For all you dinner commitment phobes
When you don’t want to commit to a full blown dinner date, bar snacks and booze is always the solution. Here’s a handful of spots I’ve been to that do the job rather nicely. I’ll keep adding to this and updating it, so make sure to check back for the latest juice.
Spanish | Soho
Ace Spanish tapas joint on Dean Street which gained a Michelin star in 2014 – a full length bar occupies the entire space and wraps itself around the open kitchen and there’s always a queue. Their tortilla is sublime. Not been to the other two joints in Covent Garden but keen to go. No Reservations
Modern European | Soho
This is the bar in the upstairs section of Social Eating House, part of the Jason Atherton group of restaurants. The bar is dark and woody with an understated luxe feel to it which I was really keen on; I was less keen on the temperature (it gets rather warm) so make sure to wear layers, so you can peel them off. Hmmm, it’s only just occurred to me whilst writing this that this may be strategic? The small jars we ordered (rillettes, mac ‘n’ cheese) were bang on. Great spot for some sexy nibbles and drinks. Reservations Recommended.
Image: Social Eating House
N. American | Marylebone
I’ve actually only been to Chiltern Firehouse once – we popped in here because we were in the area and mad peckish. We went late afternoon on a Saturday and got seated in what I believe is the Ladder Shed (appaz, really exclusive) – I enjoyed it because I’m a big fan of foliage. Most importantly the wine & cocktails were great as were the tender on the inside, crispy on the outside, chicken bites we ordered. You can’t make a reservation for any of the bar areas, so just rock up pre 9pm and see where they can accommodate you for drinks and snacks. No Reservations. Read More
Image: Chiltern Firehouse
British | Soho
I used to frequent both Hix and Mark’s Bar (which is in the basement) quite a lot but haven’t been for a while – I can’t imagine it’s drastically gone off the rails though. Mark’s bar is a dimly lit space with a low bar and corresponding diminutive chairs with a number of chesterfield sofas dotted about. You can have snacks and dessert down here alongside your cocktails which is perfect for a sweet toothed fiend like myself. Although casual like it’s London Bridge sister bar, it just feels a bit more chic and sexy, the better looking twin – some might say. No Reservations.
Image: Hix Restaurants
N. American x Italian | Soho
Spuntino rather bizarrely is one of my favourite spots in town because the food on the whole is v. average (and I’m all about the food) but it’s managed to charm me for many years with it’s sexy brooding vibe which makes it a perfect spot for a date. It only has 27 seats, most of which surround the bar (opt for one of these) with a few offshoots at the back (avoid those). Their truffle cheese toast with an egg embedded in it is sinful; if it’s on the menu, be sure to order it. Oh, and only go here at night. No Reservations.
French | Russell Square
Hip wine bar by the folks behind the magazine of the same name. It has a pub in the front part with a more formal dining space at the back. There’s a bit in the middle that has a few high tables and stools that feels well romantic, so if you can get in that nook, do. Their house bread is really rather good, so order some to soak up all that glorious wine you’ll be knocking back. They also have oysters on the menu to get them love juices flowing. No Reservations (for the bar area). Read More
Image Credit: Jake Lewis
British | Hackney Road
The Marksman’s only gone and won itself Michelin Pub of the Year, hasn’t it. Downstairs has got a gastropub look and feel and then upstairs is a proper dining space with a modern aesthetic, complete with a graphic floor that looks like a colour wheel (it’s not naff, trust me). For a really casual affair, stay downstairs in the pub part and order some drinks and snacks – I highly recommend the beef & barley buns. Head to the rooftop if the sun is shining. Reservations Recommended. Read More
Image: The Guardian
N. African x Spanish Tapas | Hackney Road
Morito is a chic tapas & mezze spot with Spanish and N. African influences. It has a lovely central bar perfect for drinking and nibbling. We had fried rabbit and padron peppers when we went, which were lovely little snacks. There’s an industrial feel to the place – lots of zinc running through the room. It’s about a a 3 mins walk from The Marksman pub, so if you want to carry on boozing, you’re in luck. Walk Ins & Reservations. Read More
Pintxos | Hackney Road
I was having a rather shit day at work and decided that a glass of wine was warranted. So, come lunchtime, I made my way to Sagardi’s, a basque chain that’s opened up in London. It struck me as a decent place to grab some vino or maybe even fino (like what I did there eh eh eh? yeah, lame, sorry). Anyhow, back to the matter, there’s a bar area that’s separated from the main dining space where you can grab pintxos and booze and if all goes well, you can upgrade your date to a proper dinner. No Reservations (for the bar).
I’m never really in West London, hence this sad big gaping space. Any people out there repping West London? Comment below. Thank you muchly.
British | Islington
I’ve been to this pub once and keen to go back. Some people get irritated by pubs like this – too fancy they protest – what’s wrong with an old man pub anyways they say. Well, if you fall into that camp, this place isn’t for you – no manky carpets here. As for me, I rather fancied it a lot – super cosy and lovely in the winter months. I’m never not hungry, so when I went here for a drink, I obviously had to order a snack – well if you can call the beast that I ordered a ‘snack’ – cheesy chips with beef brisket – yum. No Reservations.
Spanish | Stoke Newington
Escocesa is a fab neighbourhood tapas joint in Stoke Newington. There’s a main dining area at the back of the room but for date vibes, definitely perch at the bar, knock back some cocktails (the whiskey sour is good) and order some small plates to soak it all up. we ordered a fair few things; everything was solid and some things really good indeed like the chipirones. Keen to try the tortilla on my next visit. Walk Ins & Reservations.
Image: Res Diary
Modern European | Kensal Rise
The Whippet Inn is an independent lovely gastrobar in Kensal Rise. It’s got a vintage meets modern look and feel with gorgeous wild flowers dotted around the space. I’ve eaten here a few times and it’s a bit hit and miss but as a place to lounge in and grab a nibble, it’s just right. They do cheese and biscuits which seem like a safe bet to me – otherwise try a pudding whilst you drink to your hearts content because what’s more wonderful than a sugar filled dish. Reservations Available for the ‘Snug’.
Portuguese | London Bridge
Decorated with beautiful azulejos, Bar Douro, is a little slice of Portugal smack bang in London Bridge, which has become a food destination beyond Borough Market. My must orders are the hake goujons and pastel del nata with cinnamon ice cream; I was less excited by the rice dishes and piri piri chicken. I would definitely revisit Bar Douro – it’s a gorgeous space and despite not every dish being to my taste, there are some very good plates to tuck into. They’ve got lots of wine by the glass at very affordable prices. Read More
British | London Bridge
Mark’s Bar like its Soho counterpart is in the basement of the building. Its configuration is much the same with the low set bar and low chairs. I took up residence at the battered brown sofas when I used to work in the area. It’s a very chilled space with very good bar snacks and decent cocktails. The buttermilk chicken wings with spicy mayo are the bomb.com. No Reservations.
Image: Hix Restaurants
Spanish | Bermondsey
V. good tapas joint on Bermondsey Street. It’s a fairly dinky little space with the kitchen the focal point of this tapas bar. Had a tasty tortilla and some excellent croquettes when I visited here. It’s a proper tapas bar, barrels and all, so don’t be put off by the lack of seats; stake your ground, order a sherry and stand whilst you dine on some delicious small plates. An informal place to grab a drink and excellent nibbles with that special someone. No reservations. Read more here
Image: London Food Freak