Union Street Bar and Cafe, Southwark
The first thing to notice about the Union Street Bar and Cafe is how incredibly friendly and welcoming the staff are. I stumbled in from the rain with a scarf over my head, my glasses steamed up, and wrestling several bags, out of which were spilling my flask and Tupperware lunchbox. Thank goodness my date was waiting deep down underground at the bar and unable to see my incredibly unglamorous entrance. Thank goodness, too, that as soon as I stepped inside the manager smiled kindly, took my sodden coat, and calmly directed me downstairs – making me feel that perhaps I didn’t look like a totally unacceptable date companion. So if, like me, you have a tendency of doing your make-up on the tube straight from work and carrying your life around London in a tote bag, The Bar at the Union Street Cafe is a good place to make your end destination.
Situated underneath the main restaurant, this is a high-ceilinged affair with steel pipes lining the walls and a vaguely speakeasy vibe. Dark red couches line the room, while bold Banksy-esque art hangs overhead. The sofas give excellent canoodling potential – wrap your lips around one of the delicious cocktails while wrapping yourself around your date. This level of intimacy might admittedly, for the more conservative among us, be a little premature for an introductory meeting. Along with the fact that it was rather quiet for a Thursday night, this makes it more of a third/fourth date venue than a first.
To expertly guide you through the labyrinth of drinks choices are, once again, the excellent staff. Menus listing the ingredients in a cocktail have always sounded to me about as appealing as sex would were it explained point-by-point by a biologist. Luckily, the barman sold me a Sweet Godmother (Bacardi, limoncello, raspberry & vanilla syrup, passion fruit puree and egg white – see what I mean?) like a boss and it was a dream. If your date has a penchant for spirits then they’ll be happy even if you get too drunk to do anything fun once you get back home – the list of whiskies, gins, vodkas, rums and cognacs is eye-popping. However, if wine is your thing, this is not the place for you: the list is tinier than my ideal waist size. That, and the average bar snacks, mean that this should really be a straight-from-work cocktail destination.
Worry not about the lack of food and wine, if that’s a must for the evening head upstairs to the main restaurant. Or stroll hand-in-hand a few minutes down the road to The Cut and grab dinner and a play at the Young Vic. But better to just stay until closing, work your way through the entire cocktail list, and nurse each other’s hangovers under a duvet the next day.
Given I went on a Thursday night and it was by no means full, this could be a bit quiet to give you good date cover. Also the aforementioned average bar snacks.
3 – Union Street Bar is what you make of it, but the sofas do give it a sexy edge.