Cucina Asellina, Holborn
The ME hotel in Holborn is home to the renowned Vegas/New York/LA richer-than-yo-daddy steakhouse STK. This NFL flytrap was made for dating, beloved by the Kardashian clan for serving lady steaks so dainty their spandex survives the meal. It’s pricey, glam and perfect for a shameless date with someone high maintenance. However, lest we forget the habit of hotels to house more than one restaurant, there’s also the lovely Cucina Asellina on site, an Italian eatery with a tiny bit less swag but incredibly good food. Sure there’s still some formality to the experience – a polished hostess to greet, some ushering to the shiny bar for champagne, bright white seats, thumping beats and sexy lighting. But the atmosphere is more louche than showy, the staff are warm, and the food is exceptional. For The Guardian ’s Jay Rayner to spend any time at all in a swanky hotel , let alone adorn the restaurant with a glowing review says a hell of a lot. Turns out there is talent outside of Brixton/Brooklyn.
Pasta, most definitely pasta. The simple square spaghetti with tomato and basil is just how I imagine an aspirational New Jersey ‘mama’ would have made it; Mediterranean richness with Manhattan presentation . The pappardelle with wild boar and wine is rich, sweet and a sophisticated take on Bolognese. If you can manage the steak to share, it is exceptional, especially at that price point. Otherwise, just go upmarket peasant and opt for flatbreads, plus pasta, plus wine (and lots of it).
The proximity to the West End shows makes this a perfect post-matinee date. For the brave (or foolish) the Adelphi Theatre will be showing The Bodyguard, or something of that ilk, at 5pm. Musicals are heinously cringe, but ice-breaking heaven. However, run it by your date before you book as some people will never see the funny side of 120 plus minutes of belted tunes. During the show, whatever you do, make it clear how silly you find this. Mime hanging yourself in outrage, cock your finger like a pistol, mock vomit. Even though you’re bound to start enjoying it, don’t share this appreciation with a thumbs up gesture. Fall out of the show in fits of giggles and head over to Cucina. The laughter has made you hungry and your booze thirst is overpowering. Order two Negronis while you wait, then get the flatbreads immediately. Set a jovial conversational tone from the get-go, promise that the next date will be better – planting the seed – and chug away merrily. Skip dessert and totter out of the place pissed as a newt. Kiss up against the glass hotel walls, get told off by the doorman, ask him to get you a cab and three beat shuffle your way into it.
It’s awkward if your date thinks you picked the cheaper of the two hotel restaurants.
4. Dinner and a show outta do it.