8 First Date Restaurants Recommended By Team Marie Claire

First dates are cringe-worthy enough without worrying about the venue. Allow team Marie Claire to recommend the first date restaurants that worked like a dream...

Google first date restaurants London and you might find candlelit nooks and crannies with sharing plates and extensive wine lists. But getting the vibe, food and location just right is much easier if you go for the tried and tested method. So we asked Team Marie Claire to share their top finds when it comes to London’s best first date restaurants. You can thank us later.

Gordon’s Wine Bar

‘Tip: get there early to find a cute nook in the cave, and order a cheese platter. I went on a first date there with a romantic French guy who I’d met at a bar. It was summer so we were outside, and he started singing an Arctic Monkeys song (badly), strumming away on the guitar he’d brought along with him. It was very embarrassing. There was no second date.’

Emma Firth, Fashion Features and Entertainment Assistant

first date restaurants london

Tratra, Shoreditch

‘This wasn’t strictly our first date – it was approx no. 364 – but I wish I had discovered this place earlier. Tucked away in the basement of East London’s Boundary, the Terence Conran-designed hotel may be famed for its laidback roof terrace, but its worth heading down the stairs instead of up them for a rare find in this part of town. Delicious French food that is low on fuss and big on flavour, Tratra (pictured above) is the brainchild of French chef and cookery writer Stéphane Reynaud and it’s just the spot for a cosy date that feels special but relaxed. Settling in to the ruby red velvet baquettes feels like hiding in a chic Parisian wine cellar, but the bare bricks and concrete stairwells hint at the East London vibe playing out on the pavements above. But it isn’t the decor – modern art meets chic minimalism – that you’ll be talking about, its the food. Served with a large dose of charm, we got lucky with our knowledgable and warm maître d’, the Huîtres (Rock oysters, £2.50 each) and Calamar St Jean-de-Luz (Slow-braised squid, with toasted peanuts, £9.50) were exceptionally fresh, possibly the most tender calamari you could hope for. This spot is the one for meat lovers and you can’t go wrong with the Cochon de Lait (Suckling pig crepinette, dates, tarragon, creamy mash, £19) which sound likes an assault on the tastebuds but is delicate and delicious, not once tipping into overly rich. End your date on a massive high by asking for the dessert menu before you leave. The unexpected inclusion of Vacherin aux fraises (Strawberries and meringue, £7) was a light sweet treat that will top off an unforgettable meal in style. Heads up to the chocolate-lovers: go for the Truffon (Chocolate ganash with raspberries and pistachio ice-cream, £8) but don’t expect to be able to finish it all, this one’s better for sharing.’

Tracy Ramsden, Features Editor

first date restuarants london

The Bleeding Heart, Farringdon

‘I can’t remember my first date with my (now) husband – we went to four different bars and then a Mexican club for £1 tequila shots! But I do remember once having a lovely date at The Bleeding Heart, a small, dimly lit cave – the food is amazing. Every date back then was an excuse for an amazing dinner out.’

Jess Wood, Fashion Features Director

first date restaurants london

Julie’s, Holland Park

‘My first date with my husband was about a hundred years ago! But I do remember we went to Julie’s in Holland Park – it’s lovely, decadent and romantic. That’s why I always recommend it to friends looking for first date restaurants in London.’

Sian Parry, Photography Director

Walthamstow Stadium

‘Forget fine dining, my best first date was at the Greyhound Races in Walthamstow. We’d met at a party and we ate dirty chicken in a basket. I think he wanted to test whether I could slum it. We ended up winning £65 and went out dancing to celebrate.’

Debi Simpson, Fashion Assistant

Dans Le Noir, Clerkenwell

‘This place isn’t just dimly lit – it’s pitch black – which is probably most people’s ideal first date scenario! I freaked out in the dark and we left half way through the main course but it was featured in the Richard Curtis film, About Time and has had some rave reviews.’

Caroline Leaper, Digital Junior Editor

Viet Grill, Shoreditch

‘My first date with my boyfriend is a bit too well documented (it was a blind date in a 2012 issue of Marie Claire!) but, go on then, I’ll recount it again because I genuinely recommend this place, which he chose. We had a cocktail masterclass at London’s Vinopolis and got sufficiently hammered to go on to share a nice bottle of wine (no, we probably didn’t need it) and various plates of Vietnamese deliciousness. The food here is awesome (and check out its sister restaurants in Old St and Soho) and it has a lovely, low key, ambience which makes it one of London’s most ideal first date restaurants. We chatted until we were the last ones to leave and three and a half years we’re still together. And we’ve been back so many times we pretty much know the menu by heart!’

Martha Hayes, Contributing Editor

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