Don’t chance it with a chain – London has a thriving independent restaurant and bar scene with more than enough options to impress a date.
From takeaway food served in gourmet styles, to ‘proper’ sit down restaurants to abandoned car parks packed out with hipsters, here are the unmissable new dating spots you can’t miss.
You’ve swiped right – now follow through with a knockout destination – here are some of London’s best.
The Gourmet Takeaway: Butchies
What is it? The trend for takeaway food served in a gourmet way powers on, and Butchies are at the helm of it. No fuss, no frills fried chicken sandwiches, made using highest grade free range chicken is order of the day.
Why go? This one’s a crowd pleaser – it’s simple really, if a date turns down the op to chow down on a mammoth burger on a first date, they’re probably not the one. That’s the official word on the matter.
The People Pleaser: Gin & Beer
What is it? So, word is that Deptford is London’s new chic district. Laters, Peckham.
And this new cocktail bar combines two often uncombined things: gin and beer. Good cocktails, good beer, this is the thinking dater’s choice to please all outcomes.
Why go? Some of London’s weirdest hipster retreats are in Deptford. If the drink goes particularly well, why not splash out on dinner at the Job Centre, which is a restaurant (you guessed it) within an old job centre.
Visit Gin & Beer
The Foodie One: Leroy
What is it? You might have heard of Leroy’s older sibling, Ellory restaurant in London Fields, which a cosy, stripped-back eatery that impressively boasts a Michelin star. The team behind that restaurant are hoping for more of the same success with new opening Leroy down the road in Shoreditch.
Why go? Rather than a fancy-pants pan-European menu, Leroy will serve Parisian cuisine on sharing plates, and bags (and baaaags) of decent French wine. Unexpectedly, the wine list dashes out of Paris and does a quick trip round the world, so expect all variety of new and old world wines. How about the confit chicken skewers with duck egg yolk? Who needs the Eurostar when Leroy’s in town.
The Distinctly British One: The Pie Room
What is it? Who ate all the pies? You, on your first date. Holborn Dining Room liven up their restaurant with a bespoke pie makers.
Why go? Each and every pie is painstakingly hand-decorated by pastry expert and all-round pie boffin, Calum Franklin. The Pie Room itself is an extension of the restaurant’s kitchen, but it’s viewable from the dining tables so watch Calum decorate his creations while you feast.
Visit The Pie Room
The Hipster One: Peckham Levels
What is it? Impress your date by showing them you’re into the coolest new spots with a trip to Peckham Levels. If you’ve heard of Frank’s Cafe – the hipster bar on top of a car park in Peckham – then you’ll know your way to Levels, as the new food and drink hub is literally the car parking levels below Frank’s.
Why go? Some of London’s very best artisanal producers have set up stall here, so titillate your date’s taste buds with flavours from all over the world. Plus, Levels is a really hip ‘n’ happening arena for hanging out, with plenty of space (its an empty car park, go figure) so even at busy times, there’s room.
Visit Peckham Levels
The Japanese One: Jidori
What is it? Jidori in Dalston is a right-of-passage for the area’s hipster elite. The restaurant serve simple, delightful sharing dishes from Japan. Their speciality is yakitori, basically skewered and chargrill-cooked chicken but they also do a darn fine scotch egg. There’s a new branch now in Covent Garden.
Why go? Jidori looks sensational. Nordic-inspired, minimalist interiors follow the trend for ‘new neutrals’, so all interiors are a delicious off-white but there’s warmth in the decor too. The new centrally-located offshoot occupies a distinct three-story townhouse, but with only 50 covers it feels like a real treat to land a table. Oh, and there’s karaoke in the basement for digestion dance parties. They’re a thing, right?
The Future Of Fried Chicken: On The Dak
What is it? Fried chicken has been usurped by its spicier, waxier, all together more lip-smacking Asian counterpart: Korean Fried Chicken. Find On The Dak in Covent Garden’s romantic Seven Dials district, where boutique fashion, artisanal food and theatre meet.
Why go? On The Dak boast their own version of the popular bao bun: the Chibun, a ‘chicken bun’ made of the same light, pillow-like doughy bread.
Visit On The Dak
The Speakeasy: Jack Solomons
What is it? An after-hours drinking den for romantic cubbyholing and hedonistic cocktail drinking. Devoted to the boxer Jack Solomons whose gym stood where the bar is now, the drinks lean towards his favourites: scotches, of all varieties. A simple bar food menu features freshly caught fish, so maybe swerve that if it’s a first date.
Why go? Jack Solomons is reintroducing the Speakeasy – however its namesake, the boxer Jack Solomon was famous in the 1940s and ’50s so the bar is set some time ahead of the Prohibition if we’re to stay in character. Ring the door bell on street level, by an after-hours deli in central Soho, and you might be invited down. Let’s hope so, rejection’s never much fun on a date.
Visit Jack Solomons
The Do-It-Yourself One: Little Duck – The Picklery
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What is it? The follow-up to Hackney’s Raw Duck and Soho’s Duck Soup, this eatery also has a kitchen on site for brining and picking.
Why go? If your date is a bonafide food nerd. Literally everything on the menu has in some way been through the pickling or brining process. Even the condiments. And the wine is natural and bio-dynamic, so for a boundary-pushing experience with the future of urban farming at its core, look no further.
Visit The Picklery