Also known by twentysomething Londoners as the poor man’s Polpo, Ombra is a charming café-cum-restaurant on an ugly road that makes for a dreamy date. The location feels like being in a cool Italian town – one where sexy parents unashamedly bring babies to the dinner table, male friends demonstrate gushing shows of affection, dates share bowls of pasta and rich kids go to feel grounded. At the mercy of the weather, the extensive terrace is perfect for sunbathing whist drinking Prosecco (on tap) like it’s water or Negronis so strong you’re drunk after one. Meanwhile inside it’s a cosier domesto vibe – you sit perpendicular to your honey at a simple square table and watch them dunk focaccia in oil like it’s the most charming thing on earth. Surprising swoon credentials.
Squint to read the menu off the blackboards –those are not the specials, that’s everything. The chef is a master in polenta, a more sophisticated sounding choice than pasta. That said, the following format works exceptionally well – break basket with Negronis, pasta pesto with 2 glasses of Prosecco. No dessert, you do want to feel this heady.
Any summer evening will do. However, if you want to plan this to death, you should wait till it’s First Thursdays on Vyner Street, a night where galleries open their doors and offer impoverished daters free booze and some token culture. Soak this up then head to Ombra as darkness falls. With cheap wine in your system, the rich and carby dishes are a speedy saviour. Order but don’t drink your cocktail until you have polished off the bread, then sip very slowly. It’s a place to be intimate so eat off their plate, poking fun as slurps of sauce hit their chin. Switch between deeper conversations about career and next steps, and crude jokes to lighten the tone. The idea is to have them thinking you are both their soul mate and fun chum. Then wander around the corner to the incredible cocktail joint Satan’s Whiskers and vibe off hip hop classics. This is where you make out.
The view from the terrace ain’t that great.
2. Bonding time.