Looking for somewhere special to take your loved one this Valentine’s day? Here are our top picks from SW London and Surrey:
Wimbledon, Wandsworth and Putney
Some restaurants are just perfect for wooing and you can’t beat a spot of fine dining to make a lasting impression. Chez Bruce opposite Wandsworth Common remains a firm favourite for south west Londoners who enjoy the finer things. This Michelin-starred restaurant, with its relaxed ambience and top-notch service, is perfect for an intimate dinner. You can start with mouth-watering delights such foie gras or Jerusalem artichoke soup with wild mushrooms, truffles and chestnuts, then follow with mains such as Daube de boeuf à la Bourguignonne with parsnip purée.
Italian food is all about passion, so grab a table at San Lorenzo in Wimbledon, which won best eating experience in our recent Food and Drink Awards. Tuck into a winter menu that offers delights such as grilled John Dory fillet with grilled fennel and braised sun-dried tomato or slow-roasted pork loin with chestnut sauce and mash – guaranteed to warm the cockles of anyone’s heart.
Hotel du Vin
For the ideal romantic setting, the Hotel du Vin at Cannizaro Park is well worth checking out. Look out for sharing menus or dine on starters such as scallops ceviche and Limousin beef carpaccio, and tuck into main courses such as sole meunière and braised Herdwick lamb breast. Go during the day for a loved-up lunch with pretty views and the option of a romantic stroll on the Common later.
If you are happy to leave the cosy candle-lit supper to others, another option for a lunchtime date is Petersham Nurseries. This stunning location offers great food in a beautiful setting with the river nearby for a hand-in-hand romantic ramble afterwards.
Sharing dishes are great if you don’t want your date night to be too formal. Opt for a taste of the orient and you can’t go wrong. Switch up your seafood from oysters to delicious smoked melt-in-themouth sumi sushi at Sumi-ka in Wimbledon Park. Tuck into spicy rock shrimp tempura or tuna tartare in this cosy Japanese.
The Ivy Café
If you fancy The Ivy Café in Wimbledon Village, it’s well worth booking ahead. On offer is a delicious seasonal menu, with puddings that are perfect for sharing. Popular choices include the hot flourless chocolate cake with chocolate sauce and raspberries, or the chocolate bomb filled with vanilla ice and honeycomb with hot salted caramel sauce poured over.
The French Table
If French is the language of love then French food has to be the world’s best aphrodisiac, and where better to sample classic cuisine than at The French Table on Maple Road (www.thefrenchtable.co.uk), where chef patron Eric Guignard continues to delight Surbitonians with mouthwatering dishes such as monkfish wrapped in Bayonne ham and rump of veal with smoked gnocchi, celeriac purée, girolles, almonds and cep sauce. If a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, then the French Table is the map to get you there! Fans of Eric’s should also consider The White Onion in Wimbledon Village (www.thewhiteonion.co.uk) as he also oversees the menu there.
But the French don’t have a monopoly on romance, Italy can also make a claim to being the world’s most amorous nation. As reviewed in T&L last month, Shambles (www.shamblesbar-restaurant.co.uk) in Teddington offers delightful, intimate dining characterised by dishes such as pan-fried veal kidneys with girolles and savoy cabbage or roasted pheasant done three ways.
Meanwhile Al Forno in New Malden (www.alfornonewmalden.co.uk) offers favourites such as linguine with clams, cherry tomatoes, parsley and chilli, and wild mushroom risotto infused with white truffle oil and parmesan. Voted best Family Friendly restaurant at T&L’s Food and Drink Awards, it’s also a great night out for couples and on occasions has live entertainment.
The King’s Head
That said, don’t feel the need to stick with a traditional romantic restaurant. Instead why not consider a good, old-fashioned pub. And there are some crackers to be found locally. Take the King’s Head in Teddington (www.kingsheadteddington.com), another Food and Drink Awards winner (in this case for Service) where you can enjoy a Toulouse sausage and creamy mash with Lyonnaise sauce or perhaps grilled rock lobster tail and chips with prawn butter.
And, if you can tear your eyes away from your loved one, the view from The Albany in Thames Ditton (www.the-albany.co.uk) is as good as you can find anywhere on the Thames. Located on the river not far from Hampton Court, the pub offers traditional fayre such as spit-roasted chicken and slow-cooked pork belly and seared scallops.
While whisking your sweetheart off to the sun may not be an option this Valentine’s Day, a visit to Galu could come a close second. Specialising in contemporary Mediterranean cuisine, their flavoursome fare is cooked on a charcoal grill located at the heart of the open-view kitchen. They also serve a mean cocktail here with mojitos a speciality – how about the passion fruit version to get you in the mood for love?
Galu, Nork Way, Banstead, Surrey, SM7 1PB
Long known as a celeb hot-spot in the area, award-winning Indian restaurant Le Raj has been attracting A-listers – and the great and the good of Surrey – for over 25 years. In fact, such is their reputation that they are even rumoured to have flown a takeaway over to a Hollywood star once. Urban myth or not, we don’t know, but we can certainly vouch for the fact that their healthy, organic dishes are all mouthwateringly good.
Le Raj, Fir Tree Road, Epsom, Surrey KT17 3LB
For a little bit of that ‘je ne sais quoi’, try taking your amour to French institution La Barbe. Wowing the residents of Reigate and beyond for some 35 years, this destination restaurant offers the finest French cuisine, from classic dishes to the more innovative, plus an extensive wine list. Sure to have you snatching for the superlatives, this is an authentic taste of France right on the doorstep. Oh, and book an intimate booth table for the final romantic flourish.
La Barbe, Bell Street, Reigate, Surrey, RH2 7AN