The Best London Restaurants for a First Date

8 Restaurants
What makes a good restaurant for a first date? Something big and brash? Or quiet and local? For some it’s all about the atmosphere; for others, the food and wine. Style can be important if you want to judge your date’s aesthetic credentials while, for others, the most vital element is the number of readily assessed exits and escape routes. For anyone hesitant about dipping their toes in the dating pool, then a good cocktail list and an understanding waiter can be key. While for those of us no longer in the first flush of youth, the only thing that really matters is the lighting…
Updated on 12 November 2021
Park Chinois
17 Berkeley Street, W1J 8EA London
40 - 120 GBP

“Money cannot buy the fuel of love but is excellent kindling”, said W.H. Auden. Substitute ‘money’ for ‘glamour’ and you can’t go wrong with Park Chinois. 1930s Shanghai was the inspiration behind this beautiful restaurant, where thought and care clearly went into every detail of its stunning design. Live music and a mischievous downstairs club add to the electricity – and the ‘duck de Chine’ will get anyone in the mood for love. Just try not to think of your bank balance over dinner.

Brasserie Zédel
20 Sherwood Street, W1F 7ED London
15 - 48 GBP

If you want a little glamour but without a pit-of-the-stomach lurch when you get the bill, then Zédel is a great choice, as no one will be too much out of pocket if the most memorable things about the evening turn out to be the band and the choucroute. The walk downstairs only heightens the sense of expectation and the menu really offers something for everyone. Surely a good îles flottante will inspire love in any language?

99-101 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3XB London
Traditional British
25 - 70 GBP

It’s a pub, not a restaurant, so no one is going to feel overwhelmed, intimidated or uncomfortable in these surroundings. At dinner the candlelight and general murmur of contentment create a warm and inclusive atmosphere, while the food is familiar, comforting and heartwarming. Just be sure to arrive by cab because nothing will spoil the mood quite like walking through the tunnel on Bermondsey Street.

St John
26 St. John Street, EC1M 4AY London
Traditional British
32 - 50 GBP

Bear with us on this one. A first date is not just about discovering whether there is chemistry – it’s also about finding out if you’re compatible. So, if you’re reading this article, one can justifiably assume you have more than a passing interest in food. Therefore, if your date takes one look at the menu here at St John and isn’t drooling at the prospect of ordering pig’s cheek, ox heart or rabbit, then you know this’ll end up as two dates in one: your first and your last.

18 Phipp Street, EC2A 4NU London
Modern British
27 - 68 GBP

Nothing says intimacy quite like sharing plates – and nothing reveals character quite like a person’s willingness or reluctance to share their dinner. If your date seems to be thoroughly enjoying the plate of venison or monkfish yet is still prepared to hand over the rest of the dish, then you know you have a keeper. As Jane Austen said: “It isn't what we say or think that defines us, but what we do”.

15-17 Blandford Street, W1U 3DG London
30 - 75 GBP

Great food is sometimes about diving in and glorying in its gorgeousness, not keeping it at arm’s length. Order the utterly delicious Dorset Brown Crab here at Trishna and if you’re both happy to be furiously licking your lips and having shiny chins then perhaps you have found your Suitable Boy/Girl. Nip round the corner afterwards to Daunt Books and start planning your holiday in the travel section.

16 Neal’s Yard, WC2H 9DP London
North African
22 - 40 GBP

A counter restaurant can be a great option for the more diffident amongst us. If the prospect of trying to maintain eye contact for a couple of hours is anathema, then sitting side by side may be just the ticket. Barbary is a cute little place, so you’ll still get that sense of intimacy, plus the food offers more than a hint of the exotic. If it’s going well, you can pop into Neal’s Yard Dairy afterwards and buy cheese together.

Sketch (The Gallery)
9 Conduit Street, W1S 2XG London
Modern Cuisine
40 - 90 GBP

Sketch The Gallery has always been so popular with couples on dates that you begin to wonder if Cupid keeps a spare quiver or two behind the bar. There’s nothing quite like a room full of people gazing yearningly across their table for generating a warm and cheerful atmosphere. This is also an exceptionally well-run restaurant with great food, so you can relax, knowing you won’t need your semaphore skills to attract a waiter, and can just concentrate on being inquisitive and witty instead.

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