Quaglino’s, Mayfair

1 month 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

2 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.

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…

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.

Wright Brothers, South Kensington

11 months ago

The Vibe

I like my Martinis dry and my oysters dressed to kill, which is why Wright Brothers has always been a soft spot. But after a few too many dates in Borough – the standard Bedales wine followed by Wright Brothers seafood platters – I decided to take a break.

Until discovering the Mermaid Bar at Wright Brothers South Kensington.

A small and cosy room under the main restaurant, you’re seated on tiny stools around a petit drinks table, while bartenders introduce themselves and their favourite cocktails to you, setting up a camaraderie that breaks up any first date tension.

The House Cocktail is made rather a fuss of here, so you oblige by ordering it and your waiter lights up. The thirsty expectation is infectious. Like any decent date bar, the lights are low and you’re sat rather close together. But the most important touch is booths. Big, leather, high-backed booths which allow you to sit perpendicular to each other and knock knees. I’m a sucker for a good looking basement so they had me at bonjour.

The Order

We acquiesced to the cocktail of the month, which was “In Good Spirit” – Coirvoisier VP, Amaretto, vanilla syrup, apple juice, lemon juice and cardamom. Strong, bitter-sweet and speedily consumed. The second option was a Martini with sake and pickled ginger, cut with an oyster on the side. Went down like water.

Food wise, you should stick with the oyster theme and start with 6 of the daily selection. You’ll be astonished by how much they differ, plus it adds an activity element to the date, as you try and discuss. Oh no I definitely preferred the gloopier one. The spiced aubergine with yogurt and sumac makes for a rich accompaniment to counteract all that salt water.

For mains, the specials are the way forward. We had a buttery and meltingly good skate, then ordered on menu (and off seafood) with the tender pork belly with white beans and gremolata. With carafes of red wine flowing, you may want to skip dessert and just share a little port afterwards.

The Game

They lay things out well enough for those without game to fair well. Case in point, the couple on a first date next to us. Despite the chatter about her cruel ex, and a few tears shed over cocktails, their main courses pulled things back from the brink and by the end they were getting on (relatively) famously.

For optimum flow, it’s advisable to meet at least 45 minutes before your sitting so you can enjoy the cocktail bar bit. By the time you reach your table you’re relaxed and, since you’re so close together, a pre-oyster peck on the lips makes sense. Stay bloody ages, chat as intensely as a Parisian would, split the bill like comrades and end the date with a plan to return between 10pm and 11pm for a night of £1 oysters. You’re very close to having created a future routine.

The Faults

Once people catch on, it’ll be hard to secure one of the few tables downstairs and upstairs doesn’t pack the same first date punch.

Sex Factor

4. Serious credentials.

The Hari, Belgravia

11 months ago

The Vibe

The Hari Hotel – formerly Belgraves – and it’s luxurious bar, is nestled in the embassy district of Belgravia. Part of the New York luxury boutique chain of Thompson Hotels, The Hari provides a casual opulence and dressed-down bling to its guests, with excellent service and a charming atmosphere.

All soft furnishings and flattering lights, it’s a date location that shows a true touch of class. There’s also a very cosy roof terrace and botanical garden towards the back of the bar. I suggest you base yourselves there on a date and snuggle under the heaters.

The Order

The cocktail menu is fresh, fragrant and natural. It’s classic cocktails with a herbal twist. Try the Rosemary Whisky Sour or the Thyme Bramble. It’s always important to remember that knowing your favourite drink and ordering off menu is very sexy, but talking to the barman about which of their 12 bourbon whiskies makes the perfect Old Fashioned is not.

Order some light bites. The crispy squid is excellent. Probably stay clear of messy bites like chicken wings or having to say the words “I’ll have the cheese balls please” on a date.

The Game

Hotel bars are always great for people watching. The guests trudge in with their shopping bags. The visitors drink into the night, and as things get friskier they consider staying. Park yourselves on the black leather sofa in the far left hand corner of the bar. Sitting on a sofa together creates intimacy, whereas sitting opposite each other can create a confrontational vibe. On this sofa, you have a full view of the bar and she can drape her long legs over your lap. You’re the envy of the room.

The Faults 

It’s a popular haunt for super rich kids with nothing but fake friends. Quite a lot of people on their phones.

Sex Factor

4 – Belgravia just sounds sexy doesn’t it?

The Orange, Pimlico

11 months ago

The Vibe

If you’re going on a breakfast date there are three ways you would have gotten there. 1) You spent the night together after a boozy first date. 2) You met on a night out.  3) you’ve been together for a while and this is just another lazy morning.

Either way since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, what’s better than to start it in a little pub just off Sloane Square, where nothing really gets started until midday anyway.

The Orange is perfect for a hide-away breakfast to revitalise you, before sneakily heading back home to mull over the most fruitful night out you’ve had out in a while.

The Order

Sitting outside on the quiet streets for breakfast is immediately soothing, so ordering a mimosa on a Thursday is totally acceptable.

Indulgence is the key here, with rich duck eggs and a fluffy brioche soaking up mushroom juices and truffle sauce. Rich and full of flavour, you will be sure to combat last night’s alcohol and feel ready for the day. Add a side of crispy bacon and there’s no going back.

