The best romantic restaurants in London
Argentina: home of the foxiest tango, sexiest malbecs and inspiration behind W1’s best-looking steak-and-date house, Guacho Piccadilly. The flagship property of a group that’s made giant strides in recent years, it takes its name from the famous cowboys of the pampas plains, and if you’ve finally outgrown your own lonesome lifestyle it’s a fine place to make an impression.
Beyond the extensive list of starters, the rump (sorry – we don’t recommend stealing our jokes) of the à la carte menu is deceptively straightforward: simply four cuts of grass-fed Argentine Angus – fillet, rib eye, sirloin and rump (seriously, don’t do the joke) – plus garnishes, marinades and sauces. Nevertheless, you’ll benefit from the direction of the supremely informed hosts. For example, the spiral-cut lomo (fillet) benefits from a pasting of garlic and parsley marinade (£50.45). It’s lean and delicate with all that beautiful umami depth you’re here for. Alternatively, for full-bodied palates, the ancho (rib eye) with ají molido marinade (from £20.95) has a scene-stealing hit of chili heat, which you can always douse with a slather of chimichurri.
You’re here for the beef, make no mistake, but wine director Phil Crozier’s all-Argentine list is a worthy draw by itself. Gaucho’s sommeliers speak with passion and insight and will find the right match for your meal. But if you want to be flash, you might suggest the Vina Patricia ‘D’Oro’ (£17.25 a glass) and the Colome ‘Terrino De Gran Altura’ (£14.50 a glass) to accompany the lomo and ancho, respectively.
A few words, also, on the decor. Think jewelled black-and-gold glamour with theme-appropriate cowhide trim. Bleeding edge design? Probably not. Classically seductive? We think so. What’s more, the lighting is flatteringly dim, should you have failed somewhat to scrub up after a day on the ranch.
Still not convinced? Well, think about it – what says red-blooded male better than a plate of red-blooded meat? Just make sure before you book that your companion isn’t vegan…
Table choice: The booths are too large for two, but you’ll find a discreet table à deux on the first floor
Good for: The best of new world wines
Standout romantic feature: As the saying goes, Argentinians are like Spanish-speaking Italians. Need we say more?
Price: The affordable side of impressive
25 Swallow Street, London W1. 020 7734 4040. gauchorestaurants.com
Kitty Fisher’s is pure romance. With plush pink booths and a small number of tables, it’s all candles and dim lighting, nestled in Shepherd Market, the hidden gem of Mayfair.
Obviously, you go to Kitty Fisher’s for the steak, it’s the done thing. The Galician beef is the stuff of legend. But if you’re feeling adventurous / are vegetarian/ are an adventurous vegetarian, then the beetroot and Dorstone goat’s cheese with walnut ketchup is sublime.
The celeriac main, coated in cheese and roasted leeks, arrives like a proud Stonehenge, its a delicious reminder that celeriac should always be cooked this way. While the crispy roast potatoes are staunchly crunchy and exceptionally fluffy.
While the chocolate, malted milk ice cream and stout mousse is a deep hit of rich chocolate – the salty malted ice cream makes it addictive.
The reassuring part about Kitty Fisher’s is that even if you’re not totally into your date, you can easily fall in love with your food.
Table choice: Grab a table with a pink booth downstairs
Good for: Steak and modern British food
Standout romantic feature: That beautiful setting
Price: A meal for two will set you back around £120
10 Shepherd Market, Mayfair, London W1J 7QF. 020 3302 1661. kittyfishers.com
“The pleats in the dim sum indicate a chef’s skill,” says Park Chinois’ restaurant manager as he proudly proffers a little basket of steamed prawn, scallop and shrimp buns. “This dim sum has too many pleats to count.” Staff at Park Chinois are not the most modest bunch, but why should they be? Park Chinois is first class: serving exquisite, faultless food in the most opulent surroundings inspired by Thirties Shanghai. If there was ever a restaurant that looked like a jewel box, it’s Park Chinois. Sat on your red velvet banquette (with both plates romantically arranged on the same side of the table), GQ suggests pairing your dim sum with a Note de Passion cocktail (it is Valentine’s Day, after all), followed by the succulently soft wok-tossed wagyu beef to share, served with vegetable and egg fried rice. The black cod, fluffy and light, is also in order. For dessert, Italian pastry chef Gennaro Vitto has crafted a beautifully pink structure of chocolate, passionfruit and rose ganache, adorned with 24-carat gold leaf: La Vie en Rose. After dinner, head down to the basement bar, Club Chinois, for an indulgently creamy Green Alexander cocktail and some live entertainment.
Table choice: One of the wall banquettes in Salon de Chine.
Good for: Showing off.
Standout romantic feature: The evening pianist.
Price: A meal for two costs around £200.
17 Berkeley Street, London W1J. parkchinois.com
Even if you’re a stone-cold unromantic Monty Burns type, Berners Tavern can and will win you over. For one, it’s one of the most beautiful buildings in London, an opulent structure rammed with classic features, wall-to-wall paintings and luxuriously cosy booths. It’s a place which is bustling and yet allows you privacy. Secondly, it’s masterminded by Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton.
Unsurprisingly, the food is beautifully decadent, rich and plentiful. The chargrilled focaccia with burrata, heritage tomatoes and honey is a delight. While the mac and cheese is the best you’ll have. Smoother than a Quincy Jones anecdote, it’s pure indulgence. A must have is the chocolate and hazelnut flaming Alaska for two. Crunchy, boozy, it’s a scientific wonder. Order it with your significant other, wait until they go to the toilet and then demolish it to yourself. Pure romance.
