Graphic Bar Residency, Ask For Janice.

10 months ago

The Vibe

If you’re a lover of gin, then you’ve come to the right place. Set in the basement of quirky but cool, Ask For Janice, Graphic Bar has taken over the basement, creating a dimly lit, concrete haven to get completely gin saturated. After walking through the artsy Wednesday night crowd upstairs, we were led by a hand-written cardboard sign into a pit of drunkeness. With a top notch hip hop playlist and the chance to pin your polaroid up on the wall, this place screams FUN. Since it’s relatively unknown, we were the first to walk into the room, until joined by a few other couples an hour later. An empty room can be nerve racking on a first date, but the level of gin in the cocktails will be sure to make them disappear quick!

The Order

The order is simple. Stick to gin. Their seasonal Rumple Pumpkin cocktail with a savoury gin and Halloween vibes et the tone for the night, followed by a not-so-typical Gin & Tonic and finished off with an egg white-topped Gin Sour. And to keep the conversation flowing, order some food from the AFJ small plates menu such as spiced lamb shoulder, slow cooked chorizo, pork belly and AFJ potatoes. All are mouth watering and sure to soak up some of the alcohol, ensuring the conversation can keep flowing. You’ll leave savouring the flavours but not feeling stuffed.

The Game

Arrive together and bustle through the upstairs crowd and into the basement bar. Choose a table under the light so there’s a chance you’re able to read the menu. Then slowly go through the cocktail menu, hitting each gin cocktail one by one. Share stories of drunken nights gone wrong – hoping this one doesn’t fall into the list – get chatting to the couple on the next table about the winning playlist and stumble out together to catch the last train home. A casual and perfect environment for that cheeky first kiss, which you can laugh off as alcohol induced. Wake up the next day with little memories of the night, besides the laughter.

Sex Factor

3.

 

Nam Long Le Shaker, Chelsea

2 years ago

The Vibe

Nestled at the far end of the Old Brompton Road, far from the ostentatious eateries of Knightsbridge or the pretentious members clubs of Mayfair, Nam Long Le Shaker just gets on and does it’s thing. That ‘thing’ involves providing excellent Asian fusion food, serving infamous ‘Flaming Ferrari’ cocktails to bankers, celebrities and royalty, and generally offering you the opportunity to seriously let loose, but only if you’re in the know.

The Order

Eating? Go for the Nam Long Summer rolls and be utterly blown away by the Siu Yuk Bao – crispy pork belly is always a winner. Go for a mix of large plates and Dim Sum – all perfect to share. This isn’t a sober night however – pretend to be civilised by starting with Martinis or even a cold bottled beer, yet realise you won’t leave here without throwing caution to the wind and ordering Flaming Ferraris all round.

The Game

The place hots up late. It’s open until 2.30am so pace yourself and aim for a late dinner. Book a corner table and meet there. Share food, build up your momentum and watch and learn as people start streaming in. The bar downstairs is newly refurbished and the ideal setting for cosying up with cocktails afterwards – replace talking with kissing as the music amps up.

The Faults

Shots will be done, things can get messy/super fun.

Sex Factor

4.

Manhattans Project, POND, Dalston

2 years ago

The Vibe

I have to confess I was very unsure of what to expect from a cocktail residency in an East London Hawaiian restaurant… I had visions of hipsters shivering in a Tiki hut, downing sugary cocktails garnished with pineapple slices. I soon gave myself a sharp slap on the wrist for my nasty preconceptions. The vibe here is chilled, fun, authentic (without being overly earnest) and refreshingly laid back.

Housed in an airy Victorian warehouse in a secluded courtyard, POND serves great food and The Manhattans Project provides absolutely banging drinks. If I’d done my homework properly I would’ve read that the owners – Byron Knight and Felix Cohen are the brains behind Duke’s Brew and Que and the basement bar in Off Broadway respectively. Some serious credentials right there.

