No.29 Power Station, Battersea

1 week ago

The Vibe
No.29 Power Station is the latest addition to the Darin & Wallace collection of independent neighbourhood bars, all of which are named after the street number on which they sit. The space is vast and achingly stylish, the décor a juxtaposition of elegant 1920’s art deco and subtle nods to the resident’s industrial past. An enormous drinks list is enough to win us over and promises a very boozy night ahead.

The Order
A bar first and foremost, No.29 Power Station West has an ample selection of wines, craft, draught and bottled beers, and a hand-picked collection of seasonal long and short serves. Drinks, and plenty of them, should therefore be the focus of your order. Start with a collection of cocktails. The Watermelon Sour offers a refreshing mix of Ciroc Summer Colada, Kam & Sons with fresh watermelon, whilst the Dark ‘n’ Stormy is a more warming mix of Gosling’s Black Seal, house made ginger syrup and fresh lime. Follow with a sample of small sharer plates, the beef and black pudding croquette is a fine choice and offers the perfect excuse to move on to a glass of Pinot Noir.

The Game
Designed to feel like a ‘home from home’, No.29 is ideal for relaxed post-work drinks. The crowd is made up of young professionals catching up after a long day in the office. However, leave talk of work firmly at the door otherwise risk losing the attention of your date to one of the many attractive (and potentially single) guests. Start with innocent small talk and as the drink tally rises, dive into more flirty topics. If the night is going well, extend the date by suggesting a stroll along the river and sneak a kiss in one of the many alcoves that line the walk.

The Faults
Battersea Power Station is still in the first chapter of its development, but Circus West Village has introduced it to London’s bar scene with a very stylish start.

Sex Factor
Slightly industrial décor, but everyone has their kinks…

Oslo, Hackney

3 weeks ago

The Vibe
Oslo is a fairly new arrival in the dynamic area of Hackney. Located in a unique redeveloped space of a railway station, the restaurant gives a gentle nod to its past with luggage-rack lighting and industrial stylings. The place also has some Scandi-inspired décor with an open-plan kitchen surrounded by long dark oak tables and offset with exposed brick walls. The crowd is mixed, atmosphere relaxed and dress code casual which makes it a perfect go to for a low-key date night.

The Order
The food at Oslo is nowhere near as Scandi as the venue’s name, although faux-smorgasbords, rye bread and cured fish do feature to keep the theme in play. Mains include fresh salads, a pea and lemon risotto and a catch of the day. The stars, however, are the selection of sizeable burgers crammed with calorific goodness and served alongside hand cut chips. Order two and join your date in getting messy as the generous fillings escape the brioche bun. The drinks list is also impressive with a range of Norwegian craft beers and classic cocktails to choose from. A favourite has to be the Poppy Mojito, a mix of Havana Anejo Rum, poppy liqueur, mint leaves, lime juice and brown sugar. Another, the tropical Mai Tai with fresh juice, amaretto and rum, lit on fire and served by a charming waiter.

The Game
Find a table next to the side window and avoid being that ‘couple on a date’ in the middle that other guests eavesdrop on to see if all is going well. Start by ordering a cocktail and let the conversation flow; any tales of trips to Scandinavia are prime material as well as whether you’re an East or West Londoner at heart. As the night progresses keep things playful and fun. If you both have a love for music end the night by checking out a gig upstairs and get lost in the crowd with your new flame.

The Faults
Hackney is not the easiest place for everyone to travel to but if you plan wisely and commit to making the most of your night it will feel like a commute well spent.

Sex Factor 
4. Fun, relaxed and for the trend-setters.

Downstairs at Machiya, Piccadilly

1 month ago

The Vibe
Downstairs at Machiya is a neat little basement bar located on Panton Road, only a short walk from its sister-restaurant. The place is styled with dark wooden panelling, plush leather chairs and gently lit by dim mood lighting. The space is certainly a sharp contrast to the modern and light Japanese restaurant that sits above, although the crowd at both places is near identical. The biggest thing anyone will notice as they enter this minimalist cocktail bar is the quiet atmosphere, making it an ideal stop for those wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of tourist-saturated Leicester Square.

The Order
The drinks menu at Machiya is its crown jewel. Begin by ordering the delicious Kawaii Ne, a zingy sour cocktail with sake, lychee peach liqueur, zuzu juice and yuzu foam. Move on to crowd favourites: the Jigglypuff, a fluffy pink concoction of Portobello gin, Campari, lemon and vermouth foam, or a Smoky Negroni made with Antica Formula. If you have a sweet tooth then finish things with the vodka and peach mixed #Ppap. If you fancy a nibble then there’s also a small selection of Japanese bar snacks such as wagyu slider, pop-katsu and a bowl of fiery Machiya hot wings.

The Game
The bar is suited to those later in the dating game. As such, all small talk should now have been exhausted and conversation should instead move towards the more meaningful – family, love, life. The relaxed vibe is ideal for putting your date at ease and having them open up. Keep it simple, interesting and honest. There’s nothing pretentious about Machiya which means the flamboyant barriers so many employ when first trying to impress are almost completely removed here. However, be sure not to get too comfortable and be that person that over-shares.

The Faults
The rather “cosy” bar environment can be seen as either a positive or a negative. On the one hand, there’s not much glamour to help seduce your date. On the other, a quiet little den makes for a more relaxed affair which can sometimes be a nice change when you’re a seasoned dater.

The Sex Factor
New on the scene, this drinking den is still trying to find its sex appeal.

