We may be stuck indoors trying to woo our other halves over Zoom (urgh), Googling witty one liners to use on Hinge or frantically swiping (well, not much difference there, really) for our next fling, but it’s still Valentine’s weekend, and so we’ve come over a little romantic.
Dates as we know them (and indeed, heading out in public generally) may be off the cards for a little while longer, but that hasn’t stopped us from compiling a list of the most loved-up locales in the city. Whether you’re reuniting with your partner, meeting the match you’ve spent weeks chatting to or re-entering the world of dating after a lengthy hiatus, we’re here to point you in the direction of the best places for a romantic rendezvous in London.
And if you’re looking for an al fresco destination? You can check out our list of best outdoor bars in London, too.
Ok, we get it; descending into the depths of an underground toilet may not seem like the most romantic prospect on earth, but bear with us. Named W.C. – which now stands for wine and charcuterie, a far more tempting offer – this bar is a mix of high tables set for two and cosy, semi-private booths. Order a bottle of wine and some cheese to share (what’s sexier than that?).
Closest tube: Clapham Common
With a low-lit basement floor and plenty of nooks to snuggle up in, this three-story bar is surprisingly cosy. Spend some time sampling its expansive array of whiskys (over 100, to be precise) and local beers, or if things are off to a bit of an awkward start, there are plenty of boardgames lining the walls. Nothing hotter than some healthy competition.
Closest tube: West Hampstead
Alfred Le Roy
Speak to any long-standing Londoner and they’ll list Crate Brewery as one of their favourite spots for a pizza and beer; but we’re turning our attention to the pub’s river-dwelling sister venue for date night. Housed on a boat that bobs around beside the brewery’s beer garden, Alfred Le Roy sits at the quirkier end of the romance spectrum – which sounds good to us.
Closest tube: Hackney Wick
If your date for the evening is something of a sommelier, then take them to Vagabond. Serving over 100 different wines in each location, this mini chain has popped up all over the city in recent years, but it’s the Clapham branch – with its tiny hidden garden – that’s our personal favourite. Centred on the idea of serving yourself from glass cases that surround snug wooden tables, it has the added benefit of sparking conversation if the chat’s drier than a Chardonnay.
Closest tube: Clapham Junction
It’s telling that when you enter the tiny bar Coupette its walls are lined with candlelit two-seater tables. Despite its simple exterior, this place absolutely oozes romance – something undoubtedly aided by the fact that it’s French. Oh, and as home of the Champagne Piña Colada, it boasts a cocktail menu so impressive that it earned spot number 23 on the World’s 50 Best Bars list in 2019. Ooh la la.
Closest tube: Bethnal Green
Smouldering cocktails served in novelty glasses plus a pianist tinkering away in the background? Yep, yep, you’re earning mega first-date points here. The Gibson is a prohibition-style cocktail bar expertly placed between Old Street and Barbican stations – leaving you plenty of options should you fancy extending your date into the early hours.
Closest tube: Old Street, Barbican
No. 197 Chiswick Fire Station
Set in the heart of Chiswick (a decidedly romantic destination in its own right), the Fire Station is right in the middle of the tree-lined high street (in, yes, the old fire station). If this bar’s 16-page drinks menu isn’t enough to tempt you there, then its super-sleek, unfussy interior should be. We reckon this is a great one for daytime dates in particular.
Closest tube: Turnham Green
Head down an inconspicuous set of stone steps on Hoxton Square and you’ll unearth Happiness Forgets, a tiny speakeasy hidden underneath an unassuming row of buildings. There’s no sign alluding to its whereabouts, so hunting it out should be enough to impress your date – but if not, the cocktails shaken by world-class mixologists will do the job.
Closest tube: Old Street, Hoxton
The Holly Bush
Looking for something a little cosier? Head north to Hampstead and quintessentially English pub The Holly Bush. Tucked away down one of the area’s cobbled side streets, this hidden, flower-covered watering hole looks straight out of a Hugh Grant movie, packed full of charm by way of rustic, candlelit tables and plush leather chairs set around a roaring fire. Head there on a Sunday afternoon and take a romantic stroll on the Heath afterwards. We’re feeling loved up already.
Closest tube: Hampstead
Gordon’s Wine Bar
You knew it was coming, right? No list would be complete without a nod to Gordon’s Wine Bar. So iconic within the realm of London dating that it borders on cliché, this cavernous venue still makes the cut thanks to its failsafe reputation – you could pick your date’s nose (though we wouldn’t recommend it) and still come out with a trip to the Natural History Museum pencilled in. Widely considered to be the oldest wine bar in the city (and unofficially known as the “adulterous barrister’s bar” – wince), this subterranean, almost completely dark venue was carved from the same bedrock that forms Charing Cross station, filled with candlelit tables and historic, yellowing newspaper cuttings.
Closest tube: Embankment, Charing Cross