Eight Over Eight

15 hours ago

The Vibe

At first look like your typical Chelsea hangout, with no carbs on the menu and everyone looking surprisingly similar. In actual fact, behind the blossom facade is a local hotspot for exceptional food and family affairs. This long-standing restaurant offers a perfect collection of Pan-Asian bites, from dim sum to Okra, Aubergine and Green Bean Curry to a pad thai that packs a punch. With both the time and appetite, it’s the perfect place to eat your way through an extensive menu, set to laid-back house beats and an affordable cocktail menu.

The Order

For a short and sweet decision, take your lead from the chef. Kimchi Edamame followed by the Sushi Boat was just enough for a light bite over first date nerves. But if you’re looking for something more hearty, follow with Special Pad Thai, Egg Fried Rice and Beef Buri Bop. Keep it flowing with glasses of Prosecco or their house cocktail of the month, but when you hit a wall, remember to stop. Whilst the food is indulgent, the atmosphere is more like a spot in Chinatown. The mirrored walls and booth seating make the Louis Vuitton shoes on the guest next to you feel shabby. 

The Game

Leave your winter jacket behind in coat check and dwell in the darkness of candle-lit tables and sweet pre-dinner cocktails. Grab a booth, order chef’s choice and double dutch on the bill. And for an aperitif, stagger down to Bluebird for a final Espresso Martini and a cab home. Great for a 3rd or 4th date. Just make sure your date likes fish as the sushi is top on my list of must-haves.

The Faults

The family atmosphere reminds you that this spot is more about the cuisine than the party vibes.

Sex Factor

2.

Graphic Bar Residency, Ask For Janice.

1 month ago

The Vibe

If you’re a lover of gin, then you’ve come to the right place. Set in the basement of quirky but cool, Ask For Janice, Graphic Bar has taken over the basement, creating a dimly lit, concrete haven to get completely gin saturated. After walking through the artsy Wednesday night crowd upstairs, we were led by a hand-written cardboard sign into a pit of drunkeness. With a top notch hip hop playlist and the chance to pin your polaroid up on the wall, this place screams FUN. Since it’s relatively unknown, we were the first to walk into the room, until joined by a few other couples an hour later. An empty room can be nerve racking on a first date, but the level of gin in the cocktails will be sure to make them disappear quick!

The Order

The order is simple. Stick to gin. Their seasonal Rumple Pumpkin cocktail with a savoury gin and Halloween vibes et the tone for the night, followed by a not-so-typical Gin & Tonic and finished off with an egg white-topped Gin Sour. And to keep the conversation flowing, order some food from the AFJ small plates menu such as spiced lamb shoulder, slow cooked chorizo, pork belly and AFJ potatoes. All are mouth watering and sure to soak up some of the alcohol, ensuring the conversation can keep flowing. You’ll leave savouring the flavours but not feeling stuffed.

The Game

Arrive together and bustle through the upstairs crowd and into the basement bar. Choose a table under the light so there’s a chance you’re able to read the menu. Then slowly go through the cocktail menu, hitting each gin cocktail one by one. Share stories of drunken nights gone wrong – hoping this one doesn’t fall into the list – get chatting to the couple on the next table about the winning playlist and stumble out together to catch the last train home. A casual and perfect environment for that cheeky first kiss, which you can laugh off as alcohol induced. Wake up the next day with little memories of the night, besides the laughter.

Sex Factor

3.

 

Madison, St Pauls

2 months ago

The Vibe
Perched atop One New Change is Madison, one of Europe’s largest roof terraces that boasts one mighty view of St Pauls. Naturally, floor-to-ceiling glass windows are used to capitalise on the surroundings – a design that adds plenty of romance to the night when the sun begins to set behind the city’s famous skyline. It’s a Tuesday night but the place is buzzing with an after-work crowd. Groups of City boys and girls blow off steam at the end of a long day making for a rowdy atmosphere. Rather than fight them, join the party and make this a night to unwind with a new flame.

The Order
Famed more for its views than for its food, the menu at Madison had us pleasantly surprised. The starters are light and refreshing. The potted crab and crayfish mixed with a cucumber and lemon balm jelly is a delight, and sits well next to a glass of Ca’di Ponti. For mains, the Sirloin is a real crowd-pleaser and should be accompanied by a side of Mac & Cheese – a combo I picked up from a previous date that has been life changing. Finish with an indulgent dessert. The chocolate and praline fondant is a fine choice; a soft velvet sponge with a shattering of praline and pool of melted chocolate.

