Wondering where to take your Valentine’s? Well, being both an avid foodie and a Londoner, I have the insiders track to the top London restaurants for your date. Most options are slightly off the beaten track and dare I say it… better than the typical hot spots in central London that will no doubt be bustling with other lovestruck couples.
Below, I’ve broken down the key features of these must-go eateries and taken a stab at what types of couples (simplistically so) would most enjoy what. But in my opinion, Valentine’s Day or not, all these restaurants are well worth a visit for anyone and everyone. So, in no particular order…
For the trend-setting couple, Levan is the spot for you. Inspired by the ‘bistronomy’ movement and their favourite eateries from Paris, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Berlin, Levan serves an inventive and seasonal take on European cuisine. From Chalkstream Trout with Ponzu and Pistachio to their Celeriac Tortellini with Sage and Kale, their menu comprises an enticing array of options that you can enjoy in a cosy, candlelit dining room adorned with contemporary European décor. What’s more, if you’re not racing back home for an early night (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), you can swing by Bar Levan right next door and enjoy a nightcap.
Taverna Trastevere, St John’s Hill
Cue Lady and Tramp for this showstopping Italian. Routinely rated as one of the top restaurants in London for Carbonara, this traditionally styled Trattoria boasts truly genuine and utterly delicious Italian food. Authentic in every way, Taverna Trastevere’s menu is split into antipasti, primi, secondi, contorni, and of course dessert – and with mouthwatering options in each section, this is for the couple who can put away food without breaking a sweat. With the restaurant’s only other location in Milan, this is the best (and cheaper) alternative to a romantic Italian getaway.
Speedboat Bar, Chinatown
For the jet-setting couple – Speedboat Bar is the perfect destination. Transporting you to the easy-going bars and restaurants typical of Bangkok’s own Chinatown, this bizarre yet entirely brilliant bar offers up a teleportation-like experience. Their Thai menu wows with fresh flavour, serving up well-known classics like Pad Krapow and lesser-known options such as Beef Tongue and Tendon Curry. With a central bar, pool table, happy hour(s!) and Thai pop music – this fun-loving venue screams for merrymaking. And with chasing shots including the option of a chicken foot, there’s plenty of fun to be had with either your significant other, or, if your love life’s on a hiatus, your Palentine(s).
Mildreds, Multiple Locations
This is one for the not-just-Veganuary couple. Renowned for it’s entirely vegan menu and eccentric décor, Mildreds is delightful. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with a multitude of both obviously vegan and seemingly un-vegan options in a range of cuisines, their menu covers everything – from Whipped Feta and Hot Mango Pepper Chicken to Kiri Hodi (a Sri Lankan coconut curry leaf stew) and Tempeh Mushroom Yaki Udon. Even if you or your partner is not vegan, this restaurant is well worth the visit – and with locations in Soho, Covent Garden, King’s Cross, Camden, Victoria and Dalston – you’re bound to get a table.
Whytes, London Fields
If I was to boil Whytes’ style down from their foodie creations to restaurant décor, it would be refined comfort – the ideal choice for the effortlessly cool couple. Their everchanging menu (noted by the fact that you can neither find one on their website or social platforms), include classics like their unbeatable smash burger (come at me Plimsoll*) to Shanghai pork belly. Having recently opened and with limited seats in their spacious yet intimate venue – plus the fact that it’s London – this is a must-book for any couple that wants to be wowed with not-so-effortless simplicity in an unfalteringly cool environment.
*Plimsoll, a pub in Finsbury Park, is widely renowned (by chefs and customers alike) for serving the best burgers in London.
What could be more romantic than a restaurant whose name is an abbreviation of [(bet)ter (to)gether)]?! Serving up vibrant Mediterranean-style tapas and an array of potent cocktails in a bright yet intimate setting, Betto is the spot for you, if you and your partner love to share. With classics like Patatas Bravas to more unusual tapas options such as Ox Cheek with Dauphinoise Potato, it’s hard not to want a bite of everything – and following a few sips of their cocktails, you’re going to need some sustenance!
Are you, or your other half, an adventurous eater who loves to explore through food? Well, Kudu’s impeccable menu of South African cuisine with a twist is surely the place for you. A mixture of small and medium plates, from Cape Malay scallop with harissa, monk’s beard and celeriac to African carrot with ras el hanout, goat’s curd and rooibos pickled carrot – this restaurant serves fine dining in a more relaxed yet still fancy setting. And, if you’re looking for a more intimate experience, with a one-of-a-kind open wine cellar, Little Kudu – their solely small plates sister restaurant – is an equally tempting option, also based in Peckham. And though it may not be entirely necessary to highlight (ahem, wine cellar!?), the wine menu is abundant with wine primarily from Stellenbosch – the unceasingly beautiful and famous wine country of South Africa.
Bambi, Netil House – Hackney
One for the music lovers or the newly dating, Bambi’s easy going setting with an in-house DJ and a plethora of vinyls makes it the got-to-spot to vibe together. With short, strong cocktails, homemade natural wine, and an array of beautifully crafted small plates boasting cauliflower cheese arancini and larger sharing plates such as a half roast chicken with focaccia and salsa verde – you’re bound to be enraptured by this one-of-a-kind joint, and hopefully each other!
Bocca Di Lupo, Archer Street – Piccadilly Circus
For those couples who want to push the boat out and indulge in an utterly swanky and expertly crafted experience, with a menu created by a renowned chef (Jacob Kennedy), a sommelier and sleek décor with an open kitchen, all in an award-winning restaurant – then this is a prime choice. Serving stripped down, honest regional Italian cuisine their menu highlights food and wine from across Italy’s twenty regions. To be both seasonal and fresh, the menu changes daily so you never quite know what you have in store – but I can assure you it will be spectacular. And for those like me, whose head not-so-patiently pops up every time a waiter passes by hoping to see their order, there’s an option to sit at the marble counter-top besides the kitchen and watch the chefs cook – an option I would strongly recommend, especially if you or your partner love to cook.
Dans le Noir?, St John Street
For the long-term couple, who though in love, may be slightly sick of seeing each other… How about a unique dining experience immersed in utter darkness? Dans le Noir?, frequented by celebrities wishing not to disclose their identity, has surged in popularity not only for it’s clientele and unusual setting, but due to their delicious menu. Blind to what you will be served ahead of dining, you explore smell, taste, and texture in whole new light – purely due to the lack of it. A surprisingly intimate experience, this is a must-go for any long-term lovers looking for a new and different experience to share together.