Central and Co, Oxford Circus

I’d like something with bubbles please…
Bling
Rating
Booze
Rating
Sex
Factor

The Vibe

There used to be a very dark, very tacky basement bar by Oxford Circus, where Sex on the Beach was the order of the day and cheesey soft rock pumped through the speakers. And yet somehow it was a popular date spot that I suffered more than once. Now, however, that same spot has been taken over by Central and Co, a breezy, modern, small-plated haven of cool that serves summer wines in fancy glasses, chilled to perfection, and dominates the ground floor of the building, with only overspill heading to the downstairs bar. They bill themselves as an all day brasserie, serving breakfast , lunch and dinner, piggybacking onto the beloved concept of non-stop dining options (enter Bread Street Kitchen and the new 24 hour Duck and Waffle). What this means for dates is that the dining process is crucially relaxed. With punters wandering in and out at all times, you do drinks, or mains, or small plates, but most importantly it’s a commitment free environment. And it’s got that steel-topped brasserie look that never fails.

The Order

The Sparkling Bar boasts London’s most diverse sparkling wine list, with 10 by the glass and many bottles besides. Both the sparkling and still wines are served at perfect temperatures, something I’d never usually notice but was moved to after the first sip of a Riesling as refreshing as iced tea (apologies to C&C for the infantile description). In this relaxed setting, you could stick to the small plates which are easy to eat and do what they say on the tin but the mains, such as mussels in cider, would make for a more satisfying meal. In a brasserie setting like this, it’s nice to just choose your one dish and focus instead on ordering a range of their different wines by the glass- although perhaps throw in the exceptional sea bass ceviche as a starting nibble.

The Game

Its Central London location makes this a good post-work option on a Thursday. If it’s sunny, all the better, as the façade opens up onto the street. Try and set a relaxed tone from the get-go, open that shirt button (both of you) and order a different glass of wine each, showing you’re putting some thought into your choice and also not committing your date to a bottle. Sit at the front of the restaurant to make the most of the people watching/commentating, and sit perpendicular to each other to further casualise things. Hell, just lean back a little and get real comfy. As it’s a Thursday night the implicit understanding it that you might get a little drunk but by ordering by the glass there remains a lovely spontaneity to the process, rather than the dire predictability of the dregs of a bottle. The pressure is off and it’s all very jovial but order a dessert to share just to remind you both that there should always be a sweet end in sight. Topple out of the bar into a warm summers evening, have a glorious lingering kiss, hail a cab home each and spend the next day fondly texting about what a struggle work is (secretly relieved you made it in).

The Faults

The small plates aren’t all that, more style over substance, but there are a couple of good ones in there (ceviche, rabbit rillettes) and they are decent dating fodder.

Sex Factor

3. It could go either way, but I recommend you take it easy and enjoy the lengthy night spent at Central. If you really want to up the stakes, head downstairs to &Co to carry on- with any luck it still has some of the cheesey/sleazy karma of its predecessor.

 

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