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

1 month 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

1 month 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.

Oslo, Hackney

2 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.

Murakami, Covent Garden

4 months ago

The Vibe
A stylish designed modern Japanese restaurant in Covent Garden, Murakami Restaurant brings a touch of the East to the theatre district. Enter through the right door and be greeted by a charming hostess who will take you to your table. If you find yourself seated in the brightly lit window space, politely ask for the more romantic option in the lowly lit back. The restaurant is normally calm enough for this not to be any hassle and will help make for a more atmospheric date.

The Order
An assortment of delicious delicacies are on offer, giving you the opportunity to enjoy a Japanese-style tapas in the heart of Covent Garden’s theatre district. Accept the water as soon as you sit down and sip as you browse the expansive menu. For those with an indecisive nature, start with the rib eye dripped in sweet soya and add the black cod on saikyo lemongrass miso, continuing from there. Accompany your selections with a Japanese cocktail or two. The wham inspired ‘wake me up before you tok-y-o’ is a delicious Espresso Martini that is sure to add a perkiness to your game. If you are abstaining from alcohol try a sweet sake and disguise your choice as a desire for a more authentic dining experience.

The Game
Take a window seat and watch theatre goers pass down St Martins Lane, or for a cosier night ask to head towards the back with darker lighting and better spaced seating. The menu offers an exciting starting point for discussion, particularly for well-travelled foodies or Japanese enthusiasts. From therein, take advantage of any stories you have gathered from your trips to the East or reveal a quirky love for haiku poetry.

The Faults
Leaving the restaurant onto the tourist packed St Martins Lane can cause any romantic haze to soften. To avoid, order a couple more drinks and wait for the visitors to head home.

Enoteca Pomaio, Brick Lane

4 months ago

The Vibe
For the trendy vino lover, it’s been a long time coming but finally an Italian duo have brought the best selection of craft wines to East London. Enoteca Pomaio is the place to find them, a boutique Italian restaurant and craft wine bar right at the top of Brick Lane. The venue itself is charmingly understated. A light touch of styling and simple layout gives the place a homely feel, as though you’ve stepped off the vineyards and into your famiglia’s country kitchen. The crowd is certainly mixed, from an old couple sat looking out the window to two female colleagues catching up over a glass of red in the back. This is definitely not a bad thing and helps add to the relaxed character of the place.

The Order
As with most Italian restaurants, it may take a while to translate the menu so order a Prosecco to accompany your reading. There’s a generous offering of red and white wines to choose from, with the occasional splash of orange to liven things up. If you’re feeling adventurous throw out the rule book and sample each colour by the glass. Small plates are on hand to accompany your tipples, with Tuscan delicacies like hand cut prosciutto, bruschetta with truffle and salame grande. Indeed, aperitif style plates are much more suited to this style of date and if you feel hungry simply add another to your selection as the night goes on.

The Game
Whatever stage you are at in the dating game, ask to be seated downstairs for a much more romantic setting. The tables are close but the other guests never feel intrusive. As this place purposefully seeks a quieter atmosphere, this date is definitely one for talking. To avoid any long pauses, make sure you have plenty to discuss throughout the evening. As the wine glasses add up the conversation will flow much more smoothly. It may even be wise to take advantage of the private feel of the place and tackle more meatier subjects. Sip, flirt and stay until close but make sure to carry the night on elsewhere in fashionable Shoreditch.

The Faults
A bar for couples and singles to drink at would be a massive win for Pomaio. For now, we’ll settle for a cosy table for two in the corner.

Smith and Wollensky, Covent Garden

6 months ago

The Vibe

Clanging forks and the sound of a Central London Sunday brasserie bustling away with Mimosa-soaked friends and smug couples. That’s not what you’ll find walking through the doors of Smith & Wollensky for weekend brunch. Instead, it’s dulcet piano tones as you glide through the room where diners look remarkably relaxed, content, sometimes tipsy but mostly just charmed by the old school vibes of the place. Sharp white-jacketed waiters bring you coffee as you peruse an extensive brunch menu ranging from brunch classics to steaks. A word for the wise, dress for the occasion (crisp, relaxed glam) and make it a Champagne kinda brunch.

The Order

It may take you a good 20 minutes to work through the options so order coffee to get you up to the task. The braised beef hash and poached eggs was rich but delicately portioned so you’re still able to split waffles for dessert. For burger aficionados, the cheeseburger was honestly up there with the best – strong cheddar and juicy patties and yet confusingly light. For dates this is perfect; you can eat well and still feel desirable by the end of it. Before you leave, order a Negroni to share then head towards Somerset House to amble the day away.

