No plastic roses, please
Words Sophie Jean-Louis Constantine
Choosing the right restaurant for Valentine’s Day is a minefield. Dodging romantic clichés to the left (plastic rose centrepiece, anyone?), and overpriced set menus to the right, finding an eatery that delivers on taste, atmosphere and intimacy is a tricky path to tread for even the most seasoned gourmand.
Luckily, you need look no further than our definitive list of the best foodie date nights in London. From characterful Soho institutions to unpretentious Taiwanese street food made for sharing, this is the palate cleanser of romance-themed culinary round-ups. Bon appetit, mes amours.
Andrew Edmunds harks back to a bygone age of Soho, a charming Georgian townhouse that will have you feeling like a bohemian painter dining out with a wayward actress. The room is lit by candles, the menu scrawled nonchalantly on a blackboard in ode to tradition. Dishes like roast partridge accompanied by red cabbage and a buttery swede mash bring rich, traditional favours to the fore, while concoctions such as creamy burrata with romesco and fennel deliver a contemporary edge. The wine list is famed for its generous pricing and the staff have vast knowledge without being stuffy. Nostalgia, character and courtship wrapped up in one classy package.
This new wine and tapas restaurant in Clerkenwell serves food on adorable tables fashioned from wine barrels, the tops of which take the form of a tree trunk. Its extensive wine list focuses on natural, organic and biodynamic wines from artisan producers around the world, from Argentinian Malbecs to Australian Chardonnays. Le Cellar’s impressive wines can also be purchased to takeaway and drink chez toi from their wine shop. Highlights of the tapas menu include the luscious pig’s cheek and celeriac puree, pleasingly served in half a wine bottle.
Bao & Bing
Paul Sarlas brings his take on Taiwanese street food to this Marylebone joint inspired by the night markets of Taipei. The menu, consisting of ‘bao’ (pillowy buns) and ‘dan bing’ (Taiwanese egg crepes), is made for sharing. Traditional crepes come stuffed with wok cabbage, spring onion, chilli, coriander and crispy wonton skins doused in hoisin sauce, while ‘bao’, another star on the Taiwanese street food scene, are steamed and lovingly filled with a choice of pork belly, five spiced beef, BBQ chicken or panko shrimp. End your date with a nightcap at the neon-lit cocktail bar, and order a Datong Negroni or two.
For classic romance, Piccadilly’s Brasserie Zedel is hard to beat. Dine on traditional French fare in Art Deco splendour with dishes like time-honoured steak à la Bordelaise – made with a heavenly sauce of dry red wine, bone marrow and shallots –or boeuf bourguignon, and revel in their richness. Postprandial, listen to live music at Zedel’s in-house cabaret venue The Crazy Coqs, which offers entertainment in an intimate 1930s setting. To close the evening, head to Bar Américain in the basement for classic cocktails. Make like Hemingway and order his eponymous daiquiri, as you soak up the old world glamour.
Situated on Stroud Green in North London, the atmosphere at Season Kitchen is warm and convivial. As its name suggests, the menu is dictated by the seasons, with locally sourced ingredients focused on sustainability. Expect dishes like miso-baked aubergine, monkfish tail with lentils and Ras el hanout, and heritage beets with almond ricotta and sorrel. As for the drinks list, its concise and considered, featuring a wonderful orange-hued option poetically named ‘Pheasants Tears’.
Sophie Jean-Louis Constantine
Sophie is a freelance fashion, lifestyle and travel writer. An alumna of the University of Manchester, where she earned a BA in English Literature, Sophie went on to work at Conde Nast Traveller. She is a fervent North Londoner and happiest curled up with a book.