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Arts + Lifestyle

CF's Guide to London's Best First Date Spots

London has quite the choice when it comes to date-night approved spots – but where does one begin?

We’ve scouted out the most romantic spots in the big city, balancing low-key but luxe establishments with some outdoorsy fun. While we can’t guarantee the second date, we can ensure a memorable first date. From Soho to Bermondsey, Chelsea to Hackney, this is your one-stop guide to first date appropriate restaurants, art galleries, immersive theatre, and a roster of cosy bars scattered across the capital.


1. Tate Modern (Bankside)

 

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Tate Modern is everyone’s favourite art gallery and has become integral of London’s cultural anatomy. The multi-layered museum is one of the most visited spaces for contemporary art in the world, covering hundreds of years of art and an array of themed exhibitions. Discover the museum’s permanent collection, then venture to the top floor of the Blavatnik Building for romantic views across the River Thames and St Paul’s Cathedral. If a post-exhibition pint is next on the agenda (for the true London experience), head back along the river to The George in London Bridge – a 17th-century pub with oak beams and oodles of charm.


2. Maltby Street Market (Bermondsey)

 

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Maltby Street Market is ideal for grabbing a casual bite to eat. This lively little alley can be sniffed out from a mile away and has become a magnet for avid foodies since it first opened in 2010. It’s not the biggest market, but what it lacks in size makes up for glorious food in food. A tightly curated set of some of the city’s best street food vendors is all it takes to make your tastebuds sing. Various micro-restaurants and pop-ups sit side by side opposite a mishmash of food stalls serving cuisine from all over the world. An informal spot that feels particularly intimate, but not too intense for a first date.


3. Canalside Walk & Towpath (Hackney)

 

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If you’re venturing east, a slow stroll along the Regent’s Canal in Hackney is very romantic. Plus, if you happen to run into Towpath along the way, you’re in for a treat. Run by chefs Laura Jackson and Lori De Mori, Towpath Cafe is located under the Whitmore Bridge on the Regent’s Canal, south of De Beauvoir Town. It’s an idyllic spot that feels appropriately casual and discreet for a first date. Stop here for avocado on toast, tumblers of espresso and delicious seasonal dishes served right by the water.


4. Kudu (Peckham)

 

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Expect artful and unpretentious dishes at Kudu, a South African restaurant that belongs to a mini-empire of family-run restaurants in South London. The menu is structured with sharing in mind, made up of small bites and medium dishes that can be quite meaty and seafood centric. There’s a separate veggie menu provided on request, serving crowd-pleasers such as a delicious, charred aubergine recipe topped with tropea onions and black garlic tempting enough for the carnivores to jump on board. For drinks, we suggest trying the Queens Road Sour to start – a fragrant concoction of smoked amaretto, rum, and citrus – before moving on to the wine list which largely consists of South African labels. No hurry for the cheque on this first date.


5. The Barbary (Covent Garden)

 

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Tucked away in Neal’s Yard, a colourful courtyard in Covent Garden, The Barbary is first date material for its semi-circular seating arrangement which can feel as though you’re dining with a group, taking the pressure off a little. If, say, there’s a lull in conversation, you can simply chit-chat with the chefs while they prepare the food in the open-plan kitchen bar. Curated by chef Eyal Jagermann, the menu has a non-linear structure, instead separated into categories that point to the restaurant’s seasonality, such as ‘Land, Earth and Sea’. Stuck for choice? The just-baked Jerusalem bagel is buttery and so soft to complement the charred chicken shawarma, and you can count on the Fattoush salad to be a trusty side with whatever you go for. Booking in advance advised. 


6. Saatchi Gallery and The Surprise

 

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The Saatchi Gallery is located just off the King’s Road right by Sloane Square in a grand building that backs onto Duke of York Square. The museum’s ongoing collections feature contemporary art from emerging artists in a variety of forms, with a particular focus on experimental artwork. After a slow saunter around one of the many exhibitions on show, be sure to swing by The Surprise in Chelsea, an independent backstreet pub that was recently renovated and reopened in 2021 by hotelier and restaurateur Jack Greenall. CF Tip: Take a backstreet route away from the King’s Road where you’ll pass by the former homes of famous and some infamous historical figures.


7. The Orange (Pimlico)

 

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Choosing The Orange for a first date is sure to impress, a charming corner pub neighbouring Pimlico’s upmarket design shops and a heady mix of independent ateliers. Grab a drink by the bar and head straight for the upstairs area with windows that look out over this leafy corner of Belgravia – also known as Pimlico’s craft district. The surrounding buildings are a talking point, especially for lovers of architecture and antique stores. The food can be described as fancy-but-hearty pub grub with specials highlighted on chalkboards. As the menu changes per season, it’s worth speaking with the staff to catch the best bits.


