The Grazing Goat, Marlyebone

1 year 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

1 year 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

1 year 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.

Oka, Chelsea

1 year ago

The Vibe

There are relatively few Kings Road hotspots that haven’t been overrun with celeb spotters determined to bump into Spencer, Hugo, Milli and the like. However oka doesn’t need any of that. It’s small, unassuming and effortlessly chic. With an open kitchen the size of a postage stamp, it feeds a restaurant full of well heeled locals who can drink at the bar, chat over sushi or celebrate a special occasion with a full on fusion feast.

The Order

Soft shell crab to start, and seaweed salad to balance it out. Get a cold, crisp glass of Reisling in early – and mentally note that cocktails at the bar will serve as an excellent night cap. Black Miso Cod here has been quoted as the best in London, and even the simplest of their sushi rolls is melt in the mouth delicious-The Tuna Tataki is an utterly blissful experience.

The Game

Meet at the table – it’s a funny spot on the Kings Road and the walk from Sloane Square may drag a little so keep things fresh with separate arrivals. Bubbles to start wouldn’t be out of place here, but don’t get a bottle – it’s horribly brash. Share everything, including saliva, and drink at a steady yet sophisticated pace. Take up at the bar afterwards if you spot a space or head to Ivy Chelsea Garden for a salted caramel espresso martini.

The Faults

 

You’ll get carried away, the bill will mount up – YOLO.

Sex Factor

4.

The Ivy Kensington Brasserie, High St Kensington

1 year ago

The Vibe

For those who have been to The Ivy Chelsea Garden, the Ivy Kensington Brasserie  channels the same relaxed-bling vibes with less of the florals and a bit more corporate punch. While the Garden makes you feel like showing your date your serene side, this place makes you wanna drink Champagne at 11am, gossip about other tables and furiously play footsie. The elegant silver bar, with its glittering potions and high leather stools, must be languished on as you take it all in. Origami butterflies add a touch of whimsy; round wooden tables host friends, and blue corner banquettes host dates and celebs. The restaurant is love at first sight, the person you’re with merely secondary.

The Order

Christ this is good food. Something about the lightheartedness of the place makes you want to stick to a main course and a shared dessert. It’s not really the place to overeat on a date. But if you do, it won’t break the bank as much as it’s older sister.

Nibble on bread as you wait for half a roast chicken with a jug of gravy and thick cut chips or a DIVINE schnitzel with truffles. Simple, perfectly cooked, perfect portion size. Then share a theatrical chocolate bomb with salted caramel sauce. Want to linger a bit? Finish with Negronis. Brunch, lunch, dinner, every damn meal of the day should be enjoyed here.

The Game

As you’ll have gathered, the restaurant IS your game. For ease, head there on a Sunday for a 1pm booking. Make sure you asked for a romantic corner booth. Arrive 40 minutes early and use the excuse for a glass of champagne at the bar. Set a tone of frivolity. Knock knees as you eat and try each other’s food. Make sure you dressed up casual chic – nice shirt, cashmere jumper. Once the eating is done, hold on to your table for as long as possible. Pay up and then wander down Ken High for drunken shopping. Buy each other gifts and then walk to the Builders Arms for a final tipple.

The Faults

Honestly I can’t think of any. Potentially hard to get a dinner table on a Friday.

Sex Factor

4 for lunch. 5 at night.

Egg Break, Notting Hill

1 year ago

The Vibe

Notting Hill is in short supply when it comes to fun, casual dining restaurants. Egg Break, a clever concept hatched by the team behind the Hoxton Hotel and Soho House aims to change all this. Taking the site of an old Thai restaurant on Uxbridge Street, they’ve introduced an entirely egg-based menu whilst keeping the laid back and casual charm of the original site.

The Order

There’s no need to labour over a long menu, here it’s all broken into simple sections: buns, sides, sweets and drinks. Bun choices include fried chicken, brisket, pork belly and even rib-eye steak – all optionally served with an egg if you like. If you’re feeling hungry then fill up on sides – hash browns, fennel sausage and avocado all stack well in the aforementioned buns. You’ll find a short and simple selection of wines on the back of the menu and there’s also cocktails – more on those below.

