33 of London's best first date restaurants and bars

“Sounds good, see you Friday!” reads the text from your long-time crush that you’ve finally plucked up the courage to ask on a date. Think the hard part’s over and done with? Think again. Now you have to find a date spot which will impress them. Worry not though, as SquareMeal knows a thing or two about first date restaurants and bars (we’re modern day Casanova’s, if we do say so ourselves). From glitzy spots in Mayfair to oh-so-cool bars in Shoreditch, we’ve hand-picked some of the best locations for your next date. With our great selection of first date restaurants and bars in the capital, the only thing you’ll have to worry about is coming across as intelligent, funny, emotionally available and financially stable – easy as pie!

Updated on 30 September 2019

Let’s be real, dating in London can be a bit chaotic. We’ve all experienced nightmare dates where your potential bae ruins all of their chances by blabbering on about their ex too much or spending 45 minutes telling you why all police in the UK should be armed (true story). We keep fighting on though, working our way through all those major red flag bearers in our quest to find ‘the one’.

If you’ve just secured a date with the fitty from your gym or that cool and mysterious colleague from HR, you’re probably on the hunt for a great date venue. We’ve got your back with our pick of the best first date restaurants and bars in London. A first date venue needs to make you look fun, sexy and cool (without appearing like you’re trying too hard), so it can be tough to get things right. You also need to factor in what your date would enjoy – are they into flashy Mayfair haunts or would they prefer a low-key Soho bar?    

Our selection of the best first date restaurants and the bars in the capital is quite the extensive affair, so there are options for every kind of taste and budget. So, why not have a browse of our list and give one of these sparkling date spots a try? Just remember to thank us in your wedding speeches.

Cora Pearl

Cora Pearl

30 Henrietta Street, London, WC2F 8NA

Parquet flooring, plush upholstery and drinks served in antique glasses all add to the romantic atmosphere at Cora Pearl. Dating suitability aside, the ham and cheese toastie and thick-cut pressed chips are both must orders.

£50 - £79
British
French
Noble Rot

Noble Rot

51 Lamb's Conduit Street, London, WC1N 3NB

If your date loves wine, it’s hard to go wrong at Noble Rot. Low lighting, a stellar wine list, and simple food are all part of the allure, while fair prices add to its attractiveness.

£30 - £49
British
French
Lyaness at Sea Containers London

Lyaness at Sea Containers London

20 Upper Ground, South Bank, London, SE1 9PD

The brainchild of cocktail maestro Ryan Chetiyawardana, Lyaness serves a mind-bogglingly good ingredient-led cocktail list, while the bar’s views of the South Bank come alive in all their twinkling glory once the sun has set.

£30 - £49
British
Bars
Afternoon tea
The Ivy

The Ivy

1-5 West Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9NQ

The original Ivy still boasts an ineffable charm that perhaps its now-many spin-offs lack. Impossibly glamorous and with oodles of charm, the menu of upscale comfort food is beaten only by the five-star hospitality.  

£50 - £79
Modern European
Tayer + Elementary

Tayer + Elementary

152 Old Street, London, London, EC1V 9BW

If your date knows their stuff when it comes to booze, take them to Tayer + Elementary to show off your cool bar knowledge. Expect truly marvellous sips and a pork katsu sando that’s achieved Insta fame.  

£30 - £49
Modern European
Bars
Greyhound Café

Greyhound Café

37 Berners Street, London, W1T 3NB

Zany Thai restaurant Greyhound Café boasts luminous cocktails, a menu which looks like a glossy fashion magazine and a dessert called ‘Happy Toast’. In short, there’s plenty here to keep the dinner table conversation lively.

£30 - £49
Minnow

Minnow

21 The Pavement, London, SW4 OHY

Minnow is a relaxed all-day joint. If you’re enjoying a daytime date, the pastel-splashed ground floor is where to enjoy the charming Modern European menu, while the seductive basement is better suited to evening rendezvous.

