Sager + Wilde, Hoxton
The team behind Sager + Wilde has a top-notch restaurant on Paradise Row in Bethnal Green and a romantic wine bar in Hackney. While the restaurant is one of our favourite places to eat pasta in the capital, we also love its bijou wine bar: its drinks list (by the glass and by the bottle) changes every day depending on what the team are into and which old cellars they’ve raided. Superlative cheese boards and toasties filled with British artisanal cheese and jalapeños, or chorizo and spinach, will help to line the stomach.
193 Hackney Road, Hoxton, E2 8JL
Waeska, the cool bar within The Mandrake hotel (one of our favourites to open in the last few years) offers an atmospheric spot for first dates, complete with taxidermy, plenty of greenery and a curiosity cabinet. With a cocktail list created by Walter Pintus, formerly head mixologist at The Connaught, the menu is founded on ethnobotany: the study of a region’s plants and their practical uses through the traditional knowledge of local cultures. We’re big fans of the ‘Sage' (mescal, Saint Germain, sage, tomato and dry sherry).
20-21 Newman Street, Fitzrovia, W1T 1PG
The Bloomsbury Club Bar, Bloomsbury
The atmospheric Bloomsbury Club Bar is split into two areas, the main bar and the outer terrace. The walls in the main bar area are adorned with books synonymous with the Bloomsbury Set, of whose hedonistic reputation the bar takes inspiration – its a cosy, romantic spot. Meanwhile the secluded (and fully heated) outside bar is decorated with hundreds of twinkling lights for ready-made romance.
16-22 Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, WC1B 3NN
Donovan’s Bar, Mayfair
Donovan’s Bar (named after the renowned fashion photographer Sir Terence Donovan) is Brown’s Hotel’s signature watering hole. The menu is devised by drinks ‘maestro’ Salvatore Calabrese and offers new and signature creations alongside a selection of vintage cocktails made with some of the rarest spirits from his personal collection (the banana and cocoa G&T is challenging, in a great way). Throughout the bar, racing green accents and touches of gold work well against the 18th-century stained glass and Donovan’s black-and-white fashion portraits, which line the walls. Our favourite spot is the eight-seat ‘Naughty Corner’, which features his most suggestive photographs.
Albemarle Street, Mayfair, W1S 4BP
Neighbourhood favourite Oriole is decorated with warm amber tones and pops of teal. Buried beneath Farringdon’s Smithfield’s Market, the bar is the sultry little sister to ever-popular Nightjar. An underground cabinet of curiosities, the venue is draped with velvet curtains, exotic palm trees and swathes of fur, which combine to set the scene for an intimate evening of retro glamour. When it comes to drinks, we like the decadent ‘Orsini’ cocktail, which combines Grey Goose vodka, cognac, artichoke rubino and neroli foam.
Smithfield’s Market, Farringdon, EC1A 9LH
Bob Bob Cité, City
Five years in the making, Bob Bob Cité finally opened in the Leadenhall Building just before the pandemic hit. A sister site to Anglo-French-Russian-themed Soho institution Bob Bob Ricard, this glossy City spot celebrates French elegance and. As such, expect wonderfully OTT interiors: the walls and ceilings are panelled with rosewood and there are more than 800 bespoke light fittings (including 24 chandeliers). As per the original, the 'Press for champagne’ buttons are a fixture.
Level 3, 122 Leadenhall Street, City, EC3V 4AB