The Grazing Goat, Marlyebone

10 months ago

The Vibe

Marylebone may sound like a swanky place to head on a date, but this hidden gem offers the perfect weekend retreat with amazing, traditional dishes and a warm rustic interior. Openly lit and relaxed waiters makes it seem that no one is in a rush and the food here is to be enjoyed. Both families and couples alike come to hang here creating a super comfortable setting for someone who likes to takes things a little more casual.

The Order

The menu is simple here: recognised dishes, cooked to perfection and piled on top of the plates, you’re sure not to go hungry. As a Sunday date screams cool and relaxed, there’s nothing better to order than their Roast Beef with all the trimmings. But not before you take that classic picture for instagram as no one will believe how amazing your lunch was later. Finish will the chocolate brownie to keep that indulgence level high and schmooze into a coffee whilst you debate where your afternoon stroll with take you.

This is the ultimate day date. Lunch, coffee around the corner at Daisy Green and then a walk around Hyde Park before parting ways and planning the same for next week.

The Game

As you’ve suggested a ‘sunday date’ you’ve either been together  awhile, went out together last night or are perhaps married with kids. However, all three mean that you need a little comforting, either from that hangover or the fact that someone else is cooking for once. The conversation is kept light and airy, much like the room you’re in and there’s little judgement as most people in the restaurant are more occupied with whatever is going on at their personal table than with you. Keep things relaxed with a simple bottle of house wine to keep you ticking over and definitely leave time for a casual stroll after as you will need this to let everything settle after the busy weekend.

The Faults

A little music wouldn’t have gone a miss, but perhaps if this is something you notice then the conversation hasn’t been exactly flowing.

Sex Factor

2

Gymkhana, Mayfair

10 months ago

Gymkhana is the sort of place countless friends and lovers have insisted on being taken for their birthday. There’s something exciting about guzzling a curry when it’s double the price and with quadruple the food credentials. Michelin star? Check. Mayfair location? Sure.
And if you haven’t done your research on anything but the food, you’ll also be pleasantly surprised by the decor.

I was expecting stark white table clothes and waiters dressed in Imperial-style uniforms. Instead it’s bloody relaxed. A dimly lit bar upstairs with local corporates guzzling cocktails and snacking on cassava, meanwhile in the basement restaurant the best seating is a cosy booth for two. Low ceilings, ceiling fans, tiled floors and dark wooden tables. On decor and food, it kills it.

The Order

According to a wary waiter, the tasting menu is only for the very brave – or those who haven’t had a good meal in a week. For everyone else, 3 starters to share and two mains will suffice. Highlights were South Indian fried chicken wings from the bar menu, a rich biryani and a black pepper fish tikka. Tread carefully with the wine, it can wrack up a big big and there seems to always be a ‘great deal’ on something extortionate and delicious.

The Game

Usually I’d suggest a pre-dinner cocktail upstairs but after browsing the menu it all seems a bit filling before the main event. Head straight to your booth and start a witty repartee with your waiter. Take small sips of crisp white wine and share travel stories. The time you hung out in Goa. After mains, come to the decision you are too full for dessert, pay up and go to the Donovan Bar at Brown’s Hotel for a Churchill Martini.

The Faults

The tasting menu is technically more economical but more like a challenge to finish.

Sex Factor

2. Large appetites, diminished desires.

Señor Ceviche, Kingly Court

11 months ago

The Vibe

Señor Ceviche is all about the busy cocktail bar and bringing the diverse flavours back into cooking. Neon postered walls, rustic wooden tables and candle lit climate, this is Peruvian street food at it’s best. The freshest fish, strongest cocktails and laid back atmosphere, after which you will be ready for a full on siesta!

The Order

The perfect order is around 6 or 7 dishes. As everything at Señor Ceviche is to share, temptation is to order less but in this situation, more is definitely better. The flavours are strong and powerful and keeps your mouth alive throughout the entire meal. The most addictive being the crispy pork belly with sweet and soy sauce, I could have had a few but I hear gluttony isn’t so cute. Their house-named ceviche is a must and get ready to finish with the passionfruit and white chocolate cheesecake. You will be genuinely ready to roll out of the place.

Cocktails: You may not have time in between the order and your dishes arriving to down them fast enough but I would say 3 cocktails is quite enough to have you giggling like a schoolgirl as you leave the table. Start with something fruity like the Inca Trail and then move on to something fresh like the Mancora Surfclub, which will leave you feeling crazy full but also ready for a cheeky glass around the corner.