£30 - £49
Modern European
Lorne Restaurant

Lorne Restaurant

76 Wilton Road, London, SW1V 1DE

Effortlessly pretty with its pastel colour palette, Lorne is a welcome addition to restaurant starved Pimlico. It’s also perfect for a relaxed date night, serving unfussy modern European sharing plates alongside a wide-ranging wine list.

£50 - £79
British
Kricket Soho

Kricket Soho

12 Denman Street, London, W1D 7HH

Small plates are a great idea on a date (unless like Joey Tribbiani, your date doesn’t share food). Kricket does small plates extremely well – think okra fries, Keralan fried chicken and plenty of veggie options.

£30 - £49
Indian
German Gymnasium

German Gymnasium

1 King’s Boulevard, King's Cross, London, N1C 4BU

Two-floor German Gymnasium is a striking space in the hubbub of King’s Cross. For date night, opt for the more casual ‘grand café’ on the ground floor and tuck into the likes of veal schnitzel.

£50 - £79
Afternoon tea
German
Lahpet

Lahpet

58 Bethnal Green Road, London, London, E1 8JW

This cutesy restaurant serves a menu of Burmese cuisine, which is largely underrepresented in London. Desserts are perfectly sized for sharing, while the booths that line the restaurant’s walls are great for getting cosy in.

  

Under £30
Burmese
Callooh Callay

Callooh Callay

65 Rivington Street, London, EC2A 3AY

Quirky and colourful mismatched décor and a list of cocktails with delightfully silly names help Callooh Callay to be one of the most fun date spots in the capital – put simply, we can’t get enough.

Bars
The Cocktail Trading Company Brick Lane

The Cocktail Trading Company Brick Lane

68 Bethnal Green Road, London, E1 6GQ

Low-lit and intimate, Brick Lane’s Cocktail Trading Co deals in gimmicky cocktails that actually have some substance. False teeth served in cocktail glasses will guarantee some laughs, while staff are always up for a chat should the company fall flat. 

Bars
Bao Soho

Bao Soho

53 Lexington Street, Soho, London, W1F 9AS

Although other locations have opened, the original Bao still draws the crowds. The steamed buns are perfect casual date food, while the no-bookings policy means there’s an opportunity for pre-date drinks to calm those nerves while you wait for a table.

Under £30
Taiwanese
Chinese
Hide Below

Hide Below

85 Piccadilly, London, W1J 7NB

Hide’s achingly cool basement bar is found at the bottom of an oak corkscrew staircase. Mayfair prices come as standard, but you’ll find pretty much any wine you could want, as well as ultra-charming staff.

Bars
Aqua Shard

Aqua Shard

Level 31 The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, , Southwark, London, SE1 9RY

If you want to go big for your date, it’s pretty hard to beat the views from Aqua Shard. It’s not a case of style over substance either, thanks to an accomplished seasonal British menu.

£50 - £79
British
Titu

Titu

1A Shepherd Street, London, W1J 7HJ

With Londoners' increasingly busy schedules, sometimes lunch dates are easier to pull off. Small but mighty Titu is great for these, serving a list of specialist gyozas at bargain prices, at least by Mayfair standards.

£50 - £79
Japanese
Happiness Forgets

Happiness Forgets

8-9 Hoxton Square, London, London, N1 6NU

This tiny Hoxton basement bar has gained fame around the world and all without gimmicks or fuss. The ever-changing list of top-quality cocktails and superb service here will show your date that you have great taste.

Bars
Hakkasan Hanway Place

Hakkasan Hanway Place

8 Hanway Place, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 1HD

Probably one of the most Instagrammed date spots in the capital, high-flying Hakkasan has gained legendary status thanks to divine dim sum and other Chinese classics. Be prepared for a hefty bill come the meal’s end.  

£50 - £79
Chinese
One michelin star
£50 - £79
The Little Blue Door

The Little Blue Door

871-873 Fulham Road, Fulham, London, SW6 5HP

Themed around a London house share, quirky Little Blue Door is tonnes of fun. Feast on an international menu while sipping on the likes of sharing cocktails which arrive disguised as a vase of flowers.

