From the outside, this French-leaning wine bar looks like an old Tudor pub: picture black and white beams and pretty stained glass. But within, the townhouse has had a thoroughly modern makeover – seating is millennial pink, there’s plenty of exposed brickwork, gold accents and statement lighting abound. The Francophile wine list is one that we’ve sampled time and time again and lots of glasses are priced at £5 each – perfect for trying something new (with someone new).
44 Blandford Street, Marylebone, W1U 7HS
One of the very best private members’ clubs in London, many of the spaces in this cool Soho townhouse are off-limits to non-members. But fret not if you can’t get in upstairs. On the ground floor there’s a small but perfectly formed restaurant with an intimate bar. Bright and filled with fresh flowers and stained glass windows, this spot is ready-made for dates – and the bartenders know how to whip up a stiff cocktail to help you get over those first-encounter nerves.
26-29 Dean St, Soho, W1D 3LL
Located in a characterful Edwardian building on one of Mayfair’s most elegant streets, Gazelle is a new stylish cocktail and dining destination, launched by hospitality heavyweight Tony Conigliaro – the man behind Bar Termini, Untitled, 69 Colebrook Row and Zetter Townhouse. Away from the pretty main restaurant, a bold cocktail bar on the second floor is accessed via a bespoke spiral staircase, giving it a secretive air. Make ours a ‘Jockey Club’; Monkey Shoulder, sweet vermouth, maraschino and chocolate bitter.
48 Albemarle Street, Mayfair, W1S 4DH
Focusing on raw and flame-grilled dishes, the kitchen at newly opened St Leonards offers an exemplary take on bold ingredients. The small plates on offer at its sleek horseshoe-shaped concrete bar are no different: expect a selection of substantial bar snacks (think fried fish sandwich with crumbed plaice, pickles and kelp tartare sauce in a milk bun). Drinks come from Tony Conigliaro – expect to impress your date with a selection of superlative cocktails. In the summer months, the light pours in from the floor-to-ceiling windows, and the bar’s sliding doors are pulled wide open to allow for street-side sipping.
70 Leonard Street, Shoreditch, EC2A 4QX
Waeska, the cool bar within The Mandrake hotel (one of our favourites to open in the last few years) offers an atmospheric spot for first dates, complete with taxidermy, plenty of greenery and a curiosity cabinet. With a cocktail list created by Walter Pintus, formerly Head Mixologist at The Connaught, the menu is founded on ethnobotany: the study of a region’s plants and their practical uses through the traditional knowledge of local cultures. We’re big fans of the ‘Sage ‘(mescal, Saint Germain, sage, tomato and dry sherry).
20-21 Newman Street, Fitzrovia, W1T 1PG
Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels
Launched by the design-conscious Experimental Group – that’s the company behind Night Flight, Grand Pigalle Hotel, Beef Club and Ballroom in Paris – Compagnie Des Vins Surnaturels is a trés French-feeling wine bar in Neal’s Yard. With over 400 bottles of wine in stock, this is one for anyone feeling adventurous – CVS prides itself on selecting hard-to-find fine wines, which they pair alongside small plates such as beef tartare and octopus ceviche. Come summer, the petite terrace is the place to be.
8-10 Neal's Yard, Covent Garden, WC2H 9DP
One of our Lifestyle Editor’s top three spots in town, Noble Rot has everything you want from a first-date destination: a fantastic, seasonal menu, friendly, on-the-mark service, and a buzzy atmosphere. Launched by the team behind the indie wine mag of the same name, you’d expect this place to get it right. Its wine list is extensive and wide-ranging (in terms of location and price) – the choice is so expansive it makes sense to sample a number of glasses, rather than opt for a bottle. Come autumn, the cosy bar makes for a romantic retreat from the nearby crowds.
51 Lamb's Conduit Street, Bloomsbury, WC1N 3NB
This late-night spot in Hackney is a wine bar, restaurant and off-licence. In the kitchen head chef Tom Anglesea serves contemporary British cuisine, which draws inspiration from many parts of the world. Down in the wine cellar, the team supports artisan, organic farmers and caters for a range of tastes and budgets. We’re a big fan of the Cave, a candlelit private space that serves oysters and steak alongside its wines. Come kicking-out time at 2am, guests who aren’t ready to leave can opt to grab one for the road from the well-stocked offie.
277 Hackney Road, Hackney, E2 8NA
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