food

The Most Romantic Restaurants in London, Because Any Night Can Be Date Night

What makes a restaurant feel romantic? It’s not a slow-burning candle on the table or the chocolate fondant for two on the dessert list. Instead, it’s a sense of intimacy that makes the room beyond your table pleasantly hum in the distance. Of course, these restaurants also need to have excellent food and staff who make you feel looked after; nothing is more of a vibe-killer than the stress of being ripped off, or furiously signalling for the bill for 25 minutes.

London’s best romantic restaurants set the tone without making you feel like the atmosphere is engineered for a conveyor belt of couples. Whether it’s a tenth-story Mexican eatery with fireside tables that look out over the twinkling city, or a dimly-lit Soho hiding hole, where the candles on the tables feel charming rather than tacky, with these restaurants, any night can feel like date night.

Side Hustle

food, the most romantic restaurants in london, because any night can be date night

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Go from sliding into their DMs to sliding into a cosy leather booth at the intimate Side Hustle instead. Proving that romance isn’t all three-course silver-service meals, this hip-but-hidden spot in Covent Garden will cement you with serious kudos on a date, and that’s before you’ve even ordered. Go for the zingy clamato granita-topped oysters, then a selection of their tacos: baja-prawn bites, the classic carnitas, or go fully carnivorous with the bone-in ribeye to be messily assembled together at the table. Side Hustle also boasts some of the best cocktails in London, in our humble opinion.

Old Police Station Entrance, 28 Bow St, WC2E 7AW thenomadhotel.com/london/side-hustle

Jolene

food, the most romantic restaurants in london, because any night can be date night

jolene

Each of the numerous restaurants and cafés owned by this group (see also: Western’s Laundry, Primeur and Big Jo) have charm in spades, but it is the low-lit, snug dining room – which twinkles enticingly as night draws in – at their Newington Green outpost that is our pick for most romantic. The menu focuses on sharing plates of simple but delicious pastas, grilled meats and inventive salads, as well as a great list of low intervention wines. Don’t skip dessert, which often features a mind-blowing, River Café-inspired flourless chocolate cake.

21 Newington Green, London N16 9PU, jolenen16.com

Oren

For “I know this great little place…” vibes, Oren is the one. Just a few minutes off the bright lights of the busy Dalston strip, stepping into the petite, candle-lit restaurant instantly makes the real world feel far away, which is what makes chef Oded Oren’s cosy diner so perfect for a romantic evening. The small plates menu is inspired by Oren’s Tel Aviv heritage and the dishes – many of which are cooked over a charcoal grill – stretch from across the Mediterranean, so expect anything from raw gurnard with labneh and zhoug to lamb shawarma served up with a tangy tahini yoghurt, while there’s always some spectacular veggie offering too; brussels spiked with green harissa perhaps, or barrel-aged feta with butter beans, mopped up with their flatbread. Ask the server for a glass of their current orange wine, and savour that post-meal afterglow.

89 Shacklewell Lane, Dalston, E8 2EB orenlondon.com

Andrew Edmunds

food, the most romantic restaurants in london, because any night can be date night

andrew edmunds

A Soho institution that has sat inside an 18th century townhouse on Lexington Street for more than thirty years, Andrew Edmunds has remained while fads around it have come and gone. Its staying power is testament to the classic cooking and inviting atmosphere that it offers; the charmingly dingy dining room bustling with the clatter of wooden tables and positively glowing with life to anyone who walks past. The menu, scrawled daily on a piece of paper, is a lovingly curated jumble of perfectly cooked fish, meat and other seasonal fare. The perfect spot to wile away an evening as your glass is topped up and conversation (hopefully) flows too.

