Untitled, Dalston

3 weeks ago

The Vibe

Nestled in between run down shop fronts in Dalston, this sleek little gem sticks out like a sore thumb. Push through the doublewide cedar door and prepare yourself for an experience that has questionably been ripped from the future. One massive, elevated slate table runs down the middle of the concrete room with leather-studded bar stools ready for the taking. The faint shimmering of the foil wallpaper stirs a dull desire to hop up and dance like you’re in a techno club, but the sophisticated, ambient mood music encourages otherwise. Bask under the exhibition style display lighting and get ready for some seriously flamboyant cocktails.

The Order

Upon taking a seat, one of the many zealous servers in a patterned, garage-style shirt will whisk you a vacuum-sealed menu – literally. There you will find a host of wild cocktails mixed and embellished with seemingly inedible ingredients such as clay, chalk, pine, zink, oak and silver tip. If you don’t scratch your head upon walking through the door, browsing the menu will surely be your time to shine. Before ordering libations, ask to kick off your cocktails with a ‘wish’ and wait to be utterly baffled as you’re delivered a shiny plastic rose pedal in an ornate painted dish that you’re intended to eat. Surprise! Start with ‘Snow’ and ‘Satyr’ – a couple of sweet tasting warm up drinks in luminescent elixir glasses then graduate to “Sicily” and “Violin” which are guaranteed to singe your taste buds and get that tipsy train on the move.

The Game

For a date, grab an early meal in Shoreditch then arrive around 8pm, but think about making a reservation as the table can become a bit full around this time. Get the cocktails flowing ASAP but make sure you relish in the hand-crafted quality and delicate absurdities of each unique creation.

The Faults

The overhead spotlights can unknowingly accentuate all the wrong angles so make sure you lean back in your stool a bit so as not to frighten your date.

Sex Factor
2. If you’re a lover of minimalism, modernism, and maybe even alcoholism (in a playful manner of course), then this place is your new favourite pit stop.

El Pastor, Borough Market

2 months ago

The Vibe

So laid back it’s horizontal. But if you find yourself on the standing benches in the front room, you’ll be propped up in a vertical pose throughout your meal, lending a strange jauntiness to proceedings. This feel like a quick stop that could, at the mention of mezcal, turn into a full session.

Not for those looking for full on romance but perfect for first daters who are constantly on the search for options that sit somewhere between liquids-only and sit-down stuffy.

Decor-wise, there’s some corrugated iron on the walls, hanging lightbulbs, hard surfaces and what looks like formica on some of the tables in the back. Again, not fancy, but really rather cool. Remember, we’re in a Mexican joint, where alcohol consumption takes equal weight with the food, so every cocktail, from Old Fashioneds to Negronis, are laced with tequila.

And should your date dare to question the food credentials, this joint is the from the formidable restauranteurs behind Barrafina and Quo Vadis, Sam and Eddie Hart. So pipe down Princess and finish your salsa.

The Order

Tortillas are freshly made on site and ‘el pastor’ cooking – meaning ‘shepherd style’ – involves meat being marinated on an upright grill, most notably pork marinated in a mixture of dried chillies, spices, achiote, and orange juice. Served in a soft corn taco. Wet your whistle with some sipping tequila or a damn near perfect Margarita.

Food-wise, start with a truly delightful sesame tuna tostado and some guac, then head straight to taco town, with a ridiculously moreish chorizo, sweet potato and salsa verde, followed by a sweet n’ meaty short rib and pineapple taco. For date chat distraction, the carnitas are a Do-It-Yourself dish, so as playful as you guys wanna make it.

The Game

On a date, the mistake would be to head here early evening for a formal sit down. This is more of a bowl up tipsy at around 8/9pm and prop up the counter tables while satiating your hunger, vibing off the energy of the Borough crowd and getting your meat fix. Meet on a Saturday to wander around the market and then end up in Bedales for some slow wine drinking. One glass becomes four and before you know it your stomach is rumbling and you want something a little more occasional than a quick fix at Brindisa. Stay a maximum of 60 mins to keep up the momentum of the date, then wander into the night to snog on the streets and find a night cap.

The Faults

The bill might surprise you; Wahaca it is not.

Sex Factor

2. A very decent pit stop but not the closer.

The Hari, Belgravia

4 months ago

The Vibe

The Hari Hotel – formerly Belgraves – and it’s luxurious bar, is nestled in the embassy district of Belgravia. Part of the New York luxury boutique chain of Thompson Hotels, The Hari provides a casual opulence and dressed-down bling to its guests, with excellent service and a charming atmosphere.

All soft furnishings and flattering lights, it’s a date location that shows a true touch of class. There’s also a very cosy roof terrace and botanical garden towards the back of the bar. I suggest you base yourselves there on a date and snuggle under the heaters.

The Order

The cocktail menu is fresh, fragrant and natural. It’s classic cocktails with a herbal twist. Try the Rosemary Whisky Sour or the Thyme Bramble. It’s always important to remember that knowing your favourite drink and ordering off menu is very sexy, but talking to the barman about which of their 12 bourbon whiskies makes the perfect Old Fashioned is not.

Order some light bites. The crispy squid is excellent. Probably stay clear of messy bites like chicken wings or having to say the words “I’ll have the cheese balls please” on a date.

The Game

Hotel bars are always great for people watching. The guests trudge in with their shopping bags. The visitors drink into the night, and as things get friskier they consider staying. Park yourselves on the black leather sofa in the far left hand corner of the bar. Sitting on a sofa together creates intimacy, whereas sitting opposite each other can create a confrontational vibe. On this sofa, you have a full view of the bar and she can drape her long legs over your lap. You’re the envy of the room.

The Faults 

It’s a popular haunt for super rich kids with nothing but fake friends. Quite a lot of people on their phones.

Sex Factor

4 – Belgravia just sounds sexy doesn’t it?

Humble Grape, Fleet Street

9 months ago

The Vibe

In the vaults of St Bride’s Church (where Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall exchanged their wedding vows) sits Humble Grape. Opening in the wake of its successful Battersea sister, this is City date heaven – dark, full of wine, not overpriced.

The ethos of the owners is to offer handcrafted wine from small, sustainable, independent vineyards, avoiding the industry-standard markups from agents, importers or distributors. Translation: you can drink deep without breaking the bank, in a rather good looking room.

The 200 person space hosts wine tastings, as well as working well for a dinner or just drinks date. Flattering lighting and the sort of place you could bring a group date or just one person. Head there mid-week to feel just a little bit bad.

The Order

Wine, swine. The wine list features around 30 wines available by the glass or carafe and over 200 wines available by the bottle to drink in or take away. You can pair with charcuterie and cheese or have a proper meal of Galician octopus and lamb stew. And the roast bone marrow with dipping soldiers? Wow.

The Game

This is a post work date for City workers. Meet there and playfully decide to choose a wine for each other. Create your own tasting experience by ordering new wines with every round and making up reviews.

Make sure you eat something – no one likes a corporate drunk – and stay until the place closes. Definitely kiss while you’re in there. Then resist the urge to go home together and order separate Ubers.

The Faults

It’s harder to keep the boutique feel in a big space.

Sex Factor

4. You drank too much.

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.

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.

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.

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