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.

Bottomless Brunch @ Quaglinos, Mayfair

6 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.

The Grazing Goat, Marlyebone

9 months 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

9 months 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.

Absurd Bird, Spitalfields

10 months 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.

Polpo Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge

10 months ago

The Vibe: 

Eating in a shopping centre is the choice of shopped-out friends or chore-bored couples, not the place for dates. However, Polpo, the Soho institution spreading like friendly bacteria, has managed to make Harvey Nichols a place I’d date someone other than a sugar daddy.

You see the decor looks the same as it usually does – rustic wooden tables, beakers for wine, low hanging bulbs and leather banquettes and the staff have the signature Polpo quality of being cool but friendly, relaxed yet hopelessly efficient. And while the date mantra tends to be the darker the better, they have managed to light the place flatteringly enough for a 2pm lunch date to turn into an unjudged wine-swilling session.

The crowd does at times seem accidental and a touch touristy. That said, any couple I’ve spotted here has clearly decided against grabbing a sensible light bite in the main cafe, instead easing their shopping woes with a real session of a meal. Keep the carafes coming. Soho vibes with Knightsbridge swag, I like it.

The Order: 
 
Venetian small plates and lots of Montepulciano. Classics include stuffed fried olives, beef and pork meatballs and cod cheeks with salsa verde and lentils. Sober up with a crab linguini and share a Tiramisu pot. Then pause for an hour, and start again on the nibbles.

The Game: 

Obviously this should fit into a grander plan. Pick a Saturday in Spring/Summer and meet in Hyde Park for a wander towards Knightsbridge. Then enter the shopping bit and whimsically pop into Harvey Nicks to pick up an amazing jam/chocolate spread/utensil from the food bit upstairs. Once you’ve bought them something small and charming, suggest a meal to make up for the walk. Oh look, a Polpo.

Head on in and take a weight off. Then stay for 3 hours and feel naughty for being drunk in a shop. Out into the fresh air, a quick kiss, then a cab to the motherland – Soho.

The Faults: 

No matter how consistent it is with the brand, I’m not sure how I’d feel about a destination dinner here. Late lunch? YES.

Sex Factor:

2.

Oka, Chelsea

11 months 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.

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.

Amaranto, Park Lane

1 year ago

The Vibe

Yep, it’s at The Four Seasons. Yep, that’s on Park Lane. Obviously it’s super luxe and you’ll be treated like Kings, yet it’s surprisingly friendly and both food and service are truly exquisite. The decor is sumptuous and encourages one to languish decadently for multiple courses.

The Order

Go with starters (scallops here will melt your heart), mains (seabass for her, steak for him) and share a dessert (the tiramisu tastes like blissful clouds of cream and coffee). Ask the sommelier to guide you with wines – they have an excellent variety that are served by the glass and you’ll want to accentuate the deliciousness of each dish.

The Game

Definitely meet beforehand. There’s nothing quite like being ushered into a glittering lobby by doormen in bowler hats, so share the experience and allow yourselves to be led through to your table. The lounge is an excellent stop off for a pre drink if you haven’t already indulged, or hit it up afterwards when you’re well and truly engulfed in the glitz.

The Faults

Yep, you guessed it….but it’ll be worth it, promise.

Sex Factor

5.

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