It doesn’t matter whether you like double dates or not, because you’ll probably find yourself on one at some point. If you’re lucky, you’ll know (and like) one half of the couple. If you’re really lucky, both. But unfortunately, you’re likely to be having dinner with one semi-stranger who comments on the weather and the ‘cracking bread’ at least twice an hour.
Whatever the circumstances, you need a certain type of restaurant. It’s got to be comfortable and probably booze-filled. And the food and atmosphere has to be so good that it negates any attempts at conversation about how bad the traffic getting here was. And who knows? Maybe you’ll end up having a great time.
If you’re certain you like these people, and therefore certain that you won’t be taking an ‘urgent’ phone call in precisely 90 minutes time, then Leroy is the restaurant you should spend your evening in. It’s a classy and relaxed Shoreditch restaurant and wine bar that encourages conversation as much as it does a second or third bottle. The smaller sharing plates, like a cheese-covered chicory salad or tartare on toast, are particularly tasty, and are perfect alongside a glass of whatever’s keeping the conversation flowing.
You haven’t felt this nervous since your mum shoved you and your monobrow out the front door before your year nine disco. It’s okay. Meeting your partner’s coupled up mates is pretty nerve-wracking, but importantly, Spiritland is the kind of cool, casual spot that makes you seem totally cool and casual too. This huge, music-focused café and restaurant inside Royal Festival Hall serves everything from sweet and sour pork belly to a kohlrabi, orange, and fennel salad, so there’s pretty much something for everyone. You should also know that they’re open until 2am Thursday to Saturday, so if all goes well you can get involved in their extensive cocktail menu until late.
When it comes down to it, double dates aren’t actually dates. They’re cut-throat social competitions. They’re the Hunger Games, only eating is almost entirely irrelevant. They’re about showing your superior knowledge, taste, and ability to eat a chargrilled quail without asking for another napkin. What you never do is choose the hot restaurant of the moment. Or the most expensive.You go for an understated classic like Trullo. A classy, casual, Highbury Corner Italian that will have the couple opposite eating pappardelle and lemon tart out of your hands until the end of time.
Double dates are often your classic competition of ‘WE LOVE EACH OTHER MORE, YOU BASTARDS’ - carefully disguised as a nice bonding meal. Humans are weird. But the excellent tarted up versions of British classics at Cora Pearl definitely aren’t. This sophisticated Covent Garden spot has a lot of green velvet banquette seating, some of the best chips in London, and a milk and cookies dessert you’ll trade teams for a bit of, like some kind of sugar-hungry Judas. If you’re looking to get romantic, head downstairs to the pink banquet seating area by the cocktail bar, which is intimate (without being too intimate) for four.
Nothing says ‘unconditional love’ like forcing your partner to go to dinner with your annoying coupled-up colleagues so that you don’t have to suffer alone. At least the coconut soft serve at Inko Nito will make all that suffering a whole lot easier to bear. This large Soho spot is the kind of place it’s worth heading to in a foursome just so you can try as many salads, sushi, and skewers from the robata grill as possible. The banging soundtrack, big open kitchen, and steady supply of nori old fashioned cocktails mean that you can accidentally end up having a great time here.
Oh pizza, the great unifier of our times, and more importantly, of couples who haven’t seen each other in bloody ages but at some point decided meeting up again would be a good idea. Head to Theo’s in Camberwell for some truly great wood-fired, sourdough pizza that are tasty enough to act as a conversation starter, as well as enough £7 negronis to keep any awkward silences at bay. You’ll find plenty of booths here but you should book ahead if you’re swinging by on the weekend.
What’s that? You sincerely, genuinely, love both of these people? You’ve laughed with them both. Cried with them both. Handed toilet paper to them both (separately). Well, in that case, you just want a great restaurant serving great food. Supawan does just that. The yum khao tod crispy rice starter is likely to be a revelation, even to four people who know a frankly concerning amount about each other, and the same goes for the stuffed chicken wings. There’s nothing try-hard or show-offy about Supawan. It’s just a good restaurant made for good friends.
Abeno is your double date dream. Especially if you’ve convinced yourself you have nothing to say to two people you’ve literally never met. The reason being is that this Bloomsbury okonomiyaki spot is as entertaining as it tasty, and watching one of the superb members of staff form, fry, and flip everything from a cottage pie okonomiyaki to gyoza, will provide at least 60% of the conversation. Which is, surely, more than enough. Your other half can pick up the remaining 40%.
Some restaurants are made for your day one couples. The ones you used to ride the bus to school with. Others are made for newer additions. You know, the ones you met in the photo booth at Shoreditch House and split an Uber home with. Gloria is a trattoria in Shoreditch that’s definitely made for the latter. The Hollywood-ish interior sets the scene for a good time, which is exactly what you’ll all have at this hot mess of a restaurant. Upstairs there’s a Gatsby-ish greenhouse feel, perfect for pizzas and plonk in the daytime, while downstairs there’s more of a Goodfellas and cocktails feel going on, ideal for that whole table carbonara served out of a parmesan wheel.
Although Campania is one of London’s most romantic restaurants that doesn’t rule it out of the double date category. Because, well, it’s really lovely. This rustic-ish Italian off Columbia Road is all about cobbles, candlelight, and carbs. The space itself is lots of artfully wooden tables and chairs, with the remnants of ragu and red wine past wiped off them. Both of which you’ll be consuming lots of. Whether you choose to be here day or night, it’s extremely hard not to settle in for the long haul. Though lots of people, and we mean lots, will be thinking the same thing.
Aside from being a convenient middle ground and having a menu that’s accessible and delicious for every dietary requirement, Rovi is also a superb restaurant. This West End Ottolenghi outpost has a vegetable focus, but don’t let that give you or anyone in your group second thoughts. This is a futuristic-feeling restaurant serving food that we should all be eating in the future. Szechuan tempura herbs, crumpet lobster toast, celeriac shawarma, and a beetroot chocolate tart that will have you DM-ing Yotam himself. You’ll come here as a group, and then come back alone.