Table choice: The corner table next to the kitchen – a perfect seat to watch the buzz from afar.
Good for: Decadent, hearty meals.
Standout romantic feature: The beautiful interior and flaming Alaska dessert.
Price: A meal for two will set you back around £140.
Berners Tavern, 10 Berners Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T. 020 7908 7979. bernerstavern.com
The Palomar may be small, but it’s a spot with a huge reputation. Brought to London by the team behind Jerusalem’s hottest restaurant group back in 2014, every food lover worth his or her salt will have heard whispers of The Palomar’s outstanding Middle Eastern-inspired small plates, beautifully conceived cocktails and toe-tappingly vibey atmosphere. Sure, it’s situated on the wrong side of Shaftesbury Avenue, but as with any good restaurant, it’s what’s going on in the kitchen that counts. That, and the knowledge that your date will be seriously impressed.
Everything is designed for sharing, a format bound to come in especially handy for keeping the conversation flowing. Couples who have been together longer than they’d like to remember will also enjoy embarking on an exciting culinary adventure together. To start, order the kubaneh, an impossibly fluffy, freshly baked Yemeni bread, which is served fresh from the baking tin with a moreish tomato dip and a light, nutty tahini. Don’t be shy on the dip front; add a portion of the garlicky burnt courgette tzatziki and a round of the "spicy experience" (chilli, harissa and pickled Shifkeh peppers) too.
There are no starters or mains here. Food is served when it’s ready; the menu split into "Oceans and Rivers", "Pasture and Courtyard" and "Field and Garden". The rich, succulent "Chicken Under Pressure" served with citrus, forbidden rice and courgettes is a must, as are the seared scallops with bacon. On the veggie front, while it may sound rather bland, we’re willing to wager a hefty bet on your date raving about the polenta with asparagus, mushrooms and truffle to their friends for months to come. And although the "Tree Of Life" sounds like something straight out of a hippy birthing manual, in fact, the whole roasted broccoli with feta and tomatoes will make you forget why you’ve ever bothered with meat before.
Cocktail highlights include the Au Revoir Shoshana (gin, grapefruit, rose sherbet) and the El Diablo Loco (made from El Dorado 8, coffee-infused Mezcal and Cherry Heering). The wine list is also exceptional. Order the Sancerre, or, if you’re really feeling hip, try the furiously on-trend Ograde Skerk orange wine, as featured in our 100 Best Things In The World 2018 list.
Trust us, conversation notwithstanding, a date at The Palomar will be a sure-fire success.
Table choice: Sit up at the bar if you want a rolliking good time (and a good nosy at the chefs). But if you prefer a private setup to flex your full romance game, grab a table in the blue-boothed dining room.
Good for: Inventive Israeli food with Mediterranean influences like you’ve never had before.
Standout romantic feature: What could be more romantic than a menu based entirely around sharing – that’s sure to keep you talking all night long?
The Palomar, 34 Rupert Street, London W1. 020 7439 8777. thepalomar.co.uk
From Hawker House near Canada Water to Mercato Metropolitano a short bus hop down Borough High Street, southeast London seems to sprout a new foodie district on a weekly basis. But for all that, Borough Market remains the city’s leading flavour quarter. Take a few weekends to explore the new young Turks (and Italians, and Hawaiians, and Koreans, and Peruvians…) and returning to Borough Market becomes itself a journey of discovery, so rapidly do its stalls, bars and restaurants change and update. As new openings jockey for position, how can a restaurateur hope to compete? For the Market’s latest small-plate restaurant and wine bar, Arthur Hooper’s, standing out meant looking within.
Employing the vision of neighbourhood interiors wizard Buster + Punch, this is a jewel box of beautiful industrial décor. Having turned its eye to everything from motorcycles to Edison bulbs, the designer’s first restaurant refit raises double-height rolled-steel ceilings over its trademark “Heavy Metal” fittings and furniture from Hong Kong-based master crafters Stellar Works. With contemporary pieces from GQ favourite Dan Hillier and Brooklyn street artist Dain lining the walls, this is prime territory for those in need of first date ideas. And that’s before we get to the food.
With one of the world’s leading food markets literally on the doorstop, chef Lale Oztek would be remiss not to feature its fare in her menu and, indeed, local wholesalers Bread Ahead and Turnips are represented, as is Cannon & Cannon, whose cured meats boost a well-appointed charcuterie board (£16). The tongue-tingling spice of the mussels nduja (£7.50) were a highlight, as was the pop-in-the-mouth fregola with Neal’s Yard curd (£8). Small plate staples, including beef carpaccio (£10.50) and lamb and bulgur meatballs (£7), were expertly effected.
It must be said, in the interests of disclosure, GQ did not partake of the wine – an oversight for which we were rightly and charmingly rebuked by the passionate, knowledgeable servers – but its broad, carefully curated list rounds out the bevy of reasons Arthur Hooper’s has become an immediate mainstay in the heart of London’s ever-evolving taste destination.
Table choice: Lean in together over the corner of a column bar.
Good for: Quietly impressive interiors.
Standout romantic feature: The mood – deeply cool.
Price: You’ll want to share seven or eight plates between you, so expect to split a reasonably tasty bill.
Arthur Hooper’s, 8 Stoney Street, London Bridge, SE1 9AA. 0207 940 0169. arthurhoopers.co.uk
In Vino Veritas, Walthamstow
Walthamstow village is not necessarily known for its cuisine. This quiet, pretty and much underrated suburbia is more about the housing than the hospitality. So, at first glance, In Vino Veritas, a tiny and unassuming wine shop with a single outdoor table and only a handful inside, may not seem hugely promising. And yet, come seven pm, it seems like the whole of up-market Walthamstow tries to cram through its pygmy doors. With no bookings allowed, it’s down to survival of the fittest. Upon watching this mania with envious curiosity a couple of weekends running, GQ decided to join in.
