Got a big date night coming up? If you really want to woo your partner then you should probably consider taking them out for dinner. Yes, it might sound basic, but while crazy golf and trips to museums are fit for purpose when you want to do something casual, if you’re looking to up the ante a little bit then there truly is no better way to turn on the romance than by wining and dining your loved one. Restaurants are popular date-night locations for a reason.
Still, which restaurant you choose to take your partner to can make or break a date. Take them to your local Nando’s and you’ll probably end up eating that wing platter alone – there’s a time and a place to get cheeky and this is not it. Take them to one of the capital’s finest romantic restaurants, however, and you’ll have them swooning over their sushi and right into your arms.
That’s why we’ve traipsed around the city in search of every loved-up nook and breathtaking view that will without a doubt impress your loved one the next time you take them out. In no particular order, here are London’s best romantic restaurants.
Gold, Notting Hill
As romantic restaurants go, consider Gold your first date option. The Notting Hill restaurant's seductive Tel Aviv style gets particularly lively on the weekend - long lines to the bar, an all-hours atmosphere and diners dressed for a night out. So when it comes to romance, this isn’t the place for every couple. The thing is, remove the club-like atmosphere and at the heart of Gold is expertly paired food. Part of the ever-growing small plates trend, seasonal ingredients and rustic cooking techniques (charring, slow cooking and wood roasting) elevate dishes in a similar way to Ottolenghi's Rovi. Stand-out dishes are the chargrilled gem lettuce, beurre noisette capers and kefir dressing - alongside the wood roasted whole sea bream with wild oregano and capers. When it comes to cocktails, the Banzai Mule is a refreshing Lilt mix of vodka, fresh pineapple, ginger and soda.
Table choice: Position yourself by the palms in the main restaurant
Good for: A first date
Standout romantic feature: The Vesuvio, tiger and datterini tomatoes, salted ricotta, basil and verjus dressing
Price: £100 for two people
95-97 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London, W11 2QB. 0203 146 0747. goldnottinghill.com
If your date has a penchant for Japanese food, then there is truly no better way to turn up the romance than to take them to Zuma. Undoubtedly one of the best Japanese restaurants in the city, it serves izakaya-style dishes with a contemporary twist that will wow with every bite. Situated in the heart of London's glitziest area, Knightsbridge, the restaurant has been an enduring hot spot for the rich and famous for almost two decades now and, as such, the vibe is perpetually buzzy, making it the perfect choice for early romances or those dates that have been designed to spice things up.
There's not a single disappointing dish on the menu, but if you're struggling with where to start, order the steamed spinach with sesame sauce (it's so good that it's been on Zuma's menu since it first opened), the black cod and the soft shell crab. Really, though, if you're visiting Zuma and want to get the full experience, you should just throw caution the wind and order the tasting menu. That way, you'll get to try every aspect of the menu and won't leave with food fomo.
Table choice: Any table that gives you a good view of what's going on in the rest of the restaurant. Zuma is an excellent place for people watching, useful if you and your date run out of conversation topics...
Good for: Exceptional food that you'll never forget.
Standout romantic feature: They say food is the best way to a person's heart, so if Zuma's sashimi doesn't make your date swoon, we don't know what will.
Price: Around £200 for two people.
5 Raphael Street, London SW7. zumarestaurant.com
© Richard Southall
When you first walk into Bocconcino in London's Mayfair, there are a few things that stand out. First up will be your own reflection, bounced back at you by the mirror panelling that lines the restaurant’s mezzanine-meets-lobby. Then there’s the spiral staircase that swoops down to the lower floor, glass handrails glistening in the soft golden light. In the upper dining room, there’s an olive tree, satisfyingly positioned exactly in the centre of the space. In the bathrooms, marble and gold furnishings ensure that the Bocconcino experience never wavers.
