glamorous new look – think pink marble-topped bars and 1950s Murano glass chandeliers. Happily, the food and cocktail list remain unchanged.
Hélène Darroze at The Connaught, Mayfair
For a truly special occasion, it’s hard to beat Hélène Darroze at The Connaught. The historic Mayfair dining room boasts a delightful décor scheme that’s as refined as its menu. Food will be served by waiters in crisp waistcoats and drinks come in crystal decanters. Such is the special-occasion nature of the place that everyone is presented with a personalised souvenir menu when they leave.
J. Sheekey, Covent Garden
West End institution J. Sheekey is true, old-fashioned glamour with booths and intimate tables, charming staff and a menu that focuses on fresh seafood. Order the famous oysters – they are an aphrodisiac, after all.
Kitty Fisher’s, Mayfair
Mayfair's Kitty Fisher’s was the place on every food critic’s lips in 2015, and now the initial hype has died down you’ll hopefully be able to book a table for a special meal á deux. Nestled away in Shepherd Market, the tiny venue has only six tables upstairs and five seats at the bar, so it’s definitely snug, but the food more than makes up for the less-than-spacious setting.
La Poule au Pot, Belgravia
This classic French bistro is a long-standing favourite of foodies, and who can blame them? With perfectly presented, hearty dishes, a stellar wine list and interiors filled with dried flowers, ornate trinkets and candlelit tables, it delivers a truly romantic, quintessential French vibe.
Even tough critics AA Gill and Matthew Norman didn’t have a bad word to say about Medlar, making it a failsafe for a special occasion. The King’s Road restaurant has a range of fixed-price menus, starting at a reasonable £25 a head and including the likes of crab ravioli with samphire, brown shrimps, fondue of leeks and bisque sauce and Wild Scottish venison with shoulder croquettes, crushed carrot and swede, rainbow chard and pickled walnuts.
An all-day café and grill on the King’s Road, Megan’s scores top points for simple, unfussy but delicious food. Its succinct menu allows for easy ordering, leaving you with plenty of time for catching up. Book a table in the beautiful, fairy-lit garden for extra romance.
Petersham Nurseries, Richmond
Nestled in Petersham Nurseries’ garden centre, the rustic café comes complete with a stately greenhouse vibe, meadow on its doorstep, and mouth-watering Italian-inspired cuisine. Ideal for those who want something a bit different, without the fussiness of a formal dining experience.
The Ledbury, Notting Hill
The off-centre location of this former-pub gives the Ledbury a distinctly relaxed vibe. Focusing on classic British ingredients, standout dishes include Chinese water deer, scarlet cabbage, smoked bone marrow and pickled wild rose; Cornish mackerel with cucumber, oyster and shiso; and melt-in-the-mouth Herdwick lamb with aubergine, glazed with black tea and olives.
The Richmond, Hackney
Neighbourhood joint The Richmond scores big for a date night with its Oyster Happy Hour, when each seafood morsel is just £1.50 each – yes, you heard us right. Wash it down with a Bloody Mary and feel very smug about eating like royalty on a budget.
The Thomas Cubitt, Belgravia
Brilliant gastropub and restaurant The Thomas Cubitt (from the team behind The Orange and The Grazing Goat) blends modern with traditional – just choose from the elegant dining room for a smarter affair or keep it casual in the oak-floored country pub downstairs.
Galvin La Chapelle, Spitalfields
This ornate, high-ceilinged former chapel makes an impressive backdrop for French-inspired fine-dining, whilst doting staff will attentively cater to your evening. This is romance at its most classic.
Boundary Rooftop, Shoreditch
Boasting an enviably romantic spot overlooking the City and Shoreditch, the Boundary’s gorgeous rooftop comes festooned in wooden decking and quaint lemon trees, to bring a touch of the Med to London’s East End. Devour oysters á deux with a glass or two of their finest Champagne, then curl up together next to the outdoor wood burning fire.
Andrew Edmunds, Soho
Set inside a charming 18th Century townhouse, this Soho stalwart delivers old-school romance, particularly during the evening when it’s lit almost entirely by the wine bottle candles scattered on the wooden tables. It has a relaxed, unfussy atmosphere and a delicious bistro-style menu filled with fresh, seasonal classics. There’s also a well-priced wine list, stocked with fabulous French vintages, and a good selection of Italian, South American, Australian and South African blends, to cater for other worldly palates.
London Shell Co., The Prince Regent
With a trip along the Thames, candle-lit dinner for two and top-notch seafood, you’ve got yourself the makings of an unforgettable date night. Serving a sumptuous selection of nautical-themed seafood delights, amorous waterside diners can hop aboard this quaint Paddington canal, quaff cocktails and dine in true seafarer style. During Valentine’s week, they’ll be serving an exclusive set menu, with plentiful plates of oysters, Orkney scallops, devilled brown crab, crisp mackerel and wild salmon. The menu will be available from 11th-19th February as either a lunchtime or dinner riverside cruise.
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