Nine Lives, London Bridge

1 month ago

The Vibe
Set in a Victorian basement close to London Bridge, Nine Lives is a perfectly placed bar for those seeking a post-work date night option. Unassuming from the outside, there’s only a subtle neon sign to indicate what lies beneath. As you enter, immediately take the stairs down to a dark and intimate drinking den. The décor, a perfect blend of Havana Cool and Penthouse Luxe. Think wooden trellises and bamboo partitions juxtaposed by marble tables and exposed brick work. Each element designed perfectly to create small alcoves of privacy where you can flirty freely, without ever being shut away from everyone else in the room.

The Order
Take note, this place is only suitable for those who like their dates flirty and with plenty of booze. The menu is made of twelve imaginative cocktails, divided into four styles: Short, Long, Tarted (Up) and Lowriders. For those planning a long night, take your time and sample one from each section. If you’re unsure how long, or how well, your date will go then start with a Lowrider. The Stingray offers an intriguing blend of port, raspberry liquor and mint; whilst Alright Blossom is a delicious mix of prosecco and rosé combined with hibiscus and raspberry giving a floral aftertaste. Follow up with Crossfire Hurricane; a Long glass of rum, citrus lemon, orange and sweet pineapple, adding some tropical flavour to your night.

The Game
Secure one of the aqua cushioned booths and enjoy an intimate setting to relax with your new interest. The electronic music, softened with bluesy beats, is played at just the right level to hold a conversation about your travels and love for all things Chelsea. As the cocktail count builds turn to more eccentric discussions and, if at all competitive, there is a wooden shuffleboard to test your dates sporting prowess and sneak a few tactile touches.

The Faults
The place isn’t completely faultless. It can take some time to place your order at the bar, leaving one half of the date on their own for an awkward period of time. To avoid this, make a clear claim to your space and both attend the bar together or just be willing to relocate every time you need a new drink. After all, it’s the company you’re with that matters.

Sex Factor
As the saying goes, it’s what’s on the inside that counts and this has never been truer than with Nine Lives. A cobbled street with a lonely sign may not appear to be the sexiest of locations, but inside is another story…

Martello Hall, Hackney

1 month ago

The Vibe

Did I just step into a beehive? Because this place is buzzing. The voices of young, well-dressed and creative individuals fight over the DJ’s alternative tunes and the frenetic sound of cocktail shakers. Fresh artisan pizzas whiz from the kitchen to the main bar floor and barely make it a few seconds before the vivacious hands of patrons snatch them to bits. The large windows cast a summery glow on the rustic wooden interior as the dim overhead lights dance across the faces of those below. Shoulders bump and feet are tread upon as fiercely eligible singles eye one another across the large space.

The Order

The cocktails are on fleek. Do the kids still use that word? F-L-E-E-K. Start with a cheeky espresso martini to put a pep in your step before graduating to the ever-so-tempting blood orange margarita. For nibbles, you’d be a fool not to go for the Phoenix – a rather sinful pizza embellished with toasted pistachio, parmesan, pecorino, spring onions and romesary. Like I said – sinful.

The Game

Martello Hall is the kind of place where nights can both start and end. Always casual and almost always lively. Stroll into the venue for some hand-shaken cocktails and a shared pizza then make your way to Hackney Picturehouse and cuddle the night away to your favorite film.

The Faults

Martello Hall is casual. While that’s great for the occasional 4th or 5th date, it’s not necessarily a stunner for those looking for a higher end gig. When busy, the line for the bar can also become quite lengthy due to the extensive artisan drink menu.

Sex Factor

2. Sexy? Not entirely. Charming? Absolutely.

Belsazar Botonical Garden, Moorgate

2 months ago

The Vibe
Tucked away in a cul-de-sac directly opposite the main sluice of Liverpool Street Station lies a secluded high-walled courtyard that forms the Old Bengal Bar’s garden. The upcoming summer months’ see this secret gem transform into a lush botanical garden courtesy of vermouth brand Belsazar. As soon as you arrive a personal welcome is made by a charismatic greeter, followed by the waiting staff and bar tender, all in swift succession. This gives you plenty of opportunity to scout your surroundings and find your preferred spot for the night. The crowd is mainly made up of co-workers enjoying a post-work tipple giving the place a more relaxed feel. Perfect for those who want a less date-centric venue whilst they’re still getting to know someone.

The Order
Naturally, drinks are the main focus of any date at the Belsazar Botanical Garden. So, leave your two-drink rule at home and make the most of the floral-decorated cocktails on offer. Start light with the fruity frozen cocktail Frosé, featuring Belsazar Rosé mixed with rosé wine, strawberry puree and agave syrup. Move on to the Rosé-T, to refresh in the summer heat, or choose a Spritz Me Up, if you like to keep it sweet. Finish with a Vermouth Punch, combining Belsazar Red, Sparkling Wine and Hibiscus Tea adorned with slices of fresh pineapple and orange for a tropical end to your date at the botanical terrace.

The Game
No reservation is needed at the Garden, so look for a cosy corner or private alcove to steal for you and your date. As the drinks flow so too will the conversation, just make sure it is never a one-sided affair. Past travels, career aspirations and summers in London are all likely to be covered throughout the night. When the air begins to chill move the date inside. The low-lit interior accented with a few red highlights provides a much more intimate and sexy setting to the open-air terrace. Order one or two more drinks and make the most of the glamorous surrounding. If it looks like it’s going well, be bold and ask ‘where next?’.

The Faults
Belsazar Botanical Garden Terrace is only a summer fling, but who knows what the next reincarnation of the terrace will bring.

Untitled, Dalston

5 months 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

7 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

9 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

1 year 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.

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