International
Bluebird

Bluebird

350 King's Road, Chelsea, London, SW3 5UU

Dating a reality TV super fan? Made in Chelsea favourite Bluebird is sure to impress with its colourful accents and please-all international menu. Bag a spot on the popular outdoor terrace for maximum cool points.

£50 - £79
International
£50 - £79
Park Chinois

Park Chinois

17 Berkeley Street, Mayfair, London, W1J 8EA

If all-out glamour is your way of impressing on a date, Park Chinois is a must visit. Unashamedly opulent interiors are matched with a menu of luxe riffs on Chinese classics, including delicious dim sum.

Over £80
Chinese
Bull in a China Shop

Bull in a China Shop

196 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6LG

Whiskey and rotisserie chicken? Sounds like a pretty good date to us. Bull specialises in both, with over 100 Japanese and Scottish whiskies to sample, alongside 24-hour marinated chicken slicked with a Nikka whisky glaze.

£30 - £49
Bars
La Bodega Negra

La Bodega Negra

9 Old Compton Street, London, London, W1D 5JF

Sexy, low-lit La Bodega Negra sits behind a faux sex shop frontage. It’s lots of fun inside too, serving up a menu of Mexican classics, as well as a healthy dose of Tequila and party vibes.

£30 - £49
Mexican
Paternoster Chop House

Paternoster Chop House

Unit 1, Warwick Court, Chancery Lane, London, EC4M 7DX

Paternoster Chophouse doesn’t just rely on its TV fame to draw in diners (it’s the setting for Channel 4’s First Dates). Hearty, good-quality steaks impress, while the heated terrace is great for a cheeky kiss.

British
Kyseri

Kyseri

64 Grafton Way, London, W1T 5DN

Relaxed Kyseri boasts a chic and intimate dining room, which is well-suited to a low-key date night. If you don’t find love across the table, you’ll surely fall for chef Selin Kiazim’s ever-changing Turkish menu.

£30 - £49
Middle Eastern
Inamo Covent Garden

Inamo Covent Garden

11-14 Hanover Place, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9JP

Worried about awkward silences on your first date? Tech-heavy Inamo, with its interactive tables and cameras that let you peep into the kitchen, should provide plenty of conversation topics. The well-executed Pan-Asian menu impresses too.

£30 - £49
Flight Club

Flight Club

2a Worship Street, London, EC2A 2AH

Activity dates can feel a lot less pressurised than sit-down dinners, and Flight Club is a great alternative to traditional first dates. The fun here involves throwing darts while munching on pizza and sinking beers.

Bars
Granger & Co Chelsea

Granger & Co Chelsea

Pavilion Road, London, SW1X 0BP

Keep things casual with a breakfast date at Granger & Co. The ricotta hotcakes are a must-order, while the pastel colour scheme and convivial atmosphere will help to ease any first date nerves.

£30 - £49
International
Barrafina Dean Street

Barrafina Dean Street

26-29 Dean Street, London, London, W1D 3LL

Often thought of as London’s archetypal tapas bar, the original Barrafina serves up plates that are perfect for sharing. Looking to impress? Order the fail-safe likes of the tomato bread, sizzling garlic prawns and made-to-order tortilla.

£30 - £49
Tapas
Spanish
One michelin star
Swift

Swift

12 Old Compton Street, London, W1D 4TQ

This two-floor Soho bar makes for a great first date venue. The seductive basement boasts the best seats in the house, where you can sip on inventive cocktails that favour intriguing flavours over throwaway gimmicks.

Bars
Bob Bob Ricard

Bob Bob Ricard

1 Upper James Street, London, W1F 9DF

It’s a Londoner’s rite of passage to abuse the ‘press for Champagne’ button at glitzy Bob Bob on a date, while the discreet booths mean you can indulge in some PDA without fear of judgement.

£50 - £79
International
Nanban

Nanban

426 Coldharbour Lane, London, SW9 8LF

Affordable Nanban serves up Japanese comfort food – think chicken karaage and warm ramen. Bag a spot on the first floor to frame your face in the glorious natural light which pours through the large window.

Under £30
Japanese

Once you’ve moved past the casual dating stage, step things up a notch with our pick of the most romantic restaurants in London.