Madison, St Pauls

1 month 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

1 month 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.


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No.29 Power Station, Battersea

2 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

3 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.

Downstairs at Machiya, Piccadilly

3 months ago

The Vibe
Downstairs at Machiya is a neat little basement bar located on Panton Road, only a short walk from its sister-restaurant. The place is styled with dark wooden panelling, plush leather chairs and gently lit by dim mood lighting. The space is certainly a sharp contrast to the modern and light Japanese restaurant that sits above, although the crowd at both places is near identical. The biggest thing anyone will notice as they enter this minimalist cocktail bar is the quiet atmosphere, making it an ideal stop for those wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of tourist-saturated Leicester Square.

The Order
The drinks menu at Machiya is its crown jewel. Begin by ordering the delicious Kawaii Ne, a zingy sour cocktail with sake, lychee peach liqueur, zuzu juice and yuzu foam. Move on to crowd favourites: the Jigglypuff, a fluffy pink concoction of Portobello gin, Campari, lemon and vermouth foam, or a Smoky Negroni made with Antica Formula. If you have a sweet tooth then finish things with the vodka and peach mixed #Ppap. If you fancy a nibble then there’s also a small selection of Japanese bar snacks such as wagyu slider, pop-katsu and a bowl of fiery Machiya hot wings.

The Game
The bar is suited to those later in the dating game. As such, all small talk should now have been exhausted and conversation should instead move towards the more meaningful – family, love, life. The relaxed vibe is ideal for putting your date at ease and having them open up. Keep it simple, interesting and honest. There’s nothing pretentious about Machiya which means the flamboyant barriers so many employ when first trying to impress are almost completely removed here. However, be sure not to get too comfortable and be that person that over-shares.

The Faults
The rather “cosy” bar environment can be seen as either a positive or a negative. On the one hand, there’s not much glamour to help seduce your date. On the other, a quiet little den makes for a more relaxed affair which can sometimes be a nice change when you’re a seasoned dater.

The Sex Factor
New on the scene, this drinking den is still trying to find its sex appeal.

Nine Lives, London Bridge

3 months ago

The Vibe
Set in a Victorian basement close to London Bridge, Nine Lives is a perfectly placed bar for those seeking a post-work date night option. Unassuming from the outside, there’s only a subtle neon sign to indicate what lies beneath. As you enter, immediately take the stairs down to a dark and intimate drinking den. The décor, a perfect blend of Havana Cool and Penthouse Luxe. Think wooden trellises and bamboo partitions juxtaposed by marble tables and exposed brick work. Each element designed perfectly to create small alcoves of privacy where you can flirty freely, without ever being shut away from everyone else in the room.

The Order
Take note, this place is only suitable for those who like their dates flirty and with plenty of booze. The menu is made of twelve imaginative cocktails, divided into four styles: Short, Long, Tarted (Up) and Lowriders. For those planning a long night, take your time and sample one from each section. If you’re unsure how long, or how well, your date will go then start with a Lowrider. The Stingray offers an intriguing blend of port, raspberry liquor and mint; whilst Alright Blossom is a delicious mix of prosecco and rosé combined with hibiscus and raspberry giving a floral aftertaste. Follow up with Crossfire Hurricane; a Long glass of rum, citrus lemon, orange and sweet pineapple, adding some tropical flavour to your night.

The Game
Secure one of the aqua cushioned booths and enjoy an intimate setting to relax with your new interest. The electronic music, softened with bluesy beats, is played at just the right level to hold a conversation about your travels and love for all things Chelsea. As the cocktail count builds turn to more eccentric discussions and, if at all competitive, there is a wooden shuffleboard to test your dates sporting prowess and sneak a few tactile touches.

The Faults
The place isn’t completely faultless. It can take some time to place your order at the bar, leaving one half of the date on their own for an awkward period of time. To avoid this, make a clear claim to your space and both attend the bar together or just be willing to relocate every time you need a new drink. After all, it’s the company you’re with that matters.

