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.

The Jam Tree, Chelsea

1 year ago

The Vibe

A hop, skip and a jump down the street that was once reserved for kings and queens, and you’ll find yourself at The Jam Tree. Though you needn’t bring your crown – this bar, restaurant and beer garden is just royally cool. Surprisingly relaxed with mismatched chairs and eclectic décor, you can sink into chesterfields under pop-art jam jars or take a table for two by the giant inglenook.

The Order

Yeah, I’ll have the Netflix and chill please – words I never thought I’d hear myself or my date mutter, but do. It’s the name of the cocktail to get your evening started, with a vanilla vodka base served in a large popcorn cup, topped with the cinema favourite itself!

Surprisingly refined, start with the baked goat’s cheese served with walnuts and honey with an on-trend sprout salad. For a more indulgent entrée, the squid was deliciously coated in a crispy sweet kecap manis sauce. Choose a lighter and more delicate main; opt for the pan fried fish cakes, a combination of coley, hake and salmon with lemongrass and an Asian bean salad. To satisfy the meat craving, you can’t go wrong with their dry aged longhorn ribeye steak with thyme seasoned fries and rocket.

End as you mean to go on, with “adult puddings” of strawberry and chocolate based drinks, wickedly spiked with vodka, gin and rum.

The Game

It’s fun, cool and relaxed. If you are too, there won’t be any issues here. The buzzing vibe and fun menu make conversation effortless. As the chat and drinks flow, take it outside to The Jam Tree’s hidden gem, it’s garden. Don’t worry, it’s heated, though offering your jacket always goes down well…

The Faults

I’m still not sure why or what a Jam Tree is… not that really it matters.

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.

Alquimia, Putney

1 year ago

The Vibe

You’re next to the river, you’re being plyed with chilled Cava, and the candle light is glowing warmly against the dark wood decor. It feels very much as though you’re tucked away in some blissful Spanish hillside rather than overlooking the Putney stretch of the Thames. However, Alquimia has been expertly serving those in the know for several years now and it’s ethos is both unpretentious and deeply passionate.

The Order 

Absolutely start with a glass of Cava whilst you browse the menu and enjoy a plate for Jamon or some of their authentic Manchego cheese and Pan con Tomate. Tapas is ideal date food and start off with the croquettas to line your stomach, before moving onto the hot stuff – namely the Pulpo and the Beef Cheeks.

The Game 

Make this your destination. You don’t need to go to a bar before or after – you’ve got everything you need right here so settle in and get cosy. Keep the tapas flowing alongside some of the stunning Spanish wines on offer here (go for anything albarino and you’ll feel even more like you’re on holiday).

When it’s time to leave, you’ve got the river calling to you for a romantic stroll…..

The Faults 

Location is off putting for some – but you can see the tube across the river and the walk over there is romance personified….

Sex Factor

4.

Port & Portobello @ The Red Lemon, Ladbroke Grove

2 years ago

The Vibe

The Red Lemon is located at the end of All Saints Road, which just so happens to be the perfect pit stop after a hard day’s Christmas shopping.  This warm and inviting local boozer is cranking the festive cheer up to ninety with its winter pop up, Port & Portobello, complete with roaring fire decorated with expectant bright red stockings, the bar’s illuminated with fairy lights and there’s plenty of food and drink being served right up until Christmas Eve.  The vibe is cosy to the max; a real home from home, just the ticket for whiling away dark winter afternoons in London.

The Order

You’ve just come in from the cold, you need warming up.  Order a delicious glass of Pinot Noir or a Portobello ale from the bar, which will sort you right out.  When you can feel your fingers again, ask for the sharing platter which consists of cutesy slices of Welsh rarebit, Stilton and onion marmalade on toast, ham and cheese croquettes, pigs in blankets and sweet mince pie parcels; perfect finger food.  If you’d like to eke the date out a little longer then suggest moving on to a main and offer to share the excellent Reindeer Burger (venison, bacon, deep fried Camembert and cranberry sauce).

