The Exhibit, Balham
Balham isn’t exactly traditional date territory. It’s far out, deeply uncool and could be better looking. Entering The Exhibit with mixed expectations, you may find yourself subconsciously reaching for your taxi app as you wait for your date, wondering if this was a bit of a punchy shout. Bear with me.
The Exhibit is a bar-meets-diner-meets-cinema venue, the sort of artsy place where the staff stay for years (it’s the ‘character’ of the place) and regulars know the deal days by heart. For a date night, bypass the ground floor bar completely and head straight up to the convincing 50s diner. Its vintage jukebox, low partitioned booths and burger n shake dominated menu makes you feel like you’ve just pulled off for a pit stop before getting back on the road to Vegas. Kinda charming, kinda meta-grim. The faded photos of New Mexico and the red and yellow squeezy bottles of sauce reinforce this, alongside a very mixed crowd. Heading one floor up after the meal, you’ll find a DREAMY tiny cinema room made up of 12 two-man sofas, with red pillows and side tables for booze. This is where it gets cute (or handsy) and the romance goes up a notch.
It’s diner food, with creamy shakes and juicy burgers that are easily as good as any hipster pop-up. Take note: the chicken burger is minced and delicious – easier to eat and soaks up sauces a treat. Also on Tuesdays and Wednesdays it’s cheap as chips – cinema tickets, burgers, fries and a shake for £15.90.
This is the sort of date you take someone 4-6 weeks into a relationship. You’ve had the exclusivity chat and are now treading the habit-forming terrain of mid-week dates. It’s either Orange Wednesdays and a trip to the Hagaan Daaz store, or this.
There are two main reasons you should give this place a go. One: To share a juicy burger n shake with the person you’re crushing on is a vital step in getting to know them. It’s messy, awkward and slightly juvenile – a nice break from the relentless charm offensive and glitzy bars. Two: When you don’t have the energy to talk for hours over gallons of wine, this date is perfect for an hour of catching up in the diner, followed by 3 hours of light petting in the cinema. The perfect mind/body ratio for a Wednesday.
The ground floor bar is a turn off, head straight upstairs.
1. It’s real cutesy but the cinema is too intimate to be that badly behaved in.