Did a tunnel really once lead direct from Buckingham Palace to the cellars of Berry Bros. & Rudd, St James’s most renowned wine merchant, so Charles II could surreptitiously sneak into the seductive arms of his mistress without being spotted by the plebs?
Maybe. Maybe not. But either way, if you’re looking for a fabulous night of saucy courting in St James’s with your very own beau or belle, fear not: there’ll be no tunnelling required, à la that amorous King Charles. The area hosts some of London’s finest date spots, and if you’re on a first date, wow—you couldn’t have picked a more opulent location to impress your lover! Here are our top 5 first date venues in St James’s.
1. The Rooftop
7th Floor, 2 Spring Gardens SW1A 2TS
With absolutely breathtaking views over Trafalgar Square, it’s no surprise that tables on The Rooftop are in ridiculously high demand. But boy is that advance booking worth the wait, especially if you’re looking to amaze your first date with local knowhow.
The Rooftop does super cocktails and warming meals for those chilly winter nights, and rocks an astonishing light show which transforms its little section of the capital’s skyline, so you can get in the mood the moment you catch a glimpse of its aurora-inspired twinkling as you approach. In the midst of cosy candles and magnificent furs, be sure to try the cheese fondue as well, if you and your date are feeling particularly decadent after a few hours’ rooftop flirting.
2. Davy’s at St James’s
Crown Passage, Pall Mall SW1Y 6QY
Can you get more atmospheric than a lowlit underground wine bar, a former champagne cellar complete with vaulted ceilings and abounding in historic vinificatory artefacts? (That means of or pertaining to wine making, for the vino heathens among ye.) If you’re peckish, the masterful chefs at Davy’s at St James’s dish up sumptuous British classics using only the highest-quality seasonal ingredients sourced from handpicked local suppliers. Donald Russell traditionally matured steaks are firm favourites among the punters, and the bar gets its fine wines from London’s very own Davy’s Wine Merchants. Head for a table or plonk yourselves down at the bar to peruse the impressive wine selection and intriguing array of craft beers, including the famous Davy’s Old Wallop—served in a pewter tankard, of course—and prepare for some proper old-school flirting in an immersive watering hole of yesteryear.
3. Bardo St James’s
4 Suffolk Pl, SW1Y 4HX
Bardo St James’s is an Italian restaurant sourcing the best produce from both Italy and the UK. Enjoy a drink with this beautiful new stranger in your life at the stunning marble bar, and soak in the perfectly complementary decor of exquisite solid wood flooring and Murano glass chandeliers. Bardo is so much more than a dining experience, too: the restaurant hosts a different live band every night (often Italian in flavour, naturalmente) so you and your date can easily spend hours on end here, utterly immersed in the incredibly romantic ambience.
4. The Scotch of St James
13 Mason’s Yard, SW1Y 6BU
Just a stone’s throw from the chaos of Piccadilly you’ll find this absolute gem nestled in Mason’s Yard, a cobbled square little known to passersby, and yet a bona fide hub of culture, neighboured as it is by multiple art galleries and exhibition spaces. The Scotch of St James was founded in 1965, and has very much retained its epic 60s charm.
Despite The Scotch being a nightclub, discard any vision of blaring music and sticky lino—and instead envisage a decades-old go-to for rock ’n’ roll royalty, not least The Beatles, The Who and The Rolling Stones. Set over two swanky storeys—one with a copper-tone mirrored bar, the other with gorgeous booth seating and a retro-meets-LED dancefloor—there are plush spaces aplenty to get to know your date in private, while pumping background noise gets the heart racing with anticipation of what’s to come.
In the lulls you may well rub shoulders with musicians, influencers and fashion icons—and given that The Scotch is blessed with a late licence of 5am, this truly is the place to be for an unforgettable night of first-date flirting, so heavy and intense that you don’t emerge until you’re squinting in tomorrow’s sunrise.
5. St James Bar
6 Waterloo Pl, SW1Y 4AN
There’s no two ways about it: St James Bar is truly one of the finest cocktail bars in all of London. From the moment you and your date enter, you’ll be swept away in the unparallelled grandeur: think plush velvet banquettes, shimmering aquamarine panels, glossy walls emblazoned with massive botanical illustrations. St James Bar is all about understated luxury, with a nod to Art Deco here and there for good measure.
St James Bar serves up multi-award-winning cocktails, blending cheeky playfulness with unbelievable mixological prowess. The team running the bar have extensive knowledge of every one of the constituent ingredients’ flavour profiles, and they draw on techniques bordering on actual science to produce drinks that really are unique. That’s a rare thing indeed. (Turns out there’s a name for this most nerdy of approaches to cocktail perfection: molecular mixology. Who knew?) Take the intriguingly named E=m(t+6.712), which messes with the very concept of ‘going for a drink’, acknowledging the assumptions thereof—then throwing them out the damn window. E=m(t+6.712) comprises three yellow pearls—yes, you read that right—encased in a cocoa butter shell zested with lime. The bartenders recommend a swift bite and even swifter swallow for the unfiltered sensuous experience. This so-called ‘edible cocktail’ takes you from 0 to 60 in the space of a crunch. It’s made up of whiskey, peach, verjus, pistachio, osmanthus tea, citrus stock and fino sherry, and unleashes the full unadulterated force of mixological mastery upon your unsuspecting mouth. For a first date with a twist, a finer and more innovative venue you’ll be hard pressed to find.
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