This intimate, candlelit nook (perfect for date night) only does two things: wine and cheese. And it does them very, very well. The traditional Breton "gallettes" made properly with buckwheat, and served with cheese, ham and a fried egg, are excellent. Having been to many a creperie in Brittany, we know a fake from the real deal. The fondus – truffle, blue cheese or plain – are the highlight. Served with baskets of toasted bread with the cheese bubbling in a great vat on your table, the only thing you have space for is wine (or an excellent charcuterie board, if you get rid of the candle and pile your bread baskets on top of each other.)
Either choose your bottle from the shop at the front and take it to your table, or order by the glass from a wine menu which changes daily. On Wednesdays, it’s free corkage, so you can enjoy a bottle for as little as £7.50. Yep, thats not a typo, that’s just a wine bar that prides sincerity over snootiness.
Table choice: At the back, at the high barrel-top table on the right.
Good for: Casual date night.
Standout romantic feature: The size of the place – miniscule.
Price: Great value wine, and slightly pricier food.
21 Orford Rd, Walthamstow, London E17, ivveritas.com
Situated in Somerset House, Spring is unashamedly beautiful and downright romantic. Gleaming, crisp white pillars line the room, nude leather chairs are slipped under perfectly ironed, draping tablecloths, and (as the name suggests) spring flowers and greenery are placed in the centre of the room in a brass vase. But, as our tip to you, make sure to go in the evening for a seductive, dreamlike dining experience.
Chef Skye Gyngell – formerly a Michelin star winner at Petersham Nurseries – helms the kitchen, and although the room may be a world apart from her former restaurant’s earthy interior the food definitely contains the Petersham DNA. The menu reads beautifully and the dishes flood your mouth with gastronomic delights.
A fresh buffalo mozzarella ball is presented on a bed of rainbow chard, broad beans and lemon-infused oil, the spice-rubbed grill lamb is cooked to a succulent and juicy texture, and the sharing ice-cream comes in three flavours that contrast incredibly well against each other: chocolate (rich and creamy), blood orange (sharp and tangy) and pistachio (soft, smooth and dry – in a good way).
A certified brownie point-winner.
Table choice: By the window – you’ll get an ample booth for two
Good for: Anniversaries
Standout romantic feature: The clean, dream-like decor
Price: A meal will set you back around £70 per head.
Somerset House, Lancaster Pl, London WC2R 1LA. 020 3011 0115. springrestaurant
A romantic city break to Italy could be a financial stretch for some, but we’ve discovered a restaurant that replicates the vibe and food of an upscale trattoria you could stumble across in a lovely cobbled street in Toscana.
Located on the quiet New Burlington Place lies the beautiful Ristorante Frescobaldi of the renowned Frescobaldi family, and it’s a little Mayfair gem that we’ll definitely be revisiting. Here, they display wines that they say have been served to the likes of Renaissance visionaries and Popes, the waiters and waitresses provide an exquisitely pleasant service, and the walls are adorned with murals and the ceiling is covered in ivy, making it feel as though you’ve entered a 15th century Italian villa.
Interiors alone, Frescobaldi does what quality Italian restaurants tend to do: produce high-quality dishes made from fresh, hearty ingredients. The impressive menu may overwhelm, but we advise that you start with the crab cakes (wholesome and more-ish), the squid (meaty and refreshing), move onto the beef fillet (tender, chunky and beautiful) or the tagliolini con tartufo nero (worldly), and finish off with the mille feuille (creamy, flaky, and downright delicious).
Upmarket and homely, this is one place that will woo your partner for years to come.
Table choice: Anywhere as the murals and ivy can be seen from all angles.
Good for: Authentic Italian dishes.
Standout romantic feature: What’s more of an aphrodisiac than Italian food?
Price: Very moderate
15 New Burlington Pl, Mayfair, London W1S 2HX; 020 3693 3435. frescobaldi.london
When choosing a romantic restaurant, it might seem strange to specify the importance that another man must be there, but in the case of Launceston Place we must insist upon it. At just 26, Ben Murphy might just be the best young cook in the country. Having sharpened his skills working at The Berkeley, Les Prés d’Eugénie in Paris and the Greenhouse, Murphy opened his first solo venture – The Woodford way out in E18 – just last year, earning a five-star review from the late, great AA Gill. Now, he is bringing a new lease life to the iconic and captivating Launceston Place, and East London’s loss is very much West London’s gain.
It also means those in search of a romantic night out won’t need to spend the evening on the Central Line (a guaranteed mood killer) to fall in love with Murphy’s cooking.
From the outside, Launceston Place is beautifully understated – elegantly inviting, with a neighbourhood vibe that is warm and alluring. It is a theme that continues once you sit down inside this 19th century townhouse, the walls as rich and dark as melted chocolate and the banquet seating perfect for intimate dining. The service is exceptional, as you’d expect from the D&D restaurant group (see also Sartoria, the German Gymnasium and Quaglino’s), but it is the exceptional food that will really win you (and your date) over.
And if it is a proper date, we recommend you go for the eight-course tasting menu. From the “Jammie Dodger” amuse bouche (complete with red pepper heart) and the playful “Egg & Soldiers” made from celeriac custard and brioche, to the sensational “Carrot” (yes, carrot… and yes, sensational) and the “Octopus” with chorizo and chicken wing, it is all outstanding. As is the “Monkfish”, the “Presa Ibérica” pork and the mango and coconut “Solero” desert. Yes, do go for the wine pairing. And yes, after this, you will be on a promise.