Yes, this is a restaurant that serves its diners decadence before they’ve even picked up the menu, but it’s most certainly not a case of style over substance. When it comes to the food, start with the aubergine parmigiana, which boasts gloriously gooey mozzarella offset by fresh basil, and then move on to the truffle gnocchi for a truly indulgent treat. After that, you’ll more than likely be stuffed, but we urge you to power through and delve into their dessert menu: the Sicilian cannoli with pistachio ice cream is too good to miss and will ensure your meal ends on a sweet note, both literally and figuratively.
Table choice: Any of the ones near the aforementioned olive tree.
Good for: A glitzy night out that will impress your date, but still fill you both up properly too.
Standout romantic feature: Did we mention that there's an olive tree in the dining room?
Price: Around £180 for two people.
19 Berkeley Street, London W1. bocconcinorestaurant.co.uk
A perfect choice if you’re after something a bit out of the ordinary, Mayfair’s Momo is like visiting a vibey Moroccan souk that has somehow been transported to the middle of London. Famed for the celebrity clientele that used to frequent the restaurant in the Nineties (Madonna once even threw a birthday party there), Momo has recently undergone a huge refurbishment, which has seen the decor zhuzhed up with contemporary design details that simultaneously feel both elegant and comfortable. It should come as no surprise that the interior is on point, though: Momo is owned by Mourad Mazouz, the founder of Insta-hotspot Sketch, renowned for its plush, millennial-pink sofas and egg-shaped toilet cubicles.
As for the food, you’d be hard-pressed to find finer Moroccan food in the city. Authentic but refined, decadent but unpretentious, the dishes here range from traditional tagines to more contemporary takes on Moroccan cuisine. Although the menu isn’t necessarily designed for sharing, we recommend you do so anyway, just so that you get a chance to try as much of the food as possible. And sharing is caring, right? Start off by going halves on the quail pastilla (£12) and the octopus with beetroot (£15) and then, depending on your mood, either choose the monkfish tagine (£22) or one of the Moroccan fusion dishes such as the lemon chicken (£23). Close on a high with the chocolate namelaka, a delicious mousse-y dessert that’s accompanied by a raspberry and harissa sorbet – it sounds so wrong, but it tastes so, so right. Don’t forget to end your evening with a traditional mint tea – the perfect way to steal a bit more time with your partner if your date is going really well...
Table choice: Try to get a table in the centre, where the lighting is slightly softer and you’re perfectly positioned for people watching.
Good for: Switching things up.
Standout romantic feature: The low-level lighting paired with the luxurious North African decor make for a winning combo.
Price: A meal for two starts at around £110 and will go up depending on how fancy your wine order is.
__23-25 Heddon Street, London W1B 4BH. momoresto.com__
Is there anything sexier than an exquisitely cooked pasta dish? We’ll wait…
Situated on Covent Garden’s Great Queen Street, right next to Freemasons’ Hall, Margot is perfectly poised to be your next pre-show dinner date spot. The brainchild of Paulo de Tarso and Nicolas Jaouën, who previously worked together at Mayfair’s glamorous Scott’s, the restaurant takes good ol’ Italian cuisine to the next level, with a menu of elevated but unfussy pasta dishes, as well as a delicious range of fish and meat plates.
The setting is key when it comes to cranking up the romance on a special date and, on this front, Margot does not disappoint. The interior design takes cues from a classic sleek brasserie style, but details such as brass finishings and the bar that’s lit with a soft golden glow give it a finesse that oozes sophistication.
Once you’ve settled in and enjoyed the complimentary breadsticks, we recommend starting your meal with Margot’s uovo in camicia (£14.50), which comes with poached eggs, asparagus and Parmesan “foam” that, once you’ve tried, you’ll want to pour on everything. It would truly be a shame to visit Margot and not try its pasta, so opt for the pappardelle con ragù di cinghiale (£20) – wild boar to those of us who need to brush up on our Italian – if you’re in the mood for something rich, or the linguine vongole (£20.50) if you want a lighter dish. Polish off the evening with the Margot Petit Gâteau, a glazed chocolate mousse which comes with wild berry marmalade, almond dacquoise and a wild berry coulis, and look into each other’s eyes with full hearts and stomachs.