The Game

Meet at a pub around the corner for a pre-settling drink and walk into the fairy-lit arena together up to the 1st floor where you will find Señor Ceviche. Order a sour cocktail to begin because before you know it the food is already there. As the food keeps flowing and your hands touch over the dishes, another drink is a must. By this time you’re giggling as you’ve begun to relax into their fun and vibrant atmosphere and as you sit by the open windows, it feels as if you could be on a beach side cafe somewhere in the southern hemisphere. By the time dessert arrives, which definitely isn’t ‘necessary’ after that last cocktail, steal a cheeky kiss on the veranda overlooking the hustling bars beneath. If you’re really feeling up to it, head around the corner to Dishoom for one final drink in the dimly lit bar.

The Faults

If you’re not a fan of coriander, make them aware before hand. They sprinkle the stuff as a garnish on everything….easy to rectify.

Sex Factor

4. It’s chilled out vibes make it the perfect first date spot. Close enough to the table next to you to get food envy but busy enough that no-one will notice the first date nerves.

Absurd Bird, Spitalfields

11 months ago

The Vibe

Southern American-inspired gourmet chicken flaps into Spitalfields and you better believe it’s here to nest. Rustic wood tables meet booths upholstered in festive flannels, dim light bulbs sit idly in their suspended cages, and the smell of spiced chicken and sweet syrup fill the air. You’ve just stepped into the kooky, yet charmingly kinetic Absurd Bird. Plop down in a seat and get ready to gain a few kilos you won’t soon regret.

The Order

Two words. Good luck. If a truly flawless menu has ever filled you with overwhelming indecision about what to order, get ready to ask your server for a few more minutes. Will it be the hurricane popcorn? How about the jalapeno mac n cheese? Garlic parmesan and lemon battered wings? Maybe, but make sure someone at the table orders the chicken and waffles, so you can snag a few unforgettable nibbles. Whatever you do, make sure to save room for the mouthwatering queen of the dessert minions – “The Dipsy” – fluffy, dippable cinnamon sugar bread dripping in icing and accompanied by an array of sweet sauces. DO YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN?

The Game

The game at Absurd Bird is what you make it. The cocktails are surprisingly on point – not only are they adorably named, but they may even be more beautiful than your date. Ok, let’s hope not. Embellished with mint leaves, lemon wedges and a handful of tangy pomegranate seeds, these tasty libations are sure to drown any inhibitions and get the good vibes rolling. Admire each other under the bird cage chandeliers and wipe each other’s faces when the cuisine gets a little too messy.

The Faults

It’s hard to nail one down, but let’s just say if you’re not so keen on waddling out of an establishment with a food baby, Absurd Bird is probably not for you.

Sex Factor

3, but don’t let that scare you away. Order a sexy cocktail and head downstairs to the lavish bar where the lights are turned so low, the birds don’t even chirp. With plans to offer live music and private parties in the coming weeks, the basement is sure to be a hit.

The Hops & Glory, Islington

11 months ago

The Vibe

This laid-back pub is quite the looker. With a nearly wall-to-wall bar, exposed brick and large windows that look onto the street, dim canned lights, and flickering tea candles atop rustic wood tables, Hops & Glory is definitely a stunner. In the late evenings, the venue starts to fill up, which offers a pleasantly exciting vibe.

The Order

Take a seat and within minutes, your server will greet you with warm, homemade sourdough bread, which is a perfect sampler that will undoubtedly make you take a second look at the short, but rather impressive menu. If you trust us at all, start with the Welsh rarebit and the brown shrimps then make your way on to the 28-day braised beef. If you’re up for dessert (which we highly suggest) and want a rich finish, ask for the chocolate nemesis with vanilla ice cream.

The Game

Although the mix is quite diverse, the bar tends to cater to an older crowd, but in a very undercover fashion. If Hops & Glory is the lucky date night venue, dress smart casual, stroll in hand in hand, and head straight for the bar. Start with a crisp Aperol Spritz, pick out a window table, and knock knees while enjoying the view.

The Faults

If not an Islington local, the bar is a decent walk from the nearest tube/bus station. However, strolling down the wide residential streets lined with trees and friendly passersby is quite the lovely retreat from the bustling central London, so we highly suggest it.

Sex Factor

4 – the venue is gorgeous, so it’s likely to amp up the romance.