But if your date doesn’t pan out after dinner, well… you invited the wrong person. And you’ll just have to take someone else.
Table choice: Either by the window or out of sight at the back of the room (depends on who you are taking).
Good for: The food, the food, the wine, and the food.
Standout romantic feature: The tucked-away feel, the soft and seductive banquet seating, and the excuse to linger over several courses.
Price:The tasting menu is £75 a head, the wine pairing £59. Expensive, but worth it.
1a Launceston Place, London W8. 020-7937 6912. Launceston Place
"Quo Vadis" – roughly translated – means "where are you going?" For those on a date night, the answer is simple: Dean Street.
Located in a building where revolutionary communist Karl Marx wrote his magnum opus Das Kapital, this restaurant does everything but stick to the German’s austere manifesto; rather it’s a place where diners come to indulge, spend, and eat. And as a venture that is owned by the Hart brothers – the men behind London go-to eateries El Pastor and Barrafina – you know you’re in for some gastronomic treats when you step through the rotating doors.
On arrival you know you’ve entered somewhere special. The room is moderately-sized (as if you’ve stepped into a rather large, homely living room), tan seats line the room, the waiters (and sometimes the head chef) amuse the diners with anecdotes, and the walls are adorned with illustrations of Victorian London. Moreover, the heritage decor also chimes in beautifully with a menu that is thoroughly British.
While mulling over what you should order for your main, make sure to chow down on Vadis’s signature eel sandwich: a delectable bite-sized treat which is squashed between two golden slices of fried bread and accompanied with a tiny pile of hair-raisingly hot horseradish. But when you’ve made your decision then make it your utmost priority to order the veal. Tender and cooked to perfect, this meaty delight will have your loved one swooning, but be warned: conversation may stop when tucking into this dish.
Table choice: a cosy corner booths
Good for: good quality food and chummy service.
Standout romantic feature: the exclusivity.
Price: moderate to expensive, depending on what you order.
26-29 Dean St, Soho, London W1D 3LL, 020 7437 9585. quovadissoho.co.uk
The new, second iteration of Jamie Oliver’s upmarket grill is the steak joint to end all steak joints. Upon arrival, you walk straight into the bar, which although perfectly nice, verges on the underwhelming. Step down stairs however, and you’re transported into a culinary Aladdin’s cave. The space is sprawling, beautifully decorated and buzzing with happy customers. There’s a “raw” bar, where you can watch the chefs prepare the fruits de mer, and an open kitchen, from which the smell of sizzling steak (each of which are liberally brushed with butter using a bunch of herbs) wafts out irresistibly into the dining room.
But is it romantic, we hear you cry? Believe it or not, this is quite literally the perfect place for a date. The lively atmosphere and cosy booths – where you can sit right next to your beau – make for a gloriously intimate experience. The room is full, but, sat closely together, where the hum of unified chatter drowns out even the people sat right next to you, it feel as though you’re in your own private world, which is exactly how a night out with a significant other should be.
The portions are huge, so this is the right restaurant for sharing. The sticky Creole ribs are quite possibly some of the best ribs we’ve ever eaten, and the oysters served both “natural” and “Barbecoa” style (with apple, chilli and coriander) are an aphrodisiac simply by virtue of taste and freshness. The rib-eye with wild garlic leaves and board dressing is absolutely outstanding. Who knew that shallot, garlic, lemon and parsley (ie the “board dressing”) could be so sublime?
If you’re keen go go the whole hog and order a main for two, then make it the chateaubriand served with truffle butter. The sides are also ideally sized for sharing. The cornbread with cheese and ’ndjua is a must-order, but if you must have chips with your steak, then order them safe in the knowledge that they are some of the crispiest, delightfully-done fries we’ve had in a long time.
If you can possibly squeeze it in at the end, then order the “Snickesphere” with two spoons. After sampling this chocolate dome surrounding peanuts, salted caramel, and ganache, your date will be putty in your hands.
Table choice: one of the cosy corner booths near to the open-kitchen
Good for: a fun, laid-back evening that’s still sure to impress.
Standout romantic feature: dishes you can share between two, from the fruits de mer to the chateaubriand.
Price: expensive (think £75 for the chateaubriand), but worth it as an “every so often” sort of treat.
194 Piccadilly, St. James’s, London W1J 9EX; 020 3005 9666. barbecoa.com
Tell your date you’re taking her to the Shard for dinner and you’ve already done good. You can’t quarrel with a date at the Shard. It spells romance like nothing else and it’s on every Londoner’s to-do list. The views are incredible, and the atmosphere ticks all the boxes for going above and beyond your average ‘nice’ dinner out. We repeat, the views are everything.
What’s great about Hutong, and perhaps gives it a higher "romance" score than its sister venue Aqua, is the intimacy. The tables lining one side of the floor-to-ceiling glass windows are for two only, and aren’t placed next to each other. They’re lined up in a tiny vertical corridor which means even waiters aren’t going to walk past you. If you get one of the end windows, then you can spend the whole meal without seeing another guest, as long as you don’t crane your head too far to the left, or right, depending what end you’re sat at.
For starters, share the crispy prawn rolls (a revelation) and the Iberico pork dumplings, as well as some fried chicken bao buns – so soft you could rest your head in them. A Sheng Jieng tequila cocktail (tequila is the least calorific spirit, and leaves the most minimal hangover) is the perfect accompaniment.