Table choice: A cosy corner seat by the window is your best bet if your looking for a bit of intimacy.
Good for: A pre-show dinner away from the tourist traps of Covent Garden.
Standout romantic feature: Indulgent Italian dishes.
Price: Around £140 for two people.
45 Great Queen Street, London WC2B 5AA. margotrestaurant.com
© Simon John Owen
Christopher’s, Covent Garden
Early on in a new relationship, there is something slightly, well, cringe about making a dinner reservation anywhere too formal. At best it looks like you’re slavishly following some old-fashioned relationship manual (“Take them to an expensive restaurant”), at worst it looks like a statement of intent. And, moreover, those initial dates are meant to be about having fun, right? But there may come a juncture at which you’ve had enough of the frenetic, no-reservation, post-millennial dining map and hunger for something more glamorous that’s no less of a good time. Finding something that sits in that Venn overlap can be quite a task. Our recommendation? Try Christopher’s.
It has stood the test of time. Launched in 1991 by Christopher Gilmour, son of former Tory minister and sometime Spectator editor Ian Gilmour, the place has an establishment halo that remains after it was sold nine years ago to Ambar Paul (whose father, after all, is the Labour peer Lord Swraj Paul). Its sense of status is enhanced by the building, which is elaborate, Grade II-listed and offers a view straight down to Waterloo Bridge. So far, so formal. But the restaurant has done a clever thing: rather than allowing all of this grandeur to fall into stiffness and pomposity, it steers it towards a kind of lively, laid-back decadence. The award-winning interior, courtesy of designer De Matos Ryan, is modern and chic and the layout brings diners just enough into each others’ worlds to give the room a buzz.
It is a place for straightforward, unpretentious pleasure, which is exactly the compass heading of the kitchen. The menu is modern American. Thus, you’ll find steaks from four different countries (American, Scottish, Australian and Japanese), plus plenty of lobster – from simply grilled to the full thermidor – and surf’n’turf combinations of the two. This is the spiritual heart of the menu, but on the periphery you’ll also find seared scallops, salads, chicken breast, rack of lamb, salmon, tuna and halibut. In other words, it’s a list of crowd pleasers and it’s relatively simple – but everything is done very well. We went Route 1, ordering 28-day-aged Scottish steak – it was a fine piece of meat, satisfyingly charry and full of flavour.
Oh, and if dinner has ended a little early, there’s always the Martini bar downstairs. Just saying.
Table choice: The rear dining room, which is smaller and therefore more intimate.
Good for: A high-end, low-maintenance night out.
Standout romantic feature: The view all the way down to Waterloo Bridge.
Price: Around £13 for a starter; £30 for a main. The theatre menu offers two or three courses for £22.50 or £26.50 respectively.
18 Wellington Street, London, WC2E 7DD. christophersgrill.com
Le Pont de la Tour
If you keep an eye on the post-millennial London restaurant scene, you might think that to impress a date you had to head for the nearest pop-up supper club serving gourmet pickles, artisanal mocktails and vegan sliders. Au contraire. London still does old-school, tablecloth dining like few other cities on Earth – which is to say extraordinarily well. Exhibit A: Le Pont de la Tour, which is a romantic restaurant in the archetypal sense.
It’s almost worth it for the view alone. Occupying the ground floor of a warehouse in Shad Thames, it overlooks Tower Bridge and the river. At night, the whole scene twinkles away delightfully. When Terence Conran opened the restaurant in 1991, this stretch of river was decidedly out-of-the-way, but look out over this vista and it’s amazing that the area’s regeneration took quite so long.
Over the past 28 years the restaurant has also evolved. The main dining room, which you may remember from the famous photo of the Blairs and the Clintons dining at Le Pont de la Tour in 1997, was refurbished entirely in 2015, giving it a new lease of life. Interior designers Russell Sage Studio has divided it into a modish bar area, where food is also available, and a main restaurant space. The inspiration was the SS Normandie ocean liner, which entered service in 1935, and this has translated into a smart room with art deco mirrors, cherry banquettes and flashes of gilding.
