Finding an intimate date spot is not an easy art.
You need somewhere that’s not so big that you can’t hear each other, but not so small that everyone can hear you. You need candlelight, portions that are big enough to share, and ideally, a bar to head for drinks before, or afterwards, if it’s the kind of date you want to continue.
In short, you need this list.
Campania | Hackney
Cosy, candlelit, and loaded with carbs: Campania is one of London’s most reliable date spots, whether you’re on a blind date or are celebrating your five year anniversary. Tables are packed in to a ramshackle former dairy just off Columbia Road, lavished with love in all the right places and left to artfully disintegrate in others. Try to score a table in their inner courtyard if you can; with its flagstone paving and brick walls you could be in Sicily, tucking into eminently shareable dishes of hearty Italian regional fare and bottles of good wine. But seeing as this isn’t Sicily, it’s covered, too. READ MORE
Great bars nearby: Sager + Wilde, or the bar below Morito on Thurs-Sat
Details: 23 Ezra Street, E2 7RH
Maggie Jones’s | Kensington
Maggie Jones’s is named after the pseudonym its most famous patron – Princess Margaret – regularly used to book in here, so it basically has mischief baked into its DNA. The place is a picture of date-worthy charm, with baskets of herbs suspended from the ceiling; cosy, intimate booths hugging the walls and candles (lit at all hours of the day) wedged into old Champagne bottles. There’s a very reasonable set menu of sumptuous rustic fare on offer, and this is a place where it’s totally legitimate to order the house wine on a date – they’ll plonk a magnum of the stuff on the table, and charge you for however much you get through: perfect for both dates that you want to wrap up quickly, or go on long into the night… READ MORE
Also good: Maggie Jones’s sister restaurant in Pimlico, La Poule au Pot, is also exceptionally beautiful.
Great bars nearby: Slink off to Dishoom for cocktails.
Details: 6 Old Court Place, Kensington Church Street, W8 4PL
Chameleon | Marylebone
If you’re looking for a truly private date spot, it doesn’t get much more romantic than the greenhouses at Chameleon. These private glasshouses are nestled in the garden of a 200-year old church, and the smallest ones are perfect for an intimate dinner à deux. Each one is decked out with a canopy of seasonally-changing flowers, from cherry blossom in Spring to winter roses, and the food is a date-friendly array of Tel Aviv-inspired sharing plates. Obviously, you can’t put a price on love… but it’s quite handy that there’s no hire fee or minimum spend, either. READ MORE
Great bars nearby: Slip into a booth at Meraki’s hidden bar, or head down to the subterranean cocktail den Bourne & Hollingsworth
Details: 1 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 4AQ
Sessions Arts Club | Clerkenwell
Sessions Arts Club is being hailed as the place to be seen right now. So if you don’t want to be seen, you’ll want to make a beeline for the buttery soft leather booths up on the mezzanine floor of this courthouse-turned-restaurant. Nestled up among the beautifully plastered rafters, you’ll be able to feast on crab croquettes, clams in Riesling with crème fraîche and chocolate tart before slipping out to the terrace for a nightcap by the roaring fireside. READ MORE
Great bar nearby: Sip exquisite cocktails at The Zetter Townhouse
Details: The Old Sessions House, 22 Clerkenwell Green, EC1R 0NA
Tranga | Newington Green
Short of booking time off work, giving your credit card a healthy beating and pilfering your date’s passport, Tranga is the best way to whisk your beloved off to Northern Spain for the evening. This bohemian den of Galician tapas and natural wines is crammed with vintage bric a brac, candlelight and rickety wooden tables for two – if you don’t go for a table on the street outside, that is. Plus, the menu changes daily, so you can return as a serial first dater and never get bored. READ MORE
Great bar nearby: The cellar bar downstairs is a cosy spot for a sweet post-dinner sherry, or stroll down to Hector’s for a change of scene.
