Gin & Jazz, Intercontinental Hotel, Park Lane

2 years ago

The Vibe

Oh this is a real gem, a hidden treasure in the crown of the frantic search for a novel yet fun-yet-romantic-but-not-too-much, date. Any evening in a luxury Park Lane hotel is going to be a little special, yet the fancy free element of a night of live jazz music fuelled with gin cocktails is almost fool proof – no pressure. With a pre-set schedule with roughly monthly shows, you’ll be able to book in ahead of time and wow your date with your forethought and imagination.

The Order

Hotel bars are ace at snacks – you’ll find olives, crisps and nuts on your table – a little touch, yet it makes all the difference. The main game however is the cocktails (served by glamorous waitresses who glide about in dresses and perfect lipstick) – it’s testament to the fact that you’re in a five star hotel that the ‘Poor Man’s Punch’ is served with Hendricks gin. Those who like clean fresh tastes will love the Prudence made with Sipsmith Gin, basil and citrus – or perhaps mix things up with the Black ‘Berry’ Market which provocatively mixes Whitley Neil with Sipsmith Sloe Gin. Eeeek.

The Game

Once you are sure that they’re worthy of this special night, arrange a quick, early dinner somewhere close by to line your stomachs. The shows don’t start until 9pm so get something inside you before you head over and take your seats. Bar snacks are available and the Tuna Tartare is a winner so you won’t go hungry however make sure you focus on several rounds of cocktails as the music whisks you both away. There’s usually a brief interval, an excellent time to make your move, then sit holding hands for the entire second half – old fashioned romance done well.

The Faults

If you wanted to go gung ho on the conversation, the music is a bit of a distraction. But really?!

Sex Factor

4.

Spring, Somerset House

2 years ago

The Vibe

Where better to head, when days are getting brighter, night falls later and winter is out the back door, than a restaurant called Spring. One of the most beautiful rooms in recent restaurant design – a 19th century room, brightly lit –  this ethereal place is located in the New Wing at Somerset House. It’s breathtaking – the food, the waiters, the vast marble bar….Go there now.

The Order

If you can sneak away at lunchtime, the set menu (£27.50) with a few glasses of the Riesling is fantastic, and the room alive and bright during the day. Highlights include a sea bream with aubergine, curry leaves and sambal.  If you’re going for the evening, you’ll find a sumptuous room and indulgent feasting awaiting you. Produce is seasonal and of such high quality that recommendations are simply not needed here. Sommeliers will match wines for you, just let them.

The Game

Oh the options! You’ve got Waterloo Bridge right outside with stunning views of London from either side – walk over this before or after to set the tone or seal the deal. On a Saturday, you can see if there’s a show at Somerset House to warm up for a long and tipsy lunch. Wander the courtyard, soak in the rays and wait for your date to arrive, bathed in flattering sunlight. Then walk in together and get ordering. The restaurant itself requires no game (besides an advised reservation) – it’ll work it’s magic for you.

The Faults

 

Dinner a la carte won’t be cheap.

Sex Factor

4.

Staycation Special – Hannah’s, Winchester

2 years ago

The Vibe

Staycations are a wonderful thing but most involve a tedious journey from London, an isolated BnB and the promise to yourself that you’ll take a three hour walk to a pub, only to end up getting sozzled in the mini bar. Not so with Hannah’s.

Aside from the obvious beauty of this three bedroom BnB – the property equivalent of The Hemsleys – it’s a speedy trip on the train from London to the equally gorgeous Winchester town. Located centrally, you turn a corner off the main street to find a vintage Mini outside a white house/cottage with the words Hannah’s painted onto it. So far, so cute. The heavy wide door is then opened to reveal a host as mindfully centred as the setting, Hannah.

Ushering you past the honesty bar, cosy sitting room and piano on a stage (late night recitals?) the bedrooms sit upstairs with high plush beds and softer than soft floral bedding favouring bold colours over cliché pastels.

R2Hannah's B&B-280

You’ll be given time to settle into the space – grand ceilings, nouveau country cottage setting, free standing bath on a small mezzanine overlooking the bed, potions to take home (or use in the sexy shower), under floor heating, flat screen linked to Netflix and a chic hanging copper light. Perhaps testament to Hannah’s youth and obvious feel for interiors, this is more Soho Farmhouse than chintzy rural vibes.