46 Lexington St, London W1F 0LP, andrewedmunds.com

Kudu

food, the most romantic restaurants in london, because any night can be date night

kudu

Romantic restaurants often conjure the image of traditional establishments, but this South African grill in Peckham manages to deliver both adventurous, modern cooking and an intimate atmosphere. Part of the Kudu Collective, a family-run group of restaurants, a cocktail bar, gallery and private dining room, this, their original outpost, blends South African delicacies with modern European cooking. The menu features snacks like peri peri duck hearts, kalahari spiced biltong, or chicken liver parfait choux buns with rooibos quince. The wine list is heavy on South African bottles, too, and excellently curated.

119 Queen’s Rd, London SE15 2EZ, kuducollective.com

Rochelle Canteen

food, the most romantic restaurants in london, because any night can be date night

rochelle canteen

The grounds of a primary school might not sound like the perfect location for a romantic meal for two, but Rochelle Canteen’s unusual setting is very much part of its allure. The sister restaurant to nose-to-tail spot St. John, this is a place for those in the know and the restaurant for sunny afternoons with a vermouth and tonic (if you’re fortunate enough to bag a table in the garden during the summer, that is). Known for rich and comforting fare, you can’t go wrong with one of their excellent pies, but make sure to leave room for something sweet; dessert is arguably the course that puts this restaurant in a league of its own.

16 Playground Gardens, London E2 7FA, arnoldandhenderson.com

Sessions Arts Club

The dining room that launched a thousand ‘where are you?!’ comments underneath the Instagram posts of those able to snag a reservation, this colourful spot is the London haunt du jour. Set in an 18th Century courthouse in well heeled Clerkenwell, and with some truly impressive attention to detail in terms of decor, Sessions Arts Club bills itself as ‘a place to disappear’ – the perfect adage for a romantic evening of sipping blood orange margaritas and slurping calamari pasta under the looming artworks and glowing lights.

Old Sessions House, 24 Clerkenwell Grn, London EC1R 0NA, sessionsartsclub.com

Decimo at The Standard

food, the most romantic restaurants in london, because any night can be date night

the standard

Perched on the tenth floor of the The Standard’s London outpost in Kings Cross, this Mexican-Spanish restaurant fuses the drama of its surrounding cityscape with an inviting and warm atmosphere, thanks in part to the fire at the centre of the sprawling dining room. The cocktail menu features a strong selection of mezcal and tequila-based options, from palomas to margaritas, as well as unique varieties of Spanish wine. The food, too, borrows from the best of each country, with plates of Ibérico jamón, fluffy golden tortillas and a wicked pepper dip to start, and fresh tacos and chargrilled meats to follow that are anything but tex-mex.

The Standard, 10th Floor, 10 Argyle St, London WC1H 8EG, decimo.london

Noble Rot

food, the most romantic restaurants in london, because any night can be date night

noble rot

A wine-lovers haven, the wine bar and oenophile magazine recently ventured into the full restaurant experience, opening a cosy spot in Soho which has proved a huge hit. The wine, of course, is excellent, and a great tip is to explore the by-the-glass list, as there’s often something exciting that’s just been opened – an activity we imagine would help lend some fun to a date or romantic evening. The food takes its cues from their origins as a bar, with delicious plates of fatty meats, terrines and charred bread with salty butter to soak up all that juice. There’s also more polished fare for those wanting a larger meal, like Cornish monkfish with mashed potato, or pappardelle with rabbit ragu.

2 Greek St, London W1D 4NB, noblerot.co.uk

Casse-Croûte

food, the most romantic restaurants in london, because any night can be date night

cassa croute

For a taste of Parisian romance that doesn’t include queuing at Eurostar security, this London Bridge bistro is just the ticket. This experience extends beyond the traditional interiors, with a menu comprising of a couple of options on a blackboard in French. This is somewhere to sink into and take their recommendation as to what’s good, though it goes without saying that should the beef wellington be on offer, it is obligatory. Order the house red, which comes in glass jugs and offers a slice of European romance on Bermondsey Street.

109 Bermondsey St, London SE1 3XB, cassecroute.co.uk

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