Obviously, for mains, it’s the Peking Duck: the crown jewel of the table. Beware, it’s not shredded. It’s served as large, fatty (a little too fatty for some) slices of duck, and thus might usurp your traditional view of the "crispy duck pancake". However, remember, Chinese takeaways are never representative of Chinese cuisine, folks. This is the real deal.
Table choice: By the window, in the one-table corridor, for the view and romantic privacy.
Good for: The best peking duck in London.
Standout romantic feature: Table intimacy.
Price: Value for money.
Level 33, The Shard, 31 St Thomas St, London SE, 020 3011 1256; via Hutong Shard
Getting the glass lift up to the 37th floor is the first highlight of a trip to SUSHISAMBA. Make sure you look down and feel your heart tumble. The second highlight is the view – particularly when the sun sets. Get there for seven pm to catch the transition between beautiful sunlight and London’s twinkling lights at night. The cocktails are a great way to start the evening – try the Nina Fresa (which made an appearance in Sex and the City) – an updated SUSHISAMBA classic with Ketel One vodka, strawberry, grapefruit and guava shaken with rhubarb bitters, lime and sugar. Or for a more authentic Japanese experience, ask the waiter to recommend you some fresh sake.
In terms of plates, we recommend you share six. The Yellowtail crispy taquitos are filling, creamy and a great way to start, and the Wagyu Gyoza are light and tasty little beef dumplings that you’ll devour within minutes. From the raw section, the Toro, with black truffle and Yuzu caviar is a delicate delight. In terms of mains, the Black Cod Miso had one of the tastiest sauces you’ll ever come across, and the cod is plump, soft and fluffy. The Gunma, which you cook yourself, was incredibly tender but almost too much so – melt in your mouth meat can sometimes become a little sickly. Also, beware of the spitting hot fat which can hit you in the forehead at any moment. Finish up with a plate of juicy crab samba rolls (but go easy, they’re big and filling) and you’re done. Now head over to the outdoor bar for some more sake and even better views.
Table choice: By the window at the back, in the centre of the room.
Good for: Romantic sharing dishes – you have to share everything, the waiter insists.
Standout romantic feature: The views, and the rooftop outdoor bar with blankets.
Price: For a special occasion.
110 Bishopsgate, London, EC2N, (0)203 640 7330 via Sushi Samba
If you’re looking to take your special someone on a gastronomic journey, look no further than Aquavit – the latest spot in the capital to serve up New Nordic cuisine.
As soon as you walk into this sparkly new restaurant, you can’t help but be hit by the warm, rich glow of gold. From the leg chairs to the taps in the bathroom, Aquavit certainly brings the Midas touch to London.
And the food is just as luxurious as the decor. GQ‘s pick of the menu? For a smörgasåsbord, opt for the rich and more-ish herrings, then move on to the smokey, juicy langoustines dipped in dill broth before tucking into the tender beef rydberg with crispy potatoes and sweet, caramelised onions. Then finish your night with a classic Scandi dessert that’ll be the best guilty pleasure you’ll never regret ordering – the apple crumble served with charcoal vanilla ice cream, rye and oats.
If this doesn’t make your partner swoon, we don’t know what will.
Table choice Near the window that lines the restaurant.
Good for Glitz, glam and deliciously good Scandi food.
Standout romantic feature The gold interior.
Aquavit, St James’s Market 1 Carlton Street, London SW1Y 4QQ via Aquavit
Possibly the number one romantic spot in London, Clos Maggiore is notoriously difficult to book. This comes at no surprise – all you have to do is take one look at the interior, in which the ceiling is a canopy of blossoming flowers that seems to envelop every guest sitting in this small, intimate dining room. The dining room seats only a few couples, with ample space between each table for privacy.
GQ recommends you order the beautiful truffle infused hand rolled pappardelle as a starter – don’t worry, with minimal sauce, it’s light and delicate enough to be starter appropriate (£21.90). Pair it with a glass of champagne or a glass of Malagousia, 2014. For mains, GQ shared the Wagyu Beef for two (£39.50 pp), for the ultimate romantic experience and killer flavour. The beef comes with crispy duck fat chips, firm tenderstem broccoli and béarnaise sauce and is perfectly paired with a glass of Pinot Gris, Alsace. Although the beef may sound heavy, shared between two it leaves just enough room for pudding. Thank god.
To continue with the romantic sharing theme, order the signature Clos Maggiore Caramelised Varlhona Chocolate Sensation for two (£9.50 pp), accompanied with burnt honey ice cream and Armagnac jelly. And yes, it tastes as good as it sounds. For the particularly sweet toothed among you, end the meal with a glass of warm, rich and spicy Shiraz.
Table choice: Ask to be in the main dining room, but book months in advance!
Good for: Romantic sharing dishes.
Standout romantic feature: The jaw dropping interior.
Price: For a special occasion.
33 King Street, London WC2E, 020 7379 9696 via Clos Maggiore
If you’re lucky enough to secure a window table, and time it so that you are seated for sunset, you might just have bagged yourself the most jaw dropping romantic experience you can get (in London). The floor to ceiling windows across the whole room allow you to get 360 views across London, with sights including St Paul’s Cathedral and the London Eye. Whilst Aqua Shard’s dining room is large and overwhelmingly busy, it remains intimate; guests talk in hushed low murmurs and the lighting is so dimmed you can barely see your neighbouring tables. After settling in with a must – have cocktail (try the Shard’s signature No Money For Butter for a bitter and fizzy start: pisco, lavender, lemon and champagne, £16.50).