The Game

The short menu and zippy service makes Egg Break a great spot to grab a quick meal before catching a film, or an excellent week night date – you’ll be in, fed, and watered within the hour. Of course, if you’re planning to linger then don’t miss getting stuck into a few drinks. Yes, they’ve also got an egg theme to them. The ‘sour’ cocktails (the Clover Club, Pisco Sour and Bourbon Sour) are fortified with lime and made velvety with a touch of egg white. At £7 a pop, you’ll definitely fly through a few of these.

The Faults

You might want to check that your date is a real egg fan before committing to an evening here. That aside, it’s hard to fault what we think is one of West London’s most brilliant openings of the year.

Sex Factor

4. Is there anything much sexier than an oozy egg? Play your cards right and you might even get laid.

RAW, Bayswater

1 year ago

The Vibe

Thanks to the recent onslaught of model-turned-chef twenty somethings preaching Team Vegan, there now seems to be a mainstream market for it. RAW, a vegan/veggie and booze free restaurant in West London’s La Suite West, is far removed from the veggie joints of Soho in that it’s a little fancier and a lot less likely to attract the Eco-warriors. Looking at the crowd – Japanese businessmen, hot Italian couple arguing – it’s obvious that the patrons here are meat and alcohol free in a quest to look good.
While the main room is elegant, slick and vaguely oriental in design, dates here should only be spent in the gorgeous front garden where delicate trees form a canopy and you get a little fresh air with your side of purée .

The Order

After a dismal flirtation with the vegan section of Planet Organic I can attest that the food here, from Nik Hartland, is incomparable – punchy flavours, inventive combos, well presented and pretty damn rich. In fact, what with the fact that you kick things off with a smoothie, I’d opt for just one course: Spiralized Courgette Pasta with Red Pepper Sauce, Cashew Nut Cheese & Summer Herb Pesto.  Two courses and, I’ll be frank, you won’t feel sexy.

The Game

Your date is a health nut, the options are limited, you pick the nicest place. Then you walk it off in Hyde Park, grab a boat, paddle away and read them Keats.  Good option for West London breakfast or brunch dates too; we all like to be a little virtuous from time to time.

The Faults

Where the booze at yo?

Sex Factor

1.  You’re just being considerate.

West Thirty Six, Notting Hill

1 year ago

The Vibe

My idea of fun is eating burgers with my hands and balancing champagne coupes between my fingers. That balance between crass and classy is often what makes new dining experiences a thrill rather than a chore that involves best behaviour. West 36, with its casual European dining downstairs, and opulent sitting room for feasting upstairs, personifies a lot about Notting Hill locals – they like a spruced up version of gastropub dining.

From the glassware to the lampshades – which, according to room curation, must remain on- to the white and blue vintage plates next to crushed leather armchairs, it’s a delightful mish mash of interiors that ironically scream ‘I’m so chilled out’.

This vibe is built on by tattooed European staff who crouch down or pull up a pew as your order and jest about a love of tequila and, of course, their personal favourites on the menu. Downstairs is built for boozy brunches, and upstairs for lazy comfort dates or ‘yikes we overdid it’ double dates on the sofas. Private equity chaps and interiors wives share the room with international business school grads, born and bred west Londoners, European bon vivants and perhaps even a low key celeb.  Not in this category? Well you’ll have to channel Tom Ripley and pretend it’s just a pretty pub – in other words, fake it.

The Order

Incredible chargrilled squid to start, juicy burgers with the right amount of cheese (lots) with fat pickles, half a roast chicken done to perfection and your choice of skinny fries or beef dripping chips. Expensive, light and dry rose wine and a divine sticky toffee pudding to share. Return for brunch on the weekend and it’s chunky club sandwiches, potent bloody Mary’s and that modish new brunch staple, poached eggs and avocado on toast.