R2Hannah's B&B-102

The Order

The first thing on the menu is tea, peanut butter bites and scones as you relax in the conservatory.

R2Hannah's B&B-314

Dinner isn’t served here but Hannah will point you in the right direction and there are a plethora of good restaurants in Winchester. Rick Steins is one of them. But a cosier experience is the Wykeham Arms – hearty food at a very high standard and the ability to sit for at least three hours nursing a good bottle of red, or two. Best thing to eat there: steak and triple-cooked chips with garlic butter, followed by a cheese board and crumble to share.

What Hannah does do is breakfast, taken round a wooden table laid with flowers and condiment pots. Start with granola, toast and homemade jam, yogurt and tea. Then it’s a healthy English breakfast – grilled bacon, proper sausages, tomatoes and eggs how you like them. Like everything about this place, and seemingly Hannah, it’s perfect.

breakfast hannahs

The Game

Although you could quite easily go on a Friday post work, it’s more exciting to have a weekend of excess in London then wake up on Sunday after lunch and whisk your lover to the station. This isn’t a smutty weekend; it’s a romantic one for when you’ve both exhausted yourselves with extravagant London daytime dating and want to do something rural that still feels a bit young, fun and convenient. Once you’re in the room, snuggle for a bit and pick a film for later. Then head off to the pub a little too early (5pm) and wait patiently till dinner service starts.

Natter away to each other and take it in turns to get up and buy rounds. Let whichever dogs walk by and make some cringe comments to your fellow boozers. Post dinner, take a walk straight home and debate the honesty bar. Realise it’s a Sunday so change your mind, head up stairs, make fat love and fall asleep to a box set. Then up in the morning for breakfast and a train straight to work. How efficient.

The Faults

The capitalist in me wants more bedrooms, a dinner service and a booming boutique hotel.

Sex Factor

2.  It’s romance babe.

Asia de Cuba Brunch, Covent Garden

2 years ago

The Vibe

The sexy, cool and very ‘Lower West Side’ attuned St Martins Lane is the home of Asia de Cuba, a chic high-design space which specialises in Chino-Latino dishes and drinks. The hotel restaurant has received a makeover transforming it from ‘desolate tourist trap’ into a vibrant, colourful and warm space. It’s in this renewed space that the management have taken their next leap of faith – launching an all-out ‘bottomless brunch’ at weekends.

The Order

The words ‘bottomless brunch’ have lately become something of a rallying call for those looking for a way to liven up the weekend. An activity usually reserved for when the party continues until the next morning, this trend has moved swiftly upmarket with a number of higher end restaurants offering unlimited cocktails and now also champagne brunches.

Having relaunched the restaurant earlier this year, the team, headed up by chef Luis Pous have also recently introduced their very own take on brunch – and yes, it’s bottomless.  Start with some fantastic food. The bottomless option will remove any chance of flavour envy and will soon see you and your partner careening through course after course of Chino-Latino goodness. We loved the balance of lighter dishes along with hearty ones – ceviche and crispy calamari salad are countered by an epic eggs Benedict and a ridiculous Cuban sandwich. Just when you think you’ve reached your limit, they drop another bomb with Mexican doughnuts (unlimited of course), sure to finish you off.

The Game

Weekend brunch outings are fantastic for those early on in the dating arc – there’s no smoke and mirrors here, it’s broad daylight and nowhere to hide. That said, if it goes well, you’ve got the rest of the day ahead of you, if not – then you can part ways leaving that all important evening of socialising / sitting on the couch watching Friends re-runs ahead of you.

The brunch at Asia de Cuba is also helped in no small part by the option to go bottomless – the choice is a hard one though – cocktails or champagne? Choose cocktails and you’ll be serviced with a full choice of house cocktails, including access to their fully featured ‘Bespoke Bloody Mary bar’. This is indeed as incredible as it sounds and involves two skilled barmen creating the Bloody Mary of your dreams with everything from infused vodkas, 10 types of hot sauce, rare garnishes and even sticks of bacon if you want to go that way. Mix it up.

