21 August 2014

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London’s most romantic restaurants


valentines infographic thumb - vday-thumb.jpgSquare Meal has selected London’s most romantic restaurants for all occasions, from first dates to proposals to anniversaries. Secure a second date at intimate venues such as Chabrot Bistrot d’Amis , or plan for a ‘yes’ to that all-important question in the sophisticated splendour of The Ritz. When love is in the air, let Square Meal help guide Cupid’s arrow…

Or, use Square Meal’s Tree of Love to find the perfect restaurant for your Valentine's Day date.

Best for a first date

The best way to wow a first date is to set the scene for romance without scaring them off, so pick a venue that's both special but also sufficiently cool and informal. Square Meal has come up with a handful of safe bets to ensure your first date leads to a second.

Galvin Café à Vin, Spitalfields

This casual offshoot of Galvin La Chapelle keeps its sibling’s efficient staff, smart air and irresistible food, but offers it up in a pared-back, casual setting. Seasonal food, biodynamic wines and an understatedly chic vibe are all plus points.

J Sheekey - J_Sheekey_2012_-_whole_bar_(5).jpgJ Sheekey Oyster Bar, Covent Garden (pictured, left)

The warm, flattering lighting and buzzy ambience of this bijou Covent Garden bolt-hole are perfect for a Valentine's tryst – sit up at the bar and bond over oysters and Champagne, or take one of the tables and share a crustacea-laden plateau de fruits de mer.

Opera Tavern, Covent Garden

This classy tapas restaurant ticks all the boxes for a first date: a central location, a lived-in, 'been-here-for-ages' look, a cosy setting and bustling vibe, and tasty, shareable dishes. Book a table in the first-floor dining room; there are no bookings on the ground floor (which is handy for last-minute lovers).

Pizza East, various locations

Most people are partial to a slice of pizza now and again, especially if it's a top-quality one eaten in the glamorous, industrial-chic surrounds of this bold, brassy, New York-style pizzeria. Lively, noisy and full of hip young things, it's the perfect choice if you want to demonstrate your London street cred.

Spuntino, Soho

With its tattooed staff, loud, grimy rock/blues music, hole-in-the-wall looks, and down-and-dirty New York-Italian classics, Spuntino is the kind of place whose cool rubs off on its customers - or so they hope. Pick your date up early to avoid the worst of the queue - any wait you do encounter should be accompanied by straight-up cocktails.

Best for proposals

If the only way to get an ‘I do’ from your intended is to get down on bended knee in front of an audience, then you must choose the perfect venue for your gesture. Square Meal recommends romantic backdrops at these grandes dames of the London dining scene for long-lasting memories.

Clos Maggiore, Covent Garden

‘Nothing short of magical’, this French failsafe’s pièce de résistance is a pretty conservatory decked with fake blossoms, twinkly fairy lights and an open fire (pictured, left). It’s pot luck as to who gets to dine in this intimate grotto, but if you’re planning to pop the question, do your best to coerce staff to save you a space there.

duck and waffle 2012 - Duck_Waffle_view.jpgDuck & Waffle, City (pictured, right)

If you want to start the night as you mean to go on, make your destination Duck & Waffle. From the moment the lift whisks you to the head-spinning heights of the 40th floor, your loved one will be captivated - and that's before they see the gorgeous view. The restaurant backs up all this eye candy with well-executed, interesting international dishes served by attentive staff.

Galvin at Windows, Mayfair

Chris Galvin’s lofty dining destination has stunning wrap-around views of the metropolis – enough to dazzle your date from the get-go. Impeccable service and Champagne-bearing trolleys add to the sense of occasion, paving the way for romantic clinches and promises of everlasting love.

The Ritz Restaurant, Mayfair

If you’re going to pop the question, do it at one of London’s most evocative addresses. The ornate dining room and assured service at The Ritz raise expectations for a glamorous, unforgettable experience, and executive chef John Williams’ refined, elegant dishes do not disappoint.

Sketch: Lecture Room & Library, Mayfair

This insanely elegant pleasuredome serves co-founder and superstar chef Pierre Gagnaire’s unique dishes – sometimes wacky, always exciting – in a setting of head-spinning luxury. All this comes at a price, but serves to heighten a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Best for an anniversary

Long-term couples tend to have favourite spots to celebrate a special occasion. However, if a surprise or change of scene is the order of the day, pick a restaurant whose food never falters and that stakes its romantic reputation on its ambience.

Belvedere2012image02.jpgThe Belvedere, Holland Park (pictured, left)

Overlooking the plush lawns and rose gardens of Holland Park, this elegant space is a suitably romantic setting for a special-occasion dinner. The main menu offers British food injected with French refinement, and a list of mainly Gallic wines completes the picture.

Chabrot Bistrot d’Amis, Knightsbridge

This gem of a bistro, tucked away in upper-crust Knightsbridge, is a perfect find with an intimate and friendly atmosphere and gutsy Gallic food that presses all the pleasure points. A stellar wine list earns the restaurant yet more brownie points.

Chez Bruce, Wandsworth

This fabulous neighbourhood restaurant is jolly, welcoming and classless, yet has sufficient gastro-clout to make it fit for a romantic evening. Chef/owner Bruce Poole’s take on European food oozes panache, and there’s an excellent French wine list, too.

Garnier, Earls Court

A neighbourhood gem with a growing reputation, Garnier is an understated yet indulgent way to treat your loved one. Feast on traditional Gallic dishes, from garlicky snails on Poilâne bread, through Dover sole, to booze-laced crêpes Suzette. Because you're both worth it.

La Poule au Pot, Belgravia

Another French favourite – this one endearingly rustic and outrageously atmospheric, with hearty plates of big-flavoured food that combine peasant wholesomeness with bourgeois detailing. A must for loved-up Francophiles.

Best for making up

There are two routes to successful grovelling: either secure a longed-for and hard-to-come-by booking at one of the capital’s restaurants of the moment, or pay through the nose at an old favourite. Ask for a quiet corner table to spare your blushes.

Dabbous, Fitzrovia

If a super-sized ‘sorry’ is in order, then a table for two at critics' choice Dabbous is the biggest gesture you can make, since bookings are so hard to come by. Call, call and call again to secure one - lunchtime slots are less in demand, while on-the-day cancellations are a good way in for an evening meal.

Le Gavroche, Mayfair

The holy grail for devotees of classical French cuisine, Le Gavroche is the standard-bearer for French restaurants in London. The proudly old-fashioned food goes heavy on the butter and cream (a Good Thing), the front-of-house service is impeccable, and the romance factor is sky-high. What's more, the prices will make your contrition all the more apparent.

pollen street social2011 - Pollen-St-Social.jpgThe Ledbury, Notting Hill

Brett Graham’s discreet Notting Hill restaurant is laden with accolades, with diners and critics alike praising its unstarchy approach, sparklingly inventive dishes and spot-on service. It’s hard work getting a table here, so your date is sure to appreciate your efforts. Take along their favourite bottle of wine (corkage is charged at £35) or let them loose on the in-house list by way of apology.

Nobu Berkeley St, Mayfair

Fashionable, glitzy and super charged, Nobu Berkeley St is a true treat – and a dead cert for celeb spotting. The famously high prices, sleek service and sexy dining experience should smooth ruffled feathers and get things back on track.

Pollen Street Social, Mayfair (pictured, right)

Relaxed and unfussy while serving unforgettable food in a contemporary setting that bristles with life, Jason Atherton's flagship is deservedly popular with London's gastroscenti and guarantees to make your other half see the world from a glass-half-full perspective once again.

This feature was updated in January 2013.

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