Finding your one true love in London is one of the few things tougher than deciding who you’re going to vote for in Britain’s Got Talent. Hard as it may be, we luckily live in a city with ample options to at least have a decent dinner as you navigate the sometimes treacherous dating waters. The restaurants listed here run the gamut - from casual tapas bars that’ll be great if you’re just starting to get into it with someone you met online, to places for a serious meal with someone you’re starting to get serious with.
There’s a high likelihood that you have nothing in common with your date. That’s fine. Opposites attract. Basically you need a place that’s semi-entertaining before you start questioning the way you go about your love life. Greyhound Cafe is perfect in this situation. It’s a Thai all-day cafe that’s kind of wild. The menu looks like a fashion quarterly, with items written up the margin, and high contrast shots of every dish. The food is slightly bonkers Thai fusion, with spaghetti in the place of noodles, for example. And the atmosphere and service is completely unto itself. So, basically, you’ll definitely have something to talk about here.
If you’re an anxious person who likes to plan things, you can book a table in the back area of The Palomar. But the real action goes down at the walk-in only bar that takes up the front room - it’s where you want to have your date. Your wingman, (aka the bar staff) will keep the drinks flowing and will help you navigate the Israeli menu, which contains some of the most creative and crowd-pleasing small plates in London. The Palomar also provides the ultimate litmus test - can your date name that 80s tune playing in the background? If they can’t - dump them. If they can… dump them.
Your date comes from a family with high income, high expectations, and a high regard for the Cayman Islands. You need somewhere that shows you’re comfortable around conspicuous wealth. Meraki is your place. This is a Greek restaurant for gods and goddesses, where the kebabs look like they’ve been formed by some sort of ceramic master, where donuts come in mini-form to dip into a variety of decadent dips that you may or may not end up feeding your date. This is a place you go to the toilet and spend five minutes checking yourself out in the mirror because you are bloody gorgeous.
So your face doesn’t perform well under natural light, but you need your significantly better looking potential fling to give you a fair chance? Polpetto is your move. This Italian joint in Soho has flickering candlelight, wood panelling, and smushed-together tables, creating the sort of intimacy that works well for dates in general. The food and wine won’t change lives, but everyone will leave happy and satisfied.
Bringing someone here means that you’re seriously considering giving them the key to your flat. So that they can let the cleaner in for you every Wednesday morning. The Italian food is excellent. The wine list is excellent. The restaurant is beautiful. The staff are exceptional and as professional as they come. On second thought, can people date restaurants?
It’s time to throw in one of those activity dates, but the only activity you’re really into is drinking alcohol and eating amazing food? Noble Rot has you sorted. They sell excellent glasses by 75ml measure here, so our typical move is to order a few at a time to start off the night and call it a do-it-yourself “wine tasting”. Sit in the bar area up front for a more casual date, or go for a full-on dinner of exceptional British food in the main dining room.
You’ve googled your potential new significant other and have just found out they are from money. The new type. Bob Bob Ricard is where to show them that you know how to “rich person” too. It’s an opulent restaurant in Soho with over-the-top decor, that does posh French and British brasserie food. Everything comes with caviar - so order that. Also, every table conveniently has a “push for champagne” button - so keep pushing, because you’re better on bubbles and they can definitely afford it.
It’s time to throw in a steak date because, you know, you want to eat steak. But you also want to eat somewhere where you want to see how your date holds up in ‘real lighting’. Lurra is the place for you. It’s a beautifully designed place - the space is elegant and calming, not that you’ll notice it though because you’ll probably be fully distracted by the beautiful Galician blond steak on the table. Under this lighting it may look better than your date.
This Spanish tapas restaurant just off Tottenham Court Road is the restaurant to keep in your back pocket for that time when the moon and stars finally align, and the person you’ve been texting for weeks is finally free to meet in real life. It’s an intimate set up with solid tapas that’s ideal for sharing while still keeping things casual and low-commitment.
Phone down, chopsticks up, get ready to eat and talk a lot. Roka is perfect for that ’getting to know you better” date, and/or “I want to find out if you are actually fun and have a personality” date. The lively atmosphere means that it’s impossible to have a bad time at this modern Japanese restaurant on Charlotte Street, and the food is all good. As an added bonus, there’s a bar downstairs, which is perfect for pre and/or post date bants.
Set in a grand Grade II listed building with high ceilings, epic staircases, and a swanky interior, this restaurant will give any potential new love who is into ‘nice stuff’ the horn. The German-inspired menu may not impress you as much as the interiors, but it’s a good call if you want to play it safe. Plan to hit the in-house bar after, if all goes well. Or, plan to do a “drop and run” at Kings Cross station, which is steps away, when you realise they’re a cat person.
You’ve just realized that your potential new flame may actually be a very nice person, so it’s time to give the illusion that you can play nice too. Trullo is a very nice Italian restaurant, with very nice lighting, very nice food, very nice wine, and very nice booths. There’s pasta made fresh daily, and great meat coming off the grill. As we said, nice.
Known for its Aussie brunches during the day, the Kings Cross location of Granger & Co becomes a surprisingly good spot for a low key date in the evenings. The menu, which includes a pretty great shrimp burger, has enough variety to keep things interesting. Hopefully your date also keeps up their end of the deal by not being an absolute bore.
Do you like playing games? Well, here’s a game to play with your date: trying to find Westerns Laundry. It’s on an obscure stretch of road near the Emirates Stadium next to a car chop shop, with literally nothing to indicate that there’s a brilliant little wine bar and modern French restaurant inside. Once you do get inside though, the vibe and food are worth the orienteering class in order to find the bloody place. Ask for the tables for two when you book, or sit at the bar to keep it casual.
