Smith and Wollensky, Covent Garden

2 weeks ago

The Vibe

Clanging forks and the sound of a Central London Sunday brasserie bustling away with Mimosa-soaked friends and smug couples. That’s not what you’ll find walking through the doors of Smith & Wollensky for weekend brunch. Instead, it’s dulcet piano tones as you glide through the room where diners look remarkably relaxed, content, sometimes tipsy but mostly just charmed by the old school vibes of the place. Sharp white-jacketed waiters bring you coffee as you peruse an extensive brunch menu ranging from brunch classics to steaks. A word for the wise, dress for the occasion (crisp, relaxed glam) and make it a Champagne kinda brunch.

The Order

It may take you a good 20 minutes to work through the options so order coffee to get you up to the task. The braised beef hash and poached eggs was rich but delicately portioned so you’re still able to split waffles for dessert. For burger aficionados, the cheeseburger was honestly up there with the best – strong cheddar and juicy patties and yet confusingly light. For dates this is perfect; you can eat well and still feel desirable by the end of it. Before you leave, order a Negroni to share then head towards Somerset House to amble the day away.

The Game

The scene for relaxed romance has already been set. If you booked, make sure you turn up early and beg for a booth. Sitting next to each other is infinitely preferable. Drinking after you’ve eaten is a better idea, it doesn’t feel like the sort of date you booze your way through. Chit chat about your weekend and make it very clear you have nothing else to do after brunch, paving the way for a day of chilled fun. Don’t go straight into the intense grilling , this is the first hour of a longer date so keep it trivial for now.

The Faults

The service is so efficient you might find the meal goes a little too quickly; slow things down by asking for more time.

Sex Factor

2. It’s a Sunday and you’re in your best.

*Special Event*: And for something a little different, on Friday 17th March, they will be celebrating St Patrick’s Day with Jameson cocktails and a big old celebration in the Adelphi Bar from 5.30pm. We’ll be there…More info HERE.

The Orange, Pimlico

4 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.

Bottomless Brunch @ Quaglinos, Mayfair

7 months ago

The Vibe

Opulence, plain and simple. With a grand staircase that dips into a sunken dining room and a platform for a band, Quaglino’s is a Titanic-esque dining room with a hefty dollop of Mayfair bling.

And boy does it have a history. Opened in 1929 by Giovanni Quaglino – a restauranteur from Northern Italy – it attracted a fashionable crowd thanks to great Italian cooking and a lack of stuffiness. In 1993 it was taken over by the Conran Group and patronised by Princess Diana and a swanky London crowd, and in 2004 D&D London took over and once more breathed life into the place.

What most remark about Quags is that it’s a glitzy affair but not crazy expensive. The touches like the grandiose flower displays and house band are a charming nod to the Old World of Mayfair dining, while the newly launched bar – with its faux animal skin touches, dim lights and sparkle, adds a good does of shamelessness to satisfy any young aspirant.

The Order

One thing D&D really know how to do elegantly are bottomless brunches. 2 courses fo £25 or 3 for £29, with the addition of unlimited Prosecco for £15.

On a date, share with 4 Rock Oysters with shallot vinegar, and cured smoked salmon on melba toast. Then for a delicate main, the sea bream with sauce vierge on a bed of crushed potatoes is light with a citrus sharpness balancing indulgent potatoes. For something more brunch-like, the cured ham Croque Monsieur is the stuff of legends.

The Game

Dress for brunch. Men in crisp white shirts and women mostly in trousers, heels, blouses and fancy bags. Even better, wear a goddamn frock.

Wait for your date outside the restaurant so you can descend the staircase together and grab a hand for the journey down. Try to mirror the restaurant’s vibes – smart but not stuffy – with casual chit chat and playfulness. Swap stories from your Friday nights and make plans for the afternoon. Go for the bottomless option but stop after 2-3 glasses (stay classy).

Before you leave, grab a peck on the lips at the top of the stairs and head out for a walk around St James’.

The Faults

If it’s sunny outside, the windowless vibe may not work for all.

Sex Factor

3 for brunch. 5+ for dinner.

Dalloway Terrace, Bloomsbury

9 months ago

The Vibe

Summers were made for Dalloway Terrace. The stunning al fresco restaurant at the back of The Bloomsbury Hotel, catch it on a sunny day and you have yourself one of the best dates in London.

As the name suggests, expect a terraced structure of tables on different levels, with either a fully exposed table or one under an awning. As part of hotel, the presentation is crisp and service impeccable. Don a white shift and some Ray Bans. Book in advance.

The Order

Brunch is where the place peaks.  Start with a punchy brunch cocktail, either the Bloomsbury Set Bloody Mary (House mix, English vodka, fresh tomato juice) or the Morning Martini (Sipsmith Gin, triple sec, marmalade, lemon juice).

