Vinopolis, London Bridge
Too seldom does one learn something new on a date. The banal details of your companion’s profession, colleagues, parents, school, recently attended weddings… Time to find someone new perhaps? No need at Vinopolis as the location does the talking and one of its many voluble sommeliers will guide you through a series of cavernous, gaping rooms as your walking ice-breaker.
The agonies of choice are eliminated for twenty happy minutes while you’re introduced to your ‘experience’. Clutching a glass of welcome Sauvignon, you’re taught to examine, sip, slurp and gurgle its contents. Versed in this long preamble of seduction, off you go, plastic card in hand to claim your tasting credits. Choice restored, you’re free to roam from room to room, sampling such Bacchanalian delights as Californian Bogle Vineyards 2013 with “notes of honeysuckle, camomile, rosemary and thyme” and a sturdy Chilean Chardonnay, a bronze medal holder in its field; “saddley” with a “nose of toast”.
If you don’t mind how quickly you guzzle your taster credits, you might want to splash out on the full-bodied 2006 Bella’s Garden Shiraz from the Barossa Valley, to prove to your partner the Australians can produce fine wine, whatever Footballer’s Wives might have conditioned you to think. If, however, you prefer to take things slower, the Georgian wine display costs one token per taster glass and you can wash up at the Absinthe bar, ensuring you’re suitably sozzled by the time you come to claim your tapas plate and final bottle – all part of the £55 Date Night package.
“Did you know the Doomsday Book lists forty vineyards in England? That we invented Champagne? That wine was first cultivated in Georgia?” At Vinopolis, conversation abounds, led by your sommelier, and corroborated by the many billboards teaching you about the origins of wine.
The place offers a compromise between those for whom dating is synonymous with drinking and those who can’t sit still. Neither gimmicky nor geeky, Vinopolis is a soi-disant ‘visitor’s attraction’ which means the many couples that descend for Date Night fail to mask the air of office parties well spent. Once you’ve sampled its myriad delicacies, you’ll have learnt and laughed so don’t loiter long: bid a retreat to neighbouring Brew Wharf to continue your alcoholic education with hundreds of beers as your new subject.
If you make the most of Vinopolis, you may not remember anything you’re taught. Chin chin.
3 – Drink may dull desire but, administered well, it can make even a dullard appear delightful.