Victory Mansion, Stoke Newington

11 months ago

The Vibe

If you’re looking for a relaxed, friendly neighborhood bar to make your home base, we just did you a huge favor. But let’s just say if you blink, you’ll miss it. Tucked away in between shopfronts on Stoke Newington High Street, this quaint, hand-built bar is sure to impress with its charming, old-fashioned interior and familiar bar favorites. Kick back and relax with a cocktail in hand or make it a few to turn up your evening.

The Order

Eclectic British food has never tasted so good. Charred leeks with crispy quinoa, purple sprouting broccoli with bitter lemon Sichuan dressing, garlic octopus with fennel and mouthwatering mussels with green pepper are crowd favorites and we absolutely see why. As for drinks, they’re beautiful. For a strong yet tasty cocktail and an undoubtedly good laugh (you’ll have to find out for yourself), order the Hurricane Dave.

The Game

Victory Mansion is perfect for that after-work cocktail. It won’t overwhelm, but it’s sure to impress. While it’s much more casual than a suit or heels, there’s no need to change out of work attire. With high tables and a chilled out ambiance, playing footsy is a must.

The Faults

The service was impeccable, but if there were more filled tables, I can imagine the singular waiter and bartender would be quite overwhelmed.

Sex Factor

3, but definitely a 4 if you venture downstairs for a drink and sexy rendezvous.

Old Tom and English, Soho

11 months ago

The Vibe

Even the most experienced Soho dater would be forgiven for missing the entrance to Old Tom and English. Resembling a good looking door to a fancy English home, you ring to get in before the receptionist has to bolt up from her perch and welcome you in. Coats checked, you go down into a stunning basement – a cross between an 18th century gin palace and 1960s private members’ club. Lashings of brass, reflective surfaces, all curves and angles, art and texture. Red carpets set the tone and couples gather around tiny tables in cahoots. There are a couple of hideaways for intimate meals, while diners in the main room are very much under the beady gaze of people watchers. It feels a little like a very good looking television set, inviting a self-consciousness that adds some needed tension to dates.

The Order

A shot of sweet pea soup followed by a stunning crispy bacon and gooey egg salad to share. Go easy on the starters as the main courses are substantial. The chef’s skills can be tasted in the juices to dip your fat chips in, from the delicate jus on the steak to the rich, sweet onion gravy with the bangers and mash. Buttery greens on the side and enough room for a Eaton Mess in a martini glass. The focus is the food, so a cocktail to start then a good glass of red with the meal will suffice.

The Game

Old Tom’s is perfect for an elegant Thursday evening dinner. Take the time to change from work attire into something a bit loungey and elegant. Flat shoes for women, zero suits for men. Don’t try and make this into a loud and lary date as you’ll only disturb the delicate ambiance in the room. Knock knees over the small table, flirt, serve each other and leave after 90 mines. Then follow up with a solitary kiss on the Soho streets and separate Ubers home.

The Faults

Small chairs make big dates look like the BFG.

Sex Factor

3. But if you get one of the secluded snugs, I imagine it’s a 5+.

Polpo Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge

11 months ago

The Vibe: 

Eating in a shopping centre is the choice of shopped-out friends or chore-bored couples, not the place for dates. However, Polpo, the Soho institution spreading like friendly bacteria, has managed to make Harvey Nichols a place I’d date someone other than a sugar daddy.

You see the decor looks the same as it usually does – rustic wooden tables, beakers for wine, low hanging bulbs and leather banquettes and the staff have the signature Polpo quality of being cool but friendly, relaxed yet hopelessly efficient. And while the date mantra tends to be the darker the better, they have managed to light the place flatteringly enough for a 2pm lunch date to turn into an unjudged wine-swilling session.

The crowd does at times seem accidental and a touch touristy. That said, any couple I’ve spotted here has clearly decided against grabbing a sensible light bite in the main cafe, instead easing their shopping woes with a real session of a meal. Keep the carafes coming. Soho vibes with Knightsbridge swag, I like it.

The Order: 
 
Venetian small plates and lots of Montepulciano. Classics include stuffed fried olives, beef and pork meatballs and cod cheeks with salsa verde and lentils. Sober up with a crab linguini and share a Tiramisu pot. Then pause for an hour, and start again on the nibbles.

The Game: 

Obviously this should fit into a grander plan. Pick a Saturday in Spring/Summer and meet in Hyde Park for a wander towards Knightsbridge. Then enter the shopping bit and whimsically pop into Harvey Nicks to pick up an amazing jam/chocolate spread/utensil from the food bit upstairs. Once you’ve bought them something small and charming, suggest a meal to make up for the walk. Oh look, a Polpo.