If trying to be healthy-ish, go for the egg white omelet with chia seeds and spinach. Or if indulging, the Eggs Benedict, the burger or the divine chorizo and champ hash cake. Finish with another glass of crisp white – it is the weekend.

The Game


If you have a brunch date, don’t wreck yourself the night before. Wear something that channels sleek sophistication, don’t forget the shades and turn up ten minutes early. By the time your date arrives you’re nursing a cocktail and looking pretty slick. Stay for a couple of hours and then meander to Hoxton Hotel in Holborn to take coffee and chat on sofas for the rest of the afternoon.

The Faults

Not easy to get the best sun spot without a booking well in advance.

Sex Factor

1. Pure class.

Victory Mansion, Stoke Newington

11 months ago

The Vibe

If you’re looking for a relaxed, friendly neighborhood bar to make your home base, we just did you a huge favor. But let’s just say if you blink, you’ll miss it. Tucked away in between shopfronts on Stoke Newington High Street, this quaint, hand-built bar is sure to impress with its charming, old-fashioned interior and familiar bar favorites. Kick back and relax with a cocktail in hand or make it a few to turn up your evening.

The Order

Eclectic British food has never tasted so good. Charred leeks with crispy quinoa, purple sprouting broccoli with bitter lemon Sichuan dressing, garlic octopus with fennel and mouthwatering mussels with green pepper are crowd favorites and we absolutely see why. As for drinks, they’re beautiful. For a strong yet tasty cocktail and an undoubtedly good laugh (you’ll have to find out for yourself), order the Hurricane Dave.

The Game

Victory Mansion is perfect for that after-work cocktail. It won’t overwhelm, but it’s sure to impress. While it’s much more casual than a suit or heels, there’s no need to change out of work attire. With high tables and a chilled out ambiance, playing footsy is a must.

The Faults

The service was impeccable, but if there were more filled tables, I can imagine the singular waiter and bartender would be quite overwhelmed.

Sex Factor

3, but definitely a 4 if you venture downstairs for a drink and sexy rendezvous.

100 Wardour, Soho

1 year ago

The Vibe

Where 100 Wardour now sits was once a two  floor emporium of Soho drunkeness called Floridita. It was the kind of place you remembered by anecdote rather than any tangible sense of what it looked or tasted like. The new invention place though, it’s a genuine looker from the quality kings D&D London (behind Bluebird, Skylon).

Pad down a winding staircase and end up in an expansive room built for either romance or swagging nights out. To your left, impeccable 20 something women sip Champagne, on your right, it’s Coupleville, straight ahead, men prop up the bar. In any other Central London joint, this could be cheesy. But it’s not, thanks to slick interiors, perfect lighting and not enough lingering space at the bar to accommodate liquid diners. I like this place because it reminds me why it’s nice to make an effort on dates – dress up, drink up, pay up and kiss at the door.

The Order

The starters are small plates so go for 3-4 on a date. The best thing we ate was yellowtail ceviche and octopus with a divine x dressing. The robata items are two sticks a plate so ideal picks for a light start to things.

For mains, share a meat and a fish dish – the giant prawns have a sauce so buttery  and sweet, we actually dragged our lamb cutlets around the plate hoping to scoop up the remnants. Perhaps a move to avoid on dates.

Dessert is a peak – salted caramel profiteroles and a molton chocolate mound with caremelised pecans that silenced my companion, who also felt the need to share with the dates either side of us. For drinks, start with a Margarita, then onto a decent bottle of red.

Brunch Dates – The Saturday brunch here is a bit of a big, boozy deal. £15 for unlimited Prosecco or Bloody Marys and £18.95 for 2 divine courses. A good start to an all day and night date.

The Game

Plan to meet at the bottom of the stairs by the bar. Shed all outerwear upstairs so you can make the descent like a slick character in a movie. Lock eyes and signal to the host that you’re ready to be seated. Say yes to the cocktail list and then order off menu. Commence the flirt extremely early on – you don’t want to be out romanced by your neighbours.

Share everything, finish nothing. Then ask the couple next to you to watch your table as you go for fresh air and a kiss after dessert, then return for a final glass of red. If there’s any room at all, cab to Blind Spot at St Martin’s Lane Hotel for a nightcap.

The Faults

If you could guarantee a space at the bar after the meal, you would stay till closing. Also you will need to give your table back but that’s life (London)

Sex Factor

Solid 5. More of a 3rd date place.

Chinese New Year @ Hakkasan, Hanway Place

1 year ago

The Vibe

The first thing that hits you is the smell – the spicy contents of a well-to-do lady’s perfume closet. Then the enveloping darkness as you descend into a glitzy labyrinth – the sort of mood-lighting that makes other date joints look like casual lunch spots. And then the elegant hostess who teases your coat from your hands and returns a transparent black plastic token slicker than a high roller chip. This place is meticulous at upholding the Hakkasan brand.