The Game

Breakfast is one of the most relaxed dates you can have and if they’re prepared to extend last night’s date into the morning then they’re a definitely a keeper. Don’t be the first to order alcohol, this isn’t an all day session.  Keep it short and sweet, then Uber your way out of these before the hangover really kicks in. Make a parting joke about returning there for a decent evening session.

The Faults

Everyone’s a little slower in the morning, including the service, but here’s hoping you’re lost in conversation.

Sex Factor

3.

The Dog and Fox, Wimbledon

1 year ago

The Vibe

Wimbledon Village is like a little microcosm of loveliness right at the end of the District line. Horses walk in the street, labradors and Barbours count as accessories and the wealthy inhabitants demand only the best for food, drink and sleep.

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The Dog and Fox has 18 stylish and beautifully furnished bedrooms, all scattered with art works, bespoke lighting and tiny, tasteful touches of luxury.
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If you want to splash out, the Fox Suite won’t disappoint; think fur rugs strewn across the four poster bed, a roll top bath in the corner of the bedroom, a separate rainforest shower and his and hers sinks, as well as a writing desk, arm chairs to sink into and enough space to dance in.
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The Order
You’ll want a little time to enjoy a bottle of Champagne while soaking in your vast bath tub so dinner shouldn’t be before 8.30. Once you’re revitalised from the bubbles of both kinds, you can both change into something casual – country chic is all the rage in this part of town- and head downstairs for a gin and tonic.
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Get a bottle of the richest red and nab a cosy corner table with a booth to make sure you can sit side by side – there’s something about staycations that turn you into touch seeking limpets, embrace it.
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Scallops to start, hake for main or duck croquettes then rib eye steak. The menu is extensive and satisfies all. You’ll probably find yourself sharing a dessert, but remember there’s a four poster bed awaiting you upstairs so ensure you don’t sink straight into a deep slumber.
The Game
The location is ideal for an after work rendezvous, and if you’re really juggling your sex life with your work schedule then you can whizz off back into town by trotting down the hill to the station in the morning.
However, if you want to extend your stay, arrive late afternoon and take a lazy walk around the pond on Wimbledon Common or browse the boutique shops and estate agent’s windows of the village itself.
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Check in and make full use of the room from the word go. It’s fully justifiable to fall on one another once the door is shut. Languish in the utter decadence of the decor, delicacies and quirks of the room before heading down for dinner.
Breakfast is excellent – the baked eggs in avocado are worthy of an Instagram shot (although remember not to get busted if the staycation is a secret) and the full English will satiate and fuel for a walk if you’re feeling like fresh air.
The Faults
If you’re a light sleeper, request a room at the top of the building away from the hustle and bustle of the pub downstairs.
The Sex Factor
4

Alquimia, Putney

1 year ago

The Vibe

You’re next to the river, you’re being plyed with chilled Cava, and the candle light is glowing warmly against the dark wood decor. It feels very much as though you’re tucked away in some blissful Spanish hillside rather than overlooking the Putney stretch of the Thames. However, Alquimia has been expertly serving those in the know for several years now and it’s ethos is both unpretentious and deeply passionate.

The Order 

Absolutely start with a glass of Cava whilst you browse the menu and enjoy a plate for Jamon or some of their authentic Manchego cheese and Pan con Tomate. Tapas is ideal date food and start off with the croquettas to line your stomach, before moving onto the hot stuff – namely the Pulpo and the Beef Cheeks.

The Game 

Make this your destination. You don’t need to go to a bar before or after – you’ve got everything you need right here so settle in and get cosy. Keep the tapas flowing alongside some of the stunning Spanish wines on offer here (go for anything albarino and you’ll feel even more like you’re on holiday).

When it’s time to leave, you’ve got the river calling to you for a romantic stroll…..

The Faults 

Location is off putting for some – but you can see the tube across the river and the walk over there is romance personified….

Sex Factor

4.

Orange Elephant, Chelsea

1 year ago

The Vibe

This is the ‘local’s’ end of the Fulham Road. It’s peppered with excellent restaurants, gazillion pound homes, and endless beautiful people you vaguely think you met once. The new kid on the scene is Orange Elephant – a steak joint that is so beautifully designed and so wonderfully managed that you’ll be putty in their hands before they even tell you about the Tomahawk steak you can opt for if you’re feeling peckish.

The Order

 

The menu is the size of a postcard, and for good reason. Your choices are limited, in the very best of ways. Thinking is not required here – you’ll simply be presented with a delicious starter salad, then the main event of a sirloin steak with chips and the signature sauce. In a real case of first world problems, your only decisions on the night will be a) Do I also want truffle mac and cheese and b) Which cocktail shall I go for?

The Game

Meet at the table. It’s small and cosy and you won’t feel like a fool whilst you wait. Start with cocktails and move onto a bottle of the Merlot to accompany your meat. Discuss how pleasant it is to have all choices taken out of your hands, catching their eye as you suggest the enjoyment gained from letting others take control…At which point, assertively request the bill and tell them you’ve got a nightcap at GOAT awaiting you.
The Faults 
No veggie options. But come on….
Sex Factor
Solid 3.

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