8. Blanchette

 

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London’s Soho is always full of life and ideal for wandering, bars and restaurants. As you make your way through the buzzy streets, find your way to Blanchette, a stylish bistro serving delicious French fare. Choose to dine inside in softly shaded interiors of pistachio green for a more intimate tête-à-tête, or al fresco which is where you’ll get to experience the magic of Soho’s lively streets. The menu covers the classics, such as moules in a buttery broth, cheese and honey pairings, charcuterie, and crispy frog legs. Save room for the passion fruit vacherin (two spoons please), an artful mix of meringue and sorbet that’s super zesty, but not too sweet.


9. Kew Gardens

 

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Looking for an outdoorsy first date spot? You can’t go wrong with Kew Gardens, a wild botanical garden made romantic by the sheer beauty of the surrounding woodlands. Just 30 minutes from central London, Kew is one of four UNESCO sites in London, sprawling an impressive 300 acres. Roam at whim, see a play, join a talk. This is an interactive date that’s sure to please an outgoing pair with a soft spot for nature.


10. Watch The Sunset From Primrose Hill

 

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People from all over the world travel to Primrose Hill, a regal neighbourhood in North London close to Chalk Farm Station and Regent’s Park. The area is village-like, surrounded by upmarket delis and intimate eateries – from tavernas to gastropubs. All you really need is a picnic blanket or a lonesome bench – plus impeccable timekeeping to catch the sunset at its finest. Need a visual? Refer to episode 1, season 1 of Dolly Alderton’s TV adaptation of Everything I Know About Love – technically filmed at sunrise, but the sentiment is there.


11. Lisboeta, Charlotte Street

 

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Ticked off all the above? Then it’s time to check out Nuno Mendes’s Lisboeta, a new-ish townhouse restaurant based in Fitzrovia. Spread across three floors, Lisboeta first opened its doors back in March 2022, focusing on three menus that evolve from midday to the late evening. Try out traditional and contemporary ‘Petiscos’ – an array of small plates – alongside larger plates of ‘Tachos & Travessas’. The all-Portuguese wine list balances a variety of historic producers and young winemakers known for their punchy natural wines.


12. Soho Theatre Comedy Club

 

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Dean street’s Soho Theatre is an unpretentious spot that promises a casual theatre outing. Brimming with a programme of events spanning theatre, comedy, and cabaret, this central London venue shows up to six performances a night in a pared-down setting. Not convinced? Soho Theatre prides itself on being a performance space for people who claim to dislike the theatre, shunning stuffy stereotypes (goodbye gilded ceilings) in favour of a laidback and accessible environment.


13. Sweeties, The Standard

 

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Sweeties is The Standard’s glitzy 10th floor cocktail bar and discotheque. This flirty hangout is where you’ll continue the night for trippy coloured cocktails and a late-night dance under the disco ball – or maybe it’s your first port of call for a playful tipple overlooking London’s skyline. Reopening on Saturday 3rd September, we’d recommend getting in on the scene early before this fun bar inevitably becomes the talk of the town and the dastardly queues commence.


14. Lyaness, Sea Containers London

 

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Looking for somewhere that’s both stylish and discreet? Consider this award-winning bar located on the first floor of South Bank’s smart Sea Containers London. The founder, Ryan Chetiyawardana, is one of London’s favourite mixologists praised highly for his boundary-pushing menus. The sleek interiors are as impressive as the detail that goes into the cocktail-making, with unusual recipes made up of seven core ingredients. The canapés have a strong seafood theme, served best alongside a batch of the pillow-soft flatbread. Aside from the artful mixology, we love this spot for its Art Deco feel.


15. The Connaught

 

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One to get dressed up? This swish Mayfair spot is an ultra-stylish Art Deco bar made for an elegant outing. The Connaught has been around since the 19th century, charming guests with its Cubist-inspired wood panelling and plush decor. Settle down in one of the overstuffed leather chairs and soak up one too many martinis from the legendary martini trolley. Drinks are served tableside, mixed to your requirements as you luxuriate in the opulent surroundings.


16. Natural History Museum After Hours

 

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For after-hours fun, look to the Natural History Museum, which hosts regular lates and doubles up as a bar. Guests are permitted to linger at whim around the gallery spaces showcasing vast sculptures and interactive exhibitions brought to life by the museum’s 80 million specimens, including Dippy – the museum’s much-loved replica of a diplodocus skeleton.

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