Brasserie Max, Covent Garden

Classic seduction

The Vibe

The Firmdale Hotels name may not be as ubiquitous as the W Group but it is very likely, if you’re a dater worth your salt, that you’ve patronized one of their spots. There’s the quaint Oscar Bar at the Charlotte Street Hotel, the award-winning celebrity haunt Refuel at the Soho Hotel and then there’s Brasserie Max at the Covent Garden Hotel.  Max’s is without a doubt one of my top recommendations for a swoon-inducing dinner date. The hotel itself is reasonably formal but this is offset by a sumptuous, candlelit dining area which manages to achieve what I though only Parisian joints could do, offer fancy-pants sophistication in a relaxed environment. Sit down at a window table overlooking Monmouth Street and soak up the romantic setting before you snap back into the moment and focus on the person opposite you.

The Order

It’s an eclectic mix of brasserie staples (lamb shank, roast chicken), Italian accents (a divine chilli-accented Dorset crab spaghetti) and stomach warmers like rich beef and ale pie.  You can just about manage three courses here but desserts are gigantic so either opt for the sharing platter or commit to one plate and two spoons- whatever you do don’t take down the banoffee pie alone, you will lose. Start with a G&T and then move onto a rich bottle of red wine- even if you’re eating fish, a good red is an obligatory tone-setter here.  Finish with an Irish coffee before you brave the cold.

The Game

Whenever you’re taking someone on a dinner date, especially if it’s a fancy joint, it is a wise idea to have a pre-drink somewhere a bit more relaxed. Spend an hour breaking the ice with a couple of beakers of wine at PIX. Then move onto Max’s for a 9pm sitting. You’ll be greeted by a maître’d who will suggest a pre-drink at the bar but there’s no need to add an extra dimension at this point, the restaurant deserves your full focus.  When you book, specify either a window table or one near the back wall, no one wants to play piggy in the middle. If this is a second or third date (it is certainly too much for a first), the game is a real classic: dress up, drink too much red, enjoy some comfortable eye gazing moments accompanied by choice lines (you look amazing tonight), playfully critique the other couples with a pinch of smugness, and indulgently re-hash the first moments of your romance (I thought you weren’t interested, but it turns out you were,  fun-ny). 

The Faults

The opulence and comfort of the setting encourage you to imbibe to your heart’s content, but get too drunk here and you are likely feel an unwelcome fool- there’s a hint of French conservatism behind the laissez-faire façade.

Sex Factor

4.5. This is a fantastic hotel, equipped with a private cinema room, great bar and beautiful bedrooms, so book a room for a special occasion. If not, stretch out a long meal, make use of taxi ordering at the hotel and head somewhere traditional for a whisky afterwards; the Dean Street Townhouse bar will do, Groucho would be better.

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