Best romantic UK restaurants
L’Enclume, Cartmel, Cumbria
A rare three-Michelin-star restaurant, behind a booking at Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume and win the heart of any foodie. To make a break of it, stay in L’Enclume’s rooms around Cartmel and book a prelim lunch or dinner at the spin-off Rogan & Co – this is where you’ll have breakfast the following morning, too: devilled eggs, bacon and brioche.
L’Enclume is a benchmark in seasonality and creativity, with dishes such as Boltardy beetroot, rose and lobster tart; West Country duck, Kalibos cabbage, pickled walnut with sweet woodruff; and the signature ‘Anvil’ dessert (caramel mousse with miso, apple and spruce), painstakingly refined over weeks and months in the development kitchen, Aulis, next door. Expect to see kale from L’Enclume’s farm and Cartmel Valley roe venison on the winter menu.
Service is another highlight: in-demand tables include one and three, in the conservatory. £250pp; lenclume.co.uk
Romance does not always require a quiet table. Particularly on a nervous first date, you might want a crowd around as, over relaxed food, you see how things develop. This pintxos bar, created by pioneering Welsh deli brand Ultracomida, fits that bill. Get to know one another over plates of chargrilled lamb cutlets with a garlic and parsley picada, baked Valencian goat’s cheese or cuttlefish a la plancha. Want to prolong the night? Next door, snug sister bar, Vermut, specializes in sherry and the eponymous herbal wine. Plates £6-£16; curadobar.com
Burnt Orange, Brighton
Good restaurants are cocoons from the world. Sitting in a window seat, watching Middle Street go by, or secreted deeper in this warm, stylish bar-restaurant (good cocktails, Fatboy Slim curated soundtrack), real life seems very far away. To minimize fuss and maximize conversation, opt for Burnt Orange’s wood-fired sharing menu of, variously, BBQ chicken thighs with spiced celeriac remoulade and aïoli or smoked miso aubergine, crispy onions and sour cream. Two finishes, add a baked Tunworth cheese for two. Experience menu, £35/37pp; burnt-orange.co.uk
From its luxe grill dishes, including a Galician ex-dairy côte de boeuf or a sharing Cornish dover sole with creamed spinach, preserved lemon and brown butter, to its silk jacquard wall coverings, golden ceiling and bar, this glamorous Mayfair restaurant is guaranteed to wow any date. After dinner, the beats purr, as DJs take guests through until 3am, both in the restaurant and the Dragon Room bar, downstairs. Isabel’s innovative cocktail list includes the Rosetta, a take on the French 75, garnished with a rose petal and dehydrated lychee. Mains from £24; isabelw1.london
Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Oxfordshire
The headline for foodies is the recent arrival of Luke Selby as executive head chef. A former employee steeped in its seasonal ethos, he returns, says Raymond Blanc, as: “One of the UK’s most creative chefs.”
Elsewhere, this gorgeous retreat glides serenely on, offering the kind of exceptional service (bespoke bouquets from its in-house florist; specially requested treats by patissier, Benoit Blin), that have made it both a favorite of young lovers – the Japanese gardens are a popular proposal spot – and married couples.
Be it sourcing the wines from your wedding day to celebrate a major anniversary or hosting private candlelit dinners in its glasshouse, Le Manoir excels. Dinner, £230pp; belmond.com/belmond-le-manoir-aux-quat-saisons
10 Tib Lane, Manchester
Its scale and location (two compact floors on a back street), decor (candles, wood, distressed walls) and feel (calm, welcoming) make 10 Tib Lane a date night doozy. Start with cocktails, such as the whiskey and soda made using a house yogurt-washed Chivas Regal. Revived, head upstairs for on-point sharing plates of smoked trout mousse, turnip and brioche toast; sea bream with champagne sauce; or sea salt caramel tart. Plates from £6; 10tiblane.com
The Barrie brothers’ Albert Dock stunner is a date night spot you can enjoy as you see fit. Want intense conversation? That’s fine, lean in. If you like to buzz off an energetic room – engaging music, excitable vibe, open kitchen action – you can do that, too.
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Across tasting menus and a daily changing plates carte, chef Ellis’s modish dishes – fermented chilli-dressed Menai Strait oysters; Anglesey crab risotto with celeriac from Warrington’s Field 28 – make exemplary use of Welsh and northern produce. The signature dry-aged duck for two has, says brother, Liam: “Established its own cult following.” Plates £13-£28; lerpwl.com
Manager Jono at V&V, Leeds
Comprising just eight tables, Jonathan Hawthorne’s intimate, tasting menu restaurant is date night gold. The chatty staff encourage a relaxed atmosphere, as the open kitchen dispatches dishes such as bone marrow crème brûlée, chilli lobster and crab bisque with passion fruit, or mushroom tiramisu. With its porcini sponge, white chocolate and shiitake ganache and coffee and cep caramel, the latter is, says Jono: “A very modern take on a classic.” Tasting menu, £70; chefjonoatvandv.co.uk
Cafe St Honoré, Edinburgh
Chef-owner Neil Forbes is an award-winning sustainability evangelist, whose fealty to the Scottish larder and its artisan producers is legendary. But in its French-inspired food and 1920s Parisian aesthetic, St Honoré retains a surprisingly Gallic feel.
Table 1 is good for couples who like to people-watch. For greater intimacy, head downstairs to Neil’s fairy-lit library: “I keep a lot of my cookery books there.” Over winter, expect rich, delicious braises: petit salé pork with lentils and bacon, beef bourguignon or coq au vin, accompanied by predominantly organic, biodynamic wines. Mains from £22.50; cafesthonore.com
Beckford Bottle Shop, Bath
Arguably, a romantic night requires only great wine, good lighting and a comfortable setting. Beckford Bottle Shop, a bistro and wine shop on an impossibly pretty street, offers all three in abundance. If you can, book the table for two in the wine shop’s window but, wherever you eat, chef James Harris’s menu of sharing charcuterie boards or seasonal small plates (do not miss the Bath chaps or Dartmoor venison with jerusalem artichoke) will seal a memorable night. Next date night, try new the spin-off, Beckford Canteen, housed in a Georgian greenhouse. Plates £6-£12; beckfordbottleshop.com
Date-night restaurant no-nos
• Spending more time on selfies and #foodporn shots than talking to your date
• Ordering for your date without asking
• Haggling over split bills
• Bragging about legendary meals you’ve eaten, especially if eaten with someone else
• Flirting with the FOH
• Endlessly updating friends (phones down!)
• Booking multiple tables to give your date loads of choice (Οlive could never love someone who no-shows)
• Snaffling your date’s food without consent
• Finding fault with the restaurant that your date booked
• Getting uptight about spills, greedy slurps or giddy enthusiasm for messy foods (an appetite is sexy!)
• Faking food knowledge to impress
• No tipping. Not cool.
• Getting so engrossed in your conversation that the restaurant closes around you. Come on, the staff have love lives, too.