Right. You’ve been on a few dates and they don’t know what you’re really like yet. You know, that person who’s been known to class a Smint as the same as brushing your teeth, or who’s often to be found eating gherkins from the jar with mayonnaise and watching iPlayer. You know, the real you. Keep up the cool, refined, tasteful pretence by going to P. Franco. This little Clapton wine bar is an excellent spot for a date - as long as you get two seat on the main island - and is perfect for an evening of intimate conversation, delicious food from changing chefs, and gallons of wine. Oh, and elaborate false pretences.
You’re either very broke or very unsure about this, so you want to go to a place with little financial commitment, and a serious drinks menu. Two words: Taco Tuesday at Del74. Okay, so, four words. Shut up. Del74 serves passable tacos and decent margaritas that become very, very appealing when they’re 50% off on a Tuesday. It means if you like your date, you’re a genius and you’re in for an excellent food and fuel filled night. And if you don’t, well, at least that was a cheap laugh, right?
So you’re not that cool IRL, but you’ve gotten yourself in a situation where your date thinks you might be cooler than the average? Bistrotheque is the place that’ll help you continue your with epic lie. Off a back street deep in east London, this French restaurant mixes it up with an industrial space, white table cloths, an open kitchen, and art projected onto the walls. The result is a vibe that is quirky, arty, and yes, ultimately very cool. Just like the persona you’re trying to project.
Your potential summer fling works ‘in the arts’ and you need to impress them? Sardine is your ace card. It’s awkwardly situated bang in the middle of the road connecting Angel to Old Street, which makes it a bit of an adventure to get to. (Note: people in the arts love a bit of ‘discovery’). The restaurant used to be an art gallery and has a beautiful mural on the wall. (Note: people in the arts love er... art?) The southern French-inspired food will keep you feeling cultured - a sure fire win-win situation for you. Make sure to book or risk being seated on the communal table where you may have to talk to full blown strangers about art.
Your internet date has just passed the ‘are they normal’ test at the Ace Hotel bar and now you’re kind of into them, and also a little bit hungry. Oklava is just a five-minute stroll through the back streets of Shoreditch and provides the perfect getting to know you setting involving an array of high end Turkish food that will keep the interrogation session running smoothly. Make sure to avoid disappointment by calling ahead to secure a table or a space at the bar.
The excellent Spanish/Moroccan food and the amazing drinks list are not the main reasons to come to Morito for a date. The reason to come here is because it has great lighting. So you can relax in the universal truth that everything and everyone (including you) looks good here. You’re fine. They definitely fancy you.
A date in Bermondsey may seem like a trek but think of it like a metaphor. You’re in it for the long-term. You’re willing to make sacrifices. You're willing to commit. Flour and Grape is an excellent pasta restaurant and perfect for a date. The food is as tasty as it comes, and simple too. The atmosphere is classy without feeling stuffy. And the price is super reasonable (unless you pig out because it’s so delicious).
When you realise you really like someone you need to level stuff out. Maintain expectations. Not too high, not too low. You want to show this person what life will be like on the reg - basically, pretty good and pretty cool. That’s pretty much what Theo’s is. This is the neighbourhood pizza place that everyone wishes they had. The pizzas are delicious and taste very fresh. Mainly because they are. There’s a trendy buzz to the place and, if you’re local, you’ll both want to make this ‘your place’.
Bar Tozino on Maltby Street is an ‘I know this little place…’ power move. This intimate space is the perfect setting to discuss what you ‘really want from life’ (to move to Barcelona, world peace, a shag) over some Spanish wine and some excellent tapas. Finish it off by taking a romantic stroll over Tower Bridge, ideally before sharing a taxi back to your place.
So you speak five words of French fluently and you want to impress your potential new beau with all of them? Naughty Piglets in Brixton is where to throw down the language in a cosy and intimate setting. The creative French food and natural wines will also have you showing off your “merci beaucoup” at least 10 times whenever the staff bring your order to your table. They’ll be tres impressed by the end of the evening.
This cute little Italian in Peckham keeps things simple, with a short menu serving tasty pastas and classic meat dishes which gets its point across in a uncomplicated way. Make notes on how to proceed with your dating life accordingly.
Your internet match of the week keeps harping on about the amazing times they had at Uni - and how they wish they were still there. This rustic, yet classy Spanish tapas spot in Clapham is where to show them what post graduation adult life looks like, and to see if you have more in common than ‘nailing’ freshers week, or surviving a night at Infernos.
The only thing that could possibly go wrong on a date at Shikumen is if you didn’t do your pre-selection due diligence right on your potential new significant other. The questions to ask for future reference is ‘Do you like amazing Chinese Food?’ if the answer to that is no, then it’s time to swipe left and find someone else to eat dim sum with.
Naughty Piglets is one of our favorite restaurants in Brixton, but if you find yourself needing a date spot in Victoria, try their new sister restaurant The Other Naughty Piglet. The restaurant takes up the upstairs bar area of a theatre, and while it’s in a slightly sterile location, it’s a nice place to settle in for a glass of wine, their signature XO linguine, and other delicious creative small bites.
You have the imagination of an amoeba on a good day, but you know that the person you’re going out with deserves better than a pizza chain. That said, you really want pizza. Take them to Santa Maria Chelsea, a hip restaurant with fun and casual vibes. You’ll look semi-creative. Even if you order the margherita.
If you recently found out your date had a bit part in series 2 of The Only Way Is Made In Cheshire or something along those lines, BlueBird Chelsea is where to bring them. They’ll love the swanky space, the fact that it’s in Chelsea, and the constant hover of paparazzi waiting outside, who will no doubt accidentally mistake them for an actual Z-lister.