The Faults

The location is a bit of a tricky one, yes it’s in Central London. Yes, bottomless brunchers are offered free parking at the hotel, but where’s the fun in that if you can’t enjoy a few drinks before midday?

Sex Factor

4.

Pont St, Belgraves Hotel, Belgravia

2 years ago

The Vibe

Whilst hotel bars are to die for, hotel restaurants can be hit and miss. Pont St claims to be a neighbourhood restaurant at heart, and all we can say is: lucky neighbours. This place is definitely in the hotel restaurant hit list – the food is truly outstanding, the venue elegant yet cosy and the good looking staff make this the ultimate dating hot spot.

The Order

Go for the crudités to start- Gizzi Erskine digs them and they’re more like a farmer’s market on a plate than your standard carrots and hummus. Guys, don’t panic – you will get full and you can both swiftly move on to Slow Roast Pork Belly or the Belgraves Bespoke burger (yes, truffle mayonnaise really does exist). Desserts are divine – the panna cotta totally melts in the mouth. Start with a glass of champagne and move on to a bottle of the Malbec.

The Game

You don’t need a game plan when you’re in a place like Pont St. Meet at the bar with your table already booked (reserve ahead, thank god it’s not Soho). Take your seats after a Gin and Tonic perched on stools and get cosy in the booth style banquettes. Flirt outrageously knowing there’s a hotel just floors above you. Choose to go home or to stay, anything is possible.

The Faults

The address is Chesham Place, not Pont Street – act like a local and let your date know in advance.

Sex Factor

4. Faultless and effortless, leaving the two of you to focus on your evening.

Hawksmoor Guildhall, City

2 years ago

The Vibe

The crowned kings of steaks and seafood are apparently not content with filling their vast city space for both lunch and dinner. Rather they’re now completely acing the city boy’s breakfast too, gaining high praise from the likes of GQ and beyond. The building is in the heart of Guildhall, the doors large and imposing, the room overflows with testosterone – yet dates work here. Power breakfasts for the super slick, or a Friday morning after a Thursday night that never quite ended, Hawksmoor will feed and water you in style.

The Order

The Bloody Mary’s are sensational, as is the Marmalade Cocktail. Double espressos can come afterwards, when the clock strikes and you head to your desks. All bases are covered on the menu which offers an overdose of meat with the ‘Hawksmoor‘ Breakfast or Fillet Steak and eggs, or slightly more female friendly options like Hawksmoor Smoked Salmon with scrambled eggs. It’s too early in the day to share food, so stick to your own plates and chat as you chomp.

The Game

Depending on what’s preceded your arrival, your game may vary. If you’re a few dates in and squeezing in a breakfast meet up, find each other at the table and enjoy a pre work flirt in the one of the cosy banquettes. If you’re the type of guy who reads emails on the treadmill and dates at breakfast because it’s time efficient, use this absolute winner of a space to check out potential Tinderellas. If it’s the morning after, stumble in together and beg for a table, and lots of carbs.

The Faults

City boy heaven, hipster hell.

Sex Factor

4.

Allen Pickett @ Sanderson Hotel, Soho

2 years ago

The Vibe

Sanderson Hotel has a gorgeous courtyard that feels like a mini oasis just off the streets of central London. It’s a light and airy place, perfect for balmy summer evenings. They have brought in hot young chef talent Allan Pickett to bring some new flavours to the menu accompanied by expertly crafted cocktails to compliment his dishes. The staff have a sexy new uniform and the long bar is always buzzing which results in a fun but elegant vibe to enjoy some beautiful gourmet food.

The Order

The menu is brimming with fresh ingredients, perfect for summer dining. From scallops with avocado to perfect sea bream and a mouthwatering strawberry dessert, the portions are small and perfectly formed with expertly coupled flavour combinations. The maître d’ recommended the perfect cocktails to accompany the meal, and the cocktails themselves are some of the best you’ll get in London. Don’t be shy, have three courses and lots of different cocktails – everything is light and refreshing so you’re sure to leave feeling very happy and a little bit tipsy.

The Game

Book for an early supper so you can enjoy the courtyard from daylight to nightfall when they turn the music up and the atmosphere on. Meet at Liberty’s flower shop and then wander up through Carnaby Street to avoid Oxford Circus.

