What makes a romantic restaurant? Well, it depends on two things: who you are asking and what they are after. Whether you are looking for a candle-lit dinner for two or some fine food served in even finer surroundings, look no further than our pick of the best options in the capital below…
Whether you’re looking to woo someone or you’re after a culinary experience among softly lit surroundings, we round up the most romantic restaurants in the capital
Harry’s Dolce Vita
The epitome of romance, this Italian restaurant in Knightsbridge pays homage to Sixties’ Italy complete with a wall adorned with fabulous of-the-time imagery, including an iconic shot from Audrey Hepburn’s “Roman Holiday”. The newest addition to Richard Caring’s incredibly vast portfolio, Harry’s plates up traditional Italian classics with an emphasis on flavour rather than frivolity. If there’s one dish to try on the all-encompassing menu here it’s the pizza. No, this is not your standard London pizzeria. Instead, Harry’s takes pride in its dough, which is stretched by hand using different flours before being proved for 72 hours to create a delectably unique crust. Keep things consistent and finish with the restaurant’s unforgettable tiramisu.
If there is one spot synonymous with London and romance it is Clos Maggiore. Located in Covent Garden, this French restaurant epitomises intimate idealism through a softly lit, blossoming (literally) setting complete with a large, ornate fireplace. Famed for its incredible wine list – set aside good time to properly choose the perfect accompaniment for you dinner – the restaurant offers French cuisine with a British twist, marrying the two cultures together in a visual and palatable feast for the senses. We highly recommend the slow-roasted lamb with gratin, goats’ cheese and jus and (if there’s still room) follow with the restaurant’s signature “Chocolate Sensation” for two.
If you are ever looking for a reason as to why London is one of the best cities in the world, take yourself to Spring restaurant at Somerset House. An establishment that emanates a dreamlike luxury through its gorgeously clean aesthetic, Spring puts the joie de vivre back into fine dining. In critically acclaimed Skye Gyngell’s (she of Petersham Nurseries fame) considered and careful hands, the daily-changing menus deliver hearty, Italian fare with a hint of rustic charm from impeccably sourced ingredients while the chic setting is equally well thought out: a pared-back Parisian vibe complete with white walls, marble surfaces, leather chairs and impeccably presented and attentive staff. Still need convincing? Spring is also home to one of the best-executed wine lists in the country.
The Ivy Chelsea Garden
Restaurant groups don’t necessarily conjure a romantic mood, but then the Ivy Collection isn’t your standard. While there is little variation on menu or theme, the Chelsea Garden offering does hold a certain je ne sais quoi that elevates it among its siblings. Boldly beautiful, bursting with fragrant colours and brass fittings, Richard Caring brings fifty shades of green to south-west London alongside a well-executed, extensive menu that covers everything from breakfast to post-dinner cocktails. The slow-roasted lamb shoulder is a particular knockout; the tender meat brought to life through a zesty mustard and herb crust and drizzled with a delectable rosemary sauce. For the more adventurous pallet, the crab linguine is another menu highlight, served with Devon crab, chilli, smoked garlic and lemon and rocket. For a tranquil, charming setting, ask to be seated in the restaurant’s terrace or the gorgeous garden if the weather’s agreeable.
A London institution in its own right and one of the capital’s most beautiful establishments, Sketch, for the uninitiated, marries an unforgettable and exhilaratingly over-the-top interior with globally inspired French cuisine. There is enough on offer here to please every person and palette, but for something truly special we recommend dining in The Gallery: curated by British artist David Shrigley, the millennial pink walls are peppered with 239 of his satirical sketches. Sketch is also one of those rare places where the food lives up to the surroundings. The pan-fried sirloin of black Angus beef is particularly pleasing as is the simple but moreish side order of home-baked bread with Irish salted butter while the dessert options, including pepete’s eclair, are rich, eccentric and indulgent: much like the restaurant itself. Don’t forget to visit the toilets before you leave for the obligatory Instagram shot.
Bob Bob Ricard
Named after its owners, stepping into this stalwart of Upper James Street, Soho, is much like stepping into an extravagant train carriage from the 18th century complete with a “Press for champagne” button, which we can only assume existed back then. Despite the novelty – and it is quite fun – the opulent interiors at Bob Bob Ricard (think gilt and mirrors against a backdrop of blue and pink colours) really are impressive. Thankfully, so too is the food. Russian-inspired, the menu covers everything from caviar to a chicken Kiev (a proper one, mind you). The beef wellington for two, however, is the standout here. End the evening in Bobby’s Bar located in the basement. You won’t be caught for choice from the extensive wine menu or, if you’re after something stronger, there are plenty of vodka options to pore over. Dress elegant, this is the kind of place you’ll want to turn heads in.
The follow-up to 108 Garage, the darling of restaurant critics nationwide, Southam Street is a relatively new addition to London’s heaving food hub and delightfully low-key one too, for the diner looking to eat rather than be seen. The three-floor grill restaurant fuses western and eastern influences in an unashamedly hip setting featuring plush, inviting furniture, sleek marble surfaces, millennial pink tones and the kind of low lighting now synonymous with any self-respecting trendy haunt. The second floor serves up sushi, sashimi and ceviche while the top storey is a dedicated tequila and mezcal bar for those looking to end the night (or begin it) on a high. Eccentric and exquisite, Southam Street is the perfect hideaway for those after an intimate evening.
Beach Blanket Babylon
Arguably Notting Hill’s most memorable venue, Beach Blanket Babylon forgoes the traditional romantic setup in favour of some show-stopping Gothic charm. The interior looks like something dreamt up by Liberace: theatrical, baroque furniture, rococo interiors and, the show-stopper, an impressive fireplace shaped like a giant mouth. Here, the focus is on “fun” dining, plating up modern European cuisine including a mouth-watering seafood linguine as well as braised lamb rump. If you’re the kind of person who places as much emphasis on the drink as well as the food, Beach Blanket Babylon is a top recommendation: the cocktail menu is as inventive as it is incredible and the staff take great pride in their mixing abilities – and so they should. The Phoenix (Havana club rum, pistachio, pineapple and coconut) is a knockout – in the best way, of course.
Granary Square Brasserie
Recently opened at Kings Cross in the spot once occupied by the beloved Grain Store, Granary Square Brasserie is an all-day restaurant with a menu extensive enough to deliver that proposition. From eggs royale in the morning right through to an aromatic duck curry in the evening, no stone is left unturned and despite the sheer volume of food on offer, attention goes into every plate ensuring every patron feels a little bit special: a commendable feat given the 250-cover space. There is a more laid-back vibe at work here, albeit a refined one where the sophisticated interiors are evocative of the trendy clientele who frequent its space. A resident DJ transforms the venue into a hip drinks spot in the evening, making this an ideal spot for a casual date that will still impress.