And what is that brand? Aside from luxury, Hakkasan is a Michelin-starred dining experience with an extremely sexy edge. It’s Cantonese food in a boudoir setting, and a sure fire way to impress a date. Unlike pretentious style-over-substance joints, the crowd is a mix of people who have either loved it, en famille, for years or slick singles who use it as their first port of call for romance. Business dinners are conducted in a setting-appropriate manner, with calm grace and good manners, while dates are conducted the only way they should be – with smouldering looks, delicate sips and the seductive feeding of dumplings.

And for a short while, to celebrate The Year of The Monkey, regulars can return for some new very indulgent menu items, a potent rum cocktail and a gift at the end of meal (a Monkey Coin – who doesn’t need that).

The Order

Chinese New Year Menu – The Year of The Monkey

This menu is perfect for a boozy double date with your favourite couple. The tasting menu is made up of nine dishes and priced at £88.88.

Start with Double boiled fresh Ginseng and chicken soup, next the Wagyu beef and pine nut golden cup, then the Dim sum platter. Follow up with insanely good lobster in spicy truffle sauce, Pipa duck, Grilled Chilean seabass in honey and a Hericium mushroom stri-fry with lotus roots, asparagus and lily bulb in black pepper. BREATHE. Oh and scallop and crab meat fried rice.

Dessert is a Golden Halo – a banana and peanut cake with cream and caramel and chocolate topped with gold leaf. Accompanied by a punchy El Dorado rum cocktail.

 

The Game

Your game is largely irrelevant here, since the Hakka empire have gone so far in creating a seductive assault on the senses. Aftershave is trumped by signature fragrances, clever make-up rendered pointless in the dim glow and expert chat eclipsed by tonnes of excellent food to tackle.

The only thing I advise is to get the dress code right – relaxed but expensive. Guys, focus on great shoes, nice jeans and a crisp shirt – just keep the work suit on if it’s a good one. Ladies, if it’s the weekend then go for a bodycon or cocktail number – not too trash, just one colour. Alternatively, the all black combo works a charm – blend in like a Scandi fashionista.

Meet at the table, so you can experience the descent alone. Stay for the allotted 2 hours and be pleasantly wafted to the bar where the real drinking happens. Taxi to Sketch for a nightcap and kiss like naughty kids by the egg shaped toilets in the coolest bathroom in London.

The Faults

Get excited about the food and you’ll be too full to function. And perhaps out of pocket.

Sex Factor

5. Coma dependent, of course.

 

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.

Anderson and Co, Peckham

1 year ago

The Vibe

Sat along a wooden bench, by a door which opens onto a candlelit, plant strewn garden conservatory, opposite a warming open kitchen, this restaurant is just the sort of place to romance someone on the down low. Enter the casual-looking restaurant, you can either go for a subtle flirt with a bite at the high-bar, or set up a traditional date by taking a table in the back.

The owner, Lisa – an effusive, charming woman who moved to Peckham before the rest of us did – and the staff channel Boho vibes with none of the snobbery. Menus, wine glasses, and cutlery are handed to you as if a guest at a dinner, encouraged to pass things down, and the whole setting is one of accidental charm. Intimate, cosy and with stonking good food.

The Order

Lisa changes the menu accordingly to whimsy, with staples like the burgers and brunch classics (‘I’ve taken more avocado brunch orders than is possible’), fusing with monthly new players. On this date, we started with small ball crab cakes, fried artichokes (divine) and aranchini balls with pesto mayo– so tasty and great liners for the wine list we were intent on exploring. Which brings me to the date high five here – insanely moreish wine. Lisa went on a ruthless hunt for their house red and the result is a very punchy, utterly quaffable, sweet nectar. It was a Wednesday night and we drank two. For mains, it’s hearty fare from ex Soho Hotel chef Teemu Tovainen, – a slow cooked of lamb shank with mash and jus, a burger with garlic aioli and blue cheese. Then a dessert of banoffee pie, deconstructed in a little pot. So. Much Consumption.

The Game

This place is packed on weekends so aim for a cheeky midweek date. Straight after work gives you enough time to take it slow and settle in as you would a good friend’s dinner party. Except at this one you’re sat opposite a bit of a hottie. At the start, tease Lisa into your conversation – her frivolity should coerce you into a relaxed date. Counterbalance the sheer amount of food by asking for side plates and sharing it all.

Conversation will inevitably lead to property prices, how Peckham is the new wherever, and why you’re tired of Soho joints (despite dating there religiously). Suddenly you imagine a life with this person that’s full of Sunday papers in cafes and ethnic food in new locales. You loosen up, drink up, and light up outside as you wait for Uber. Kiss in the back and get back to The City.

The Faults

The couple next to you may listen in for sport. That’s OK, you’re pretty interesting.

Sex Factor

2. More on the romance, food and fine wine vibes.

 

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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