Sex Factor
As the saying goes, it’s what’s on the inside that counts and this has never been truer than with Nine Lives. A cobbled street with a lonely sign may not appear to be the sexiest of locations, but inside is another story…

Martello Hall, Hackney

4 months ago

The Vibe

Did I just step into a beehive? Because this place is buzzing. The voices of young, well-dressed and creative individuals fight over the DJ’s alternative tunes and the frenetic sound of cocktail shakers. Fresh artisan pizzas whiz from the kitchen to the main bar floor and barely make it a few seconds before the vivacious hands of patrons snatch them to bits. The large windows cast a summery glow on the rustic wooden interior as the dim overhead lights dance across the faces of those below. Shoulders bump and feet are tread upon as fiercely eligible singles eye one another across the large space.

The Order

The cocktails are on fleek. Do the kids still use that word? F-L-E-E-K. Start with a cheeky espresso martini to put a pep in your step before graduating to the ever-so-tempting blood orange margarita. For nibbles, you’d be a fool not to go for the Phoenix – a rather sinful pizza embellished with toasted pistachio, parmesan, pecorino, spring onions and romesary. Like I said – sinful.

The Game

Martello Hall is the kind of place where nights can both start and end. Always casual and almost always lively. Stroll into the venue for some hand-shaken cocktails and a shared pizza then make your way to Hackney Picturehouse and cuddle the night away to your favorite film.

The Faults

Martello Hall is casual. While that’s great for the occasional 4th or 5th date, it’s not necessarily a stunner for those looking for a higher end gig. When busy, the line for the bar can also become quite lengthy due to the extensive artisan drink menu.

Sex Factor

2. Sexy? Not entirely. Charming? Absolutely.

Belsazar Botonical Garden, Moorgate

4 months ago

The Vibe
Tucked away in a cul-de-sac directly opposite the main sluice of Liverpool Street Station lies a secluded high-walled courtyard that forms the Old Bengal Bar’s garden. The upcoming summer months’ see this secret gem transform into a lush botanical garden courtesy of vermouth brand Belsazar. As soon as you arrive a personal welcome is made by a charismatic greeter, followed by the waiting staff and bar tender, all in swift succession. This gives you plenty of opportunity to scout your surroundings and find your preferred spot for the night. The crowd is mainly made up of co-workers enjoying a post-work tipple giving the place a more relaxed feel. Perfect for those who want a less date-centric venue whilst they’re still getting to know someone.

The Order
Naturally, drinks are the main focus of any date at the Belsazar Botanical Garden. So, leave your two-drink rule at home and make the most of the floral-decorated cocktails on offer. Start light with the fruity frozen cocktail Frosé, featuring Belsazar Rosé mixed with rosé wine, strawberry puree and agave syrup. Move on to the Rosé-T, to refresh in the summer heat, or choose a Spritz Me Up, if you like to keep it sweet. Finish with a Vermouth Punch, combining Belsazar Red, Sparkling Wine and Hibiscus Tea adorned with slices of fresh pineapple and orange for a tropical end to your date at the botanical terrace.

The Game
No reservation is needed at the Garden, so look for a cosy corner or private alcove to steal for you and your date. As the drinks flow so too will the conversation, just make sure it is never a one-sided affair. Past travels, career aspirations and summers in London are all likely to be covered throughout the night. When the air begins to chill move the date inside. The low-lit interior accented with a few red highlights provides a much more intimate and sexy setting to the open-air terrace. Order one or two more drinks and make the most of the glamorous surrounding. If it looks like it’s going well, be bold and ask ‘where next?’.

The Faults
Belsazar Botanical Garden Terrace is only a summer fling, but who knows what the next reincarnation of the terrace will bring.

