Martello Hall, Hackney

3 days ago

The Vibe

Did I just step into a beehive? Because this place is buzzing. The voices of young, well-dressed and creative individuals fight over the DJ’s alternative tunes and the frenetic sound of cocktail shakers. Fresh artisan pizzas whiz from the kitchen to the main bar floor and barely make it a few seconds before the vivacious hands of patrons snatch them to bits. The large windows cast a summery glow on the rustic wooden interior as the dim overhead lights dance across the faces of those below. Shoulders bump and feet are tread upon as fiercely eligible singles eye one another across the large space.

The Order

The cocktails are on fleek. Do the kids still use that word? F-L-E-E-K. Start with a cheeky espresso martini to put a pep in your step before graduating to the ever-so-tempting blood orange margarita. For nibbles, you’d be a fool not to go for the Phoenix – a rather sinful pizza embellished with toasted pistachio, parmesan, pecorino, spring onions and romesary. Like I said – sinful.

The Game

Martello Hall is the kind of place where nights can both start and end. Always casual and almost always lively. Stroll into the venue for some hand-shaken cocktails and a shared pizza then make your way to Hackney Picturehouse and cuddle the night away to your favorite film.

The Faults

Martello Hall is casual. While that’s great for the occasional 4th or 5th date, it’s not necessarily a stunner for those looking for a higher end gig. When busy, the line for the bar can also become quite lengthy due to the extensive artisan drink menu.

Sex Factor

2. Sexy? Not entirely. Charming? Absolutely.

Belsazar Botonical Garden, Moorgate

1 month ago

The Vibe
Tucked away in a cul-de-sac directly opposite the main sluice of Liverpool Street Station lies a secluded high-walled courtyard that forms the Old Bengal Bar’s garden. The upcoming summer months’ see this secret gem transform into a lush botanical garden courtesy of vermouth brand Belsazar. As soon as you arrive a personal welcome is made by a charismatic greeter, followed by the waiting staff and bar tender, all in swift succession. This gives you plenty of opportunity to scout your surroundings and find your preferred spot for the night. The crowd is mainly made up of co-workers enjoying a post-work tipple giving the place a more relaxed feel. Perfect for those who want a less date-centric venue whilst they’re still getting to know someone.

The Order
Naturally, drinks are the main focus of any date at the Belsazar Botanical Garden. So, leave your two-drink rule at home and make the most of the floral-decorated cocktails on offer. Start light with the fruity frozen cocktail Frosé, featuring Belsazar Rosé mixed with rosé wine, strawberry puree and agave syrup. Move on to the Rosé-T, to refresh in the summer heat, or choose a Spritz Me Up, if you like to keep it sweet. Finish with a Vermouth Punch, combining Belsazar Red, Sparkling Wine and Hibiscus Tea adorned with slices of fresh pineapple and orange for a tropical end to your date at the botanical terrace.

The Game
No reservation is needed at the Garden, so look for a cosy corner or private alcove to steal for you and your date. As the drinks flow so too will the conversation, just make sure it is never a one-sided affair. Past travels, career aspirations and summers in London are all likely to be covered throughout the night. When the air begins to chill move the date inside. The low-lit interior accented with a few red highlights provides a much more intimate and sexy setting to the open-air terrace. Order one or two more drinks and make the most of the glamorous surrounding. If it looks like it’s going well, be bold and ask ‘where next?’.

The Faults
Belsazar Botanical Garden Terrace is only a summer fling, but who knows what the next reincarnation of the terrace will bring.

Murakami, Covent Garden

1 month ago

The Vibe
A stylish designed modern Japanese restaurant in Covent Garden, Murakami Restaurant brings a touch of the East to the theatre district. Enter through the right door and be greeted by a charming hostess who will take you to your table. If you find yourself seated in the brightly lit window space, politely ask for the more romantic option in the lowly lit back. The restaurant is normally calm enough for this not to be any hassle and will help make for a more atmospheric date.

The Order
An assortment of delicious delicacies are on offer, giving you the opportunity to enjoy a Japanese-style tapas in the heart of Covent Garden’s theatre district. Accept the water as soon as you sit down and sip as you browse the expansive menu. For those with an indecisive nature, start with the rib eye dripped in sweet soya and add the black cod on saikyo lemongrass miso, continuing from there. Accompany your selections with a Japanese cocktail or two. The wham inspired ‘wake me up before you tok-y-o’ is a delicious Espresso Martini that is sure to add a perkiness to your game. If you are abstaining from alcohol try a sweet sake and disguise your choice as a desire for a more authentic dining experience.

