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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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.

El Pirata, Mayfair

2 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

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…

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.

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