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 French-feeling wine bar in Neal’s Yard. With over 400 bottles of wine in stock, this is a great choice for anyone feeling adventurous – CVS prides itself on selecting hard-to-find fine wines, which they pair alongside dainty small plates such as beef tartare and octopus ceviche.
8-10 Neal's Yard, Covent Garden, WC2H 9DP
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
Located in a characterful Edwardian building on one of Mayfair’s most elegant streets, Gazelle is a 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
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 in-house off-licence.
277 Hackney Road, Hackney, E2 8NA
Sager + Wilde
The team behind Sager + Wilde has a top-notch restaurant on Paradise Row in Bethnal Green and a romantic wine bar in Hackney. While the restaurant is one of our favourite places to eat pasta in the capital, we’re all about its bijou wine bar: its drinks list (by the glass and by the bottle) changes every day depending on what new sips the team are into we are into and which old cellars they’ve raided. Superlative cheese boards and toasties filled with British artisanal cheese and jalapeños, or chorizo and spinach, will help to line the stomach.
193 Hackney Road, Hoxton, E2 8JL
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
The Bloomsbury Club Bar
The Bloomsbury Club Bar is well placed for anyone who needs to do a last-minute present dash into Selfridges and Liberty before whisking their date away somewhere special. This atmospheric bar is split into two areas, the main bar and the outer terrace. The walls in the main bar area are adorned with books synonymous with the Bloomsbury Set, of whose hedonistic reputation the bar takes inspiration – its a cosy, romantic spot. Meanwhile the secluded (and fully heated) outside bar is decorated with hundreds of twinkling lights for ready-made romance.
16-22 Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, WC1B 3NN
The Donovan Bar
The Donovan Bar (named after the renowned fashion photographer Sir Terence Donovan) is Brown’s Hotel’s signature watering hole. Drinks maestro Salvatore Calabrese took over this opulently refurbished space last year. Within, his menus offer new and signature creations alongside a selection of vintage cocktails made with some of the rarest spirits from his personal collection (the banana and cocoa G&T is challenging, in a great way). Throughout the bar, racing green accents and touches of gold work well against the 18th-century stained glass and Donovan’s black-and-white fashion portraits, which line the walls. Our favourite spot is the eight-seat ‘Naughty Corner’, which features his most suggestive photographs.
Albemarle Street, Mayfair, W1S 4BP
Neighbourhood favourite Oriole is decorated with warm amber tones and pops of teal. Buried beneath Farringdon’s Smithfield’s Market, the bar is the sultry little sister to ever-popular Nightjar. An underground cabinet of curiosities, the venue is draped with velvet curtains, exotic palm trees and swathes of fur, which combine to set the scene for an intimate evening of retro glamour. When it comes to drinks, we like the decadent ‘Orsini’ cocktail, which combines Grey Goose vodka, cognac, artichoke rubino and neroli foam.
Smithfield’s Market, Farringdon, EC1A 9LH
Dripping in old-school glamour, this seductive Shoreditch speakeasy comes with the buzz of live jazz and a punchy cocktail list. Nightjar has a reputation for breathing new life into forgotten cocktails and bringing a fresh perspective to classic recipes and presentation. Alongside this inventive cocktail menu is an extensive spirit list – including vintage spirits – a menu of tapas and sharing plates, and a nightly schedule of the very best vintage jazz, blues, ragtime, and swing – perfect for setting the scene.
129 City Road, Shoreditch, EC1V 1JB
Victorian Bath House
Grade II-listed and brimming with character, this subterranean space is a place to impress. When it comes to drinks, head down to By Appointment Only, a clandestine drinking den hidden beneath the City. Open exclusively for bookings on Friday evenings (so perfect for anyone looking to eschew the couples-only vibe of 14th February itself), this glamorous underground spot was first built to house a Turkish bath. Steeped in original features, the space has since been restored, and now offers expertly crafted cocktails in lavish surroundings – think red drapes, ornate oriental tiling and private booths to hide away in.
7-8 Bishopsgate, City, EC2M 3TJ
Six Storeys On Soho
This venue is exactly what it says – six storeys of bars and event space across one townhouse in Soho. A former bank, this low-lit venue offers plenty of nooks and crannies to hide away in. Inspired by Soho’s artistic and creative past, the team has imbued the decor with the heady decadence of the 1780s. On the ground floor, you’ll find The Lobby Bar, which serves wine, spirits and a 50-strong cocktail list. Up in the Decantery, you’ll find a more intimate space: make sure to book ahead to grab a table for two.
11 Soho Square, Soho, W1D 3QE
Purl London serves up multi-sensory cocktails in a brick-lined, 19th-century cellar bar. Adding new flare and creativity to forgotten libations from the prohibition era, Purl is well known for its innovative approach to mixed drinks: using aroma, fogs, airs, foams, food, bespoke barware and liquid nitrogen to bring drinks to life and transport guests to an era past. When it comes to ambiance, expect contemporary music which leans towards swing, jazz and blues.
50-54 Blandford Street, Marylebone, W1U 7HX
Located in the basement of Adam Handling’s Covent Garden restaurant Frog, Eve takes inspiration from its biblical namesake to entice guests to ‘Resist everything except temptation’. The playful cocktail menu is divided into five themes – ‘Innocence’, ‘Temptation’, ‘Indulgence’, ‘Antique’ and ‘Non-Intoxicating’. Highlights include ‘Uncensored’: Glenfiddich with passionfruit, tonka bean, miso and champagne and ‘Life After Dark’: Chivas Regal, pomegranate shrub and Lillet Blanc. The bar’s modern approach to cocktails is matched by its mysterious and decadent interior – picture bespoke art pieces, dark-coloured walls and rich furnishings.
34 Southampton Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 7HF
Serving quality interpretations of classic New Orleans food and libations, Nola strives to bring an exciting experience to London that feels right at home in the ‘Big Easy’. The blues and jazz soundtrack and interiors take inspiration from the historic architecture New Orleans is famous for. With a mix of exposed brickwork, original Georgian fireplaces, vintage panelled walls and Tiffany lamps, the bar aims to transport guests to the Louisianan city’s hidden Vieux Carré district. What’s more, Nola is the only bar or restaurant outside North America to be awarded the 'Seal of The Sazerac' by the founders of week-long New Orleans drinks festival, Tales Of The Cocktail.
107 Roman Road, Bethnal Green, E2 0QN
Hoxley & Porter
Hoxley & Porter is a cocktail lounge and modern European restaurant with a turn-of-the-century-style interior. Just off Islington's Upper Street, Hoxley and Porter is characterised as much by its striking decor as its inventive drink menu. If you’re planning the ultimate double – or triple – date, opt for Mother Scorpio, an atmospheric ten-seat booth. If you're lucky, you might be one of the drinkers chosen to visit The Crypt; the bar's flavour laboratory where you can see the venue’s mixologists hard at work.
153 Upper Street, Islington, N1 1RA
The Courtesan is a modern dim sum restaurant, tea room and late-night cocktail bar in Brixton. Known for its fresh approach, the venue reveals its menus in story form, inspired by tales of the legendary courtesans of ancient China. When it comes to cocktails, we like the ‘China Ghost – An Ethereal Kiss’ – Finlandia Vodka, rose liqueur, lychee, rose peony tea and pomegranate syrup. Away from its dim sum menu, the team offers an exclusively female wine and spirit list, where everything served is either produced or grown by women.
69-73 Atlantic Road, Brixton, SW9 8PU