Romantic restaurants in London that are ideal for Valentine’s Day
We all fancy a little romance in our lives — and for those one-on-one nights out with a better half, we ask it of restaurants too. We want candles, cosy alcoves and a breathtaking view too, if it's going, while the presence of a couple of aphrodisiacs on the menu never hurt.
Choosing where to dine on a date is often a daunting pursuit, but while every couple has a different idea of romance, some London restaurants are sure-fire swoon-inducers.
From enchanting classics to lesser-known nooks, from high-end "treat yourself" places to dining rooms for a more affordable date night, these are the London hotspots where love is always in the air. Just be sure to ignore any bickering couples.
Sessions Arts Club
Skip through the little red door and take the lift to the fourth floor of a historic Clerkenwell building to discover London’s worst-kept secret, a fantasia of faded Georgian glamour where the Arts Club schtick reassures that the worn paint and crumbling plasterwork are intentionally shabby chic rather than signs of the imminent collapse of a ceiling holding up a rooftop terrace. Seasonal French-cum-Italian cooking comes from chef Florence Knight, wines from the chaps at Noble Rot.
Old Sessions House, 24 Clerkenwell Green, EC1R 0NA, sessionsartsclub.com
It’s been voted London’s most romantic restaurant time and time again, and has the stats to back it up — Clos Maggiore has been witness to countless wedding proposals over the years. The winning formula includes high-end modern European food, a stellar wine list, slick service, a cosy open fire, a glass roof showing off the starry night sky, and a famous floral ceiling installation (be warned that is only in one room; the rest of the place doesn’t have quite the same charm). What more could one wish for?
33 King Street, WC2E 8JD, closmaggiore.com
Bob Bob Ricard
This sexy Soho spot, now with a sister venue over in the City, is glamorous, fun and endlessly impressive. Highlights of the Twenties-style decor include a “Press For Champagne” button (and it works), while the chicken Kyiv is a must-try from the Eastern European-accented French menu. A dream of a room, where the bill can be as little or large as wanted, and ideal for any occasion — so long as a spot of garlic won’t kill the mood, that is.
1 Upper James Street, W1F 9DF, bobbobricard.com
Well worth anyone’s time to get to Highbury and Islington, Trullo combines two favourite things about restaurants: intimate, low-lit surrounds that look like a French bistro from central casting and simple, flavour-led Italian food (chef-owner Tim Siadatan was part of the first intake at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen). The pasta is perfect, main courses on the money, the wines won’t break the bank and there are niftily mixed cocktails to start and end the evening.
300-302 St Paul’s Road, N1 2LH, trullorestaurant.com
Curled up in one of the quaintest corners of Mayfair, Kitty Fisher’s is the perfect bolthole for cosy tête-à-têtes. Candlelit and adorned with period paintings, it revels in the building’s Georgian heritage across its two diminutive dining rooms. The menu is a delight of elegant but heartwarming treats: the gooey, deeply flavoured Welsh rarebit topped with chilli is neatly portioned for two. Grilling is the name of the game, so plump for perfectly cooked portions of meat and fish with contemporary British accompaniments.
10 Shepherd Market, W1J 7QF, kittyfishers.com
Galvin La Chapelle
This high-ceilinged, architecturally stunning former chapel makes an impressive backdrop for French-minded fine-dining, with doting but not disruptive service sealing the deal. The Spitalfields spot is romance at its most classic, and is a haven from the busy streets of east London. Lovely lighting and a particularly good wine list make it an alluring room to while away hours over a glass or several.
35 Spital Square, E1 6DY, galvinrestaurants.com
This Bermondsey Street bistro comes across as a compendium of all the clichés of a romantic French restaurant — red-checked tablecloths, black-and-white tiled floors, hirsute waiters and posters of the Folies Bergère — but the exceptional cooking saves the place from feeling like a pastiche. Cream has pride of place in calorific dishes chalked up on a daily changing blackboard menu and with space for only 20 diners, booking ahead (telephone only, bien sûr) is essential.
109 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3XB, cassecroute.co.uk
Fourteen floors above Southwark at the very top of the Hoxton hotel, Seabird has views to take the breath away. If you can tear yourself away from the terrace vista, the oyster menu is also quite the sight to behold, usually with eight varieties available and a late afternoon “oyster happy hour” which is one of the most affordable ways in the capital to get to grips with the famous aphrodisiac. A tip: bag yourself a cosy corner table to ensure both intimacy and that everyone gets a glimpse of that skyline.
The Rooftop, The Hoxton, 40 Blackfriars Road, SE1 8PB, seabirdlondon.com
Late-night serenades, a caviar menu and a dining room drenched in red velvet: dates don’t get much more glamorous than they do at Park Chinois. From the swoon-inducing live band to the bathroom taps shaped like gold swans, this Mayfair Chinese restaurant is an exercise in opulence, styled after the glamorous nightclubs of Thirties Shanghai. Intimate nights can be shared upstairs in the Salon de Chine, while dinner in the downstairs Club Chinois is accompanied by a high-kicking cabaret show — a dead cert for getting all concerned hot under the collar. Indulge in the superior roasted duck and pancakes or splash out on buttery-soft portions of wagyu beef.