The Game

Daters of London, this is a gift and Port & Portobello has it all wrapped up for you in a big red bow.  Meet your date on Portobello Road for a Bloody Mary at the Electric Diner to start the day with an injection of warmth.  Suggest a bit of Christmas shopping, don your bobble hat and mittens and head outdoors in the direction of the area’s many shops and boutiques.  As the cold starts to nip at your nose and toes, navigate the walking direction towards All Saints Road and set the scene for the need to stop for a well-deserved drink at the top of the street.  Enter the Red Lemon and make confidently for the unassuming staircase, leading your date by the hand into the subtly lit private dining grotto bar with its very own open fire.  Take a load off, kick back with a sherry by the fire and really engage with your date.  Top tip: pack a little travel board game to whip out if the moment calls for it. Compare Christmas jumpers, laugh (at each other) and enjoy the après ski atmosphere.  Save the best bit ‘til last though – a little tray of delicious marshmallows are provided free of charge to toast over the open fire.  Romance here, as you can see, is as easy as mince pie.   Call it early and as you leave and your date is just putting their hat on, surprise them gently and go in for a long, deep kiss.  Invite back for a coffee, lock mittens and call an Uber.

The Faults

Only the Grinch himself wouldn’t enjoy a date here.  Tis the season to be jolly and Port & Portobello does a great line in jollity so get the drinks in!

Sex Factor

3.  Get cosy by the fire, feel the flush in your cheeks after a glass or two of port and canoodle like it’s going out of style.

Nozomi, Knightsbridge

2 years ago

The Vibe

It’s hard to avoid superlatives when you’ve had a meal at Nozomi.  There aren’t many single restaurants (and this isn’t a big player like Hakkasan or Roka) who have their own doorman, a maître-d who kisses your hand, and staff who look like they’ve walked off the catwalk yet still know how to smile.  Add to this some of the most divine Japanese cuisine, a recent refurbishment and bartenders who seriously know what they’re doing.  If your date isn’t impressed, you may well need to surrender.

The Order

Don’t freak out that the online menu doesn’t have prices.  You won’t care for the cost when you’re eating scallop and foie gras dumplings, Wagyu beef tataki or Chilean sea bass baked in cedar wood. Plus where else in the world can you ask for wasabi mash, or eat a black cod tempura maki that’ll make your date’s heart melt.  Sake based cocktails are a must, and deep fried crème brûlée is entirely condoned.

The Game

This little gem of a street looks delightful by day but positively seductive by night. Tut snootily at the array of Ferraris drag racing up and down, but succumb slightly by upping your Uber home to a Lux. It’s perfectly acceptable to eat dinner here at 10, so start with casual drinks and watch the beautiful people descend.  Allow a little head rush but stay sober enough to really enjoy this food. Share plates, do a little playful chopstick feeding, and allow the food and drink to flow. The banquette seats allow maximum cosying up, or if you’re separated by chairs, move back to the bar afterwards and enjoy what they describe as a “passionate musical offering”.

The Faults

Although it’s so much more (with superb food, drink and service), there’s no escaping that this place is a “scene”.

Sex Factor

4.  Oozing some may say.

Chelsea Prayer Room, GOAT, Chelsea

2 years ago

The Vibe

In a City obsessed with hidden gems, where every fridge, nook and cranny seems to be home to a sneaky watering hole, I’ve taken to whispering passwords at pretty much anything these days – toilet seats included, and knocking for hollow walls. So the Chelsea Prayer Room upstairs at The Goat has a tough act to follow, but holds its own against fierce competition. Say you’re there to “repent for your sins” and get a secret code that opens a hidden door into a den of opulence. Inside, it more than meets expectations; reaffirming why the speakeasy is such a popular first date choice: flattering candlelight, sofas to sink into side-by-side, vintage charm aplenty and dare I say it – jazz. There are plenty of conversation pieces around to help with general ice-breaking; the menu comes in an old hymn book, cocktails arrive in beautiful crystal glasses – even the shot (on the house no less) came in an antique shot glass, not to mention the potency of the beverages themselves. We are not breaking any new ground here, but the formula ain’t broke. Anyway, it’s about time that Chelsea caught up with some of the Hackney staples (vintages touches and tattooed staff). The only giveaway that you’re still in the Royal Borough is the well-heeled crowd. Famously, the artist George Morland had to pay his bar bill here with a painting.  Today’s drinkers don’t look like bills are a problem.

