Finding your soul mate in London is tough. Mostly because we don’t believe in soul mates until someone sends us a Peep Show gif on Hinge after our tenth pint. Affection, gross. But hard as it may be, we do live in a city that - technically - has a lot of potential suitors, and more importantly, many excellent date night restaurants. In this guide you’ll find everything from low-key tapas bars that are perfect for a casual situation with that person who finally left a toothbrush at yours, to special spots for dinner with your favourite human who you’ve been kissing since before the Millennium Dome was a thing - these are the best date spots in London.
Honestly, we could be on our fourth divorce this decade and Frenchie would still make us feel like getting a little bit handsy. This place has all the hallmarks of a great date restaurant. There’s a marble bar perfect for sipping cocktails, and a modern brasserie menu, although we warn you, there’s also a bacon and maple syrup scone you’ll 100% fancy more than your date. Whether it’s a third date or an anniversary, Frenchie has pretty much got you covered.
What is love if not being able to spend 18 hours watching a box set with another human and getting to simultaneously eat pasta whilst flirting? A great spot for the latter is Manteca in Soho, an Italian-inspired restaurant that makes some pretty excellent food at a reasonable price. Everything from the brown crab cacio e pepe to the ox cheek pappardelle make this place popular, so unless you want to find yourself in the dog house claiming that ‘Resy is clearly trying to break us up again, and we shouldn’t let them’ then be sure to book ahead.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Going to Lina Stores is basically like walking into a Dulux campaign entitled something along the lines of Pastels, Always Pastels, Forever. As well as being very good looking, this handmade pasta spot also has some great pici, ravioli, taglioni, and more, on offer and whether you’re here on that crucial third date or your casual third anniversary before heading back to your sofa, you should order the orecchiette with chilli and lamb sausage - it’s excellent. If you’re looking to make a proper night of it you’re also going to want the tiramisu ice cream sandwich and several of their negronis on your table.
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 seats 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.
This airy Shoreditch corner restaurant works for date night, two-fold. Plan one: have a proper sit-down meal, enjoy several modern European sharing plates, and chat about your week. Plan two: grab two seats at the bar, order some charcuterie, and forget about your week over a bottle of great wine. The setting is sophisticated and adult. And no, we don’t mean boring. We mean it’s a top place for grown ups to hang out in. It’s kind of like taking a glimpse into your idyllic future together. You’ll think, we could live like this one day. We’ll throw dinner parties and maybe own a wine rack. It’ll be lovely. Whether you go for plan one, or plan two, be sure to get involved in the snacks. They’re great.
Love is love. And that’s true despite the fact that you’re a proud vegetarian but your partner regularly goes all hyena with a rack of ribs. Head for a cool and casual date night at Bubula, a vegetarian restaurant in Spitalfields, that’s not just serving some of the best Middle Eastern vegetarian food, but some of the best Middle Eastern food, full stop. You’re definitely going to want to get involved in the fried aubergine, black seed honey-covered halloumi, and for extra brownie points, phone ahead and ask for a couple of spots at the counter in the window. They’re the best seats in the house.
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).
Look, we know that having met your potential future in-laws, the name Daddy Bao might fill you with fear. It shouldn’t. Partially because there’s minimal chance of anyone asking you about your feelings towards Boris Johnson here, but also because this is one of the best low-key restaurants for a cool and cosy date night. You’re going to want to go heavy on the buns here, but you should also get involved in the dumplings, Taiwanese fried chicken, and as many of their plum wine negronis as possible. The best part is that this place is surprisingly affordable and you can easily make a night of it for £50.
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.
If you’re looking for a date night that will cost the equivalent of your signature sexy move - buying their favourite chocolate bar and doing two thirds of the washing up before they get home - then Flor might be somewhat (astronomically) over budget. But what this tiny wine bar, restaurant, and bakery, lacks in affordability it makes up for in what we like to define as ‘serious charmability’. In Borough Market, this place serves excellent small plates for big prices, so it’s best reserved for when you’re really in need of a knockout night involving great wines and some orange yuzu scarlet prawns that very well might be our soulmates.
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.
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.
Six Portland Road is not only a very helpful name if you’re prone to forgetting the address of where you’re going. It’s also a great little neighbourhood restaurant in Notting Hill. That translates to: it’s calm, it’s cosy, and it has plenty plenty of tealight candles come evening. Their menu changes daily but you can expect a bit of British, a bit of French, a touch of Italian, and usually some seafood that you should definitely get involved in. Just be aware that they’re only open on weekdays.
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.
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.
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.