While the chefs, too, have changed over the years, the cooking has maintained a steady course: “traditional yet innovative French cuisine”, as the restaurant itself puts it. Hence the scope of the menu, which ranges from the wonderfully simple to the highly sophisticated. The foie gras, for example, is a straightforward buttery slice of pâté – just as you might find in a bistro – with a sweet brioche. It need never be more complicated than that. Some dishes, however, are dressed up to the nines. Take the blue cheese and chicory velouté, which is poured around a little heap of port-soaked shallots, or the lobster tortellino that comes served in a bisque foam with a sprinkling of caviar.
It’s not avant-garde cooking, but it is authentically good. There’s a reason, after all, that for all those fads, crazes and micro-trends that burn brightly for a few years in the great, swirling nebula of the capital’s dining scene, then fizzle out to nothing, Le Pont de la Tour is still going strong. And how. Charlie Burton
Table choice: The back room has the best atmosphere; request a table for two by the window and allow your date to take the right-hand seat for the best view of Tower Bridge.
Good for: Expert wine pairings.
Standout romantic feature: Le Lodge d’Hiver, a recently installed glass-fronted cabin, adorned in flowers and fairy lights, where two people can dine in total seclusion overlooking the Thames.
Price: Occasion-level but not eye watering (approx. £14 for starters, £30 for main courses).
36D Shad Thames, London SE1 2YE. lepontdelatour.co.uk
Zédel feels like a hidden gem in Piccadilly. How can anything be hidden in Piccadilly, you scream? It’s a legitimate question. Somehow it’s managed to quietly exist in the centre of London - a stylish, French art deco brasserie in a basement - which is, wait for it, excellent value. Really. You can get a chopped steak with a peppercorn sauce and French fries for under £10. Mind blowing in London. We recommend the smoked salmon to start, a generous portion garnished with capers, lemon and horseradish. Then go onto the whole lemon sole with caper and lemon butter - with a side of broccoli and carrots and pommes purée and then for dessert the lemon meringue tart. A meal where your main fear isn’t the price of the bill, that's true romance.
Table choice: A booth at the back of the restaurant is more secluded.
Good for: Beautifully cooked French food.
Standout romantic feature: The Wolseley style decor.
Price: Around £80 - £100 for two.
20 Sherwood St, Soho, London W1F 7ED. 020 7734 4888. Brasseriezedel.com
The Petersham, Covent Garden
Originally starting in Richmond, the nursery/ cafe was known for its outstanding design and acclaimed food. Now, The Petersham, its sister restaurant in Covent Garden, has expanded the offering. The result is a beautiful restaurant. Like MoMA levels of beauty. Grand art and draped in plants and flowers from the nursery next door. It screams romance. The food is seasonal, classic Italian offerings. The risotto starter, with Tema artichokes and Parmigiano Reggiano, is exceptionally hearty. For mains, go for the whole grilled Dover sole with Amalfi lemon, capers and parsley - it’s full on delicious. Then continue the citrus theme with the Petersham Amalfi lemon tart with creme fraiche. If you can’t take your other half away, The Petersham is the next best thing to travelling to Positano, but more conveniently located in the centre of London.
Table choice: The back of the restaurant is the best spot to see all the beautiful artwork and greenery.
Good for: MoMA levels of design.
Standout romantic feature: All the flowers give it a classy wedding venue vibe.
Price: Around £150 - £200 for two.
31 King St, London WC2E 8JD; 020 7305 7676. Petershamnurseries.com
Some might not put Quaglino’s into the romantic restaurant bracket, but they’d be wrong, very wrong. In actual fact it’s hard to top, it always has been. It’s not only utterly sophisticated with its chic Art Deco interiors and grand restaurant sunken below the balcony bar, it now has a new chef at the helm.
Oozing with class and steeped in a luxurious history, Quaglino’s has always set the bar high and it continues to do so with a wonderfully reimagined menu by Nuno Goncalves.
Nuno brings a deft touch to what has traditionally been a brassiere grill menu, and added a real edge of elegance and finesse.