The Order

The drinks have as much substance as style. Get the Little Tokyo (plum wine and egg white), which is different and effective. Tread carefully with Death in the Afternoon (champagne, absinthe, lemon). The food hails from the pub downstairs.  This is New York diner fare with a gourmet flourish – fries here are made from polenta and drizzled in truffle oil and are delicious. The burgers are a safe bet, though not the easiest first date fodder, but perhaps wise if you favour the Dutch courage approach to dating. The best thing we had was the ‘Nduja (spicy pork) pizza, which I’ve been craving ever since.

The Game

Get the timing right as you don’t want to arrive too early. Start the night with dinner downstairs (or outside if it’s still warm) and then head here for a more intimate drink if things are going well.  You leave by the back stairs so you needn’t worry about staggering a little after the absinthe-laced cocktails – or getting a little frisky. It’s perfect for a cosy winter date with extra cachet, and a welcome addition to the repertoire of the West.

The Faults

The Chelsea crowd, though great for people watching, do clash a bit with the trendy, shabby atmosphere.

Sex Factor

4 – Unique, potent cocktails in a brooding environment will leave you repenting for another day and it is absolutely worth it.

 

Ramusake, South Kensington

2 years ago

The Vibe

In a word: sexual.  Dimly lit, comfortable and sleek, Ramusake is full of gorgeous folk either confidently strutting around or languidly reposing themselves with one eye on the prize just like a pride of princely lions in their natural habitat.  Piers Adam, whom you may have heard of as the man behind Mahiki and Whisky Mist has joined forces with Scott Hallsworth (former head chef at Nobu and owner of Korubuta) to create this underground speakeasy venue with just a hint of noir.  The food is a witty take on Japanese izakaya staples, the alcohol is in plentiful supply (notably the Duppy Share rum made here in Britain), service is brisk and friendly and DJ’s keep the place pumping until the wee hours.  According to various news items I’ve read, Ramusake is purportedly bringing a touch of New York’s East Village cool to South Ken.  Call me cray but I don’t think we need the East Village.  Ramusake encapsulates a lot of what is great about London right now; we’re coming into our own thanks to bright minds such as Adam and Hallsworth and it makes for exciting times.

The Order

SHA-MON.  The dishes here are masterfully moreish and beautifully presented.  The Beef fillet tataki with onion ponzu and garlic crisps is worth venturing out for alone.  A subtle stunner.  From the ‘Junk Food Japan’ section of the menu, definitely go for the Tuna sashimi pizza with wasabi tobiko and truffle ponzu.  It’s a riot of flavour, texture and colour; a real talking point.  Tea smoked lamb chops with spicy Korean miso from the Robata BBQ are damn fine and Jumbo shrimp barbequed with chilli, lemon and garlic are quite simply the biggest, tastiest shrimps you ever did see down on the bayou.  The drinks list made me want to squeal with pleasure; cocktails such as the Jalisco Collins and the Bamboo Panda gracing the table in all their fragrant glory, all the rum you can drink and of course some delectable sakes to try.  All of it comes in at quite good value too, all things considered. Eeeeeeeeee.  Ooh I’m off again.

The Game

Your game face should be firmly on for a night at Ramusake.  If you are out to impress, choosing this venue is a great first move.  Next, you need to pull out all the stops in terms of first impressions.  That part is down to you.  Aim for effortless elegance.  Keep it simple.  Once you make your way down into the vampy lair, seduction will be like taking candy from a baby.  Candles flicker, drinks flow and the music steadily gets louder until it’s coursing through your veins and it’s time to party.  All heightened by the fact that everyone else in the room is watching.  See and be seen.  A night here has the potential to get wild.  Just a feeling I have.

The Faults

As you are in a cellar-like environment, the restaurant becomes a tad noisy when service really gets going so maybe time your visit to avoid this.  Peak time seems to be around 9.30pm.  Other than that, the only bad point seems to be how delicious everything is.  You could always exercise restraint?  No?  I don’t blame you.

Sex Factor

5 – hot as the hottest hob in the kitchen of hell.  Scha-wing.

PIX PINXTOS, Portobello

2 years ago

The Vibe

PIX reminds me of how I imagine many a pinxto bar in Barcelona; slightly gothic décor with sexy lighting, cosy corners, ever replenishing fresh small plates, a drinks list to make your liver quiver and filled to the brim with late-night party-seeking international Erasmus students.  In short: youthful, lively and fun.

