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.

Three Eight Four, Brixton

2 years ago

The Vibe

The demise of the hipster, hailed in the Guardian last month, has not been much mourned in South London. Why aspire to the specious counter-culture of Shoreditch when you can enjoy the genuine multi-culture of Brixton? The market still bustles despite Tesco’s invasion. The Ritzy still glows. And drugs still flow on street corners from people who look like they need the money – not the armoured vehicles of Hackney dealers, who don’t.

Yet a graveyard for hipsters, South London has become. Here, bearded types are settling to die – or at least grow up – priced out of Hoxton or exhausted from cycling to and from Homerton. Where, oh where can these watered down wastrels find girlfriends to spur on the transition to maturity?

Enter Three Eight Four, a new cocktail bar with exposed brick walls, distressed unisex loos kitted out with self-consciously retro hand-dryers, presumably imported from East London. Small and local (the premises used to purvey horse meat before the supermarkets took that over), the place has a pulse that positions it perfectly as the scene of a first date with a one-time scenester.

The Order

Cocktails frothing with egg-white. Four in the Pink, an unholy Trinity of Campari, Amaretto and Cointreau, topped with a Love Heart to articulate the adoration that will consume you upon first sip. Three Eight Four‘s small plates of food ensure the drink will go your head while supplying something to chew on if the conversation’s found wanting. Sweet potato chips (£2.25) are at the top of their class. Salt and pepper squid with aioli (£6) is plentiful and perfect.

The Game

Go! Eat, drink, be merry and, if you’re still standing at 11pm, hit the Effra Social, opposite, for its Dance Hall or hop on a bus to Peckham or New Cross to crash an art student’s house party.

The Faults

Negligible. An egregious rectangular plate briefly offended an otherwise faultless aesthetic.

Sex Factor

4. How to deny the dying breath of a hipster past his prime?

Flesh & Buns, Covent Garden

3 years ago

The Vibe

You can forget Oliver Dabbous or Tom Sellers*, the chef that hungry Londoners should be most thankful for is Ross Shonhan. First he brought us Bones Daddies, with its hearty, rich and fat-spiked ramen noodles, a Soho joint that we’ll queue outside of for a full hour with not a whisper of complaint. And then he added Flesh & Buns to the mix, a Taiwanese fast-food joint in a Covent Garden basement, with the same Rock n’ Roll inspired deco, the same good-looking punters and the same Big Apple buzz. But it’s bigger and it’s about the buns, sweet and fluffy hirata filled with slow-cooked, well marinated, grilled to perfection meats. There’s no such thing as an awkward date here. The communal tables keep it informal, the food keeps it exciting, the work on your part is minimal.

The Order

Buns, you fool. The top flesh picks are pork belly with mustard miso, crispy duck with sour plum sauce and grilled sea bass with coriander miso. It’s quite a lot of food for one each but then you don’t want to miss out so order two different ones to share anyway. Accompany that with the softshell crab and some edamame to start. Drink pomegranate martinis or white wine. The famous house dessert is the S’More – marshmallows, chocolate, matcha and biscuits- a traditional US campfire treat that arrives with its very own stone hearth.  It’s fun to play with and tasty to eat but you’re sadly likely to be a bit full by the time you get to it. Don’t force yourself, it’s a date dude.

The Game

Covent Garden dating can be started early and dragged out far into the night.  Tonight’s theme is New York livin’.  Meet straight after work and head to Mischkin’s Jewish deli for a Cucumber Martini or Gin Sour in an artificially informal, but nevertheless charming, setting. Then head to F&B for an 8pm sitting and prepare to be welcomed by staff who are all grins and Yank enthusiasm. Position yourself at a sharing table and take stock of the couples either side of you – hopefully they are loud and funny enough to provide eavesdropping fodder for any silences. If you picked the restaurant, you do the ordering, both the cocktails and the drinks. Natter away about the concept until you’re relaxed, then enter into a warm phase of conversation, unpretentious and a little silly, peppered with gags and rolled eyes about your neighbours. One cocktail will suffice, this isn’t a drinking marathon. Then pay up after less than two hours and welcome the cool outside air. Stand around for a bit and suggest a coffee for the road, leading them to transatlantic Balthazar for a decaf Americano. Sit on a snug, crazy-romantic two-man table near the window, vibe off the setting, and chat till you’re tired. Then walk them to the last tube, kiss merely on the lips outside and part ways. Text to see if they got home OK and suggest you try Bone Daddies next week ‘just to balance things out’.

The Faults

The booths could be cosier.

Sex Factor

2. It’s about food and camaraderie. However, if you switch that post-meal coffee for some beakers of wine at Pix you’re sure to change the direction of things.

*26 year old superchef behind Story

Photo credits: @wilkes888, wilkes888.wordpress.com

Rosa’s Thai, Soho

3 years ago

The Vibe

Rosa’s Thai  flies the flag for terrific Thai treats. I went there on a date three weeks ago and now I’m in a relationship with the guy I went with. Yes, this is because of my personality, charm and all that jazz, but maybe, just maybe I should also give props to Rosa for leaving us very satisfied, a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach after all.

The décor is not typical of a Thai restaurant but it fulfils the requirements of being a restaurant in Soho.  It’s minimalistic and features a light timber lined room, filled with chunky wooden tables, quirky red stools and low level lighting. The pricing is pretty keen and so I can understand why it sits firmly in the cheap eats category but, don’t get me wrong, it’s not a shameless ‘cheap’ eatery picked by penny pinchers either.

The Order

The menu is pretty extensive and tempts customers with a lot of traditional dishes, as well as the non-clichés. We had come from a picnic (the more-booze-than-food kind) so we were ‘starvin like Marvin’ and quite content with the choices on offer (although that meant it took us longer to choose).

Our first starter was grilled venison’ on a lemongrass skewer with green curry sauce. This was a winning starter. It was light, moreish, fragrant and guilt-free. The meat was very well-seasoned and flavourful.

The soft shell crab starter was meaty, nicely cooked and very tasty. The batter wasn’t thin like tempura and the accompaniment of herbs, shallots and chilli sauce worked wonders.

My date opted for a lamb yellow curry and I wasn’t too shy to ask for some. It was a pretty dazzling choice. Tender chargrilled lamb chops served in a spicy and fragrant coconut based sauce with perfectly cooked pieces of vegetables. The lamb chops had a lot of meat and I would’ve gotten food envy but my sweet and sour sea bass was twice as great and left me grinning like a Cheshire cat.

The Game

It’s perfect for a casual lunch or dinner date and probably the next best thing to booking a flight for a culinary Thai holiday (seriously, it’s Thailand on a plate).  We got there at 7pm on a Sunday and the place was pretty busy, but quiet enough to engage in conversation. Is it a romantic, candlelit affair? Nope, not at all, but the grub speaks for itself. It’s not a first date, more like a third or fourth. Take it slow, eat your fill and roll home together.

The Faults

The food might make you forget why you’re there, to score.

Sex Factor

2. It doesn’t have much sex appeal decor wise, and you would be leaving a date with onion and garlic breath, but who cares? It’s totally worth it for the food and its happy go lucky charm.

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