It may serve as the invisible boundary betwixt Old Street and Farringdon, but Clerkenwell is home to far more than office high-rises (swanky though they may be). Few areas in London have the capacity to make you feel like the real McCoy like Clerkenwell. There’s an absolute ton of activity going on around these parts, and the area is positively bursting with romantic hotspots ripe for dating: humble boozers, laid-back eateries, Italian-style trattorias, luxe cocktail lounges, and surprisingly upmarket purveyors of fish and chips. So whatever kind of first date you’re after, you’re sure to find somewhere to seriously impress this beautiful new stranger in your life! Here are our top 5 first date venues in Clerkenwell.
1. The Crown Tavern
43 Clerkenwell Grn, EC1R 0EG
Cosy pubs don’t come more quintessentially British than The Crown Tavern, home to a wide selection of craft ales, fine wines and artisan spirits, not to mention sumptuous gastro fare and a terrace perfect for a crisp summer pint or three with someone stunning. The pub marries the hip with the wholesome, offering the warmest of welcomes and a vibrant atmosphere guaranteed to ease the first-date nerves and settle the two of you in for a right royal knees-up.
The Crown Tavern brings out the very best in British pub hospitality and quirky charm, making it a bona fide favourite among the locals. The Tavern even draws Londoners from farther afield simply by dint of its authentic British menu and rich, intriguing history: the golden Apollo Lounge provided a key setting in the 2006 thriller Notes on a Scandal—and, oh yeah, this is where Lenin and Stalin met for the very first time, in 1905! (Maybe—but why spoil the fun?) So whether you guys are seeking an explorative drinks menu, some tempting and flavoursome food or a genuine hearty welcome from some fun-loving staff, head on down to The Crown Tavern, get a round in and prepare for some serious getting-to-know-each-other.
2) The Gibson
44 Old St, EC1V 9AQ
Cocktails don’t come more underrated than the Gibson—so kudos to this eponymous Clerkenwell bar for boosting the reputation of this classic pickled beverage among connoisseurs of mixology. Speaking of which, the incredibly talented mixologists behind the bar experiment endlessly to refresh The Gibson’s already extensive drinks menu, ensuring it’s always fitting for this dark and extravagant East London watering hole. The list is built around a dazzlingly inventive premise of cocktails for different seasons, different eras, even—and with the shimmering Edwardian-esque interiors, live music and delectable dishes on offer, your companion will never have had a first date like this.
We promise you this, too: stepping into The Gibson really is the closest you’ll ever get to entering a time machine in good old London Town.
3) 1920 Bar
19–20 Great Sutton St, EC1V 0DR
1920 Bar is a fun and happening spot stuffed with vintage pool tables, soft-tip darts machines, table football and even a retro Nintendo arcade machine. It’s the perfect place for a right royal knees-up: it’s relaxed, serves magnificent American diner–style dishes, and features a spectacularly odd choice of interiors, unashamedly marrying olde-worlde with über-modern—but in such a way that you can’t help but smile and immerse yourself in the raucous atmosphere.
For a first date that’s lighthearted and an all-round great laugh, look no further than 1920 Bar.
We cannot recommend the Apple Crumble highly enough. Not the dessert, no—the cocktail! Real talk: where else in London will you find a mixologically sound combination of Żubrówka vodka, Grand Marnier and cinnamon syrup, all muddled together with juicy crushed apples? We’ll wait.
2–4 Old St, EC1V 9AA
Any establishment with the audacity to style its name in all caps better have the credentials to match—but by Jove does PIVO have ’em by the bucketload. This Czech bar on Old Street sources its craft beers from breweries dotted around Prague, and offers up authentic Czech dishes the likes of which most non-Czech patrons will never have had the pleasure of trying. Dishes like schnitzels, confit duck legs, meatball gratin—all washed down, of course, with pivo. (That’s Czech for beer—you’re starting to get a feel for the vibe of the place by now, right?)
PIVO even has its own in-house bottle shop, meaning you and your beau or belle can grab a beverage or five if the date’s continuing elsewhere but you can’t bear to miss out on a few glugs more of that refreshing pilsner. In fact, PIVO is the UK’s very first independent Czech beer pub and bottle shop, so we’re sure you’ll feel privileged to spend some time in such an unusual date spot! And after a pint of mind-blowing Jarošovská Desítka pilsner, your date will probably feel the same!
89 Turnmill St, EC1M 5QU
If your date’s a lover of wine, tapas, continental cheese, or all of the above, have we got a treat for you—or rather, have you got a treat for them. Ibérica are experts at pairing your favourite Spanish vino with some cured meat, or veggie ceviche, or even their showstopping sharing paella—whatever you’re peckish for, chances are Ibérica serves it, and to only the highest quality!
Whether it’s after a meal or to nibble on between the rounds, you simply have to try Ibérica’s range of artisanal cheese. Think manchego from Castilla–La Mancha itself, or even a selection of San Simon, Massimo Rey Silo, peralzola and organic Sujaira.
Right in the heart of Clerkenwell, the restaurant boasts sublime interiors, sumptuous canapés, and even a vast array of irresistible sherries hailing from across Spain. There are imported Spanish tiles, dark wooden furniture and prints of Goya and Velázquez generously plastering the walls, effortlessly evoking a nostalgia for the splendour of the Spain of a bygone era. Your date certainly won’t forget your fabulous night at Ibérica in a hurry!
Clerkenwell not quite right? How about taking your date for a night out in Islington?