Details: 61 Newington Green, N16 9PX
The Barbary Next Door | Covent Garden
The Barbary Next Door is already a romantic, candlelit, intimate destination unto itself. Head down there on any given night, and you’re likely to find a warm, buzzing atmosphere that’s nevertheless dialled down a couple of notches from its bustlingly lively neighbour (The Barbary, in case there’s any confusion). But if you score yourself the two seats right at the end of the ‘L’ shaped bar, you’ll feel as though it’s just you and the chef, as he plies you both with dish after superlative dish… READ MORE
Great bars nearby: Below Stone Nest frequently has live music, while The American Bar At The Savoy is as classy as they come.
Details: 16A Neal’s Yard, WC2H 9DP
Turnips | Borough Market
Straddling that rare intersection of intimate and low-key is Turnips, a restaurant from one of Borough Market’s finest fresh fruit and veg stalls. Set up in the market itself, it allows you to dine in one of London’s most iconic spaces, which they’ve rendered into a cosy little date spot with festoon lighting, flowers, and furs slung over the chairs. The menu here is overseen by former City Social chef Tomas Lidakevicius, who puts together dishes of incomparable beauty (all the more surprising for the laid-back setting). Settle in for a curated tasting menu, or just stop by for a couple of small plates with a little English sparkling wine, and see where the evening takes you… READ MORE
Great bars nearby: Wine amongst the chimneypots at Tap & Bottle.
Details: 43 Borough Market, London SE1 9AH
Andrew Edmunds | Soho
Andrew Edmunds will make you want to cut off your power supply and live forever by candlelight. You look good. No, you look great, and the fact that you found a restaurant serving wine barely marked up from cost price is making you look even better. The food here is saucy, both literally and metaphorically: share your best anecdotes over baked dover sole with brown butter and braised lamb with indecent mashed potato, and finish up with the rum baba with whipped cream and booze-soaked prunes. READ MORE
Great bars nearby: SOMA for moody, Indian-inspired cocktails, or Bar Américain if you’re feeling fancy (then get tickets to the late show at the Crazy Coqs).
Details: 46 Lexington Street, W1F 0LP
Julie’s | Notting Hill
A Notting Hill classic since 1969, which has recently received a plush refurb courtesy of the original Julie (interior designer Julie Hodgess). The bare bones of the place are still the same, though, with plenty of cosy, semi-private nooks and booths separated off from the masses by draped velvet curtains – though in the warmer months, tables on the piazza outside, set out under a twinkling canopy of fairlights, are just as safe a bet. The food’s had a reboot too: it’s now taken care of by Shay Cooper, who was previously running the Michelin starred kitchen at The Goring, and there’s a whole load of Champagne available by the glass. Tina Turner used to dance on the tables here; now that mantle has passed to you. READ MORE
Great bars nearby: Cocktails and low lighting at Trailer Happiness
Details: 135 Portland Road, W11 4LW
Café Boheme | Soho
Justin De Souza
The trouble: you would like to go to an intimate, quiveringly romantic date spot, but don’t want to be surrounded by, ugh, other couples. La solution: a late night date at Café Boheme. It’s a dark, rowdy den with a sheen of sophistication; a perfectly dressed cast (waiters in neat waistcoats; the live band in berets; folkloric Characters of Soho emerging from the woodwork in all their finery) bustling around you. It’s loud, with Parisian hot club jazz thrumming in the background, and the perfect place to take a date with a sense of humour and a taste for Champagne cocktails. READ MORE
Great bars nearby: Whisky nightcaps downstairs at Swift, or change the mood at the Hong Kong-styled basement bar at Wun’s across the road.
Details: 13 Old Compton Street, Soho, London W1D 5JQ
Maison Francois | St. James’s
Unexpected perks of the lockdowns: Maison Francois opened during the era of social distancing, so the tables are all set out in quite fortuitously romantic little booths, despite the overall sense of being in one of the grand European cafés of old. The menu’s all written in French, giving you the opportunity to unleash your devilishly attractive accent, and the dessert trolley that freewheels round the restaurant laden with macarons, éclairs and tarte tatin seems designed for dates. READ MORE
Great bars nearby: Well, there’s a wine bar directly underneath called Frank’s, so that’s convenient. Failing that, try the innovative signature cocktails at HIDE Below.
Details: 34 Duke Street, St James’s, SW1Y 6DF
Main image: Julie’s
Planning a little romance? Take a look at our all-star line-up of 101 London Date Ideas