The Order

Dive straight in with a Manhattan, it would be rude not to and you won’t be disappointed. The menu promises ‘classic cocktails, done right’, and Felix stays true to his word. My favourite was the American Gothic, rye whiskey and Calvados with a little sugar and bitters, smoked with apple wood. Yum. The menu suggests you ‘Drink in silence then fuck on a bearskin rug.’ Well alright then. Spicy salmon maki rolls were fresh as could be and absolutely delicious, as was the Poke of ahi’ tuna & salmon with thai basil oil and coconut lime. Spam is apparently hugely popular in Hawaii, but here it comes all dressed up so it sounds and looks real purty – teriyaki glazed, or coated in dried shrimp with yuzu mayo. Still, for me spam is spam, and that’s one preconception I’m holding onto.

The Game

It’s a little tricky to find, so arrange to meet your date at Dalston Kingsland Station. Lead them onto Gillett Street which opens out into a square bustling with skateboarders, domino players and street dancers. Sit at the bar, peruse the witty menu and get stuck into the cocktails. The bar staff will merrily chat away so you need not fear any awkward silences. This place has good vibes, perfect for a first date.
The Faults

The secluded location means it’s less busy than it should be, but that’s sure to change. Go now before everyone else catches on.

Sex Factor

4.

STAYCATION SPECIAL – St Martin’s Lane, Covent Garden

2 years ago

The Vibe

The idea that a romantic London staycation requires quaint afternoon teas, grandiose hotel furnishings and a doorman called Gerald is confidently undercut by St Martin’s Lane. This place is where sexy, sparky and affluent young professionals head for a modern, New York-esque minibreak; where the bedrooms are ‘high concept design’ (translation: slick), the restaurant is Latin-Asian fusion and the doorman would look more comfortable adorning the entrance of an Abercrombie store.

The lobby is minimalist with enough bold touches – gold stools, neon lighting – to add artsy character.

The rooms – sharp corners, pure white, floor to ceiling windows – have the added bonus of a multitude of multi-coloured options, transforming the bed arena from red to blue to green to purple depending on the sort of mood you’re trying to set.

In sharp contrast to the rooms a trad 5* hotel might offer up, stepping into a suite here feels like you’re housesitting for a Broadway producer – rather than a cheeky borrowed moment in a grand old Duke’s guestroom. This isn’t British hospitality darling, it’s Nylon.

The Order

Dinner is taken in Asia de Cuba but there’s no reason to deny yourself the room service experience as well. Check in at 4pm and order a pot of tea, won ton soup (light, piping hot, well spiced, divine) and bottle of champagne. Warm up, perk up, drink up.

Before dinner, head to the dark and velvety bar Blind Spot. She’ll have a Dirty Martini with Tanqueray Ten, he’s on the Aperol Rich (Aperol, Veuve Clicquot Rich, soda water, orange slice).

Move into the restaurant slightly tipsy, and ready to get your eat on. Instead of a bottle of wine, work by the glass – the heavy drinking can be done back in the bar later.  For starters, the unmissables are red snapper ceviche with Thai chilli, slow braised short rib spring rolls and crispy octopus with garlic chips. Then for mains, crispy calamari salad, black cod with avocado puree, the INSANE lobster mash and some token greens.  Share everything and end the meal with a guava whipped structured cheesecake.

ASIA DE CUBA 6_j

The Game

It’s Friday afternoon and the two of you have taken the afternoon off work. You pack a small bag and agree to meet at The Library Club for a pre-staycation cocktail at 3pm. One cocktail down, you cross the road and check into St Martin’s.

You’ve called ahead so rose petals are strewn around the bed and there’s a welcome note. Your beau is impressed. To freshen up, you draw a bath and sip on champagne while in it. You then robe up, eat some soup and put on a film while you wait ‘til your 9pm reservation.

At 8pm you start to get ready – crisp white shirt, little black dress, cologne, high heels. Then to drinks and dinner. Over order but don’t finish everything for the sake of it – eat morsels and make sure you’re not too full to flirt. Debate going back into Blind Spot; change your mind and head upstairs. Put the lights onto red mode and spoon to RnB. Drift off, wake up, hook up, fall asleep.

