Queen of Hoxton Rooftop, Shoreditch

3 years ago

The Vibe

Daters beware, there’s a fair bit of competition on this buzzy and (mostly) sunny rooftop at The Queen of Hoxton. It’s like an M&M store for action. You want a city slicker with a loosened tie? You got it. How

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about a girl in a band? Sure, there are several lounging on the fake grass.

What’s good about this place on dates is that it’s casual and most definitely cool. It’s the sort of summer venue you’d meet at after work to perch on a picnic bench (if you’re lucky), split a bottle of rosé out of plastic glasses and jape away in the queue for halloumi skewers. Think park picnic meets stage set meets pre-gig pre-game.

The Order

Prosecco or pink wine, sticky glazed chicken or halloumi skewers. Go early and wait to do another food round as the sky grows dark – match whiskey cokes with a great Angus burger to share.

The Game

Third dates and beyond only – you don’t want the distractions and lack of table bookings in the early rounds. That said, many the Tinder date seemed to be enjoying some cringe here, taking advantage of the friendly crowd to pull unsuspecting neighbours into conversation. Fun for YOU.

Meet your date on the rooftop, arrive early and wait by the door. This way they avoid any embarrassing circle-the-venue-while-squinting-around nonsense. Since you’re early, buy a bottle of wine in advance – a queue would be awkward. Perch wherever you can, and chat about music, the arts, the latest book you read. All going well, head into the dark depths of the venue downstairs and play a drunken game of ping pong. Then mac on (snog), but leave before the surrounding competition lose their manners and start to hit on your date.

The Faults

You might feel like a lemon looking for places to sit/perch/eat. Not for those who like to plan a date to distraction.

Sex Factor

2. Aloof on the roof.

The Lido Cafe, Brixton

4 years ago

The Vibe

Since David Hockney, we all know that swimming pools are beautiful and mysterious objects, rectangles of liquid, choppy troughs of sky-coloured ground. Brockwell Lido is one of London’s finest. The red-brick quadrangle around it looks like a pavilion and, on a summer’s evening, the sinking sun angles in over the treetops of the surrounding park. And guess what, callooh callay, there’s a cafe, too. The indoors bit conforms to expectations of what a swimming pool cafe would be like, with a vague nauticality and perhaps, whether I remember accurately or not, a jaunty mural of a dolphin, but you rush through there and sit in an area inside the Lido Cafe’s walls to watch the now-smooth water darken. When I was there, some ducks came in to land just before sunset, their shadows trembling on the ultramarine, and we watched them as we ate. There are maybe six or seven outside tables; everyone is young and/or attractive and seems to be murmuring pleasantries. It feels further out of London’s jangling even than the top of Parliament Hill.

The Order

Now, I’ve been to a lot of swimming pools in my time and never have I enjoyed anything in the concomitant eateries other than pommes frites with ketchup. At best a burnt and frozen pattie to which little has been done; at worst, egg mayonnaise. Nor did I expect this to be in its menu a restaurant rather than the titular cafe. I’d anticipated cheerful lasagne and perhaps a stuffed pepper. But no, not at all, the food here, much to my delight, is really fucking good. It’s delicate and summery, a huge step up in culinary nous from the mid-range London menu’s tendency to ask whether you wouldn’t like hand-cut chips with that. It’s different every month, so you’ll have to see, but I had some charcuterie, a green gazpacho, a mullet fillet with English ‘Nduja on potato hash and some baked aubergines stuffed with bulgur wheat and other tasty things. Also a pistachio tart. And some cheese. But forget about the cheese; the accompanying biscuits are rubbish. Everything else is a massive win. Also, since the dishes are light, the wine will probably go to your swim-cleared head. Which is nice when it’s summer and you’re outside.

The Game

Take your date from the sweaty fug of office and underground and leap straight into the Lido’s cleanness. It’s unheated, so will wash a day of working for the man off you as you break the surface. Swim some backcrawl and watch the big planes passing overhead like the bellies of sharks. Do some lengths, don’t show off, and emerge pink and invigorated to towel yourself in the sunshine. Well-being, shmell-being, you also get a glimpse at your partner’s goods. Remember when jumping out to pluck your cossie from your arse-crack. But trunk-malfunctions aside, at this point you should feel as good as new-born into the evening, released by the power of water from the cloying claustrophobia of city life, fresh, naked, honest and open to experience. If you want to make someone feel the sweet anticipatory melancholy of being young, and seek solace in your arms, take them swimming here. But be careful, get it too right and you’ll be out of the dating game for good.

The Faults

Brixton is pretty far and Brockwell is pretty far from the tube. Also, you will probably both feel too clean to want to get nasty.

Sex Factor

3.