The Game

The scene for relaxed romance has already been set. If you booked, make sure you turn up early and beg for a booth. Sitting next to each other is infinitely preferable. Drinking after you’ve eaten is a better idea, it doesn’t feel like the sort of date you booze your way through. Chit chat about your weekend and make it very clear you have nothing else to do after brunch, paving the way for a day of chilled fun. Don’t go straight into the intense grilling , this is the first hour of a longer date so keep it trivial for now.

The Faults

The service is so efficient you might find the meal goes a little too quickly; slow things down by asking for more time.

Sex Factor

2. It’s a Sunday and you’re in your best.

*Special Event*: And for something a little different, on Friday 17th March, they will be celebrating St Patrick’s Day with Jameson cocktails and a big old celebration in the Adelphi Bar from 5.30pm. We’ll be there…More info HERE.

The Orange, Pimlico

10 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.

Bottomless Brunch @ Quaglinos, Mayfair

1 year ago

The Vibe

Opulence, plain and simple. With a grand staircase that dips into a sunken dining room and a platform for a band, Quaglino’s is a Titanic-esque dining room with a hefty dollop of Mayfair bling.

And boy does it have a history. Opened in 1929 by Giovanni Quaglino – a restauranteur from Northern Italy – it attracted a fashionable crowd thanks to great Italian cooking and a lack of stuffiness. In 1993 it was taken over by the Conran Group and patronised by Princess Diana and a swanky London crowd, and in 2004 D&D London took over and once more breathed life into the place.

What most remark about Quags is that it’s a glitzy affair but not crazy expensive. The touches like the grandiose flower displays and house band are a charming nod to the Old World of Mayfair dining, while the newly launched bar – with its faux animal skin touches, dim lights and sparkle, adds a good does of shamelessness to satisfy any young aspirant.

The Order

One thing D&D really know how to do elegantly are bottomless brunches. 2 courses fo £25 or 3 for £29, with the addition of unlimited Prosecco for £15.

On a date, share with 4 Rock Oysters with shallot vinegar, and cured smoked salmon on melba toast. Then for a delicate main, the sea bream with sauce vierge on a bed of crushed potatoes is light with a citrus sharpness balancing indulgent potatoes. For something more brunch-like, the cured ham Croque Monsieur is the stuff of legends.

The Game

Dress for brunch. Men in crisp white shirts and women mostly in trousers, heels, blouses and fancy bags. Even better, wear a goddamn frock.

Wait for your date outside the restaurant so you can descend the staircase together and grab a hand for the journey down. Try to mirror the restaurant’s vibes – smart but not stuffy – with casual chit chat and playfulness. Swap stories from your Friday nights and make plans for the afternoon. Go for the bottomless option but stop after 2-3 glasses (stay classy).

Before you leave, grab a peck on the lips at the top of the stairs and head out for a walk around St James’.

The Faults

If it’s sunny outside, the windowless vibe may not work for all.

Sex Factor

3 for brunch. 5+ for dinner.

The Grazing Goat, Marlyebone

1 year ago

The Vibe

Marylebone may sound like a swanky place to head on a date, but this hidden gem offers the perfect weekend retreat with amazing, traditional dishes and a warm rustic interior. Openly lit and relaxed waiters makes it seem that no one is in a rush and the food here is to be enjoyed. Both families and couples alike come to hang here creating a super comfortable setting for someone who likes to takes things a little more casual.

The Order

The menu is simple here: recognised dishes, cooked to perfection and piled on top of the plates, you’re sure not to go hungry. As a Sunday date screams cool and relaxed, there’s nothing better to order than their Roast Beef with all the trimmings. But not before you take that classic picture for instagram as no one will believe how amazing your lunch was later. Finish will the chocolate brownie to keep that indulgence level high and schmooze into a coffee whilst you debate where your afternoon stroll with take you.

This is the ultimate day date. Lunch, coffee around the corner at Daisy Green and then a walk around Hyde Park before parting ways and planning the same for next week.

The Game

As you’ve suggested a ‘sunday date’ you’ve either been together  awhile, went out together last night or are perhaps married with kids. However, all three mean that you need a little comforting, either from that hangover or the fact that someone else is cooking for once. The conversation is kept light and airy, much like the room you’re in and there’s little judgement as most people in the restaurant are more occupied with whatever is going on at their personal table than with you. Keep things relaxed with a simple bottle of house wine to keep you ticking over and definitely leave time for a casual stroll after as you will need this to let everything settle after the busy weekend.

The Faults

A little music wouldn’t have gone a miss, but perhaps if this is something you notice then the conversation hasn’t been exactly flowing.

Sex Factor

2

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