If you arrive at Sanderson early, play some snooker in their beautiful snooker room and use it as an excuse for some blatant flirting. After dinner, continue sipping their delectable cocktails at the long bar and if you fancy a dance, hop over to the Edition hotel across the road but be warned – dress up nice and be polite as they have a strict door policy.

The Faults

The tables inside the restaurant aren’t as nice as the courtyard ones so make sure you book and request to sit outside, then pray for no rain!

Sex Factor

4.

 

The Painted Heron, Chelsea

3 years ago

The Vibe

It is the locals of Chelsea (not the flashy newbies) who frequent this divine riverside restaurant which has oft been crowned as the Best Indian in London. The Painted Heron is fine dining without being stuffy, and it’s far enough from public transport to permit you to ‘innocently’ insist on a joint taxi home.

The Order

Take all the classic Indian dishes and add fresh ingredients, the most fragrant of herbs and spices and stunning presentation- even the poppadums are served with an easel of coloured chutneys. The chicken tikka three ways is a great starter to share, then the black tiger prawn masala alongside the “Indian Railways” curry make good main courses to pick and choose from. Their wine list is wonderful and get carried away with champagnes by the glass.

The Game

The bounteously lit Albert Bridge must feature at one end of the date- so either arrange to meet them there and set the tone of romance early, or lead them there post dinner for one of London’s most well set kisses. Savour the meal, you’re in no rush and this isn’t a date where you’ll be headed for a bar afterwards.

The Faults

Indian food isn’t traditional date fodder, but then this place is truly something else.

Sex Factor

3.  (Up that to 4 if you add in a saunter over that bridge)

Gallery Mess – Saatchi Gallery, Chelsea

3 years ago

The Vibe

Oh it’s always fun to play at a little touch of sophistication isn’t it? Dinner with white table cloths and well-dressed waiters with pieces of modern art splashed all over the walls.  Gallery Mess is next door to Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea’s Duke of York Square and the ideal date setting – especially for these warm summer evenings.

The Order

Going with the ‘Food is Art’ theme, the dishes here are dotted with edible flowers and delicate flavours. There’s an excellent set menu but you may not want to miss out on the Gin and Tonic cured salmon or the Grilled Poussin. There’s an impressive bar here and if you’re not tempted by their summery cocktails, it’s certainly an appropriate venue for a glass of champagne.

The Game

The dating gods have created a fool proof formula for you here. You’ve got a beautiful restaurant with plenty of talking points – there’s a giant sculpture of a shoe, people watching galore and artfully presented dishes. Go to the (free) gallery next door first and take things from there. If there’s potential, suggest a drink at Gallery Mess and if it’s all stations go then extend it to dinner. Ideal for evenings, the square becomes fairy lit as dusk falls. *Sigh*

The Faults

It’s Chelsea at its most Chelsea, possibly not for hipsters.

Sex Factor

4.

Pennethorne’s Cafe Bar @ Somerset House, The Strand

3 years ago

The Vibe

Second dates are curious beasts. You clearly like each other enough to warrant a repeat viewing, yet it’s still early days so planning a top notch meal or expensive drinks may seem OTT. You need non- committal yet thoughtful, relaxed yet structured and boozy yet with a chance to chat. Well, hello Pennethorne’s.

The Order

Perfectly suited to dates, the drinks are divine and the food is exceptional (Charcuterie, cheese platter, sophisticated bar snacks done REALLY well). Start with cocktails – spicing things up with a Chilli Martini if you’re feeling crazy, then settle in for a bottle of Rose or Red dependent on the weather outside.

The Game

Take pleasure in texting them to request that they meet you ‘in the West Wing of Somerset House’. Call ahead and request a corner booth- sit next to one another; place a hand on their back if you’re feeling punchy. Drink away the early evening and watch the room as well dressed couples and glamorous artsy friends catch up. Leave via the courtyard and marvel at the buildings that surround you then head down to the river for guaranteed romance.

The Faults

It closes at 10pm so get there early enough to fit in a few hours, and have a game plan for after so you don’t lose momentum.

Sex Factor

4.

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