Ten great UK restaurants with an intimate atmosphere, including five in London, and which are well worth a visit whether it's 14 February or not...
Venturing out for Valentine’s Day dinner can be tricky, and not only if you’re single.
Mindful of this, here are 10 restaurant suggestions that we think could help and which have a great intimate atmosphere. We also love them at all times of year, not just on 14 February.
Below, you’ll find five restaurants in London and five others spread across the UK.
Ten romantic restaurants to visit
Click the titles to go straight to the restaurant page to see menus and online booking details. Updated February 2019.
Where is it? 46 Lexington Street, W1F 0LP
What we like about it: Wine bottles filled with candles set the mood at this romantic little bistro, which has become a Soho institution, with a legion of devoted admirers. There’s a delightful old-school charm about the place, from its comfortably familiar, scuffed and shabby interior to its hand-written menus, which change daily. Cosy up to your loved one and enjoy rustic French-leaning dishes such as melting confit pork cheeks or skate with bread and capers, followed by chocolate pavé with Earl Grey prunes and crème fraîche.
Wine list: Andrew Edmunds is famous for the low mark-ups on its mostly French list, with outstanding older vintages from notable producers. Roaming across this lovely selection, from the Loire to the Languedoc, is a joy.
21212, Edinburgh £££
Where is it? 3 Royal Terrace , Edinburgh EH7 5AB
Book: 0345 22 21212
What we like about it: Located in an elegant Georgian townhouse on Edinburgh’s Royal Terrace, Paul Kitching’s stylish one-star Michelin restaurant is ideal for an intimate dinner a deux or romantic night away (there are four luxury bedrooms here too). Gastronomic thrills are guaranteed with Kitching’s creative menu, which changes weekly but might include dishes such as ‘10 C Sea Trout’ made with 10 ingredients beginning with the letter ‘c’ or ‘Haggis it’s risotto’ – proudly Scottish, with a Kitching twist.
Wine list: This extensive list has plenty to please lovers of classic Bordeaux and Burgundy, alongside a commendable Barolo and Barbaresco selection. Top New World names include California’s Ridge Montebello and Cheval des Andes from Argentina.
Where is it? 33 King Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8JD
Book: 020 7379 9696
What we like about it: Consistently voted ‘most romantic restaurant in London’, love is always on the menu in Clos Maggiore’s pretty blossom-decked conservatory, where you’ll dine beneath twinkling fairy lights as an open fire glows in the stone fireplace. Smooth service sets the tone for a polished French menu of beautifully presented dishes, such as braised shoulder of rabbit with punchy mustard mousseline or perfectly roasted sea trout in a sauce of clams and braised vegetables.
Wine list: This encyclopaedic list boasts over 2,500 bins, with wines from 18 different countries and vintages spanning four centuries. Highlights include rare bottles by-the-glass under Coravin and a stellar Burgundy selection selection – the innovative ‘Big Little Burgundy Under £100’ list is well worth exploring.
Where is it? 17 Bruton Street, W1J 6QB
Book: 020 7907 1888
What we like about it: Darkly lit, glamorous and sophisticated, it’s impossible not to be seduced by Hakkasan Mayfair. With one Michelin star to its name, the Cantonese menu lives up to those sleek surroundings, featuring impeccable dim sum dishes – juicy scallop shumai or silver cod and caviar dumplings – alongside luxurious signatures such as black-truffle roast duck or Alaskan king crab in XO sauce.
Wine list: Perfectly pitched to match the complex cuisine, this innovative list takes oenophiles on a journey of exploration, with unusual grape varieties, biodynamic bottles and one of the capital’s best saké selections, alongside an impressive roster of the world’s top producers and prestige bottles such as Petrus 2001.
Where is it? Church Road, Great Milton, OX44 7PD
Book: 01844 278 881
What we like about it: A dream destination for the ultimate romantic getaway, Le Manoir is a beautiful 15th century country manor house with immaculate gardens. Prepare to be indulged, not least in the two-star Michelin restaurant where culinary legend Raymond Blanc presides over a French-inspired seasonal menu using produce from his organic kitchen garden. Choices may include decadent truffled hen’s egg with wild mushroom tea and winter truffle or Anjou pigeon with cabbage, bacon and Madeira jus.
