Martello Hall, Hackney

6 days 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

1 month 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.

Enoteca Pomaio, Brick Lane

2 months ago

The Vibe
For the trendy vino lover, it’s been a long time coming but finally an Italian duo have brought the best selection of craft wines to East London. Enoteca Pomaio is the place to find them, a boutique Italian restaurant and craft wine bar right at the top of Brick Lane. The venue itself is charmingly understated. A light touch of styling and simple layout gives the place a homely feel, as though you’ve stepped off the vineyards and into your famiglia’s country kitchen. The crowd is certainly mixed, from an old couple sat looking out the window to two female colleagues catching up over a glass of red in the back. This is definitely not a bad thing and helps add to the relaxed character of the place.

The Order
As with most Italian restaurants, it may take a while to translate the menu so order a Prosecco to accompany your reading. There’s a generous offering of red and white wines to choose from, with the occasional splash of orange to liven things up. If you’re feeling adventurous throw out the rule book and sample each colour by the glass. Small plates are on hand to accompany your tipples, with Tuscan delicacies like hand cut prosciutto, bruschetta with truffle and salame grande. Indeed, aperitif style plates are much more suited to this style of date and if you feel hungry simply add another to your selection as the night goes on.

The Game
Whatever stage you are at in the dating game, ask to be seated downstairs for a much more romantic setting. The tables are close but the other guests never feel intrusive. As this place purposefully seeks a quieter atmosphere, this date is definitely one for talking. To avoid any long pauses, make sure you have plenty to discuss throughout the evening. As the wine glasses add up the conversation will flow much more smoothly. It may even be wise to take advantage of the private feel of the place and tackle more meatier subjects. Sip, flirt and stay until close but make sure to carry the night on elsewhere in fashionable Shoreditch.

The Faults
A bar for couples and singles to drink at would be a massive win for Pomaio. For now, we’ll settle for a cosy table for two in the corner.

Untitled, Dalston

4 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.

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.

Absurd Bird, Spitalfields

1 year 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

1 year 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.

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.

Coin Laundry, Exmouth Market

1 year ago

The Vibe

If countless movies and TV shows are anything to go by, laundrettes are a great place to find romance. Remember the one in FRIENDS where Ross teaches Rachel how to do laundry and a red sock dyes all her whites pink? Fitting then, that this warm and fuzzy heritage inspired Exmouth Market’s latest date venue.

While there’s no soap powder or tumble dryers to be seen, this bar-eatery is an explosion of retro memorabilia that will tickle the nostalgic. A roomy, low lit upper floor of small diner tables and pinball machines gives way to a basement of snug corners and board games. The soundtrack? 70s and 80s classics, of course.

The Order

First we saw the elevation of the humble burger to god-like status, then a tidal wave of hot dogs, fish finger sandwiches and pimped fried chicken. Coin Laundry’s speciality joins this revival trend with panache: a revamped chicken kiev. From the crisp, free-range chicken oozes a garlicky explosion, sourced from Hackney Marshes for added bonus. The menu comprises more upgrades of kitsch classics: tangy prawn cocktail, rabbit balti pie, smoked haddock rarebit and sardines on toast. Your nan’s cooking, but better.

Cocktails shrug off pretentious infusions and hat tip bygone icons – try the Snowball (Advocaat and lemonade) or Grasshopper (Liquor, mint, chocolate, cream). There’s a thoughtful selection of Vermouths and Digestifs and – joy of all joys – a Soda Stream.

The Game

This joint ticks boxes for laid back drinks, very good snacks and bonding over Kerplunk. Get to know your date as you swap throwback memories – which boyband/girl crush adorned your wall? Confidently order the 70’s Porn Star (Vodka, mango, lemon, passion fruit and Babycham) to gauge your date’s prudishness / get their imagination flowing – delete as required. The 2am closing time provides ample opportunities to make your move.

Alternatively, head to Coin Laundry on the weekend for a hangover-quashing brunch of potato waffle, fried egg and sausage or buttered crumpets with jam. Exercise can wait.

The Faults

Be careful that your chicken kiev doesn’t shoot its garlicky innards straight into your top.

Sex Factor: 2

 

Duck and Champagne at HKK, The City

1 year ago

The Vibe

There’s something apocalyptic – or simply a bit trippy – about dating in the City on weekends. The place has been cleared of suits and all that remains is the odd hungover East Londoner, wandering over from Old Street in the perpetual hunt for food. Or, misinformed tourists who seem to think there’s something, anything, to do in this concrete playground.

Well chaps, there actually is. Weekends at HKK – a restaurant of Hakkasan lineage – makes a fantastic lunch date. Ever more so now there’s duck and champagne on the menu.

Enter a well lit room that fits around 50 covers (77 if you include the private dining). Lanterns hang over a central serving table in a room that is minimalist without being clinical.  Sharp corners, soft spotlights. You’re likely to be seated amongst a smattering of sharply dressed couples and double dates settling into a very long lunch. And like most Hakkasan joints, you’d be forgiven for thinking there are more staff than punters, so waited on hand and foot are you.

The Order

The Duck and Champagne menu is the only thing you need to know about for Saturday dates. 4 divine courses for only £49. It goes like this: Blue crab salad, Cherry wood roasted Peking duck with black truffle mantou and caviar, then again with sesame pancakes. Duck and abalone stock with egg friend rice on the side.Your own duck will be carved up before you and presented in several guises, washed down with a bottle of Louis Roederer champagne. And to end, Nashi pear and champagne mousse with cotton candy and Champagne mousse.

The Game

Meet them at the restaurant, as it’s not easy to find and fumbling around together on Google maps ain’t a good start to proceedings. Dress in slouchy-smart attire, cut out of suave materials like lily-white cotton or gray silks,and baggy enough to eat in. As this is a boozy day date, make sure you are well rested and glowing. This isn’t the place for the hungover. Keep conversation light and lazy, refrain from gulping champagne and stop the drinking once the bottle is done. Insert the flirt around dessert by suggesting you make an afternoon of things.Then leave for the bathroom to let them mull it over.

Take a few bites of dessert, settle up and call an Uber before they know what’s going on. Then head to Blixen in Spitalfields for casual Negronis at the bar and kiss once it gets dark outside.

The Faults

While the lights are soft, they only mask some sins so make sure you scrub up for this one.

Sex Factor

Solid 4. It would be a travesty to party ways after the lunch.

 

 

 

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