Paternoster Chop House, St Pauls
On the weekends the Square Mile can be a bit of a ghost town, but with St Paul’s Cathedral being the tourist landmark that it is you’re not going to feel too cut off here, slap bang in the middle of that and the London Stock Exchange.
Late for my date by a quarter of an hour (not my fault, I promise), I’m not sure what the preamble commentary on ‘First Dates’ would have been, but he could very well have been having a marvellous time at the bar with a manly pint, chatting to the camera guy about what he looks for in a lady.
For here we are at Paternoster Chop House, the ‘First Dates’ restaurant of Channel 4 fame. I’m unfamiliar with the programme, but – having done my telly homework beforehand – coming here for Sunday lunch seems a much more relaxed affair than many of those poor reality TV guinea pigs have experienced. Fresh, bright, informal. Looking around, it’s tables of friends, families and a few couples. Those in the third classification seem pretty cosy and familiar. Either those first dates went extremely well or these have got off to a flying start.
Start with a glass of Chapel Down Brut from our very own Garden of England. If you really must err from the best of British, £10 apiece (once you’ve ordered two courses) will get you free-flowing prosecco for the duration of your meal. Take it slow.
Paternoster is a traditional British chop house in the very best sense, buying all their meat on the bone and butchering it themselves on-site (n.b. vegetarians: not quite within sight) to bring out the best of each cut. Dishes are designed according to the best quality ingredients available each day, so if you and your date are foodies, you’ll have plenty to talk about without having to resort to the weather or (gasp!) your exes.
Not to sound like a cheap date, but the set menu here is really very reasonable, at just £20 for two courses and £25 for three. On Sundays, some of the roasts may find their way into that category, so enjoy a leisurely meal and whatever you do, don’t leave before pudding.
Roast black Aberdeen Angus Beef, perfectly medium rare, was coupled with the most ginormous Yorkshire pud, along with the usual trimmings and a red wine gravy which (coming from a man who knows his gravy) ‘could not have been better by being any different, but could have done better by being more of it’. Cod Fillet, served with shredded runner beans, dandelion and red onion dressing was a fuss-free, very British alternative to the ubiquitous bass or bream, neither of which, refreshingly, are on this menu.
And in case you missed the memo, whatever you do, don’t leave before pudding. The sticky toffee pudding was one of the best I’ve tasted, and the truffles divine. But the pièce de résistance (to use the French) has to be the ‘Smoked Ice cream’ (!?), officially paired with the Coffee Millefeuille but also (the two-timing bit on the side) a perfect mate for the Chocolate Torte, silky smooth with its tragic-sounding but simply epic ‘Late Red Berry Heart’.
1. Book a table 15-30 minutes after you agree to meet your date and have a warm-up Paternoster Martini at the bar.
2. If you can, grab a table by the window or – if the weather’s balmy (not for the next 9 months I imagine) – outside. I rarely recommend this, especially for city dates for fear of colleague onlookers, but if you can snatch a view of St Paul’s and its magnificent dome from your table you’ll be onto a winner.
3. Come with some little-known facts about the Square Mile and impress your date. Here’s one to get you started: Sir Christopher Wren had originally wanted to put a stone pineapple at the top of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral. There are, in fact, pineapples on top of the two western towers. He saw them as “a symbol of peace, prosperity and hospitality”.
4. Come with some knowledge about what’s on at the time at Tate Modern. After your meal, take a stroll across Millennium Bridge and absorb some art, completing the equation for a perfect Sunday date. For a first date you may find “The World Goes Pop” is just the right balance of entertaining and discussion worthy.
Hmmm…genuinely can’t think of any. How boring.
3 – Paternoster does well to set the scene with a blank canvas. Great food, service and location. But the sex factor is really up to you. On the plus side you can rest assured that anything, good or bad, that happens on this date will be a true reflection of compatibility.