Wright Brothers, South Kensington

3 months ago

The Vibe

I like my Martinis dry and my oysters dressed to kill, which is why Wright Brothers has always been a soft spot. But after a few too many dates in Borough – the standard Bedales wine followed by Wright Brothers seafood platters – I decided to take a break.

Until discovering the Mermaid Bar at Wright Brothers South Kensington.

A small and cosy room under the main restaurant, you’re seated on tiny stools around a petit drinks table, while bartenders introduce themselves and their favourite cocktails to you, setting up a camaraderie that breaks up any first date tension.

The House Cocktail is made rather a fuss of here, so you oblige by ordering it and your waiter lights up. The thirsty expectation is infectious. Like any decent date bar, the lights are low and you’re sat rather close together. But the most important touch is booths. Big, leather, high-backed booths which allow you to sit perpendicular to each other and knock knees. I’m a sucker for a good looking basement so they had me at bonjour.

The Order

We acquiesced to the cocktail of the month, which was “In Good Spirit” – Coirvoisier VP, Amaretto, vanilla syrup, apple juice, lemon juice and cardamom. Strong, bitter-sweet and speedily consumed. The second option was a Martini with sake and pickled ginger, cut with an oyster on the side. Went down like water.

Food wise, you should stick with the oyster theme and start with 6 of the daily selection. You’ll be astonished by how much they differ, plus it adds an activity element to the date, as you try and discuss. Oh no I definitely preferred the gloopier one. The spiced aubergine with yogurt and sumac makes for a rich accompaniment to counteract all that salt water.

For mains, the specials are the way forward. We had a buttery and meltingly good skate, then ordered on menu (and off seafood) with the tender pork belly with white beans and gremolata. With carafes of red wine flowing, you may want to skip dessert and just share a little port afterwards.

The Game

They lay things out well enough for those without game to fair well. Case in point, the couple on a first date next to us. Despite the chatter about her cruel ex, and a few tears shed over cocktails, their main courses pulled things back from the brink and by the end they were getting on (relatively) famously.

For optimum flow, it’s advisable to meet at least 45 minutes before your sitting so you can enjoy the cocktail bar bit. By the time you reach your table you’re relaxed and, since you’re so close together, a pre-oyster peck on the lips makes sense. Stay bloody ages, chat as intensely as a Parisian would, split the bill like comrades and end the date with a plan to return between 10pm and 11pm for a night of £1 oysters. You’re very close to having created a future routine.

The Faults

Once people catch on, it’ll be hard to secure one of the few tables downstairs and upstairs doesn’t pack the same first date punch.

Sex Factor

4. Serious credentials.

The Hari, Belgravia

3 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?

The Orange, Pimlico

3 months ago

The Vibe

If you’re going on a breakfast date there are three ways you would have gotten there. 1) You spent the night together after a boozy first date. 2) You met on a night out.  3) you’ve been together for a while and this is just another lazy morning.

Either way since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, what’s better than to start it in a little pub just off Sloane Square, where nothing really gets started until midday anyway.

The Orange is perfect for a hide-away breakfast to revitalise you, before sneakily heading back home to mull over the most fruitful night out you’ve had out in a while.

The Order

Sitting outside on the quiet streets for breakfast is immediately soothing, so ordering a mimosa on a Thursday is totally acceptable.

Indulgence is the key here, with rich duck eggs and a fluffy brioche soaking up mushroom juices and truffle sauce. Rich and full of flavour, you will be sure to combat last night’s alcohol and feel ready for the day. Add a side of crispy bacon and there’s no going back.

The Game

Breakfast is one of the most relaxed dates you can have and if they’re prepared to extend last night’s date into the morning then they’re a definitely a keeper. Don’t be the first to order alcohol, this isn’t an all day session.  Keep it short and sweet, then Uber your way out of these before the hangover really kicks in. Make a parting joke about returning there for a decent evening session.

The Faults

Everyone’s a little slower in the morning, including the service, but here’s hoping you’re lost in conversation.

Sex Factor

3.

The Dog and Fox, Wimbledon

1 year ago

The Vibe

Wimbledon Village is like a little microcosm of loveliness right at the end of the District line. Horses walk in the street, labradors and Barbours count as accessories and the wealthy inhabitants demand only the best for food, drink and sleep.

