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May 20, 2014updated 02 Mar 2016 11:48am

The best places to wine, dine and woo in London

By Zak Smith

The London restaurant scene is buzzing, as innovative restaurants and fusion food concepts open in the capital on a weekly basis.

However, picking the right date spot is becoming increasingly difficult, as that choice – romantic or fatal – says far more about you than it does your culinary preferences.

From food snobs to social media fads, a new ‘in’ place is in every month, and navigating your way through the daily or weekly updates from the likes of the Nudge and the Handbook is becoming an obsession in itself. Friends attempt to out-do their peers by picking the next best place before the hordes ruin the vibe.

So where to pick for a hot date? Despite global names and top quality food, stay away from Mayfair.

I spoke to Benjamin, who had recently returned from another sterile double date at Nobu Berkeley Street, which he complained felt like a Saturday night on The Only Way Is Essex.

Across the road one gets to Novikov, where the downstairs bar is a cross between American Psycho and the final scene of Taken before Liam Neeson rescues his daughter.

Further down the road, the crowd doesn’t get much better. Outside Hakkasan Mayfair feels like an Abu Dhabi souk, young men gesticulating so violently their Audemar Royal Oaks mutate into knuckle dusters as they debate their paid company or the price of the Bugatti in the next door window.

South America is the flavour of the month. Try Bodega Negra where, Barry said, ‘You have to bring a beautiful date as the waitresses and hostesses are outrageous… Gotta keep focused on the right woman, you know?’

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Around the corner is Lima, a Michelin-starred Peruvian restaurant so understated you wouldn’t believe the quality of the food or the coolness of the crowd. Here you sit so close to one another you can practically taste the Amazonian fish on the plate of your neighbour.


The restaurant of the moment has to be the Chiltern Firehouse (pictured above), and if you manage to get a reservation, you might as well book a room while you’re at it, the date will be so impressed.

For something less central but lively and innovative, head to MODE, the newest venue in Notting Hill and the ideal place to fall in love with a Millicent or Percy. The crowd is so white you need sunglasses, however the food is innovative and the concept changes every six months. With a constant stream of live music, guest DJs and star performers, no two dates there will ever feel the same (assuming you need this formula more than once).


Head to Fitzrovia for pre- or post-dinner drinks. The bar at the London Edition is perfect for grandiose gestures and a lively tipple, with great drinks and a buzzing crowd. For something underground, try Oskar’s at Dabbous (pictured above) or Rev JW Simpson, a painfully understated bar that is sometimes so dark that, according to James, ‘After a few Old Fashioneds, who sits in front of you becomes irrelevant.’ How romantic!

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