 

Cantina Del Ponte, Shad Thames

4 years ago

The Vibe

There are some restaurants that come into their own in the summer. Like the young women of this city they are catalysed by heat and light to get themselves looking more polished, more attractive, more consumable. Enter Cantina Del Ponte, a decent Italian restaurant in winter for post-work city meals, a fantastic restaurant in summer for al fresco dating. Unlike the humble trattoria that speedily improvises at the hint of sunshine, flinging a couple of round steel tables out on the pavement, Cantina builds its offering around a spacious al fresco dining area that sprawls across the scenic walkway by the Thames, deal-closing views of Tower Bridge et al. Cantina is part of the very slick D&D London restaurant brand, which counts Chelsea’s Bluebird and Southbank’s impressive Skylon under its name. With this in mind, wily daters will benefit from the slick marketing campaigns that offer menu deals, happy hours, pasta making classes and opera nights. This is a recommended post-work summer date for the St Paul’s workers or Bermondsey-residing young professionals.

The Order

It’s a tricksy one. Whilst the pasta is truly excellent- specifically the linguine al vongole- going for a lighter option seems more season appropriate. That said, we’re not all carb dodgers here so do the following. Start with the small ravioli with prawns to share, bolster it with a caprese salad and some fresh focaccia. For mains, share the veal chop milanese style, the baby squid starter and a side of green beans (the spinach is laced with garlic). Drink rosé wine by the bottle, nay bucket. Re-adjust sobriety levels with an espresso, then keep going.

The Game

This isn’t a date you had planned for weeks, it’s something you orchestrated two days before. It’s for someone you just started seeing who works nearby, or a last minute meet-up with a fellow professional you found on Lovestruck. Wear a crisp and summery outfit to the office, something that screams purity, athleticism and impeccable summer hygiene (well-aerated white shirts/blouses and accent colours). Meet outside the restaurant and guide them to the railing by the river where you can both gaze out for a moment, marvel at the view and set the tone of romance. Then turn around, introduce yourself to the maître d’ and make sure you’ve been placed outside. If you want to drag this out start with a glass of fizz before moving onto wine. Sit languidly, loosen a button or two in front of them and veto any office talk. This is the time to chat over future holiday plans and reminisce over former stays in Tuscany or the Ardèche. Then, as the booze kicks in and the sun starts to set, loose the whimsical tone and turn the flirt on, otherwise there’s a danger this could get too smultzy, too soon. Move your chair to join them and face the view. Sit in silence for a bit, let the tension build, turn and go in for the kiss. Afterwards go for a river walk, stopping and kissing at intervals, and then deposit them at London Bridge station with a bit of a crush.

The Faults

The inside does not make as effective dating.

Sex Factor

3. Sun and skylines accompanied by wine and rustic food, oh come on.

 

Got a London date suggestion to share? Leave your comments below.

The Hampshire Hog, Hammersmith

4 years ago

The Vibe

Do you remember when the well-to-do residents of Primrose Hill- the celebutantes, models and JPs- were getting their petitions in a twist because a pub called The Engineer was being shut down? This scandal actually hit the papers, as a small enclave of drinkers fought hard for their really rather fabulous gastro pub. But lo, the brains behind The Engineer were not to be defeated and so headed west to leafy Chiswick (ahem, Hammersmith) to spruce up the pub scene. And the result, The Hampshire Hog, a pub that seems too pretty and well thought out for the rather dismal high street it sits on, like a child that dressed a little too well on mufti day and now looks woefully misplaced. Were it not for the bad rep that Hammersmith gets, we’d be dating here every weekend, come rain or shine.

Interiors are a mix of Scando-chic and classic gastro woodiness, meals are wholesome, furnishings are tasteful but eccentric enough to be memorable, the whole damn thing just works. Save a family group too many on weekends, this is just the place to turn a lunch date into a drinking session, without the gritty aftertaste. And the beer garden in the back, well, it’s bucolic, a place to neck your Pimms and rosé in no problem. This pub feels like home – providing home is a place where Eccles cakes are baked and naughty terriers are put out.

The Order

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In East London we snigger at cocktails in jam jars, in West London we appreciate these trendy notes. This pub takes its drinks seriously, with 10 signature cocktails including the Louisina Jam – Southern Comfort, apricot jam, mint and lemon. If you’re on a lunch date, it’s a little punchy to start with the cocktail list, but a Bloody Mary would be passable. This isn’t the place to get too drunk too soon so for the lightweights there’s an excellent Virgin Apple Mojito (although you have to be pretty self-assured to play around with mocktails on a first date). Food-wise, we all know how to order in a gastro: eggs at brunch, red meat at lunch.

The Game

Don’t make the mistake of meeting at Hammersmith Broadway and walking down the high street; it’s a buzz kill. Instead, head to the tucked away Ravenscourt Park station and meander down from there. Like The Engineer, this is a place where you have to kowtow to the staff a bit; there’s a sense (rightly so) that you’re walking into their residence. So throw a beam to the barman when you walk in, ask for (and take) one of his recommendations and hope that they place you somewhere good outside. Since there’s something preppy and cutesy about the place conversation may get a little ‘in ten years I can see some little rascals shouting down my house’. But that’s fine, sometimes. If you start to get tipsy, and the heat of the sun bears down, move inside, pull up a bar stool and stay there till close. Making out would be too much in here but the second you cross the threshold onto the mean streets of Hammersmith heavy pet away.

The Faults

The street doesn’t sell it.

Sex Factor

2. It’s a great day-to-night date. Yes you could choose to pursue the end goal, but you’ll have more fun if you forget about it for now.

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