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The Dog and Fox has 18 stylish and beautifully furnished bedrooms, all scattered with art works, bespoke lighting and tiny, tasteful touches of luxury.
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If you want to splash out, the Fox Suite won’t disappoint; think fur rugs strewn across the four poster bed, a roll top bath in the corner of the bedroom, a separate rainforest shower and his and hers sinks, as well as a writing desk, arm chairs to sink into and enough space to dance in.
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The Order
You’ll want a little time to enjoy a bottle of Champagne while soaking in your vast bath tub so dinner shouldn’t be before 8.30. Once you’re revitalised from the bubbles of both kinds, you can both change into something casual – country chic is all the rage in this part of town- and head downstairs for a gin and tonic.
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Get a bottle of the richest red and nab a cosy corner table with a booth to make sure you can sit side by side – there’s something about staycations that turn you into touch seeking limpets, embrace it.
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Scallops to start, hake for main or duck croquettes then rib eye steak. The menu is extensive and satisfies all. You’ll probably find yourself sharing a dessert, but remember there’s a four poster bed awaiting you upstairs so ensure you don’t sink straight into a deep slumber.
The Game
The location is ideal for an after work rendezvous, and if you’re really juggling your sex life with your work schedule then you can whizz off back into town by trotting down the hill to the station in the morning.
However, if you want to extend your stay, arrive late afternoon and take a lazy walk around the pond on Wimbledon Common or browse the boutique shops and estate agent’s windows of the village itself.
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Check in and make full use of the room from the word go. It’s fully justifiable to fall on one another once the door is shut. Languish in the utter decadence of the decor, delicacies and quirks of the room before heading down for dinner.
Breakfast is excellent – the baked eggs in avocado are worthy of an Instagram shot (although remember not to get busted if the staycation is a secret) and the full English will satiate and fuel for a walk if you’re feeling like fresh air.
The Faults
If you’re a light sleeper, request a room at the top of the building away from the hustle and bustle of the pub downstairs.
The Sex Factor
4

Alquimia, Putney

1 year ago

The Vibe

You’re next to the river, you’re being plyed with chilled Cava, and the candle light is glowing warmly against the dark wood decor. It feels very much as though you’re tucked away in some blissful Spanish hillside rather than overlooking the Putney stretch of the Thames. However, Alquimia has been expertly serving those in the know for several years now and it’s ethos is both unpretentious and deeply passionate.

The Order 

Absolutely start with a glass of Cava whilst you browse the menu and enjoy a plate for Jamon or some of their authentic Manchego cheese and Pan con Tomate. Tapas is ideal date food and start off with the croquettas to line your stomach, before moving onto the hot stuff – namely the Pulpo and the Beef Cheeks.

The Game 

Make this your destination. You don’t need to go to a bar before or after – you’ve got everything you need right here so settle in and get cosy. Keep the tapas flowing alongside some of the stunning Spanish wines on offer here (go for anything albarino and you’ll feel even more like you’re on holiday).

When it’s time to leave, you’ve got the river calling to you for a romantic stroll…..

The Faults 

Location is off putting for some – but you can see the tube across the river and the walk over there is romance personified….

Sex Factor

4.

Orange Elephant, Chelsea

1 year ago

The Vibe

This is the ‘local’s’ end of the Fulham Road. It’s peppered with excellent restaurants, gazillion pound homes, and endless beautiful people you vaguely think you met once. The new kid on the scene is Orange Elephant – a steak joint that is so beautifully designed and so wonderfully managed that you’ll be putty in their hands before they even tell you about the Tomahawk steak you can opt for if you’re feeling peckish.

The Order

 

The menu is the size of a postcard, and for good reason. Your choices are limited, in the very best of ways. Thinking is not required here – you’ll simply be presented with a delicious starter salad, then the main event of a sirloin steak with chips and the signature sauce. In a real case of first world problems, your only decisions on the night will be a) Do I also want truffle mac and cheese and b) Which cocktail shall I go for?

The Game

Meet at the table. It’s small and cosy and you won’t feel like a fool whilst you wait. Start with cocktails and move onto a bottle of the Merlot to accompany your meat. Discuss how pleasant it is to have all choices taken out of your hands, catching their eye as you suggest the enjoyment gained from letting others take control…At which point, assertively request the bill and tell them you’ve got a nightcap at GOAT awaiting you.
The Faults 
No veggie options. But come on….
Sex Factor
Solid 3.

Avenue, St James’s

1 year ago

The Vibe

A date in St James’s? Sounds pretty swanky, but Avenue has all the west central class without the stiffness. Dimly lit with high ceilings and a bar filled fresh seasonal flowers, the dark wood floors and striking wine glass chandelier whisper a tone of relaxed sophistication. With seamless service, Avenue offers an uncomplicated menu with modern American and British fusion fair served up on candle-lit cloth-less tables. Cocktails here are crafted on transatlantic rivalry which the restaurant pens as the world’s two greatest cities; London and New York (feel free to debate this).

The Order

There’s nothing like some cocktail drama to kick off with. Go for the Smoky St James (bourbon, maple syrup and orange bitters) twist off the top of the tin canister this cocktail comes in and pour into your glass and over rocks of ice as the smoke escapes. The beautifully presented smoked venison carpaccio with picked plum and baby kale make an interesting combination where the sharply balanced flavours only add to the anticipation of the much heavier mains.

I can only comment on what we ordered, but take my word and go for the 800g grass fed Charolais cote de boeuf – don’t worry, that’s to share. There are no awkward glances as you decide how you want your meat cooked (we had ½ well done and ½ rare). Served sliced into on a platter, it creates some dinner table interaction alongside, perfect with a selection of lighter sides – the curly kale with toasted walnuts is a winner. If you’re considering dessert, keep it fresh with a sorbet selection and pineapple carpaccio – this isn’t the place for meat sweats and that irritating little bit of chocolate mousse that somehow finds its way stuck in the corner of your mouth.

