Nothing, absolutely nothing, says romance quite like the whiff of traffic fumes and the bright lights of an old sex shop. Throw in ten tourists with selfie sticks and you’ve got yourself a love story. Okay, but all joking aside, due to its central location and selection of great bars and restaurants, Soho is one of the best places for a date in London. From a cool basement bar hidden in a whisky shop, to a casual, cute coffee spot, to a counter restaurant perfect for trialing your best Lady and the Tramp impression, these are our favourite places for a date in Soho.
Was Beyoncé’s iconic 2003 hit Crazy In Love actually an ode to pasta? We don’t know. We can only air our suspicions. If it was - just tell us B - we can guarantee it was penned about the kind of pasta they’re serving at Manteca. This Italian-inspired restaurant on Great Marlborough Street not only has some banging ox cheek ragu pappardelle and rich brown crab cacio e pepe, they do a great share-me dessert, and top negronis.
Picture this. Your date asks you where you want to meet for a drink and you text saying, ‘I know this great little bar hidden behind the bookcase at Milroy’s whisky shop on Greek Street’. Wow, a maverick, they’ll think, how intriguing. Anyway, this proper little basement bar has an intimate feel, big comfy sofas, and lots of exposed brick. Unlike a lot of London’s other ‘secret bars’ The Vault actually is relatively unknown, doesn’t require a lame password like PISS-ME-UP-SCOTTY, and more importantly, it isn’t shit. In fact, it’s one of the best spots to go for a drink whilst you’re still in that lovely like-me-please stage.
Ducksoup is where you go when you’re trying to decide whether the person you’re dating thinks you’re the love of their life or the love of right now. A tiny little restaurant that is all about natural wines, seasonal small plates, and a relaxed candlelit atmosphere, Ducksoup is basically perfect for taking things to the next level. Most of the seating here is around their big family-style counter table, but don’t worry, despite the sharing situation it always feels intimate. In case you’re after a knockout one-two punch date night, the Soho Theatre is just a few doors down.
The Palmor is a big, glossy smile of a restaurant. You’re pretty much guaranteed a good time at this Israeli small plates spot in Chinatown, where the counter is a proper laugh and the octo-hummus is the kind of dish you’ll think of often and smile. You know, kind of like what you’re meant to do when you think of your partner. Be aware that you’ll probably have to put your name down for a seat at the counter, but any wait endured at one of the many local boozers will be totally worth it.
Doesn’t Meet Me At Milkbar sound like the latest Jodi Picoult novel? It’s also exactly what you should say if you’ve decided to go for the increasingly popular coffee date. Some people like vetting strangers from the internet during daylight hours, who knew. This discreet coffee shop is not only open until 5.30 every evening, but it has the right music volume, a friendly feel, and plenty of seating to avoid that awkward situation where you end up chatting favourite films on a grim pavement. If the initial chat goes well, you can always move on to Bar Termini for something from their negroni menu - it’s a two minute walk away.
Missing: your date’s heart. Last seen in beautiful 1930s Parisian wonderland, Brasserie Zédel. Feel free to use that line and remain single forever. But anyway, Brasserie Zédel is one of London’s most iconic and fail-safe date nights for a reason. Apart from looking like somewhere that inspired an Edith Piaf album, Zédel is also surprisingly affordable, especially if you get involved in the three-course prix fixe menu for just under fifteen small pounds. Although this huge, sprawling subterranean restaurant can fit a couple hundred people, it’s still a good idea to book ahead - especially on nights with live music.
Bar Américain is one of our all-time favourite bars in London, and helpfully, it’s inside the same building as Brasserie Zédel. Despite what our exes might have told you, we don’t purely like this old-fashioned cocktail bar because it’s just a few metres from one of our favourite restaurants and we’re exceptionally lazy people. No, we like it for its moody, sleek, basement feel. We like it for its pretty much flawless cocktails. And we like it for having enough mahogany and dark leather to make us feel like grown-ups. Do we also like it because we’re lazy and requires minimal walking from Zédel? Of course.
The lovely, warm counter at Bancone is about as romantic and euphoric as date night can get in London without attempting to go all “I’m flying Jack!” on a TFL river boat. Plus, this option involves great, affordable handmade pasta, burrata, and classic cocktails. Just be aware that this place is seriously popular, so although they encourage walk-ins, you should book ahead if you want to make sure your date night involves spicy pork mafalde rather than an apology.
We’ve all been there. You have one too many glasses of red with the person you’ve been on a couple dates with and wake up the next day to what you believe is either a bad hangover or paralyzing regret. Take your sorry, awkward selves for a late breakfast at Soderberg, a chill Scandi cafe with achingly cool furniture and excellent cinnamon buns. Heads up, this place is also a top last-minute evening drinks option, with most of their cocktails around the £8 mark, and plenty of free seating hidden downstairs.
If you’re looking for a date spot that is basically the restaurant equivalent of a cheeky wink, Bob Bob Ricard is not for you. Move along. This Soho spot is exclusively reserved for date nights that say I love you, I am impressing you, and maybe even, I’m sorry for that incident with the rug, please let me sleep in our bed again. A big, richer-than-rich French-meets-Russian brasserie, everything from the tartare to the beef wellington for two here is excellent. Plus, there are ‘press for champagne’ buttons at every table, and that’s classy.
Bar Italia is a classic Soho institution beloved for its cannoli and 5am closing hours. Basically, this is a cheap and cheerful date spot for when you’re looking for an old-school Italian café where you can have a laugh with the person you love. Or better yet, that Tinder date where you know you’ll have absolutely nothing in common with so you’ll replace chemistry with getting absolutely smashed until the early hours. Anything to fill the void, right?
Sometimes love is in the air, and sometimes it’s the smell of Darjeeling Express’ aubergine curry. Either way, we’re happy. This cute and casual restaurant in Kingly Court is serving the kind of excellent, homely Indian food that’s the perfect background to a catch-up with your new favourite human or the date night you promised to abandon your sofa for. Everything from the tasty starters, generous portions, and welcoming way the owner walks around checking you’re merry, will ensure that Darjeeling Express will become a permanent fixture on your romance rotation.