Say bonjour to Stylist’s guide to the most romantic French restaurants in London for a date.
We may be a long way from the City of Lights, but who better to create an atmosphere of romance in London than the French?
There are many French restaurants in London, all with their own certain je nai se quoi. But here we’ve picked out our absolute favourites, tried and tested for their date potential. From atmospheric lighting, delicious menus and impressive decor, all of these venues have the Stylist seal of approval, perfect for those looking to wine and dine potential suitors.
Whether you’re looking for all-out-glamour like the gold-gilded Balthazar or chic sophistication at Frenchie, here’s our guide to the best romantic French restaurants in London for a date.
This luxury tea saloon has been an established name in Paris since 1854, with a wealth of history behind it as one of France’s most sophisticated gourmet tea companies. With a plethora of sites already in the City of Lights, this is the brand’s first foray into the UK and for the London launch, they’ve gone all out.
Set in a charming five-story Georgian townhouse in Covent Garden, the ground floor is open to shoppers while the upper level, which looks over the store below, is the perfect spot for a romantic dinner for two. Away from the hustle and bustle, but benefiting from just the right amount of atmosphere, it’s certainly a unique location to go on a date - especially if your date is a tea lover.
But don’t worry, tea isn’t the only thing on the menu.
If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop that’s got it all, then look no further than Brasserie Zédel. Laid out across three tiers, every level offers a different type of entertainment, meaning you and your date could happily start at the top and cascade your way down throughout an entire evening.
Strolling in off the street, you’ll find yourself in what feels like an authentic Parisian cafe, all checked chairs, tiled flooring and lots of red, white and blue. If you fancy a casual coffee and a croissant, this is a great place to start your date before you descend.
Continuing down into the belly of the venue, you’ll find that old school glamour is the order of the day: from a cabaret bar offering comedy and live entertainment to Bar American, an Art Deco watering hole perfect for a tipple before dinner.
Dinner is held in the gold-gilded, pink-marbled extravaganza that is the main dining hall. If Marie Antoinette had designed the Titanic, this is what it would have looked like. A marvel to behold, it feels like romance personified with cute touches like pink napkins and a full French menu. We recommend going the whole hog and ordering oysters (great quality) and champagne.
If you pressed us to describe local French eatery Les Nénettes in one word, we’d have to say…utterly charming. Okay, that’s deux words, but we couldn’t help ourselves, it really is brimming with charm. Small, but perfectly formed. Stylish, without being over-the-top. Casual, but still considered enough to feel special. It’s essentially a pocket of Paris in Lower Clapton.
Little touches like candelabras, the ornate teal-painted bar and classic checked flooring create atmosphere but the informal feel of the restaurant and bar area make it a great place for a first date, when you’re panicking about sage in your teeth and small talk, no one wants a venue that feels intimidating too.
In true French style the menu is loaded with indulgent choices, many of which are laden with cheese. They do an all day brunch menu with classics such as a killer croque monsieur, and in the evening there’s a mix of charcuterie, salads, duck, steak and much more. Predictably, the wine menu is increidbly well chosen and the cocktails have a certain oh la la about them - think fruity Kir Royals and seamlessly mixed French 75s.
Where is it? Les Nénettes, 19 Lower Clapton Rd, East London E5 0NS
Imagine this: the year is 1924, you and your date stroll into an up-town Paris brassiere, the lights are low, the waiters are in white suits and the booths are red. It’s Art Deco heaven. This is what spending an evening in Balthazar feels like - stepping back in time.
Grab a seat by the bar and watch the bartenders work their magic, shaking and mixing with flair in front of an impressive mirror reflecting the bustle of diners behind you. It’s the perfect way to start a date, sipping an elegant tipple from the fancy glassware and soaking up the atmosphere.
We recommend booking a table as it gets really rather busy thanks to its super central location just next to Covent Garden’s piazza, and if you can, ask to be sat in one of the central booths, where the buzz is at its peak.
