1 | The Charming Pub: The Phene (above)
This delightful pub can be found down some quiet little side streets off The Kings Road, and being a fraction off the beaten track means that it doesn’t get quite as rammed as some other nearby establishments. There are comfortable seats all around and a subtly-lit bar come darkness, making it a inviting place for a date – cosy but still actually nice. The food is great, with options ranging from the healthy to the comforting, to their special lobster and chips if you fancy splashing out. The sharing boards are a good wheeze otherwise. There’s a real array of beer and wine (a good many of the latter by the glass), and you can easily while away a few hours in utter contentment here.
9 Phene Street, London, SW3 5NY; thephene.com
2 | The Romantic Dinner: Polpo Notting Hill
Polpo is basically romance on a plate. It is where you go for an intimate setting and amazingly tasty food that’s made for sharing, with Prosecco positively encouraged. It’s not stuffy, nor imposing, and you will feel right at home. The no-reservation policy can, on occasion, cause consternation but could be your saving grace this Saturday when you need somewhere to rock up at. There are only a few of these Venetian-inspired restaurants around London, Notting Hill being the newest, and biggest, so you’re in with a shot at a lovely table there. In fact – as a sneaky tip from me to you – that branch is allowing a select few bookings just in case you need a little help on Valentine’s Day, though turning up on the hop is still cool. Easy-going but classy, this is just what you need.
126-128 Notting Hill, London, W11 3QG; polpo.co.uk
3 | The Daytime Dining Option: The Grain Store
Valentine’s Day is just that – a day – so you might need a bolt hole before nightfall. And if you are celebrating with brunch or lunch then The Grain Store in King’s Cross will serve you well. A charming and airy space, its large number of tables means that you can happily turn up without a booking (though there is still time, and availability, to make one – just saying). If you have to wait, there’s a fetching bar area and an outdoor terrace (blankets provided, of course) from where you can gaze at Granary Square’s water fountains. Bruno Loubet’s food is light, flavourfull and interesting (and shows you know a bit about your chefs), and washes down well with some bubbles. We recommend the Nyetimber, but the Quince Bellini’s pretty fine, too.
Granary Square, 1-3 Stable Street, London, N1C 4AB; grainstore.com
4 | The Revamped Classic: The Crust Conductor
Going for an Italian is a solid date night choice, so add a touch of originality to the idea by locating The Crust Conductor. It will add some novelty to this oh so special of days. Though it will be touring festivals come summer, the bright red retro London bus is currently parked up outside a microbrewery in Peckham. There, you can get really delicious pizzas (starting at just £6), served in cardboard pizza boxes on spotty tablecloths, with wine and craft beer on the side and tunes coming from an onboard DJ booth. No, it’s not The Ritz, but it’s darn sight more fun.
Brick Brewery, Arch 209, Blenheim Grove, London, SE15; crustconductor.com
5 | The Swish Hotel Bar: One Aldwych
It’s Valentine’s Day. So, as corny as it sounds, you could do miles worse than to take her for a cocktail. And make it a good one. And a bit slick. Try The Lobby Bar at One Aldwych. Located right in the middle of things, it is convenient as you like and offers a quiet, rather refined haven away from the madness of Covent Garden and The Strand. With grand high ceilings and tall-backed chairs in the window (for you to watch the world go by from), it will make a sweeping impression on arrival and yet has a warm, relaxed feel that will immediately put you at ease. This month sees a special set of cocktails on the menu named The Look of Love, all featuring Lallier Grand Cru Champagne and served with beautiful floral designs.
One Aldwych, London, WC2B 4BZ; onealdwych.com