The Game

This is an Uber sorta place to get to. For the sake of camaraderie, meet at Notting Hill and jump in a cab. When you arrive, take a chill pill about getting taken to a table – it’s always busy, you might have to wait. When asked for the drinks order, cut in with a request for two glasses of Prosecco before your date has time to react. As you work through the menu chat only about frivolous things, make a pact to over-indulge and hatch plans for a nightcap somewhere. As the venue is sisters with glam ‘n’ dark Beach Blanket Babylon, you might want to whisk them there afterwards, just to notch up the sex factor. Don’t make out at the restaurant, wait till later. Then call them a cab when they look too drunk and promise a return for brunch.

The Faults

The low chairs could be better matched for height – my poor giant date looked like he was perching on a child’s chair while I rested comfortably on my throne.

Sex Factor

3.  It doesn’t feel wholly appropriate to make out here.

The Blue Boat, Hammersmith

2 years ago

The Vibe

You’ve done “that” walk across the bridge to Waterloo. The one that all the girls know is the guy’s excuse to stop and kiss them half way across once they’ve pointed out St Paul’s all lit up and you’ve marvelled at the skyline of London. Ever seen Hammersmith Bridge? Equally impressive, it marks a section of the river that is filled with good pubs but has lacked a more date-worthy dinner joint until recently. The Blue Boat has every base covered – cosy snugs with sofas and arm chairs, booth tables tucked behind the well-stocked bar, and an outdoor garden from which to watch the Thames flow by.

The Order

You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the range of food on offer here. The tuna tartare is a good starter, and the excellent selection of meaty mains (the lamb is to die for) are all of generous portions. No sharing plates here, it’s traditional – but stick with two courses and definitely go for a bottle of the Rose. Move onto a sofa seat afterwards if things are going well and hit up the Irish coffees, or Gin and Tonics if you’re lucky enough to get a warm evening and can move outside.

The Game

Meet there – whoever arrives first will be well looked after, and you can save the riverside walk for when you’re both fed and watered. Unless it’s dazzling sunshine, ask for one of the booth tables raised up behind the bar, they’re tucked away and feel just that little bit secretive. Casual flirtation is more than encouraged and the sophisticated feel of the dinner done properly (as opposed to non- committal drinks and a bite) will amp up the date factor further.

The Faults

Probably best suited to spring/summer nights, otherwise the location is slightly out of the way.

Sex Factor

2.

Piccola Cucina, Notting Hill

2 years ago

The Vibe

Francesco guards the entrance to 186 Kensington Park Road waiting to greet his auspicious customers. He has the demeanour of an Italian mamma, brimming with apposite patriotism for his native cuisine as he foists upon his fortunate diners pasta galore, tiramisu and all that is antithetical to abstinence.  Piccola Cucina provides refuge to those partial to inconspicuous consumption but confined to the gold-paved streets of W11. As yet undiscovered by the glittering masses crowding the River Cafe to the West, Trullo to the North and Osteria Basilico across the road, this new restaurant offers all the indulgence but none of the table traffic of the best Italian restaurants in London.

The Order

Start with the elaborate Italian wine list. Be warned the shot of thick yellow liquid you receive on arrival is not limoncello (that comes later) but an olive oil and lemon juice accompaniment to the freshest of breads and crudités. The menu is an ocean of seafood. Tuna tartare on avocado was the perfect palate cleanser for the richly spiced octopus and shrimp trofie Genovese that followed, interrupted by perfect Parmigiana by which point you’ll question your ability to eat any more. Dismiss the puddings at your peril.

The Game

Take a gourmet – a gourmand even. Immobile as you’ll be by 10pm, they will emerge elated and utterly indebted to you for your introduction, ready to collapse into a cab headed wherever you are.

The Faults

Miserably, only the residents of Notting Hill and its neighbours in Holland and Hyde Parks could afford to be regulars. You will also leave lamenting your stomach’s insufficient elasticity.

Sex Factor 

4.  A footsie and feeding frenzy.

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