The restaurant has an abundance of options when it comes to food, with a special emphasis on fish. We like the sound of the lobster spaghetti (but don’t blame us if there’s some spillages!), oysters, octupus salad and sea bass ceviche. There’s also an adorable boulangerie right next door where you can pick up a treat for the way home.
Where is it? Balthazar, 4-6 Russell St, Central London WC2B 5HZ
With all the divine rustic-ness of a Parisian wooden-floored apartment and the whimsy of a Normandy chateau, Blanchette East is the cool girl’s choice.
From the stylishly distressed wallpaper, almost peeling from the walls, to the suspended plants and not forgetting the luscious nude mural that takes center stage behind the marble bar, the restaurant’s aesthetic is to die for.
It is the second restaurant from brothers Maxime, Malik and Yannis Alary, who have named their venture after their mum (which we love) and say that their style is inspired by the Parisian Belle Époque era combined with the distinctive urban feel of Shoreditch. The menu reflects their heritage, with Southern French and North African influences in a mix of sharing plates that includes dishes like moules marinière with smoked bacon and white wine cream.
The restaurant has also recently revamped its brunch menu, so if a day time date is on the agenda trying out the light, fluffy buttermilk pancakes or two cacklebean free range eggs on toasted sourdough we think would go down a treat.
Whether you park yourself in the bubbling front bar or opt for an intimate, candle lit spot in the rear of the restaurant, this is the kind of easy yet intimate vibe any date will inevitably thrive from.
Where is it? Blanchette East, 204 Brick Lane, London E1 6SA
Foodies take note, this swish eatery is rather a big deal for those who consider themselves in the know about gourmet grub. Stylishly slick, you’ll find that everything at this Henrietta Street haunt has been designed with consideration, from what’s on your plate to what adorns the walls.
With a long, thin structure, pale grey tonal walls and plenty of lighting elongate the restaurant, while block colours and structured lines create a sophisticated feel. Hero furniture pieces like blush pink velvet chairs and monochrome tiled flooring had us hooked as soon as we walked int the door, cementing Frenchie as one of the coolest restaurants in Covent Garden, and beyond.
If you’re not familiar with the story behind the restaurant’s name, the owner Greg Marchand who originally hails from Brittany, worked with Jamie Oliver at his restaurant Fifteen, where the naked chef gave his protégé the nickname Frenchie. And it’s stuck ever since.
Marchand is known back in France for a string of Parisian venues and well regarded for his experimental, quality menus. Thankfully, his Covent Garden venture is no different. If you fancy splashing out (or really want to impress someone) the five course taster menu includes mouth-watering dishes like duck foie gras cranberries, mulled wine and ginger bread and Cornbury Park venison, quince and smoked celery root.
As if Primrose Hill wasn’t a dreamy enough date location, with its elegant rows of pastel houses and grassy viewpoints, there’s now another reason to stroll its streets. And that reason is, Odette’s. As romantic venues go, it doesn’t get much more so than this.
The tasteful decor of green leather booths and stylish monochrome paintings, the glowy orbs of light that hang from the ceilings, and the unique structure of the building, which offers squirreled away seating spaces on three different levels (including a prestigious chef’s table in the kitchen) all contribute to a memorable evening.
And it’s not just the atmosphere at Odette’s that feels très romantique, its history is pretty love-struck too. Not only is it the place that owner Chef Patron Bryn Williams met his wife, but in the 10 years that its been open a couple has revisited every single year for their anniversary. All together now: awh.
Try the tasting menu for a variety of dishes, like crispy pigs head, celeriac remoulade, prune ketchup and crackling, next to stone bass, borlotti beans, mussels, courgette and crab bisque. Or pick what you like from the a la carte, which features delicacies like halibut, pearl barley, Jerusalem artichoke, duck ham and hazelnut. Our top tip? Save yourself for dessert and get in on the soufflé.
Images: Courtesy of venues /Huy Phan