17 Berkeley Street, W1J 8EA, parkchinois.com
French might be the obvious choice for a romantic dinner à deux but one needn’t go all spaghetti-style Lady and the Tramp with to say “that’s amore!” to Italian cooking. The house special at Brutto is a starter of dough balls and soft cheese called “coccoli”, which translates to English as “cuddles”. Still not convinced? The dim lighting makes anyone look their best self, London’s finest (or at least cheapest) Negronis cast a flattering red glow and should your date not go well, tables are close enough together to strike up a conversation with your neighbours.
35-37 Greenhill Rents, EC1M 6BN, brutto.co.uk
The Prince Regent
Go one step further than a waterside view, and take your date onto the canal for a scenic boat ride while they tuck into dinner. It's not just the romantic setting that is the draw here — the food really is exceptional, with British seafood taking centre stage on an internationally influenced menu. You just might want to check, though, that your other half doesn't get seasick before stepping on board.
Sheldon Square, W2 6PY, londonshellco.com
If it’s enduring love you’re looking for, J Sheekey’s passion for prime seafood has burned for more than 100 years. The West End restaurant has hosted many a star of nearby stages over the last century, and black-and-white images of some of those famous faces line the walls. The Champagne bar makes a glamorous spot for two to linger, accompanied by shellfish aplenty and J Sheekey’s famous selection of oysters.
28-32 St Martin's Court, WC2N 4AL, j-sheekey.co.uk
Noble Rot Soho
There was much gnashing of teeth when the Gay Hussar, a Hungarian restaurant which had operated on Greek Street since 1953, closed in 2018, even though no one seemed to have eaten there since the turn of the century: not an issue for this fabulous reinvention of the site, which has retained all the old-world charm but brought the nostalgia bang up to date with deliriously enjoyable comfort food and one of London’s best wine lists.
2 Greek Street, W1D 4NB, noblerot.co.uk
Looking to spice things up a bit? Take the romance to another level — or 33 — at the Shard’s sky-high northern Chinese restaurant, where the panoramic views of the capital are simply astounding. Inside, the restaurant is low-lit, dotted with glowing red lanterns, and intricately decorated with antique wooden panels. Things really heat up when you get to the menu: Sichuan spice peppers most dishes, so it’s aphrodisiac-central.
33, The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, SE1 9RY, hutong.co.uk
Its namesake founder may have died in 2022 but Andrew Edmunds the restaurant remains a Soho classic: relaxed but smart and with an exceptionally well-priced wine list (the value improves as you work your way into the pricier echelons of the roster, so go big). Andrew Edmunds oozes a romantic old-school charm, especially of an evening when it is tightly packed and lit almost entirely by the wine bottles filled with candles that adorn each table.
46 Lexington Street, W1F 0LP, andrewedmunds.com
A reincarnation of chef Henry Harris’s noughties Knightsbridge restaurant Racine, this smash-hit newcomer brings the attitude of a Lyonnais bouchon (a sort of turbo-charged bistro ) to the upstairs of a Farringdon pub. It’s much nicer than that sounds — the light-filled dining room is partly encased by a suntrap conservatory — while the cooking from the blackboard menu can be as gutsy or gentle as one’s taste requires.
6 Cowcross Street, EC1M 6BP, bouchonracine.com
Who said that romantic had to mean low lit, candles and corners? The stunning floral-flanked setting of the greenhouses at Petersham Nurseries offers a loved-up vibe of an entirely different kind and the pretty setting is matched by equally beautiful plates of fresh, seasonal food. A good bet for a lunchtime date, followed by a stroll through Richmond Park or along the river.
Church Lane, Petersham Road, TW10 7AB, petershamnurseries.com
For the Mr Darcys and Elizabeth Bennets of this world, a cosy night in a Georgian townhouse should do just the trick. Add the fact that French restaurant L’Escargot has entertained most of Soho’s most famous bon-viveurs in its 90-year history, and you’ll detect an illicit frisson of scandal in the air. For ultimate date ambience, be sure to grab a table in the front dining room: plush velvet furnishings, scarlet red walls and a chandelier hanging from its period ceiling are all built for romantic revellers. It’s presently closed for refurbishment but should reopen soon.
48 Greek Street, W1D 4EF, lescargot.co.uk
Small but perfectly formed, this canal barge moored on the Regent’s Canal in Islington has space for just 40 diners, nearly all of whom only have eyes for the person sitting opposite, illuminated by soft lamplight. Owners (and brothers) Fin and Lorcan are scions of London restaurant royalty Jon Spiteri (currently fronting Sessions Arts Club) and know the value of a well-pressed tablecloth, sparkling glassware, expertly mixed cocktails and seasonal modern British cooking.