For starters, even die-hard carnivores should be tempted by the venison tartare, with shredded beetroot, crispy capers, shallots and horseradish cream, £15. Onto the mains: GQ recommends the Hereford fillet steak (£50.50) with celeriac puree and truffle butter (can you tell we like truffle?) with sides of blackcurrant red cabbage and roasted pink fir potatoes. To round off the meal, try the sweet raspberry cheese with crumbly digestive butter biscuit base and Oakhouse Farm raspberry jew. Washed down with a surprisingly strong Cappuccino martini, it’s curtain call on your most romantic evening to date.
Table choice: By the window for the view facing St Paul’s Cathedral.
Good for: The spectacular views of London.
Standout romantic feature: Watching the sunset from your table.
Price: Value for money.
31, The Shard, 31 St Thomas St, London SE, 020 3011 1256; via Aqua Shard
One of London’s sexiest romantic restaurants, Hakkasan is the perfect spot to spice up your drippy relationship or brave a first date. Enticed in from the cold by the warming smell of incense and by charming staff in matching blue dresses, you’ll make your way down to Hakkasan’s lively bowels. Start with a cocktail, a fresh, green and sparkling Chinese Mule (Belvedere vodka, Akashi-tai sake, coriander, ginger, lime and ginger beer, £12.50) – one of the best GQ has tasted in a long time. The menu can be overwhelming, with so much choice and so many unknown flavours, but thankfully, you have us to guide you.
Start by sharing the Crispy Duck Salad, tender and crunchy (and with far more duck than salad, don’t you worry) as well as the smoked beef ribs with jasmine tea, which really are super smoky. Why not throw in the Dim Sum Platter too – soft warm dumplings filled with scallops and prawns. Delicious. As a main, GQ recommends the succulent Alaskan Royal King crab in black bean sauce, along with the Pan-fried Wagyu beef in spicy Szechuan sauce. You might want to add a third dish if you’re hungry, as well as a second cocktail – try the signature Hakka (Belvedere vodka, sake, lychee juice, lime coconut and passion fruit.) Hakkasan’s diverse flavours means swapping your usual bottle of red for a few cocktails makes quite a refreshing change, and avoids some serious flavour clashing. Make sure you have dessert, because the Apple Tatin is not something to miss: deconstructed, delicate and mostly consisting of caramelised apple, it truly is delicious. If you love Hakkasan Mayfair, make sure you try its sister venue Hakkasan Hanway place for lunch.
Table choice: Downstairs.
Good for: Delicious cocktails.
Standout romantic feature: Sharing dishes.
17 Bruton Street, W1J, via Hakkasan
You know you’re going to be looked after properly when several smart looking men in tails and bowler hats greet your Uber, gently usher away your bags and practically carry you into the restaurant. Welcome to 34 Mayfair, where the service – the often-overlooked yet crucial oil to lubricate any smooth-running romantic evening – is truly impeccable. 34’s large round tables lining the front of the restaurant offer views of the whole room and the bar. These tables, with their soft low-lit lamps and generous spacing between them offer privacy and intimacy.
Kick the evening off with a cocktail for her and a cocktail for him, as recommended by the head bartender. For her, the Bohemian: a blend of champagne, crème de mure, lavender bitters, patchouli and Absolut Elyx for elegant presentation and floral flavours (£18). For him, the Japanese Cedar Forrest for a masculine, slightly bitter, earthy and oaky flavor: Chivas 18, oakmoss syrup, citrus, hinoki and cedar essences (£15). The starters are fish heavy, but you can also choose a salad as a starter. The piece de résistance, and perfect as a romantic sharing dish, is the succulently tender 500g Chateaubriand steak for two, with delicious truffle and Madeira sauce in a tiny saucepan, (£88).
Table choice Ask for a round table at the front looking at the bar.
Good for Excellent meat and fish, luxurious yet lively atmosphere.
Standout romantic feature The indulgent service which makes the evening feel truly special.
Price Expensive – for a special occasion.
34 Mayfair , 34 Grosvenor Square, London, W1K, 02033503434, via 34-restaurant.co.uk
Bob Bob Ricard
Ever think you would come across so much better on a date if your best mate was on your right throughout dinner? It’s called wing manning, and Bob Bob Ricard knows just how to play it. The restaurant caters to groups of four, with only two tables for two – i.e. loved up couples with spoon feeding on the agenda are not welcome, sorry. Tucked away in your electric blue high walled booth, you open the menu and the first thing you see is: shots. In true Russian style, Bob Bob Ricard prescribes an ice cold shot (Russian Standard Imperial Vodka, £8.50), served in little iced glasses, to cleanse the palette and loosen the nerves.
Once you’ve recovered from your alcoholic kick, take in Bob Bob Ricard’s sensual blue art-deco surroundings, designed by David Collins: blue everything, mirrored ceilings, marbled walls and a golden bar. The blue theme, ice-cold vodka and clashing red-hot chemistry running across the table can only lead to one thing: oysters. As advised by the headwaiter, “you’re on a date, you need an aphrodisiac…” Choosing between grilled with béarnaise sauce and oysters au naturel can be a tough one, so Bob Bob Ricard allows you to order a mix of both (£20 for six) to share as a table. Had a bad oyster experience and never recovered? We suggest the Truffled Potato and Mushroom Varaneki (£11.50) for an ultimate taste of Russia. For mains, it’s the hearty Beef Wellington for Two (£44.50) paired a lighter and more refreshing Framingham Pinot Noir (£48).