The Game
Dress smart or feel completely out of place for the entire night. Men should arrive in a tailored suit and women, a go-to cocktail dress. As the crowd is mainly made of professionals there is a danger of this turning into a post-work meetup (which doesn’t scream lust). So, direct conversation to light and flirtatious topics making sure thoughts of mounting deadlines are left at the ground floor. If everything goes well, the glass elevator is the best place to enjoy a kiss as the view of St Pauls falls into the background.

Sex Factor
3.


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Bunga Bunga

3 months ago

The Vibe
Bigger and bolder than the original, Bunga Bunga in Covent Garden lives up to its Berlusconi-inspired name. The crowd is beautiful, rowdy and come prepared for a riotous time. The main venue is grand and Vegas-esque, featuring marble interiors and a speedboat fashioned into a table (complete with orange life jackets – of course). Staff are outlandish, yet charming, and spend the night encouraging all sorts of “Italian” mayhem. Expect plenty of booze, fun and a dash of debauchery.

The Order
An Italian sharing feast like no other! Tuck into mouth-watering metre-long pizzas, authentic Italian antipasti and a delicious drunken tiramisu. Pair your meal with a quirky cocktail from the bar by picking your favourite Italian icon, shaped in the heads of ‘The Godfather’, ‘Balotelli’ and more! Even better, you can order a ‘David is Goliath’ sharer cocktail served in a life-sized chiselled replica of Michelangelo’s David, complete with a very surprising tap …

The Game
One for the fun seekers. Meet in BungaTini, the Italian bar upstairs, for a delicious pre-cocktail to start your evening. When ready to move on you’ll be led through the meat locker at the back of the restaurant and enter an immersive world of Burlesque, Broadway or Variety – depending on which day of the week you visit. Watch the night unfold around you, join in if you wish and bond with your date over a sweet rendition on Bunga-oke! By the end of the night your inhibitions will have been truly lost, take advantage and stay out in West London until the early morning.

The Faults
Not one for the introverts. Bunga Bunga is a night of themed fun and a very bold first date choice.

Sex Factor
4.


Download our “virtual clubhouse” and become a SC eligible for entry to private parties, dinners and extra Black Card benefits like access to members’ clubs.

Quaglino’s, Mayfair

3 months ago

The Vibe
It’s rare to find a place that is both decadent and approachable. Yet, Quaglino’s somehow marries both with blissful ease. The grand amber staircase, goblet-like vases bursting with fresh flowers and Titanic-esque décor are all guilty of Mayfair opulence, but are softened by the charming and friendly staff that make sure you never feel out of place. The restaurant’s crowd may have moved on from its Royal past but there’s still a generous offering of attractive professionals and the odd SW family to keep you and your date entertained, as well as a house band that brings some Jazz Age romance to the night. Think glitz, decadence and a touch of the informal.

The Order
The bar menu is expansive but well worth the read, boasting some of the finest cocktails around. A favourite is the No.85, so smooth and indulgent that it drinks like pure liquid dessert thanks to an inspired mix of bourbon, cacao dark and a slathering of peanut butter that crowns the glass. Messy? Yes, but worth the ungraceful moment. With so much choice when it comes to drinks make life a little easier by selecting the set evening menu. Starters include a light and refreshing salmon tartare with a chilli emulsion and the spicy harissa & agave glazed aubergine with coconut, peanut and pulses. For a main, the zucchini risotto decorated with crumbled goats cheese and truffle is a comforting choice. Whilst for dessert, the raspberry crème brûlée is both sharp and rich and left us vying for our date’s attention.

The Game
Start with a cocktail in the upstairs bar. The space is dark, cavernous and has plenty of private corners to sneak off into. This is where any introductory conversation should take place and then left, ready for a more debauched night in the sunken dining room. A charming waiter will escort you to your table and be on hand throughout to make sure everything runs smoothly, meaning you only have to focus on the flirt. Share stories of wild nights and early mornings, London past and London present, making sure to mirror the playfulness of your surroundings. If all is going well, a talented band will soon add a soundtrack to your date indicating that you’ve lasted long enough to see the night’s entertainment.

As you leave enjoy a kiss at the stairs and exit onto the quiet streets of St James’.

The Faults
For those wanting a late-night date in the heart of Mayfair this place is pretty faultless.

Sex Factor
5. There’s a sparkle to Quaglino’s that makes it a difficult place not to impress with.

Minnow, Clapham

3 months ago

The Vibe
Minnow charms from the very beginning with its park-side location offering views of the common, pastel green and soft pink décor and hanging roses. This is a cute, yet surprisingly spacious place that has already found its crowd in the form of young Clapham types who are looking for Michelin quality without the commute into the centre. There is a real buzz here, although it’s never too loud that you miss what your date says and have to ignorantly nod along. This is a place that is confidently different in a dating scene concentrated with high gloss cocktail bars and post-industrial offerings.

