Arabica Bar and Kitchen, London Bridge
Arabica is the sort of date restaurant you go to once, love, then go again and again with the same person until something happens, or you grow bored. The simplicity of the offering –punchy red wine, morsels of Middle Eastern meze, outdoor seating, a cosy Victorian arch in Borough market – makes this a date for someone you want to kick back with and get to know. If you want belly dancers and flickering lights, go to Marylebone’s Levant. If you want a relaxed three hour date, pull up a steel chair on the pavement and soak it up.
You order differently on a date here to how you would with friends. From experience, too many meat plates are libido killers. Instead, order plates in pairs with hefty wine breaks. Start with hummus and halloumi cheese, then chicken and pistachio shish with cardamom, honey and green chilli, add a tabouleh and end the meal with two portions of batata hara (thrice cooked potatoes with peppers and chilli). In fact, scrap the rest, you could live off the batata plus their Montepulciano for months.
For the best atmosphere, date here on Friday or Saturday nights, for the late sitting. Meet at Dandelyan bar at the Mondrian for a 6pm drink, then head to the hotel basement for a film in the Curzon. Order wine as you watch and stumble into the night ravenous. Wander through cobbled streets to Arabica, beg for an outside table to counteract your flush, then order some water with that wine. Move your seats side by side, observe the crowd, witter on about summer nights and grand plans, then walk towards Tower Bridge and tash on.
It’s not as fun inside as it is out.
4. Light food, spicy wine.