17 Shepherdess Walk, N1 7JL, thestudiokitchen.co.uk
Sketch Lecture Room and Library
Sketch has both style and substance in abundance. While the ochre Gallery restaurant is more instantly recognisable, it’s dinner in the upstairs Lecture Room and Library that will really wow your other half. Pierre Gagnaire’s food has earned its three Michelin stars (and a dazzling price tag to match), while the dining room boasts red and gold surroundings so sumptuous you’re in danger of falling more in love with the room than your date. Extraordinary doesn’t cover it.
9 Conduit Street, W1S 2XG, sketch.london
Blanchette is the model of a French country house a step away from the streets of Soho. A seat at the bar is in full view of the art nouveau-tiled walls, while the back tables are topped with candles and surrounded by a jumble of shabby-chic bric-a-brac. You and your date are encouraged to share as you pick through snacks of cheese beignets and pork and duck rillettes, robust meat and fish dishes, and a decadent menu of cheese and honey pairings.
9 D'Arblay Street, W1F 8DR, blanchettesoho.co.uk
“Where there is no wine there is no love,” wrote literature’s least-likely romantic, the Greek tragedian Euripides, and where better to embrace that passion than Passione Vino? This love-letter to Italian wine, candlelight and floral wallpaper has been charming Shoreditch since 2003, with bottles from the 320-stong list suggested by owner Luca Dusi after a series of friendly questions and simple, seasonal cooking inspired by his Venetian grandmother.
85 Leonard Street, EC2A 4QS, passionevino.co.uk
If slick and sexy is the date vibe you’re going for, the low-lit labyrinth of Hakkasan’s Mayfair restaurant is one of London’s most seductive spots. Head underground via the waterfall-lit stairs to find tables flanked by peek-a-boo wooden panelling and a gently thrumming soundtrack. The order? A Michelin-starred menu featuring wagyu beef dumplings, Peking duck with caviar and lobster with truffle sauce.
17 Bruton Street, W1J 6QB, hakkasan.com
Le Pont De La Tour
This classic French restaurant which majors in seafood has a particularly special feature up its sleeves — breathtaking views of Tower Bridge and the Thames. Obviously you should be gazing into your partner’s eyes for most of the meal, but should that not be the case you won’t be short of somewhere to look.
36D Shad Thames, SE1 2YE, lepontdelatour.co.uk
Dinner and a show is a classic way to impress a date — but at Otto’s, dinner is the show. The Holborn restaurant is something of a hidden gem favoured by food critics, and its famous dish of canard à la presse — or pressed duck — is a theatrical performance like few others in the capital’s restaurants. The bird is prepared tableside, often by the charmingly eccentric Otto, using a silver press to extract the blood (possibly not one for the squeamish). Three courses of duck result, to be enjoyed between two. Look out for Elin too, who keeps the show on the road in exceptional style.
182 Grays Inn Road, WC1X 8EW, ottos-restaurant.com
Duck & Waffle
There’s one very obvious reason why Duck & Waffle features in this list — the views. The restaurant is one of the highest in London and it has the impressive outlook to match (just be sure to specify a table by the window, otherwise the effect isn't quite the same). That said, there are plenty of other reasons to come. The modern British food is an impressive affair in itself, and given D&W is open 24 hours, any time is good for a date.
110 Bishopsgate, EC2N 4AY, duckandwaffle.com
Not, perhaps, a dining room to come to on a first date, the palatial surrounds of this world-famous hotel are worth dressing up for, not least because gents must wear a jacket and tie and no-one should even contemplate turning up in trainers. Frescoes cover the ceiling, chandeliers drip with gold leaf, a string quartet strums away in a distant corner of the Versailles-sized room while the trees of Green Park sway outside the full-length windows. Simply magical, albeit a spell abruptly broken by the arrival of the bill.
150 Piccadilly, W1J 9BR, theritzlondon.com
La Poule Au Pot
Featuring rustic stone walls and an abundance of candles, this bistro delivers a slice of rural France to the elegant streets between Sloane Square and Victoria. Escargots, steak-frites and rabbit in mustard sauce are among the classics on offer, though the best dish is the beef bourguignon. Enjoying its well-priced, all-French wine list among the cosy, close surroundings is a treat on a rainy day, while staff greeting you with "Bonjour, ça va?" is a heartwarming thrill.
231 Ebury Street, SW1W 8UT, pouleaupot.co.uk
Laying claim to the title of London’s oldest restaurant, Rules has character by the bucketload. Cosy up with your date on one of the cosy red banquettes and lose yourselves in a time gone by. The traditional menu majors on game, while oysters are also a popular choice. For the so-inclined, its martini is also topnotch; in fact, the bar is arguably the best thing about this place.
34-35 Maiden Lane, WC2E 7LB, rules.co.uk
Let’s be clear; this is very much a special occasion kind of place. Michel Roux Jr’s exquisite French restaurant is unbeatable for old-school fine dining — be prepared to do the time warp with carpeted floors, starchy white tablecloths and elaborate tabletop sculptures — and its two Michelin stars command a price to match. But for couples who’ve been together a while, it may just be the ideal place.
43 Upper Brook Street, W1K 7QR, le-gavroche.co.uk