The Game

I’m a lady.  I don’t kiss and tell.  Ha.  Who am I kidding?  We met for a pre-drink at the pub on the corner to take the edge off our busy days.  Once the ice was broken, we sauntered deep in conversation down to PIX where we were greeted by pretty, smiley faces.  We ordered some wine and proceeded to chat more.  The pretty, smiley faces came to our table with a fresh batch of garlicky, tomatoey meatballs and I couldn’t resist…next followed calamari with aioli.  We were feeling relaxed and enjoying the evening.  Mate, not going to lie.  Only a couple of portions of pinxtos + three bottles of wine + approximately 20 fags and we were headed off in separate directions – mid week drunken hell being my destination.  We’d exhausted ourselves going hell for leather on the wine but did make a promise to make another date.  Still waiting on the phone call.  #ohgod.

The Order

Tasty pinxto titbits such as olives, Calamares with Aioli, Diablo meatballs, seared tuna pipperade on crusty bread, patatas bravas and Salted Cod coquetas are all very pleasing if a teensy bit carb heavy.  That said, what more do you need when supping a delicious glass of Catalunya’s finest white wine?  It serves the dual purpose of soaking up the alcohol and satiating your need for something to nibble on.  PIX does have something for everyone, including your garden variety fusspot date.  You can quite easily just have some bread and olives and hop, skip and jump into the chocolate sauce with churros for dessert.  Hurray.

The Faults

Lightweights beware – it’s easy to drink more than you eat here given the nature of the pinxto set-up.  Stay classy and be careful, London.

Friends of Augustus Gloop also beware eyes-bigger-than belly syndrome…the pinxtos aren’t expensive but it all adds up fairly fast, greedy face!

Sex Factor

4. if you’re lucky enough to snag a private snug in the secret bar downstairs, it won’t be long before you are the Mayor of Snogsville and in the words of my close personal friend, Beyoncé, “You got the green light.  Give it to mama.”  Pay up quickly and cab it to whoever lives closest.

Pavilion, Kensington

2 years ago

The Vibe

We know all about private members’ clubs but the private business members’ club is a new and rather sexy fixture on the London scene. Enter High Street Kensington’s luxurious Pavilion. Both virtual office space and social gastronomic hub, it’s a welcome addition to a road that has up until now offered daters the all too familiar likes of Aubaine, Wagamama and Carluccio’s. 

A date at the Pavilion is a high stool affair, the large pewter bar offering a perch for dates that are post work and allegedly spontaneous – you want this to look like it just happened.  With a mixture of business people, shoppers, posh girlfriends and dates, the dining room has a wind down vibe to it in the evening – loosen the tie, drink one too many glasses of fizz, over order on the charcuterie and over share with a colleague. Your best bet on a date is to suggest a crisp glass of champagne at the bar and upgrade it to full on steaks and martinis before they know what’s hit them.

The Order

Oh it’s a meat feast – and never has a charcuterie board been so beloved by its servers. With British-sourced fare from Borough Market’s Cannon & Cannon, you’ll start with some venison chorizo and blood sausage, then move onto a fillet steak and some punchy pickled onions. This is what you call the purist’s date. Cold champagne, exceptional meat, vodka martinis and several rogue olives. Old school.

The Game

Entrapment is such a nasty word but if you want to ease a colleague or close friend into a date, this is the place to do it. Whether you’re two sub-editors from The Mail trying to progress your photocopier flirtations, or two local friends who’ve been shopping on Ken High for their hiking trek and are now quite ‘parched’, this is the place to change the game.

Ideally, it’ll still be light when you walk in, so the innocent bevy at the bar won’t arouse suspicions. But as it starts to get dark, speed up the ordering and suggest some food to soak up what is now a belly full of booze. Stay later than you should (it’s a Thursday) and playfully nudge them off their high chairs as the night goes on. Skip dessert and go for one more martini, then stumble out and push them into a black cab. Kiss them just before they fall in and give the roof of the car the macho pat that informs the driver to get on the road.

The Faults

For the ‘meatless Monday’/green juice brigade, you’re better off having dinner in Wholefoods.

Sex Factor

4. Low on carbs, hard on liquor, this was never really a catch up.

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