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There’s a lot of pressure when it comes to choosing a restaurant for a first date, an anniversary dinner, or perhaps even to make amends. And there are certain clichés – single red roses, hammy faux-French waiters – that you’ll be keen to avoid.
But whether you’re prepared to blow the budget or if you’re romancing on a shoestring, London can deliver a truly memorable night together. Here’s our pick of the city’s most romantic restaurants for those times when you want to show just how much you care.
Paris is often referred to as the City of Love thanks to its picturesque skyline, elegant music and - of course - the cuisine. For a taste of the Parisian life, head to Koffman’s – a popular haunt for couples. On the menu, you’ll find a range of tongue tickling delights, such as hanger steak with béarnaise sauce and chocolate moose with passion fruit ice cream – yum! And if that’s not enough to get you in the mood, the crisp yet colourful décor should do the trick!
The Berkeley, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, SW1X 7RL
High up above Park Lane, on the 28th floor of the Hilton, this art-deco styled French restaurant has everything you could need for a truly memorable evening.
Overseen by superstar chef Chris Galvin, Windows combines charming but unobtrusive service, understated chic, and - if you can take your eyes off each other - stunning views over West London. If you’re aiming to impress, the pricy-but-worth-it Menu Dégustation with full wine pairings is the only way to go.
Galvin at Windows, London Hilton Park Lane, 22 Park Lane, W1K 1BE
It would be impossible to write a list of romantic restaurants without including an oyster bar, and this Borough Market spot – all rustic styling and candlelight – strikes just the right balance between pleasant bustle and intimate charm. Sample a huge range of oysters while sipping the excellent and very fairly-priced champagne, then move onto the freshest possible fish to follow, before finishing up with the melt-in-your-mouth chocolate truffles.
Wright Brothers Oyster & Porter House, 11 Stoney Street, SE1 9AD
Where in London can you find platinum vodka shots chilled to -18°C as a starter? Bob Bob Ricard of course! This truly elegant restaurant is famous for its luxurious surroundings and "press for champagne" buttons that are found at every table. The decadent red and gold interior plays host to a wide range of eclectic clientele all enjoying the English and Russian comfort food. It may not be dim and candle lit, but Bob Bob Ricard is a great romantic restaurant choice for couples looking for somewhere that is a bit different and lots of fun.
Bob Bob Ricard, 1 Upper James Street, London W1F 9DF
If you are really looking to impress your date, then take them to Berners Tavern. This romantic London restaurant is run by Michelin starred executive chef Jason Atherton and boasts a contemporary British menu using the very best produce that the country has to offer. Their award winning interior is the ideal gathering place for breakfast, lunch or dinner and the extensive menu includes grass fed British steaks and fresh British seafood. Berners Tavern is somewhere where you can truly lay on the romance.
Berners Tavern, 10 Berners Street, London W1T 3LF
An 18th-century townhouse has played home to this Soho restaurant for over 30 years. Resolutely resistant to trends or fads, its dining rooms are atmospheric and cosy, while its hand-written menu is French bistro meets English country kitchen - think steak with duck fat potatoes, foie gras with rhubarb compote, and chocolate tart with crème fraîche. The wine list is a joy, with rare and unusual bottles at extremely reasonable mark-ups.
Andrew Edmunds, 46 Lexington Street, W1F 0LW
Michel Roux Jr’s two Michelin-starred Mayfair restaurant is still one of the hottest tickets in town despite doing its thing – flawless, classical French cuisine – for nearly 50 years. The service is utterly smooth though never stuffy, the dining room perhaps slightly dated but still elegant, and the prices are every bit as high as you’d expect. But if you have a special occasion to mark, there are few better places to celebrate, so it’s well worth saving up for.
Le Gavroche, 43 Upper Brook Street, W1K 7QR
A perfect neighbourhood restaurant that’s worth crossing town for, Odette’s is small, friendly and full of Gallic charm.
Welsh Chef Bryn William is dedicated to seeking out the finest seasonal, sustainable produce and presenting it with simplicity and refinement. On a balmy evening, the walled garden must be one of the most enchanting and romantic dinner spots in London.
Odette’s, 130 Regent’s Park Road, NW1 8XL
Treating a loved one (or hoping to win someone’s heart) isn’t the time to be stingy, but sometimes your budget won’t quite stretch to grand gestures. Le Mercury is an address to note for those times – astonishingly good value, it’s an authentic little piece of Paris in Islington. If a weekend in the City of Lights is beyond you, transport your significant other over three courses of bargain candlelit bistro food and a carafe of wine.
Le Mercury, 140a Upper Street, N1 1QY
Who needs Provence when you’ve got La Poule au Pot in Belgravia? This wonderful romantic restaurant in London is a classic bistro serving traditional French cuisine including ratatouille, coq au vin, boeuf bourginon and ‘le bifsteak frites’. Many in the area would call La Poule au Pot an institution and part of its charm comes from its interior which has barely changed since the 1960s. The restaurant has been voted the ‘best for romance’ by the Hardens guide and is the perfect place to take your significant other (or someone you would like to become your significant other!).
La Poule au Pot, 231 Ebury Street, London SW1W 8UT
This must be one of the most seductively-beautiful dining rooms in London – all soft dove-grey upholstery, thick carpets, generous floral displays and chandeliers hung from a glass ceiling through which you can watch dusk fall. Chef Patron and winner of three Michelin stars Eric Frechon and protégé Florian Favario are 'leading London into a new culinary era' with delicious and memorable dishes using only the finest British ingredients.
A gem hidden in the middle of the tourist hotspot that is Covent Garden, Clos Maggiore’s flower-garlanded conservatory is one of the most romantic rooms in London - especially at night, when it’s lit by the soft flame of dozens of candles.
If you can’t secure a table there, the wood-panelled front parlours with their flickering fireplaces are almost as seductive. The tables are spaced well apart so you can concentrate entirely on each other, and on the rich, mostly French food.
Clos Maggiore, 33 King Street, WC2 8JD
London’s oldest restaurant is a wood-panelled haven of tradition. Despite its slightly clubby air, it’s so steeped in history that it makes a wonderfully atmospheric choice for an intimate diner à deux.
Everything here is done absolutely properly – it’s almost like dining at a country house. The service is expert but never imposing, and the menu is particularly fine during game season, when the restaurant’s Lartington Estate provides partridge, grouse, venison and much more direct to the kitchen. One for old-school romantics.
Rules, 35 Maiden Lane, WC2E 7LB
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|How booking last-minute saves you money|
|1||Even the best restaurants have empty tables. TablePouncer negotiates last-minute deals on their unfilled tables, with discounts of up to 70%.|
|2||You book the tables easily and securely on our website. You pay a small booking fee up front to secure your table and we send an SMS booking confirmation to your mobile.|
|3||The restaurant will automatically apply the TablePouncer discount to your bill when it's time to pay. No vouchers needed!|