t’s all but universally-acknowledged that dating offers various levels of fresh hell. There’s finding the person, finding the courage to decide to go on said date, and then, worst of all, wondering where to go. A trip down the pub is all well and good but it hardly screams “making an effort!”
If you’re feeling like this could be the first of a few dates, then getting the setting right from the off is everything. Below are 10 spots — some new, some more familiar — that should work whatever the vibe is. Good luck; it’s rough out there.
For brunch: Roof Garden at Pantechnicon
The white-columned Pantechnicon houses one of the capital’s most sought-after roof gardens and recently launched a weekend brunch menu. The Nordic-inspired menu includes cinnamon buns, whipped berry porridge and homemade brioche, just the stuff for tucking into under the glass-covered rooftop out on the terrace. Order the Shokupan French toast with maple cured bacon, and settle in — if the date’s going well, nearby are plenty of pubs to choose from, including the somewhat wayward Nag’s Head, which over the years has poured pints for everyone from the late, great Richard Harris to Jeremy Irons.
19 Motcomb Street, SW1X 8LB, pantechnicon.com
For cocktails with a view: Social 24
Based in the City between Liverpool Street and Bank, on the 24th floor of the famous Tower 42, Jason Atherton’s City Social has unveiled its all-new signature cocktail menu at the Social 24 bar. Inspired by the famous London landmarks that can be spotted from the bar’s panoramic view, the menu’s mix of spirits from around the world with in-house syrups and garnishes is deftly done, but it’s the view that’s hard to beat. This is somewhere dark, cosy, and very romantic.
Tower 42, 25 Old Broad Street, EC2N 1HQ, citysociallondon.com
For Instagram-worthy drinks: The Alchemist
After something quirky? Try the Alchemist. The long-standing bar chain — there are five in London alone — has recently revamped its cocktail menu, and while the ‘gram-ready tumblers, beakers and all-around chemistry-set vibes remain, the new list features a few surprises (even if the group’s signature, the cocktail that changes colour, remains). Best of the bunch is a cocktail that’s completely edible. Granted, most cocktails are seemingly entirely edible — that’s sort of the point — but the Alchemist is taking things a step further. In the aptly named Edible One, the liquid part is made up of manzana verde, calvados, lime sherbet, salted caramel, apple juice and white chocolate foam. Where it gets interesting is with the cup, which can also be polished off: it’s vegan, made from grains and tastes much like a wafer. Just don’t linger over your drink; the cup will start disintegrating after about 40 minutes. For the next round, try the T&T, with tequila, pink grapefruit, lime, tonic, “fire mix” and flash string that’s flamed to resemble a stick of dynamite.
Across London, thealchemist.uk.com
For keeping busy: Page8 Hotel
It’s not all about eating and drinking: mix things up at Covent Garden’s Page8 Hotel, which is hosting an evolving workshop series, designed to give guests new skills while simultaneously supporting budding British brands. From sound healing to creative writing and the art of Bonsai, there are plenty of events worth keeping an eye out for at this serene urban spot. Page8 sits opposite the famed National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square and has even produced its own Undiscovered London Guide, which it hopes will inspire guests to explore the neighbourhood.
8 St Martin’s Place, WC2N 4JH, pagehotels.com
For hitting a rooftop: PocketSquare
Found up on the ninth floor of the new Hyatt Place hotel out by Aldgate East, this hyped destination rooftop is perfect for enjoying the sun and has Shoreditch, Brick Lane and Spitalfields all on its doorstep. The bar boasts gorgeous views of the London skyline, with the Gherkin, the O2 and Canary Wharf all visible from the outdoor terrace. The gin-led bar serves up some inventive cocktails alongside old classics — try the Japanese-inspired Taiyo cocktail with gin, yuzu and plum wine.
Black Lion House, 45 Whitechapel Road, E1 1DU, pocketsquare.london
For al fresco dining: St Martin’s House
As the warm weather keeps heating up, outdoor dining in the capital is officially back on the cards. Try St Martin’s House, the newest restaurant to open in Seven Dials. At the moment, they’re serving a seasonal menu of re-imagined British favourites using only fresh and locally-sourced ingredients. Expect flower-laden walls, flower-decorated cocktails and an idyllic outside dining area in the heart of London’s West End. St Martin’s House is one of those perfect places to devour beautiful British dishes and soak up some evening rays.
4A Upper St Martin’s Lane, WC2H 9NY, stmartinshouselondon.co.uk
For live music: Ronnie Scott’s
Live music always works on a first date — especially as it takes the pressure off making awkward conversation. Ronnie Scott’s, among London’s most famous music venues and the beating heart of Soho, celebrates everything from jazz to soul to funk and more experimental acts in beautiful, low-lit surrounds. The main shows at Ronnie’s are spread across two houses, with early show doors at 5:30pm and second house doors opening at 8:30pm, and tickets start at just £20. Ronnie’s classic cocktails, bottles of wine and beer are served throughout the performance — and dinner or light bites are available for those who want to make a night of it.
47 Frith Street, W1D 4HT, ronniescotts.co.uk
For a romantic hideaway: Hush Mayfair
The enchanting courtyard at Hush Mayfair, tucked away in a quaint cobbled courtyard, is the perfect setting for a first date in London, especially at the moment. The courtyard has been transformed to reflect the vibrant aesthetic of north-western Italy: think plentiful foliage and botanicals alongside rustic ladders, orchard baskets and potted herbs and plants. Get a bite to eat, take a drink and soak up the gorgeous surroundings.
8 Lancashire Court, W1S 1EY, hush.co.uk
For drinks with a side of theatre: The Act
Notting Hill’s The Act serves up an all-singing, all-dancing programme of live entertainment and cocktails. Guests are practically guaranteed an unforgettable night out, with performances from The Act’s own talented team, as well as appearances from stars of the West End stage. The Act team spontaneously serenade their guests with Eighties to Noughties crowd pleasers. Visitors can expect nightly flash-mob-style performances of musical favourites such as Grease, ABBA and The Greatest Showman. There are also weekly theatrical brunch parties on Saturdays and Sundays with rotating feel-good themes.
126-128 Notting Hill Gate, W11 3QG, theactbar.com
For something simple: Berberé Pizzeria
Award-winning Berberé Pizzeria offers some of finest sourdough pizza London has to offer. Coming directly from the Italian cobbles, Berberé prides itself on serving up true Italian flavours, made to the traditional method. It’s just a pizzeria, but it’s a favourite and a failsafe.
67 Venn Street, SW4 0BD, berberepizza.it
- 1 For brunch: Roof Garden at Pantechnicon
- 2 For cocktails with a view: Social 24
- 3 For Instagram-worthy drinks: The Alchemist
- 4 For keeping busy: Page8 Hotel
- 5 For hitting a rooftop: PocketSquare
- 6 For al fresco dining: St Martin’s House
- 7 For live music: Ronnie Scott’s
- 8 For a romantic hideaway: Hush Mayfair
- 9 For drinks with a side of theatre: The Act
- 10 For something simple: Berberé Pizzeria