The Order
The menu is not overly long but everything on it sounds impeccable, making it difficult to narrow. Buy some time by ordering a snack to share, the crispy chicken skin served with aioli is a simple but clever idea that is extremely moreish. Add some cocktails into the mix, each inspired by a historic Clapham resident and served on a coaster explaining the details. A perfect excuse to drink more in the “thirst for knowledge”. The Grieg, named after Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, is a Scandi-influenced take on a martini made with dry vodka, vermouth and then smoked – a sharp taste that contrasts the whimsical décor. For a main, the cooked beef shin served on buttery mash is sure to satisfy – upscale comfort food. Desserts are on the smaller side and so it’s best to order individually rather than attempt to share. Caramelised watermelon with blood orange is an extremely refreshing end to the night, although the chocolate doughnut is a perfect indulgent dish.

The Game
Minnow is bi-level, each with its own distinct character and, therefore, appropriate game plan. The ground floor boasts a long marble bar, ideal to grab a pre-meal drink at and then move on to a table outside in the walled garden. Guests are seated close together, but are never intruding on one another’s space meaning date night conversation can flow very easily. Although, we advise against discussing anything too raucous in such an innocent setting. For a different type of night, head downstairs to a vaulted booth that is lit by a stained-glass light box and that sits in the restaurants wine cellar. The lack of natural light means you and your date can get lost in time, drinking and flirting into the late hours. When it’s time to leave, exit onto the common and enjoy a midnight stroll.

The Faults
For those with a sweet tooth (like me) the economic dessert menu may cause some panic, but there’s enough quality on the rest of the menu to keep your cravings satisfied.

Sex Factor
4. Charming and cute. Think country house romance rather than penthouse romp.

El Pirata, Mayfair

4 months ago

The Vibe
Tucked away in a quiet corner of London’s Mayfair sits a cosy, rustic and charming tapas bar named El Pirata. The outside is unpretentious, a sentiment that is carried on into the restaurants interior and staff, who welcome you with warm familiarity as though you’re a regular. And you’re certainly not alone in feeling at home, every guest has a relaxed air about them as they sip red wine and chat with their friends and family. The whole place is reminiscent of the typical neighbourhood tapas bars in Barcelona or Madrid offering a little slice of Spain in West London.

The Order
El Pirata offers a gluttonous choice of authentic Spanish cuisine, creating a danger of spending too much time negotiating the menu and not flirting with your date.  To avoid, be bold and brazenly ask the waiter to select three of the best tapas to start and buy yourself more time to select the tapas that truly appeal. Each dish here is simple, yet heart-warming, undiluted by the popular trend of modern fusion cooking. The seaside comes fourth in the sizzling Gambas Pil Pil and the taste of the land punches through the Chuletitas de Cordero. Accompany with a bottle of Altún Crianza; warm, rich and with a note of autumn fruit that sits well with the melange of flavours that come with tapas. End the night being charmed into a dessert by the Spanish waiter who we’re convinced tells all the indulgent Torta de Chocolate can’t be missed, but he isn’t lying.

The Game
Head down the black wrought iron spiral stairs and steal a table inside a softly lit alcove; perfect for looking out onto fellow diners for a game of ‘guess their story’. Everything about this place is more fun and more laid-back than you knew Mayfair could be, so use this to your advantage. Be charming, yet authentic, and find out what one another would truly be like away from the glamour and illusion of luxe cocktail bars and opium drinking dens. If there’s a spark, Mayfair boasts a fine selection of cobbled streets to walk around and enjoy a cheeky snog underneath the midnight sky.

The Faults
The Mayfair postcode may set up an expectation that doesn’t materialise, but El Pirata’s confidence to remain traditional in a bevy of modern beauties will win you over.

Sex Factor
3. There’s something about Spanish flavour that always ignites passion and wild abandon.

No.29 Power Station, Battersea

4 months ago

The Vibe
No.29 Power Station is the latest addition to the Darin & Wallace collection of independent neighbourhood bars, all of which are named after the street number on which they sit. The space is vast and achingly stylish, the décor a juxtaposition of elegant 1920’s art deco and subtle nods to the resident’s industrial past. An enormous drinks list is enough to win us over and promises a very boozy night ahead.

The Order
A bar first and foremost, No.29 Power Station West has an ample selection of wines, craft, draught and bottled beers, and a hand-picked collection of seasonal long and short serves. Drinks, and plenty of them, should therefore be the focus of your order. Start with a collection of cocktails. The Watermelon Sour offers a refreshing mix of Ciroc Summer Colada, Kam & Sons with fresh watermelon, whilst the Dark ‘n’ Stormy is a more warming mix of Gosling’s Black Seal, house made ginger syrup and fresh lime. Follow with a sample of small sharer plates, the beef and black pudding croquette is a fine choice and offers the perfect excuse to move on to a glass of Pinot Noir.

