On a lovely corner of a residential street in west London, Julie’s occupies a maze of quirky spaces and a stretch of pavement. Julie herself is responsible for the decadent interiors, which retain original stained-glass windows and gothic wood carvings, as well as a honeycomb of dining alcoves downstairs. Shay Cooper, previously of Michelin-starred The Goring, is in charge of the kitchen and serves one of the nicest menus we’ve encountered in a long time. Dishes include moreish buttermilk fried quail with white miso emulsion; cured sea trout with Isle of Wight tomatoes and a seaweed dressing; and – best of all – a forest green charred kale risotto, topped with crab and horseradish butter.
135 Portland Road, Holland Park, W11 4LW
This quaint, Parisian-style bistro serves up a fanciful French menu of small sharing plates such as crispy frog legs, duck rillettes and confit duck leg. Each dish is a modern take on classic French cooking, using simple ingredients and a bold hit of flavour served in an intimate, candlelit room with marble counter tops, bistro stool seating and frolicking nude murals on the walls. For those opting to double date, the bistro has one of the prettiest private dining spaces in London. Hidden away behind a curtain at the back of the restaurant, the Jungle Room lives up to its name: verdant hand-painted wallpaper by artist Aldo Gigli is complemented by bright fresh flowers, candlelight and an opulent chandelier.
9 D'Arblay Street, Soho, W1F 8DR
The original restaurant is in Paris – the City of Love – and is one of the capital’s foodie gems. This London outpost is as good as the original and has steadily established itself as a discerning destination restaurant. It feels discreet, cosy and intimate, but at the same its interiors are grown up and glamorous. For Valentine’s Day, the team will be serving a welcome glass of champagne, followed by a five-course tasting menu created especially for the evening. Expect to see the likes of hand-dived scallop en croute with duck foie gras and black truffle, followed by banoffee, nutmeg and caramelised pecans.
16 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8QH
Minnow is a charming, modern European restaurant serving seasonal British fare. Fronted by soft pastel greens with roses delicately framing the windows, this quaint Parisian-style eatery is located in Clapham Old Town and is all charm and romance. Low-level lighting and soft jazz add to the ambience, and there’s a gorgeous courtyard adorned with flower boxes at the back of the restaurant. Laid-back, with a sense of effortless charm, this neighbourhood gem is a cool spot, but offers enough romance for a swoon-worthy date night.
21 The Pavement, Clapham Common, SW4 OHY
Launched in 1985, Andrew Edmunds is considered one of the last bastions of 'old Soho'. Located in an 18th-century townhouse, its relaxed atmosphere, seasonal menu and reasonably priced wine list have ensured the site’s enduring popularity. Well-loved for its traditional, hearty fare, this year’s Valentine’s Day menu includes the likes of Colchester oysters; diver-caught scallop gratin; and duck hearts with bacon, prune and fig chutney.
46 Lexington Street, Soho, W1F 0LP
Famed for her elegant, simple cooking, Skye Gyngell’s menus at Spring focus on classic and seasonal cuisine. It’s a looker, too – expect to be seated among foliage walls, potted trees and walls imprinted with leaf veins. Guests will fall in love with the likes of warm crab with prawn butter and wholegrain polenta; monkfish with clams, saffron, fennel and garlic aioli; and guinea fowl with charred collard greens, steamed kohlrabi and béarnaise.
Lancaster Place, Strand, WC2R 1LA
Dine in the crumbling grandeur of an antiques-filled Georgian mansion in an unexpected corner of Vauxhall. Brunswick House has a special-occasion feel and its à la carte menu has something for all tastes. The roast cod, mussel, baked fennel and aioli is delicious, while the chocolate pot always gets rave reviews.
30 Wandsworth Road, Vauxhall, SW8 2LG
Settings don't come much lovelier than Clos Maggiore. With a forest of white blossoms, fairy lights and candles, this is a must-visit for couples. Often described as the capital’s most romantic restaurant, this Covent Garden institution is a lavish French bistro with a Provencal-leaning menu. Its standout space is its central indoor courtyard – a canopy of trees, set around a roaring fireplace – which makes for a genuinely striking scene. Make sure to order the roasted vermicelli pasta and native lobster fideuà with Ibérico chorizo, saffron and confit tomatoes. Its wine cellar also has a selection of over 2,500 bottles to choose from.
33 King Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8JD
La Poule Au Pot
La Poule Au Pot has been a Belgravia institution since the 1960s. The rustic interior, with its intimate nooks and plethora of dried flowers and bric-à-brac, has changed little since it launched and offers an authentic recreation of paysan France. The spot has been voted ‘best for romance’ in Hardens’ restaurant guide many years in a row, and it’s no surprise – dinner is served by candlelight and its menu is classic French: think snails and mussels for sharing; crab salad; grilled sea bream with fennel and white wine sauce; and creme brûlée (with two spoons) for dessert.
231 Ebury Street, Belgravia, SW1W 8UT
Named after the infamous 18th-century courtesan who lived nearby, Kitty Fisher’s is a popular restaurant in historic Shepherd Market – a proper slice of old-school Mayfair. It’s dark, cosy and intimate, with great food – but most importantly it doesn’t feel formal in the slightest. The menu spans the likes of cod, fennel and artichoke, followed by chocolate with brown-butter ice-cream and hazelnuts. Be sure to kick things off with a ‘Bad Kitty’ – gin, sloe gin, elderflower, lemon and cava. If you can’t get in, look to Cora Pearl – the group’s newer Covent Garden site – which is just as lovely.
