The winter is for hibernating with a pack of hobnobs and seeing how long you can use your ex’s Netflix password without them noticing. But the summer? Well, the summer is for romance. Or at the very least, seeing how many of London’s terraces you can tick off under the guise of Hinge dates. Here’s where to eat and drink on summer dates, where you can capitalise on the good weather, or, let’s face it, bond over the lack thereof.
Love is in the air. Actually, it might just be pollen. Either way, upmarket Italian spot Luca is a great place for a date when you’re looking for something on the less casual side of romantic. This place isn’t cheap, but the marble bar, parmesan fries, and secluded outdoor terrace, make it worth the big price tag. Come here for a full-blown night of low light and handmade pasta, or just for a couple of homemade limoncello highballs and the parmesan fries.
Going on those early-in-the-game dates is all about getting to know someone. And what do you need when you’re meeting up with someone you don’t really know yet? Options. That’s what. And Mercato Metropolitano near Elephant And Castle has plenty. This open-air spot - it used to be a paper factory - has everything from booze, to hot dogs, to pizza, to a cheesemongers. Basically, there’s something for everyone, as well as live music, indoor and outdoor seating, and if all goes well there’s also an in-house cinema playing classic films.
Sure, rocking up with a Ray Bans collection and a vinyl of Blur: The Best Of under your arm is one way to subtly show your date that you’re really, just like, super cool, but suggesting Spiritland at Royal Festival Hall is better. This all-day cafe, bar, and restaurant has a retro feel with slick rounded booths, plenty of outdoor seating, a 2am liquor license, and a world-famous sound system. Yeah, we don’t really know what that entails either, but it sounds cool, doesn’t it?
Sure, going on an outdoor summer date sounds romantic. That is, if you wanna attempt to make small talk whilst using the Evening Standard as an umbrella and fending off hailstones from your date’s unsuspecting face. No, British weather cannot be trusted. But, the Aqua bar is on the 31st floor of the Shard so if the weather’s good you can enjoy the view of London looking her absolute best. If the weather’s bad, well, you’re inside and armed with a cocktail list. Be warned, this place is very expensive so it’s better suited for dates where you definitely, probably, already like them.
Morito in Exmouth Market doesn’t have any outdoor seating, or a roof garden, or even a skylight. So if you’re looking for summer date spots where you’ll potentially find love, and a vitamin D boost, then move along. But we think this place is still one of your best options for summer dating. Everything from their seasonal tapas dishes to the happy, energetic feel of the place make it perfect for creating that feeling you get on a holiday romance where you both look fit because of the sun tans and the waiter keeps free-pouring the vermouth. This place is a small corridor of a restaurant and is generally pretty busy, so it’s best to book ahead.
On balance, surviving the Central Line when it’s roughly as hot as the surface of the sun is completely worth it if you can utilise a summer sunset from Waterloo Bridge on dates. The Anchor and Hope in Southwark is one of London’s best gastropubs, but it’s also a decent spot to hit for a couple of pints before heading for a stroll along the south bank. Or just stick around and share some of their Mediterranean dishes - the excellent pasta is just as likely as that sunset to win them over.
Frank's Café & Campari Bar
You know how the saying goes: there’s nothing, absolutely nothing, as romantic as a car park. Okay, maybe people don’t say that, but you shouldn’t hold the fact that Frank’s is at the top of a multi-storey car park against this place’s date spot potential. This rooftop bar in Peckham serves cheap and cheerful cocktails and has one of the best views in the whole city. At peak times there can be a queue, but just think of it as time for getting all of that ‘so, you think dogs are pretty great too, huh?’ baseline chat out of the way.
Sager And Wilde is the kind of summertime date spot that will work whether it’s the first time or thousandth time you’re meeting this person. This relaxed restaurant and wine bar is housed in an old railway arch in Bethnal Green and you’re pretty much guaranteed a good time, whether it’s a sixth date spent slurping up the crab and chilli pasta, or a lowkey anniversary sat outside on the terrace by candlelight. And if the weather turns, don’t worry, there’s an equally excellent mezzanine upstairs.
The Pineapple is one of those old school backstreet drinking dens that is equal parts classy and casual. Just like you, right? This Kentish Town local also happens to have a big conservatory and garden out back that’s peak first date in the sunshine material. You’re mostly here for a couple pints that might turn into cocktails, but there’s some decent Thai food on offer if all that woo-ing makes you peckish.
If you’ve lived in London for a few years and been on a date between the months of May and September, then chances are that you’ve already been on a date at Pergola. But there’s a reason for that. This open air food court has lots of foliage, £8 on-tap cocktails, and a relaxed, could-be-at-the-beach-if-I-sprinkled-some-sand-in-my-shoes feel. This place is also massive, which helps to keep things feeling casual and avoids the issue of having ten people listen in on that endearing anecdote about how you thought you could speak cat until you were fourteen. Actually, maybe just stick to sipping their frozen pina coladas and leave that story for a later date.
Go for a picnic, they said. It’ll be really romantic, they said. Flash forward to asking your date whereabouts in Somerset they’re from, whilst internally panicking that you have, in fact, sat on an ant’s nest. No, what you want is The Prince. This pub, outdoor drinking hall, and food market has lots of nature. It’s like an English garden designed by Pinterest and Thumbelina. It also has casual benches and that lowkey boozy picnic feel, without the risk of too much nature. This place works just as well for a getting-to-know-you date over botanical cocktails, as for a night out with your partner, a bottle of wine, and some pizza.
Let’s be honest, if Pride And Prejudice was set now, good old Lizzy would have been a graphic designer who swiped right on Darcey_28, and they would have met on a roof garden. And that roof garden would probably be the very charming roof garden at The Culpeper in Spitalfields. This place is perfect for a one-two punch date, or for an early-in-the-game rooftop view and accidental beer fest.
Sure, some people might think the secret to a successful first date is laughter, openness, and honesty. But more likely, the secret is strong booze. NT’s is an open plan warehouse style bar in London Fields with a heated rooftop terrace, views across east London, and plenty of that strong booze we were talking about. This place gets busy and loud come the weekend, but it’s a great spot for a weeknight date where a little dutch courage won’t hurt.