Now, you see that little button on the wall that says “Press for Champagne”? Press it. Get the champagne, conversation and hormones flowing with a bottle of the truly excellent sweet but not too sweet Ayala Rose Majeur (£79) – ask the waiters to keep it on ice at the bar and every time you press the button they’ll come and refill your glasses. It may be a gimmick, but it allows you to pass off ordering copious amounts of champagne as merely necessary to “test out the button.” You could even press it accidentally…
For desserts, try the orange infused Dulce de Leche Crème Brulee and the Chocolate Fondant with milk ice cream and mint cream. The desserts are so good you can’t help but share them across the table, which can only help break down any remaining barriers. To finish, head downstairs to the racey red room for a nightcap.
Table choice A four-man booth in the blue room.
Good for Fun fuelled double dates.
Standout romantic feature "Press for champagne" button.
Price Expensive but worth it for the food and overall experience.
Bob Bob Ricard, 1 Upper James St, London, W1F, 0203 145 1000, via bobbobricard.com
Duck and Waffle
What could be more romantic than whizzing your date up to the 40th floor of Heron tower, and gazing out together across London’s dramatic skyline? Prepare to be blown away by the bejewelled city below – lights twinkling, cabbies honking, little ant sized pedestrians racing through their busy London lives, and, as the spring and summer months come closer, a perfect view of the setting sun?
If you can, request a table in the furthest corner of the room – you will have your own isolated area with nothing but panoramic views of London’s iconic landmarks. The interior is sexy, with floor to ceiling windows, dimmed lights, frosted windows and plush seating.
The menu lends itself perfectly to couples who want to share their dishes for an intimate dining experience. No spoon-feeding each other though please, we beg you. Over a ruby glass of Bodega Catena, Malbec, Single Vineyard Lunlunta, Mendoza, Argentina (£10) and a few bacon-wrapped dates (£3.50 each) mull over your options. We recommend you order a "For The Table" plate and have a selection of accompanying "Small Plates". Favourite dishes included the Spicy Ox Cheek Doughnut (£10) and the Seared Octopus (£13), alongside, and actually preferable to, the restaurant’s trademark Duck and Waffle (crispy duck confit, a fried duck egg and a duo of luxuriously light waffles, all topped with mustard maple syrup).
The cocktail list offers some curious concoctions for experimental cocktail lovers, such as truffle infused whiskey (Truffle Sour, £14) and a Roasted Cosmo (£14), which included rosemary and bone marrow. If you have enough room for dessert, then be sure to share the torrejas – a combination of fluffy cakes, maple caramel apples and cinnamon ice cream (£16). The service is exceptional and guests will be treated to their own personal waiter. Unsurprisingly, Duck and Waffle is a very popular place for proposals…
Table choice Corner table.
Good for Unique food and cocktail menu – perfect source of conversation.
Standout romantic feature The outstanding views, especially at night.
Price Expensive but worth it for the views alone.
Duck and Waffle, Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, London EC2N, 02036407310, via duckandwaffle.com
If this famed eatery hadn’t been a romantic enough destination before, The Ivy’s recent refurbishment has melted the atmosphere into a delicately gas-lit, art deco arcadia. A central triangular bar highlights the restaurant’s unique geometry and divides the floor into snug nooks, cornered off by soft rose and emerald banquettes. If you want intimacy, ask to sit at a corner table – the far left under the Parisian prints is a favourite – or a round table, where you can dine cozily on the shared seating. You can also share the food: the roast Devonshire chicken for two, (£46) accompanied by foie gras, mushroom and a crispy pommes sarladaise, is an indulgent main event, and can be finished with a lighter dessert of rhubarb crème brûlée and a heavenly honey madeleine (£8).
The advantage of a seat at the bar is your chance to muse over wine pairings with Head Barman Darren Ball – the "orange" wines are enlightening. Try a bottle of the Gravner, Breg Anfora, Venezia Giulia IGT, Italy 2007 (£120) to accompany the chicken and then a glass of the Vouvray "Le Marigny" Moeulleux, Domaine Pichot, Loire, France 1997 (£10) to accompany the crème brûlée. Darren Ball can also create a bespoke cocktail for a couple (£10.75), inspired by your favourite spirits, fruits and the country which hosted your first romantic break – a treat for the star-crossed.
Table choice Ask for a round table for shared seating.
Good for Intimate seating, attentive service.
Standout romantic feature Bespoke romantic cocktails tailored to your relationship.
Price Value for money.
The Ivy, 1-5 West Street London WC2H, 0207 836 4751, via the-ivy.co.uk
J Sheekey Atlantic Bar
Even if you have absolutely no idea about J Sheekey Restaurant’s century-long history as a West-End dining institution amongst luvvies and lovers of luvvies, you’ll feel it, like an atmospheric air kiss, as soon as you’re shown in. Its bones hum with fun and anticipation, the walls covered with black-and-white shots of actors old and new, the soundtrack jumping with roaring Twenties jazz.
Of course, the J Sheekey Atlantic Bar is all about the fish, but it is entirely possible to visit the Bar and not eat oysters, or even seafood: among the seared scallops, sea bass ceviche and specials such as yellow Dover sole (£41) you’ll find slow-roast pork belly and salt-baked Cheltenham beetroot. And you must remember to consider the secret off-menu dessert when you ambitiously size up your last course: frozen berries with white chocolate, à la Mark Hix. While such a vivacious venue may not appear traditionally romantic, there is something sexily anonymous and intimate about being surrounded by so many other couples, also clearly swept up in J Sheekey’s endless thrust and swing.
Table choice An intimate booth.
Good for Try the oyster, the perfect aphrodisiac.