Wine list: Mirroring the menu, this exceptional list is seasonally led and classically French, with around 600 of the 1,000-plus wines coming from Blanc’s native land. Expect great vintages from outstanding châteaux – and even Blanc’s own English sparkling wine made by Camel Valley.
Where is it? Lime Wood, Beaulieu Rd, Lyndhurst, SO43 7FZ
Book: 023 8028 7177
What we like about it: Lovers can stroll by the lake or hideaway in a forest cabin at this chic rural retreat in the New Forest, where quirky, creative touches make for a memorable romantic soujourn. Designer Martin Brudnizki is responsible for the overstuffed chairs, parquet floors and Brit art in Hartnett, Holder & Co restaurant, which combine the talents of Michelin chef Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder. Their locally sourced Italian dishes include ravioli with polenta, truffle and artichoke and venison with preserved plum and gorgonzola.
Wine list: The lengthy, award-winning list doesn’t restrict itself to Italy, though great Italian bottles include Ornellaia. Instead the interesting global selection is arranged by variety and reads like a who’s who of top producers.
Where is it? 31 King St, WC2E 8JD
Book: 020 7305 7676
What we like about it: This spin-off of the original Petersham Nurseries in Richmond brings a dreamy pastoral vibe to Covent Garden, beautifully decorated with copious flower arrangements, Murano glass, bright art and sparkling chandeliers. There’s even an on-site florist shop, so you can wow your date with a gorgeous hand-tied bouquet. Dine on a top-notch seasonal Italian menu packed with home-grown produce, that might include perfectly al dente chestnut tagliatelle with radicchio di Chioggia and speck or Haye Farm loin of pork with rich Mayan Gold potato gratin and January King cabbage.
Wine list: Lara Boglione and her husband Giovanni Mazzei of historic Tuscan producer Marchesi Mazzei founded Petersham. Their extensive all-Italian wine list runs from classics to unusual gems, with charming sommeliers on hand with food-pairing recommendations. Best of all, you’ll find more bottles to take home in on-site wine shop, The Cellar.
Where is it? 28 Brixton Water Lane, SW2 1PE
Book: 020 7274 7796
What we like about it: Naughty but nice, this casual and buzzy little neighbourhood restaurant in South London is run by husband-and-wife team Joe Sharratt and Margaux Aubry. Sharratt, previously head chef at Michelin star restaurant Trinity, cooks up inventive small plates with global influences; while Aubry looks after the wine. The menu changes every day but might include cavalo nero dressed up with an addictive savoury anchovy sauce, gnocchi with lobster cream or pork belly with a punchy Korean paste, slivers of spring onion and crisp lettuce.
Wine list: Aubry lovingly curates a low-intervention wine list with organic, biodynamic and natural bottles from small, terroir-focused winemakers. The list change regularly meaning there’s always plenty for adventurous wine-lovers to discover.
Where is it? Skenfrith, Monmouthshire NP7 8UH
Book: 01600 750235
What we like about it: This former 17th century coaching inn is now a relaxed and informal country hotel, with oak beams, polished flagstone floors and lashings of local rustic charm. Four-legged friends and muddy hiking boots are welcome at The Dog and Boot Bar, but for a more sedate Valentine dinner head to the award-winning restaurant where Welsh chef Joseph Colman uses local ingredients such as Brecon venison and Hereford beef, with produce grown in his kitchen garden.
Wine list: You may not expect to find vinous gems in the heart of the Welsh countryside, but names on this list include Chateau Musar, Domaine de Vieux Télégraphe and La Crema Pinot. There’s great value for money here too.
Where is it? Ambleside Road, Windermere, Cumbria LA23 1LR
Book: 015394 31922
What we like about it: The Lakes landscape that inspired Romantic poet William Wordsworth is the setting for this smart boutique hotel in its own 67-acre estate. The modern, one-star Michelin restaurant combines breathtaking views over Lake Windermere with a cutting-edge Modern British menu. Signature dishes such as Penrith chicken with nasturtium root and nasturtium oil or torched eel with caviar and Mangalista pork (from pigs reared on the estate) showcase superb local produce.
Wine list: The Samling’s extensive and award-winning list includes an impressive Bordeaux section, with New World names such as Penfolds Grange and Napa Valley’s Cakebread Cellars in support, plus an interesting by-the-glass ‘Sommelier’s Prestige Selection’.
Julie Sheppard is Decanter commissioning editor and a specialist writer and editor on food, drink and eating out.