The Game

Request the table on the raised area at the far side of the restaurant; it’ll give a sense of elevation and intimacy without feeling too crowded. The cocktail list is fun but make sure you order digestifs which come with chilled chocolates, and maybe even a good night kiss as you walk into the night…

The Faults

There’s atmospheric music and chatting fellow diners but this restaurant doesn’t roar. If you seek a sense of drama to ignite your conversation and fade away first date nerves, this might not be the place for you.

Sex Factor

3. This isn’t a destination for debauchery. If you’re looking for a spark, this place will do the job but for the flame you’ll want to head on… try the Experimental Cocktail Club.

Nam Long Le Shaker, Chelsea

1 year ago

The Vibe

Nestled at the far end of the Old Brompton Road, far from the ostentatious eateries of Knightsbridge or the pretentious members clubs of Mayfair, Nam Long Le Shaker just gets on and does it’s thing. That ‘thing’ involves providing excellent Asian fusion food, serving infamous ‘Flaming Ferrari’ cocktails to bankers, celebrities and royalty, and generally offering you the opportunity to seriously let loose, but only if you’re in the know.

The Order

Eating? Go for the Nam Long Summer rolls and be utterly blown away by the Siu Yuk Bao – crispy pork belly is always a winner. Go for a mix of large plates and Dim Sum – all perfect to share. This isn’t a sober night however – pretend to be civilised by starting with Martinis or even a cold bottled beer, yet realise you won’t leave here without throwing caution to the wind and ordering Flaming Ferraris all round.

The Game

The place hots up late. It’s open until 2.30am so pace yourself and aim for a late dinner. Book a corner table and meet there. Share food, build up your momentum and watch and learn as people start streaming in. The bar downstairs is newly refurbished and the ideal setting for cosying up with cocktails afterwards – replace talking with kissing as the music amps up.

The Faults

Shots will be done, things can get messy/super fun.

Sex Factor

4.

Three Six Six, Battersea

1 year ago

The Vibe

Decadent. The word comes from the latin decadere – to fall down. We always see decadence as a form of debauched bourgeois elegance, but it’s not all glamour. It’s a descent into hedonism and our base desires. It’s Victorian nudes on the walls and low lighting for pleasure seekers to hide in dark places. Decadence is a desire, it’s flesh, it’s gonzo, it’s all the things MGMT did in Time to Pretend. If this bar was a Pulp song, it would be Three Six Six.

The Order

Make your way through the seven negronis on the menu. Then the bathtub gins with premium tonic. Take in the flavour differentials of the menu – bitter, sweet, sour, organic, salt.

But order from the Fantasy and Fetish Menu if you’ve never had a drink garnished with a ball gag or poured from a vyal sealed with a butt plug.

The Game

Please don’t come here on a first date. It’s too dangerous. You might as well take her to an orgy.

Just imagine if you’ve met outside Clapham Junction and walked up to the bar making small talk about your day. You’ve just begun to get to know each other. You’re flashing glances across the table then breaking eye contact. And then a butt plug arrives on your table. That doesn’t break the ice. It smashes through the table.

Gents, I’d bring your new lady friend here a few dates in when the tension is simmering. You’ll be in the corner booth at Three Six Six and she’ll be biting your ear and you’ll be feeling the friction from her nylon tights under her pencil skirt and suddenly you’ll flinch and she’ll gasp and the bill can’t come quickly enough.

The Faults

The Heineken tap and the charcuterie counter at the front kill the vibe a bit, but just sit in the main area and you’ll be alright.

Sex Factor

5 baby

 

L’ETO, South Kensington

1 year ago

The Vibe

Brompton Road has seriously upped its gastronomic game of late. You can find good coffee, cuisines of all nations, fancy pants restaurants and many excellent dating hot spots. LEto cleverly bridges the gap between cafe and restaurant, plucking the best from both worlds and coming up with an offering that can lend itself to whatever date night you’d like.

The Order

As in their Belgravia branch, LEto Brompton Road offers a full dinner menu extending far beyond the plentiful Ottolenghi style salads that are spread out alluringly in the window. Start with the Crab Avocado Salad and progress to Seabass Ravioli in Lobster Bisque whilst discussing how long ago the summer seems. Like a kid in a candy shop, you can head up to the counter and choose your dessert – an excellent indicator of taste in a date.

The Game

Adaptable and easy, LEto can be as big or as small a part of your evening as you wish. As welcoming and pleasant for an early evening coffee and cake as it is for a full three course dinner, it’s the ideal place if you want to leave your plans open. Book ahead if you can to avoid queuing on the street – less South Ken, more Soho. Nightcaps elsewhere could work well – we recommend Ramusake.

The Faults

There’s a vague coffee shop feel at times, yet it’s perfect for informal chatter

Sex Factor

2.

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