Retaining 1930’s romance and charm as his setting, Nuno has given fresh life to Quaglino’s and proved you don’t have to revamp an entire restaurant when you can simply modernise the menu with some beautifully executed and clever dishes.
Start with the recommended Hertitage Beetroot salad, a visually stunning but delicate dish, before moving to the sumblime confit duck leg. Let their sommelier pair your food with their wines. Go on, you won’t be disappointed.
Table Choice: Grab a table for 2 seater up the front by the stage.
Good for: Nunos bravely revamped the famous Quaglino’s cocktail, and what a success it is.
Standout romantic feature: Nothing beats the live acoustic music.
Price: You’re looking at a cool £140 for a 3 course meal with wine. Throw in the Quaglino’s cocktail at an extra £23.
6 Bury St, St. James's, London SW1Y 6AJ. quaglinos-restaurant.co.uk
Baptist Grill at L'oscar
Tale as old as time: a table for two somewhere fancy but familiar. The Baptist Grill at L’oscar hotel delivers on this perennial recipe for success with aplomb, marrying classic British cuisine with unique setting in the Baptist Church’s former HQ. Under a palatial domed-ceiling, you’ll taste chef Tony Fleming’s refreshing twists on many traditional favourites.
Formerly of the renowned Angler, The Baptist’s menu naturally plays upon this heritage with smoked cod mousse and Dover sole proving particular highlights of a well-balanced menu. Of course, a charcoal grill caters to those of a T-bone-headed persuasion, but the hidden delights here are reserved for a dedicated vegetarian menu.
One that’s been lavished with just as much TLC as the a la carte offering with nary a mushroom risotto or omelette in sight. Despite the delectable choice here, it’d take a brave herbivore to stray from a chestnut and cep Pithivier with roast swede and mushroom bouillon which elevates its seasonal ingredients into something spectacular. Especially when paired with a sublime potato purée with truffle & chive and steamed spinach.
In this spirit of inclusivity, you’d be remiss to skip out on a dessert list that includes a rosemary and buttermilk panna cotta with wickedly tangy blood orange sorbet. Since chocolate is truly the food of love, an indulgent Baked Manjari mousse ensures your meal is rounded out in sultry fashion. For full romantic extravagance consider marrying your meal with a room for two upstairs (from £333 per night).
Table choice: A table in the centre of the chapel for the best view of its domed splendour.
Good for: Traditional British dining in an elegant setting.
Standout romantic feature: Impeccable service; a surefire way to make your date feel special.
Price: Around £200 for two, including drink.
2-6 Southampton Row, London WC1B 4AA. baptistgrill.com
The brainchild of Alexandros Andrianopoulos, Onima is a slice of a Greece hidden by a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it door on Avery Row, right in the heart of Mayfair. One the headquarters of Cartier, the 5 floor building now houses the newly opened, dimly lit restaurant which is the home to a Mykonion-inspired menu, which has the unique addition of Asian influences. It’s a restaurant like no other, and the sensory experience behind its black door is one to be shared.
For starters, the idea is to share a selection of small plates, with highlights being Josper grilled octopus and beef tartare with orange ponzu sauce. A taste explosion, especially when washed down with one of the cocktails on offer - our pick?
For mains, the choice is aplenty, but we’d really recommend the slow cooked rabbit and josper barbecue scallops with Girolles mushrooms if you really want to make the most of the food on offer. A side dish of garlic broccoli isn’t recommend, unless you’ve been courting your other half for a while.
To finish off, there really is no dessert as romantic as a tiramisu and luckily for you, this one comes with a coffee mousse and caffe latte ice cream. Quite literally perfection.
If this is a first time date, then at least if it fails you’ll leave with a feeling of culinary satisfaction.
Table choice: Grab a table tucked away in one of the corners of the room.
Good for: Flavours you won’t find anywhere else.
Standout romantic feature: The quiet atmosphere.
Price: A meal for two will set you back around £100.
1-3 Avery Row, Mayfair, London W1K 4AJ. onimarestaurant.com