10 Shepherd Market, Mayfair, W1J 7QF
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 headed up by Jeremy Lee. Bright and filled with fresh flowers, crisp white tablecloths and stained-glass windows, this spot is ready-made for Valentine’s Day. On the menu, expect traditional fare such as beetroot with soft boiled egg and horseradish; pear with quince, comte, chicory and hazelnut salad; and skate with black butter, capers & parsley.
26-29 Dean Street, Soho, W1D 3LL
Behind a set of intriguing red doors in Mayfair is opulent Park Chinois. A restaurant that pays homage to the decadence of 1930s Shanghai, the venue serves outstanding regional Chinese food, while its contemporary in-house theatre company hosts live entertainment and mischievous fun. Last year the venue launched new bar Wave, which is decked out as a Gatsby-style speakeasy and serves an eclectic cocktail offering and dim sum menu for those who want to keep things a little more casual.
17 Berkeley Street, Mayfair, W1J 8EA
Sienna Miller, Suki Waterhouse, Poppy Delevigne and Kiera Knightley have all shown their faces at this Covent Garden institution. Launched in the 1800s, this seafood-focused hotspot is now owned by the group behind Le Caprice and The Ivy, bringing with it a clutch of famous regulars. When it comes to romance, we recommend ordering one of the towering seafood platters to share – plus a bottle of champagne. Get there late, and you might just spot a couple of famous thesps, fresh from treading the boards.
28-32 St Martin's Court, Covent Garden, WC2N 4AL
Even 15 years after it first opened, the characterful venue remains one of the best spots to see and be seen late into the night. Valentine’s Day is no different – the interiors create a ready-made romantic vibe and the food is picture perfect. The powder pink Gallery restaurant in this quirky Mayfair townhouse is kitted out in a series of colourful David Shrigley designs, while the Parlour (Sketch’s tearoom-turned-bar) has had a recent revamp, giving it an air of early-90s decadence.
9 Conduit Street, Mayfair, W1S 2XG
Located in the iconic Michelin building in South Kensington, renowned chef Claude Bosi and his team of chefs serve a menu of beautifully served seafood-oriented dishes and French classics. The two-Michelin-starred restaurant is romantic year-round, but for Valentine’s Day the team offers a special tasting menu with a glass of champagne on arrival. For something a little more relaxed, make a reservation at Claude Bosi’s Oyster Bar, an elegant and airy French seafood bistro with art-deco tiled mosaics, for oysters, seafood and champagne.
81 Fulham Road, South Kensington, SW3 6RD
Petersham Nurseries Covent Garden
At Petersham Nurseries Covent Garden there’s no need for bouquets of flowers, as it’s located in Floral Court, which combines a traditional country garden with Italian elegance – think Tuscan terracotta pots filled with English fern. Plant life also plays a part in the décor of the two restaurants – the antique mirror-filled Petersham is full of indoor trees and an array of vases full of blooms are used to separate sections of the restaurant. When it comes to food, the menu reads like dishes at a country wedding: think varieties of courgette with peas, broad beans and prosciutto; followed by Portland crab and fennel salad with pistachios, crème fraiche and dill.
27-31 King Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8JB
An Italian mainstay for well-heeled clientele, Daphne’s is well known for its people-watching potential and classic country-style cuisine. Inside, expect a vibrant design, from the bright, flower-filled dining room to the rustic conservatory and lamp-lit counter-top dining at the bar. Menus are decidedly Mediterranean – highlights include gamberoni with chilli and garlic; chargrilled squid with zucchini and nduja; followed by vanilla panna cotta with rhubarb and ginger.
112 Draycott Avenue, Chelsea, SW3 3AE
Bob Bob Ricard
With its red and gold-gilded interiors, Bob Bob Ricard really sets the scene when it comes to romance. With an ‘elegant’ dress code (no need for ties), the restaurant serves British and Russian classics with a modern touch – think anything from lobster mac n’ cheese to elevated beef wellington. For an extra dash of extravagance, don’t forget to order a bottle of bubbles via the restaurant’s famous ‘Press For Champagne’ button, located on every table.
1 Upper James Street, Soho, W1F 9DF
Harry’s Dolce Vita
This Knightsbridge gem comes with all the elegance and glamour of 1950s Italy, with wood-panelled walls and parquet flooring, brassy antique mirrored ceilings and ambient retro lighting. Couples can curl up on the cosy banquette seating with an array of classic Italian plates – we like to tuck into truffle arancini, calamari fritti and fresh burrata. An impressive cocktail list is guaranteed to set the scene – and make you want to linger a little longer once your meal’s over.
27-31 Basil Street, Knightsbridge, SW3 1BB
Hidden on an unassuming back street in Bethnal Green, this old warehouse turned French bistro offers a changing seasonal menu from Blaine Duffy (the chef who cut his teeth at Fifteen, 10 Greek Street and Hoi Polloi). Dine on classics with a twist such as Bistrotheque fish and chips or pressed beef à la bourguignonne while sipping on excellent cocktails (the pomegranate cosmo gets a special mention).
23-27 Wadeson Street, Bethnal Green, E2 9DR
With its grand art-deco interior and classic French menu, Brasserie Zédel will whisk you to Paris for the evening without you having to go any further than Piccadilly. Feast on steak frites, sea bream fillet with vegetable ragout or goats’ cheese and beetroot salad, washed down with a bottle of reasonably priced French wine. Miss the sharing chocolate mousse at your peril.
20 Sherwood Street, Piccadilly, W1F 7ED