The Game
Take a window seat and watch theatre goers pass down St Martins Lane, or for a cosier night ask to head towards the back with darker lighting and better spaced seating. The menu offers an exciting starting point for discussion, particularly for well-travelled foodies or Japanese enthusiasts. From therein, take advantage of any stories you have gathered from your trips to the East or reveal a quirky love for haiku poetry.

The Faults
Leaving the restaurant onto the tourist packed St Martins Lane can cause any romantic haze to soften. To avoid, order a couple more drinks and wait for the visitors to head home.

Enoteca Pomaio, Brick Lane

1 month ago

The Vibe
For the trendy vino lover, it’s been a long time coming but finally an Italian duo have brought the best selection of craft wines to East London. Enoteca Pomaio is the place to find them, a boutique Italian restaurant and craft wine bar right at the top of Brick Lane. The venue itself is charmingly understated. A light touch of styling and simple layout gives the place a homely feel, as though you’ve stepped off the vineyards and into your famiglia’s country kitchen. The crowd is certainly mixed, from an old couple sat looking out the window to two female colleagues catching up over a glass of red in the back. This is definitely not a bad thing and helps add to the relaxed character of the place.

The Order
As with most Italian restaurants, it may take a while to translate the menu so order a Prosecco to accompany your reading. There’s a generous offering of red and white wines to choose from, with the occasional splash of orange to liven things up. If you’re feeling adventurous throw out the rule book and sample each colour by the glass. Small plates are on hand to accompany your tipples, with Tuscan delicacies like hand cut prosciutto, bruschetta with truffle and salame grande. Indeed, aperitif style plates are much more suited to this style of date and if you feel hungry simply add another to your selection as the night goes on.

The Game
Whatever stage you are at in the dating game, ask to be seated downstairs for a much more romantic setting. The tables are close but the other guests never feel intrusive. As this place purposefully seeks a quieter atmosphere, this date is definitely one for talking. To avoid any long pauses, make sure you have plenty to discuss throughout the evening. As the wine glasses add up the conversation will flow much more smoothly. It may even be wise to take advantage of the private feel of the place and tackle more meatier subjects. Sip, flirt and stay until close but make sure to carry the night on elsewhere in fashionable Shoreditch.

The Faults
A bar for couples and singles to drink at would be a massive win for Pomaio. For now, we’ll settle for a cosy table for two in the corner.

The Ivy Market Grill, Covent Garden

2 months ago

The Vibe

It took far too long for The Ivy to copulate with new areas of London and give life to offshoots like Kensington Brasserie and the stunning Chelsea Garden. The Market Grill in Covent Garden is similarly good looking, with lots of marbled leather touches, a bar begging to be propped up, and a decent smattering of suits and couples sipping whiskey cocktails in well cut tumblers. What sets it apart is the charming decluttering operation that staff perform when you enter. I suspect it’s to do with encumbered and messy tourists. Let me take that bag for you, your hat, your coat, perhaps your jumper, definitely the selfie stick. It’s like a quicktime makeover. And so you float your way to the bar where a young Italian cocktail bartender waits, eager to please, asking how you find the Negroni after half a sip. For such a stunning place, it’s unpretentious and relaxing. And for Covent Garden, thanks to the expert operation at the door, you can barely see who the out of towners are.

The Order:

Start with a light Ivy Spritz (Kamm & Sons aperitif, Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao, fresh pink grapefruit juice, Prosecco and soda.) Then order something more low key like the Market Grill hamburger with West Country cheddar, or the exceptional Chicken Milanese. Order drinks by the glass, so perhaps a red with the mains and an Old Fashioned in place of dessert.

The Game:

For a first date, it’s a far finer thing to beg a spot at the bar. It also allows for some post shopping spontaneity. Side by side, sip away and talk about very light subjects: the restaurant, the punters, the interiors, your plans for the week. Dispose of your mains (just one course will do) and then get onto the real drinking. One cocktail turns into 3 and before you know it you’re play-punching and teasing them for not bothering to book one of the candlelit tables behind you. Leave before you fall off the bar stool and then walk over the cobbles of Covent Garden till you find a suitable corner to kiss in.

The Faults:

None we can think of.

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