Head on in and take a weight off. Then stay for 3 hours and feel naughty for being drunk in a shop. Out into the fresh air, a quick kiss, then a cab to the motherland – Soho.

The Faults: 

No matter how consistent it is with the brand, I’m not sure how I’d feel about a destination dinner here. Late lunch? YES.

Sex Factor:

2.

Bel and the Dragon, Odiham

1 year ago

There’s always a slight moment of anticipation as you swipe your newly received key card and push open the door to your home for the night, ‘the hotel room’. It has the capacity to delight, or to disappoint within an instant and you so want it to be just how you’d imagined.

The Vibe:

Bel and the Dragon, in the beautiful village of Odiham, ensures that your heart will take a little leap when you unlock your humble abode. There on the top will be a bottle of Sipsmith sloe gin, next to your coffee maker and a couple of crystal cut glasses. There’ll be fresh flowers next to your bed and in the bathroom they’ve plied you with huge white towels and stocked the shower with Bramley products.

Set in a Grade II listed former inn, Bel and the Dragon boasts features that date back as far as 1540. It’s retained an authentic feel about it, whilst still being regularly refreshed and updated with recent bedrooms designed by Odiham based interior designer Nicola Harding.

The Order:

A dinner here may well be the highlight of your trip – although the nearby canal walks, the stunning local church and the warmest welcome you’ll enjoy anywhere are unlikely to disappoint either.

Opt for the duck salad (divine served with pomegranates and sesame) or the devilled crab to start. The produce is specially sourced and you get the feel that Bel and the Dragon as a group (they’re also located in Churt, Cookham, Godalming, Kingsclere, Reading and Windsor) really care about suppliers and quality. The wines are made in collaboration with Olivier Leflaive, who has worked with the hotels to produce their own white and red Burgundies. Try a bottle, or possibly 2 – neither of you needs to drive.

Mains in the restaurant range from Atlantic Lobster to Veal Bolognaise and the menus change monthly meaning that new additions are constantly appearing. You won’t need dessert but if you want the ultimate palate cleanser, you should absolutely go for the Sipsmith Vodka and Lemon zest sorbet.

The Game:

The drive from London is easiest when you’re not at peak time, but slip away whenever the mood takes you – you can be home by morning and it’ll feel like months. Check in mid afternoon and bunker down with the piles of classic books and tumblers full of sloe gin, before emerging for a dinner fit for feasters around 8pm.

Start with drinks in the bar fireside, or when Spring springs you can sit outside with a bottle of Rose and make like you’re miles from England. Enjoy a long, languid meal with all three courses and copious amounts of wine.

Sleep deep and lie in, but set your alarm so as not to miss breakfast. Linger over the papers next to a wood burning stove and tear yourself away when you really must.

The Faults:

Weekend nights are rammed with locals, but rest assured they’re well heeled and well mannered. Phew.

Bootlegger, Bank

1 year ago

The Vibe

The roaring 20s come roaring back to life in this prohibition inspired drinking den located in the hustle and bustle of the financial district. Industrial style cage lights and flickering tea candles cast a dim glow on restored relics and wall hangings from the era. The extensive and historically elaborate cocktail menus are tacked to cumbersome planks of wood, which sit atop distressed antique tables. Lively jazz covers of top 40 songs quite literally invoke an overwhelming urge to jump up, kick off your shoes, and take to the floor like the era-appropriate flapper. Bar staff and waiters don the charming, ever-so-sleek white shirt, bow tie, and suspenders, which only enhances the quite impeccable service in the minds of the tipsy.

The Order

Care to snack on some lightly salted popcorn out of quaint teacups whilst sipping on your cocktail creation? If that doesn’t lure you in, fancy, hand-crafted bar snacks are in the works and will be introduced in the next week.

The Game

If you dare stumble into this blast from the past establishment, your cocktail GAME will surely thank you. All hand-shaken, stirred, and poured into mason jars, the cocktails here are mixed with long-forgotten, but beloved liqueurs and bubblies and embellished with fresh fruit and a pinch of some really good lovin’. Sit back, soak in the tunes, and order a few. Luckily, most cocktails come with two straws so start sippin’ with bae – fingers crossed you’ll get lucky. Then stumble down Bishopgate to 24 hour Duck and Waffle and get your feast on. Need I say more?

The Faults

Hard to think of any, but if I had to nail one, the joint can get quite noisy when packed.

Sex Factor

3, but definitely a 4 if you know how to do the Charleston.

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