Take a joint shower in the morning and make your way downstairs to a brunch of avocado toast, black coffee and grapefruit juice. OR, if you’re desperate for your stay to be extended just that little bit longer, opt for the Breakfast in the Fields (two eggs as you like, grilled halloumi cheese, avocado, roasted tomato, mushrooms, grilled asparagus) from the brunch menu.

Check out at midday and Uber back to reality.

The Faults

It’s certainly not cheap (from £300) but worth every single penny for looks, food and staff charm alone.

Sex Factor

5+

The Light Lounge, Chinatown

2 years ago

The Vibe

Chinatown’s best kept secret. Chic and intimate – an oasis in the madness of Leicester Square and Soho. Escape the tourists and chill out in this bar that bucks the area’s reputation of noisy sports bars and American chains. Music sets the tone, but you can still hear your date’s conversation and there’s a small terrace for smokers.

The Order

Friendly barmaid Nicola will guide you through the myriad fabulous-sounding cocktails on the menu, with weird and wonderful ingredients that you’ve never heard of. Barman Peter shakes up a storm – a must order is the Violets are Blue, a cocktail which harks back to childhood days of penny sweets and pick ‘n’ mix. I had my first ever Pisco Sour, which was a delight to consume. My date ordered an off-menu Whisky Sour, the best he’d had in a long time. Also on the list was a Light Lounge Smash. Suffice to say the cocktails were so wonderful that we were stumbling down the stairs on our way out….

The Game

Come to The Light Lounge for some warm up drinks before going for a meal in the infamous Chinatown. Bag a table by the bar if you want a more chilled out experience, or grab a booth in the corner if you want to be a little more intimate. Mid-week is a little quieter, before it gets rowdy at the weekends. If your date doesn’t work out, then book a booth for a private party and you can order canapés to soak up the booze.

The Faults

If you have an exhibitionist inner-Paris Hilton, and love dancing on the bar and spraying champagne on the crowd, then this isn’t for you.

Sex Factor

3. Intimate venue, cracking drinks.

Humble Grape, Battersea

3 years ago

The Vibe

Walls and walls of wine. Wine on the shelves. Wine in displays. If a distant sonic wave shattered all the glass in here you would drown in wine. Good glassware. The red glasses are slightly larger than the white – as it should be. Most of the wines are ordered directly from the producers so the waiters have inherited some good stories. Stories bring us closer together. Close together is good for dates.

The Order

Order the sharing platter. The meats, cheeses, breads and terrines are delicious and they will fill you up.
On wine, Humble Grape demands preferences. You will be asked what you normally drink to gauge your palate and if you say, “Oh I normally just get the house white” you are history. Try to remember the name of a wine and a characterising adjective.

If I tell you what to order, you’ll lose all the fun. The waiters are very knowledgeable and passionate so let them tell their stories. They will be happy to bring out a couple of tasting glasses each. Choose one of these options. If you request a third, your date will think you’re too picky.

The Game

Sharing and sampling. Two of the sexiest things you can do on a date. Both create intimacy, but both have to be handled with care. Men, ask your date which parts of the platter she enjoys and give her more of her share of that. Dividing up the plate exactly in half is almost as bad as splitting the bill.

Offer your date a taste of your wine. She should politely reciprocate. Do not put them on the spot and ask them to pick out flavour notes. That is not sexy. That is pompous.

As you continue to give and take, taste and share; the room should start getting a little hotter until…”Oh no there’s no tube station nearby. Maybe we should share a cab?”

The Faults

There’s no tube station nearby.

Sex Factor

4. Tastings are sexy dates. Sample some wine and you sample each other.

Jimmy’s Secret Garden Pop Up, Clapham

3 years ago

The Vibe

Fake grass, a touch gimmicky and fun English Country Garden vibes, Jimmy’s Secret Garden is just a minute from Clapham North tube and the perfect spot for lazy Claphamites who don’t want to travel to Hackney for a novel eating experience.

Walk in and you might assume that it’s a style over substance venture. It’s not.  The exceptional service is a precursor for a very high standard of food in a setting where couples are a little more drunk than they planned, having propped up the bar downstairs waiting with a large glass of white wine.

The Order

I imagine the Deluxe Picnic is what most flock here for – a combination of sliders, scotch eggs and crab/chicken sandwiches to recreate a picnic session, minus bugs.