Standout romantic feature Secret off-menu desert. Anything clandestine fuels lovers’ passion…
J Sheekey Atlantic Bar, 33-35 St Martin’s Ct, London WC2N 4AL; 020 7240 2565 via jsheekeyatlanticbar.co.uk
In case this list hadn’t yet made this obvious enough, an amazing view is the ultimate clincher if you want to really win at romance. We defy your date to not be impressed by the panoramic views of London from the Shard, and we think the vertigo-inducing perspective you get of the Thames – with London Bridge visible in all its twinkling glory – is especially spectacular from Oblix. The modern, atmospheric grill boasts a josper oven and serves up some of the best steaks in the city. The tenderloin in particular is small, delicate and perfectly formed – a real treat for any keen carnivore. If steak isn’t your thing, there’s a great selection of fish, plus rotisserie chicken and duck (which, as for two to share, ticks the romance box nicely), on the menu too.
Starters-wise, there’s a huge amount of choice (but not so much that it’s overwhelming) which is always ideal on a date – you don’t want your dining partner to feel too constrained by the menu. We think a Caesar salad is the litmus test of a good restaurant; it’s not difficult to get wrong, but it’s incredibly hard to make a Caesar truly stand out, and yet Oblix pulls it off with impressive aplomb. The crab cakes and the battered squid are also both exceptional – demonstrating Oblix’s knack for refining well-loved classics. Sure, it’s not revolutionary, and yes, there’s certainly something to be said for trying something new on a date, but more often than not, a romantic evening out is the time to play it safe.
We recommend getting a really good bottle of wine (the Seresin Pinot Noir is excellent), ordering an assortment of starters to share and then following up with steaks plus sides, from the mouth watering mac and cheese to the tenderstem broccoli. If you can squeeze it in at the end, finish off with a slice of New York cheesecake -or the salaciously decadent chocolate brownie sundae – complete with two spoons.
Table choice By the window, obviously (ideally on the far-right side of the restaurant), although bear in mind that you can’t specifically request one of these dream spots. We suggest waiting in the lounge area with a cocktail until a good table opens up.
Good for Steak and other straight-forward classics.
Standout romantic feature The view and the relaxed ambience.
Price It’s certainly not cheap, but none of the restaurants inside the Shard are. Think of it as a well worth it treat.
Oblix, Level 32, The Shard, 31 St. Thomas Street, London SE1 9RY, 020 7268 6700, via Oblix
A real man can sit comfortably in a room in which everything is pink. Everything. Even the waiters. Ok, not the waiters, but the whole room: the walls, the tables and the sofas. What could be more romantic than dining amidst a soft haze of pink, the colour of love? Begin your evening in the intimate Glade bar, with silkscreen woodland décor, dimmed lighting and intimate seating. Try the two most romantic cocktails on the menu (be warned, they’re both pink): Peach Melba, with Ciroc vodka, peach puree, egg white, lemon verbena, hibiscus tea, honey with villa, raspberry and pink praline, (£16) is a foamy pink delight. Champagne for the lady, so that’ll be the, fittingly, Mon Cherry: Cherry liqueur, orgeat syrup, Angostura bitters, lime juice topped with champagne, (£15).
Once you adjourn to your table, which you will have booked in advance, obviously, we recommend that you don’t order the Macaroni Cheese and truffle to start, unless you have two stomachs. Choose the sashimi of red tuna instead for a light but delicious kick off. The reason for this is that you need to be in good shape to welcome the main event: a whole duck to share with your partner, and which is served in two parts by your own personal waiter. The perfect sides? Truffle mash and, the best of its kind, creamed spinach. If you have room for dessert, go for the Sketch chocolat – the kind of desert that makes you want to put it on Instagram before you lift up your spoon. After dessert, go exploring. Several bars with completely different themes flank the gallery restaurant. Oh, and don’t forget to check out the egg capsule loos…
Table choice Table at the back on a pink banquet looking out at the restaurant.
Good for A (full on) romantic experience with a quirky, fun spin.
Standout romantic feature The décor and all the intimate bars to explore.
Price Expensive, but worth it for the unusual experience.
Sketch, 9 Conduit St, London W1S; 020 7659 4500 via sketch.london
Tapas is the ideal food for sharing on a romantic occasion, and for one of the finest Spanish cuisines in the capital make sure to take your special someone to Iberica in Marylebone.
This gastronomic heaven has the feel of a lowly-lit Andulasian mansion that’s kitted with wooden bar stools and counters, oversized lamps, amble space, and a calm yet vibrant atmosphere. Better still, for famished guests the food rolls out from the kitchen at a 100 MPH pace. For the foodie in your life, this is the hotspot to take them to.
Once seated, make sure not to get overwhelmed by the extensive menu because we’ve got the highlights for you. For starters, order some of the cheesy and crispy croquets followed by the crumbly patatas bravas. Next, opt for the classic tortilla (aaah, the tortilla) which will melt in your mouth as well the succulent twice-cooked lamb and the juicy and more-ish Octopus a la Gallega. And end your meal crema Catalana foam – a wholesome and hearty baked apple cider crumble with an exquisite salted caramel ice cream.
As we say, tapas is the ideal food to share – but you may not want to when you have your first mouthful of Spanish goodness at Iberica.
Table choice: Upstairs where you can get a table at the side of the pathway. It’ll seem as though you’ve got the whole restaurant to yourself.
Good for: A place with a mouth-wateringly good menu.
Standout romantic feature: Sharing every plate of food with your partner
195 Great Portland St, London W1W 5PS; 020 7148 1615. ibericarestaurants.com
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via British GQ
December 11, 2018 at 06:46PM https://ift.tt/2QO6HHT