Untitled, Dalston

7 months ago

The Vibe

Nestled in between run down shop fronts in Dalston, this sleek little gem sticks out like a sore thumb. Push through the doublewide cedar door and prepare yourself for an experience that has questionably been ripped from the future. One massive, elevated slate table runs down the middle of the concrete room with leather-studded bar stools ready for the taking. The faint shimmering of the foil wallpaper stirs a dull desire to hop up and dance like you’re in a techno club, but the sophisticated, ambient mood music encourages otherwise. Bask under the exhibition style display lighting and get ready for some seriously flamboyant cocktails.

The Order

Upon taking a seat, one of the many zealous servers in a patterned, garage-style shirt will whisk you a vacuum-sealed menu – literally. There you will find a host of wild cocktails mixed and embellished with seemingly inedible ingredients such as clay, chalk, pine, zink, oak and silver tip. If you don’t scratch your head upon walking through the door, browsing the menu will surely be your time to shine. Before ordering libations, ask to kick off your cocktails with a ‘wish’ and wait to be utterly baffled as you’re delivered a shiny plastic rose pedal in an ornate painted dish that you’re intended to eat. Surprise! Start with ‘Snow’ and ‘Satyr’ – a couple of sweet tasting warm up drinks in luminescent elixir glasses then graduate to “Sicily” and “Violin” which are guaranteed to singe your taste buds and get that tipsy train on the move.

The Game

For a date, grab an early meal in Shoreditch then arrive around 8pm, but think about making a reservation as the table can become a bit full around this time. Get the cocktails flowing ASAP but make sure you relish in the hand-crafted quality and delicate absurdities of each unique creation.

The Faults

The overhead spotlights can unknowingly accentuate all the wrong angles so make sure you lean back in your stool a bit so as not to frighten your date.

Sex Factor
2. If you’re a lover of minimalism, modernism, and maybe even alcoholism (in a playful manner of course), then this place is your new favourite pit stop.

El Pastor, Borough Market

9 months ago

The Vibe

So laid back it’s horizontal. But if you find yourself on the standing benches in the front room, you’ll be propped up in a vertical pose throughout your meal, lending a strange jauntiness to proceedings. This feel like a quick stop that could, at the mention of mezcal, turn into a full session.

Not for those looking for full on romance but perfect for first daters who are constantly on the search for options that sit somewhere between liquids-only and sit-down stuffy.

Decor-wise, there’s some corrugated iron on the walls, hanging lightbulbs, hard surfaces and what looks like formica on some of the tables in the back. Again, not fancy, but really rather cool. Remember, we’re in a Mexican joint, where alcohol consumption takes equal weight with the food, so every cocktail, from Old Fashioneds to Negronis, are laced with tequila.

And should your date dare to question the food credentials, this joint is the from the formidable restauranteurs behind Barrafina and Quo Vadis, Sam and Eddie Hart. So pipe down Princess and finish your salsa.

The Order

Tortillas are freshly made on site and ‘el pastor’ cooking – meaning ‘shepherd style’ – involves meat being marinated on an upright grill, most notably pork marinated in a mixture of dried chillies, spices, achiote, and orange juice. Served in a soft corn taco. Wet your whistle with some sipping tequila or a damn near perfect Margarita.

Food-wise, start with a truly delightful sesame tuna tostado and some guac, then head straight to taco town, with a ridiculously moreish chorizo, sweet potato and salsa verde, followed by a sweet n’ meaty short rib and pineapple taco. For date chat distraction, the carnitas are a Do-It-Yourself dish, so as playful as you guys wanna make it.

The Game

On a date, the mistake would be to head here early evening for a formal sit down. This is more of a bowl up tipsy at around 8/9pm and prop up the counter tables while satiating your hunger, vibing off the energy of the Borough crowd and getting your meat fix. Meet on a Saturday to wander around the market and then end up in Bedales for some slow wine drinking. One glass becomes four and before you know it your stomach is rumbling and you want something a little more occasional than a quick fix at Brindisa. Stay a maximum of 60 mins to keep up the momentum of the date, then wander into the night to snog on the streets and find a night cap.

The Faults

The bill might surprise you; Wahaca it is not.

Sex Factor

2. A very decent pit stop but not the closer.

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