The Game
Designed to feel like a ‘home from home’, No.29 is ideal for relaxed post-work drinks. The crowd is made up of young professionals catching up after a long day in the office. However, leave talk of work firmly at the door otherwise risk losing the attention of your date to one of the many attractive (and potentially single) guests. Start with innocent small talk and as the drink tally rises, dive into more flirty topics. If the night is going well, extend the date by suggesting a stroll along the river and sneak a kiss in one of the many alcoves that line the walk.

The Faults
Battersea Power Station is still in the first chapter of its development, but Circus West Village has introduced it to London’s bar scene with a very stylish start.

Sex Factor
Slightly industrial décor, but everyone has their kinks…

Oslo, Hackney

4 months ago

The Vibe
Oslo is a fairly new arrival in the dynamic area of Hackney. Located in a unique redeveloped space of a railway station, the restaurant gives a gentle nod to its past with luggage-rack lighting and industrial stylings. The place also has some Scandi-inspired décor with an open-plan kitchen surrounded by long dark oak tables and offset with exposed brick walls. The crowd is mixed, atmosphere relaxed and dress code casual which makes it a perfect go to for a low-key date night.

The Order
The food at Oslo is nowhere near as Scandi as the venue’s name, although faux-smorgasbords, rye bread and cured fish do feature to keep the theme in play. Mains include fresh salads, a pea and lemon risotto and a catch of the day. The stars, however, are the selection of sizeable burgers crammed with calorific goodness and served alongside hand cut chips. Order two and join your date in getting messy as the generous fillings escape the brioche bun. The drinks list is also impressive with a range of Norwegian craft beers and classic cocktails to choose from. A favourite has to be the Poppy Mojito, a mix of Havana Anejo Rum, poppy liqueur, mint leaves, lime juice and brown sugar. Another, the tropical Mai Tai with fresh juice, amaretto and rum, lit on fire and served by a charming waiter.

The Game
Find a table next to the side window and avoid being that ‘couple on a date’ in the middle that other guests eavesdrop on to see if all is going well. Start by ordering a cocktail and let the conversation flow; any tales of trips to Scandinavia are prime material as well as whether you’re an East or West Londoner at heart. As the night progresses keep things playful and fun. If you both have a love for music end the night by checking out a gig upstairs and get lost in the crowd with your new flame.

The Faults
Hackney is not the easiest place for everyone to travel to but if you plan wisely and commit to making the most of your night it will feel like a commute well spent.

Sex Factor 
4. Fun, relaxed and for the trend-setters.

Gillray’s Steakhouse, South Bank

4 months ago

The Vibe
There’s something about having to walk through a bar to get to a formal dining room that always loosens up a dinner date. It would be rude not to pit stop for a quick – and impeccable – Vodka Martini before moving into the grand yet rather homely Gillray’s steakhouse. Part of the London Marriot County Hall, the restaurant requires some finding but once you have you tend to stay in the lofty room for a very long time. River views? Check. Impeccable wine list. Yes please. Surprise Yorkshire pudding to serve as an amuse bouche? There’s simply no messing about.

The Order
It’s an AA award winning steakhouse so you’d be a fool to order anything but. Until we saw a couple almost fighting over the last lamb chop, and a nearby group of friends going to town on a pulled pork burger. Food wise, we regained focus and went for light starters – 12 divine Cornish oysters and poached pear with stilton- followed by steaks. Marrow comes as standard on the plates, and sauces to suit. Add a poached Clarence Court brown egg for a rich topping. Puddings should be skipped on dates to avoid falling asleep but if you’re defiant the chocolate pot is something. Choosing wine involves being charmed by a handsome Spanish waiter who proclaims not to be a sommelier but knows the grape inside and out. The wine was a 2015 Salentine Malbec and frankly the best I’ve had in a very long time.

The Game
It’s a classic case of dress up, over consume and end up back in the cocktail bar till midnight. The clients ranged from low key American families to attractive young ladies in bandeau dresses who are hilarious to play ‘chat about strangers’ with. Ask for a table near the tall windows so you can have the last of the sunshine streaming over the table, watching the rays go down with the last of your bottle. Romantic summer walk and pavement snog obligatory.

The Faults
Like any hotel, a very mixed crowd so the cool credentials come from the decor and funny Yorkshire pudding touches.

Sex Factor
4. Solid first date territory for those who favour formality over Soho speakeasies.

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