However, the stand alone menu items are too tempting so we ended up with a divine char-grilled octopus starter and a hearty roasted lamb rump with mash and smoked aubergine that was punchy, delicious and very filling.  No room for dessert but enough for another large glass of wine and a fond farewell to the peppy team.

The Game

Meet in the pub downstairs 20 minutes before the reservation and order two beakers of wine to kick things off. This is perfect for a date with a friend who you’d like to be more.  They also happen to live in Clapham, so bonus points for picking somewhere convenient. Go upstairs tipsy and start with a Negroni, followed by a swift bottle of wine.  Don’t overdress but make sure that you have layers to shed as things heat up.  Roll out of there and just before you think it’s over, suggest one more beaker of vino downstairs and wake up on their couch. Did you kiss? Didn’t you? It’s hard to say.

The Faults

The grass is a tad silly but no doubt vital to the concept. Darker lighting?

Sex Factor

3.

Tapas Revolution, Shoreditch

3 years ago

The Vibe

If you have ever been to, and fallen in love with, Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid you will instantly feel at home in Tapas Revolution. The third eatery from award winning chef Omar Allibhoy sees the chain move away from the shopping-centre leviathans and set up home in the urban yet charming hipster-haven that is Shoreditch.  Avoiding the tropes of bullfighting and the Gypsy Kings Greatest Hits, the modern bar with a rustic feel is the perfect spot for a sweltering summer date. Grab a pair of leather stools at the bar, order a bottle of Spain’s finest, and enjoy the bustling view into the open-plan kitchen as they prepare authentic Spanish tapas dishes in this vibrant setting. Assuming you are able to take your eyes off your date, of course.

The Order

If you have ever had tapas before you will know, as is tradition, the aim of the game is to order small and lots. The ‘BEST HAM IN THE WORLD’ (Jamón ibérico de bellota Joselito) is exceedingly worthy of its title and melts away like butter in the mouth. The Tortilla with little cubes of delicious smoked chorizo was ‘food porn’ oozy, and will have your date licking their lips. Little plump pillows of steamed octopus served with salty new potatoes and lovingly dusted with paprika was expertly prepared. At Tapas Revolution, you can safely leave any stereotypical concerns of rubbery seafood at the door.  When ordering Spanish cuisine it’s easy to default to safe bets (deep fried squid and patatas bravas, I’m looking at you), but be bold with your order and you will be rewarded ten-fold. We ordered the special, a Valencian-inspired Ox-tail Paella dish offered up in a huge clay cazuela, and it was sensational. A luxurious duvet of ox-tail with superb al dente rice, slow cooked to order in a rich umami stock, was comfort food of the highest order. If you are going to eat a lot then prepare to drink a lot. Order a Porron from their extensive wine list, showcasing the region’s best grapes and do not leave without enjoying their red-berry tea infused Plum Gin and tonic as its ruddy lovely.

The Game

The Overground is great. A few years ago the residents of Kensal Rise would have to trek for 3 days to visit Wapping and hands up, who knew Turkey Street was an actual place? Head for Shoreditch High Street and meet at Commercial Tavern where you can sit upstairs by the lovely French style open windows and enjoy a cocktail whilst looking at the quirky walls decorated in puzzle pieces. If your date is a craft beer fan, Brewdog, a stone’s throw away from Tapas Revolution, will score you maximum brownie points. If it’s too soon to hop in a taxi back to theirs, hit up Rich Mix. The former garment factory has 3 cinema screens and a 200 seater theatre which hosts gigs, comedy shows and club nights.

Sex Factor

4 – Spain is sexy. FACT.

Booze Factor

5 – Extensive wine lists, crisp cervezas and a hefty G&T line-up. You’ll be ‘Bamboleo’ by the end.

46 & Mercy, below Hotbox, Commercial Street

3 years ago

The Vibe

This dater thanks God (and 46 & Mercy) for the small mercy of an un-themed bar. We can get through the first few minutes of a date without the need to drum up small talk about the ‘concept’, or wonder if our drink will be served in a teapot by fairies, thank you very much. If there is a theme here, it’s really delicious drinks. This basement space is concrete, urban, and hard-edged, with the occasional pop of graffiti street art and movie posters. It works though, and feels slick rather than skater-y. Take clients you want to sleep with, or arrange a double date around the small tables.

