Ah, dating. Remember that? When it meant drinks, dinners, and being able to engage in real-time conversation instead of meticulously thought out Whatsapp messages. You’ve either done your best to make a good impression and ended up overselling - in which case you need a great restaurant to keep it up. Or you’ve put in minimum effort and want to save the woo-ing for in-person - in which case you need a great restaurant. You know, for all the woo-ing. And if you’re in a committed relationship and just need a spot to check that they’re still interested in you after seeing you have a break down over flour, you can use these spots too. Because for a really great date, you need some really great food.
This small plates Italian restaurant in Covent Garden is the place you take your other half to remind them of when you were young and full of life. You know, pre-2020. It’s from the people behind Petersham Nurseries, so it’s no surprise that it basically feels like the beautiful lovechild of a spa and a florist, and their not-so-secret secret courtyard is the best part. Get some ravioli, a couple of botanical cocktails, and embrace the Italian-esque courtyard while imagining you’re on holiday.
Forget pillow talk, we’re into fluffy bao talk. That’s right, any conversation over this low-key Tooting restaurant’s excellent bao buns will be a good one. Yes, that includes politics, potato farming, and 5G conspiracy theories. It’ll all sound interesting when you’re stuffing your face with Taiwanese fried chicken, dumplings, and that shiitake mushroom bao. And a couple of plum negronis can’t hurt either.
This Italian restaurant is where people go to fall in love. And if you’ve been stuck in a flat with your S.O. for the last 12 months, it’s where you come to remember that despite their inability to wash their own clothes, you’re still in love. From the cobblestone street it’s on, to the wooden exterior and ceramic plates, everything about this place screams ‘I WANT TO GET A DOG WITH YOU’. And their menu, with things like gnudi with sage butter, hefty portions of pappardelle with ragu, and a tiramisu that slaps you in the face with coffee before kissing you with mascarpone cream, does not disappoint.
Nothing gives a Londoner butterflies quite like the words ‘Private Courtyard’ do. Throw in a beautiful Galician blond steak, someone you’re mildly romantically interested in, and the calming atmosphere this Spanish Basque restaurant provides, and you’ve got a great evening. From a whole grilled turbot to their 14-year Galician blond steak for two, this spot has excellent food and an impressive outdoor space complete with heaters and cover from any surprise showers. P.S., you can’t go wrong with a slice of burnt basque cheesecake to finish.
Your virtual lockdown lover, as your friends keep referring to them, has just passed the ‘are they normal’ test at the veggie Pret down the road, and now you’re kind of into them and also a little bit hungry. Oklava can be found on the back streets of Shoreditch and their outdoor set-up provides the perfect getting-to-know-you setting involving an array of high-end Turkish food that will keep the interrogation session running smoothly. Get some cocktails and the whole roasted cauliflower, and maybe hold-off telling them about your reality TV addiction.
When you realise it wasn’t lockdown boredom and you actually like this person, you need to level stuff out. Maintain expectations. Not too high, not too low. You want to show this person what life will be like on the reg - basically, pretty good and pretty cool. That’s pretty much what Theo’s is. This is the neighbourhood pizza place that everyone wishes they had. The pizzas are delicious and taste very fresh. Mainly because they are. There’s a trendy buzz to the place and, if you’re local, you’ll both want to make this ‘your place’.