The Order

We’re in that limbo zone between the suits of the City and the undercuts of the East. For the suits there’s a bottle of champagne at well over £100. For the rest of us there are cocktails mixed by expert bartenders at around the standard £9 London mark. None of the four we tried were too sweet, which met with my date’s approval, but why-oh-why must all self-respecting cocktail bars go in for such wanky names? ‘Can I have one, err, Rye me to the moon, please?’ (A delicious blend of bourbon, sherry and bitters, by the way) Our advice? Trust the barmen’s recommendations. They are masters at work.

The Game

Upstairs is a barbeque restaurant (Hotbox) seemingly offering meat twenty ways, so if your date’s not veggie, eat first then repair downstairs for a sharpener, although perhaps avoid the drink laced with pig fat! Grab seats at the bar. You should be fine to pitch up early in the evening on a weeknight but for a bar seat after 9pm, it’s worth booking.

The Faults

Few and far between. There are some slightly strange seating options – low banquettes that leave you staring at the ass cheeks of those on bar stools, for example. Could be a conversation starter?

Sex Factor

3.

The Nightjar, City Road

3 years ago

The Vibe

Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald said of Prohibition, ‘The parties were bigger… the pace was faster… and the morals were looser.” It lasted an amazing 13 years and led to drinking culture going quite literally underground. Therefore, in true prohibition style, underground is where you will find yourselves when visiting Old Street’s (and possibly London’s) sexiest cocktail-bar The NightJar. Hidden away behind an unassuming wooden door on City Road, this bar, inspired by the speakeasies from that boozy era, is a perfect homage to the period it draws reference from. Prohibition jumpstarted the Jazz age, so allow the likes of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie to transport you back in time, as you are escorted to a table for two in this seductively lit and super sultry venue.

The Order

The drinks menu provides a timeline of cocktail history, running from pre-prohibition drinks such as the ‘Honey Smash’ and ‘Waldorf Gloom Lifter’ right through to post-war party favourites such as the ‘London Mule’ and ‘Red Snapper’. Sounding like nicknames of amateur boxers, some of the drinks, especially from the Prohibition era, pack plenty of punch. The Coalition, a mixture of Caribbean Whisky, Portobello Gin, Sherry, Plum Liqueur and Kina Lillet sounds like it would have enough booze to put you out for the count but it’s beautifully blended to deliver a stroke rather than a smack. Other bars might be content to serve it in a Martini glass but at The Nightjar it came in a hip-flask placed on a glass of ruby coloured dry-ice. The Foragers Shrub, a combination of Bombay Gin, Sauvignon Blanc, Foragers Cordial, Lemon Longan & Jujube Vinegars, is presented like a chemistry lab experiment. The Nightjar draws inspiration from the past, but presents their drinks in modern and exciting ways. Work your way through a few cocktails each and enjoy gawping at other table’s drinks whilst pretending you’re in the Great Gatsby.

The Game

Meeting before hand and guiding your date to The Nightjar is essential, as is calling ahead to make a reservation. Meet at Shoreditch Grind for an espresso before the late night ahead. Head onto City road and revel in your date’s wonderment as you lead them through the little black door for several cocktails to break the (dry) ice. Stop off for drinks and ping pong in the hustle and bustle of The Book Club on Great Eastern Street before strolling hand in hand to ‘Vietnamese Brick Lane’ aka Kingsland Road. Chopstick lessons and tales of eastern adventures gone by or yet to come will win your date’s heart. Alternatively, with a proper late license (3am on Fridays/Saturdays) you could reserve a spot at The Nightjar for post dinner drinks so you can enjoy live music deep into the night

The Faults

It’s a victim of its own greatness so gets very busy. Pre-booking is essential.

Sex Factor

4.  Sparks will fly – literally! They serve drinks which are on fire (in the sexy way, not the Student Union Sambuca way) for Heaven’s sake.

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