Old Tom and English, Soho

1 year ago

The Vibe

Even the most experienced Soho dater would be forgiven for missing the entrance to Old Tom and English. Resembling a good looking door to a fancy English home, you ring to get in before the receptionist has to bolt up from her perch and welcome you in. Coats checked, you go down into a stunning basement – a cross between an 18th century gin palace and 1960s private members’ club. Lashings of brass, reflective surfaces, all curves and angles, art and texture. Red carpets set the tone and couples gather around tiny tables in cahoots. There are a couple of hideaways for intimate meals, while diners in the main room are very much under the beady gaze of people watchers. It feels a little like a very good looking television set, inviting a self-consciousness that adds some needed tension to dates.

The Order

A shot of sweet pea soup followed by a stunning crispy bacon and gooey egg salad to share. Go easy on the starters as the main courses are substantial. The chef’s skills can be tasted in the juices to dip your fat chips in, from the delicate jus on the steak to the rich, sweet onion gravy with the bangers and mash. Buttery greens on the side and enough room for a Eaton Mess in a martini glass. The focus is the food, so a cocktail to start then a good glass of red with the meal will suffice.

The Game

Old Tom’s is perfect for an elegant Thursday evening dinner. Take the time to change from work attire into something a bit loungey and elegant. Flat shoes for women, zero suits for men. Don’t try and make this into a loud and lary date as you’ll only disturb the delicate ambiance in the room. Knock knees over the small table, flirt, serve each other and leave after 90 mines. Then follow up with a solitary kiss on the Soho streets and separate Ubers home.

The Faults

Small chairs make big dates look like the BFG.

Sex Factor

3. But if you get one of the secluded snugs, I imagine it’s a 5+.

Chinese New Year @ Hakkasan, Hanway Place

1 year ago

The Vibe

The first thing that hits you is the smell – the spicy contents of a well-to-do lady’s perfume closet. Then the enveloping darkness as you descend into a glitzy labyrinth – the sort of mood-lighting that makes other date joints look like casual lunch spots. And then the elegant hostess who teases your coat from your hands and returns a transparent black plastic token slicker than a high roller chip. This place is meticulous at upholding the Hakkasan brand.

And what is that brand? Aside from luxury, Hakkasan is a Michelin-starred dining experience with an extremely sexy edge. It’s Cantonese food in a boudoir setting, and a sure fire way to impress a date. Unlike pretentious style-over-substance joints, the crowd is a mix of people who have either loved it, en famille, for years or slick singles who use it as their first port of call for romance. Business dinners are conducted in a setting-appropriate manner, with calm grace and good manners, while dates are conducted the only way they should be – with smouldering looks, delicate sips and the seductive feeding of dumplings.

And for a short while, to celebrate The Year of The Monkey, regulars can return for some new very indulgent menu items, a potent rum cocktail and a gift at the end of meal (a Monkey Coin – who doesn’t need that).

The Order

Chinese New Year Menu – The Year of The Monkey

This menu is perfect for a boozy double date with your favourite couple. The tasting menu is made up of nine dishes and priced at £88.88.

Start with Double boiled fresh Ginseng and chicken soup, next the Wagyu beef and pine nut golden cup, then the Dim sum platter. Follow up with insanely good lobster in spicy truffle sauce, Pipa duck, Grilled Chilean seabass in honey and a Hericium mushroom stri-fry with lotus roots, asparagus and lily bulb in black pepper. BREATHE. Oh and scallop and crab meat fried rice.

Dessert is a Golden Halo – a banana and peanut cake with cream and caramel and chocolate topped with gold leaf. Accompanied by a punchy El Dorado rum cocktail.

 

The Game

Your game is largely irrelevant here, since the Hakka empire have gone so far in creating a seductive assault on the senses. Aftershave is trumped by signature fragrances, clever make-up rendered pointless in the dim glow and expert chat eclipsed by tonnes of excellent food to tackle.

The only thing I advise is to get the dress code right – relaxed but expensive. Guys, focus on great shoes, nice jeans and a crisp shirt – just keep the work suit on if it’s a good one. Ladies, if it’s the weekend then go for a bodycon or cocktail number – not too trash, just one colour. Alternatively, the all black combo works a charm – blend in like a Scandi fashionista.

Meet at the table, so you can experience the descent alone. Stay for the allotted 2 hours and be pleasantly wafted to the bar where the real drinking happens. Taxi to Sketch for a nightcap and kiss like naughty kids by the egg shaped toilets in the coolest bathroom in London.

The Faults

Get excited about the food and you’ll be too full to function. And perhaps out of pocket.

Sex Factor

5. Coma dependent, of course.

 

Amaranto, Park Lane

1 year ago

The Vibe

Yep, it’s at The Four Seasons. Yep, that’s on Park Lane. Obviously it’s super luxe and you’ll be treated like Kings, yet it’s surprisingly friendly and both food and service are truly exquisite. The decor is sumptuous and encourages one to languish decadently for multiple courses.

The Order

Go with starters (scallops here will melt your heart), mains (seabass for her, steak for him) and share a dessert (the tiramisu tastes like blissful clouds of cream and coffee). Ask the sommelier to guide you with wines – they have an excellent variety that are served by the glass and you’ll want to accentuate the deliciousness of each dish.

The Game

Definitely meet beforehand. There’s nothing quite like being ushered into a glittering lobby by doormen in bowler hats, so share the experience and allow yourselves to be led through to your table. The lounge is an excellent stop off for a pre drink if you haven’t already indulged, or hit it up afterwards when you’re well and truly engulfed in the glitz.

The Faults

Yep, you guessed it….but it’ll be worth it, promise.

Sex Factor

5.

Aqua Nueva, Oxford Circus

1 year ago

The Vibe

I’ve been on dates where things get a bit frisky – usually at the end of the night after a few cocktails. But at Aqua Nueva things kick off straight away. Not, however, with my date.

No sooner does one step into the vast building on Argyll St, a stone’s throw from the chaotic Oxford Circus underground, does one get directed to a lift by the suited and booted security, and whisked up to the 5th floor’s impressive roof terrace.

When the doors open, you are met with sultry mood lighting and a grand circular bar oozing with luxury. With three sleek enterprises on the one gargantuan floor – aqua nueva, a modern take on traditional Spanish cuisine; aqua kyoto, contemporary Japanese cuisine; and aqua spirit, a cocktail bar – if it weren’t for a friendly waitress, I doubt I’d have found my way through the gaggles of suited and booted city slickers to the right bit, or indeed to my very first Tinder date.

The Order

In traditional Spanish form, the menu is comprised of sharing plates – ‘tapas’. Conveniently separated into Meat, Fish and Vegetarian categories, and all around the £12 – £15 mark, we tried a variety of each. Sharing plates never fail to make great date-food. Highlights were the Galican Octopus stuffed pastry, which was tender not rubbery; and the 24 hour marinated Oxtail, which was rich – and comfortingly warming at this icy time of year.

Warning: Aioli frequents many dishes, which though tasty is quite pungent – and garlicky breath, should a first-date snog be on the agenda, is best avoided.

NB: Aqua Nueva is also currently offering a La Matanza menu, which is based on an ancient Spanish tradition and incorporates delicacies from an entire hog within each dish. £8 per dish, £24 half hog (3 dishes), £45 full hog (6 dishes).

The Game

Get your make-up sorted before you enter the restaurant, top ups whilst in the premises are off the cards due to the low-lit mood lighting.

Grab a cocktail at the bar before being seated. The atmosphere there is great for date small-talk; soft music and the gentle chatter of other diners. Background noise, but not loud.

You can sit anywhere and be guaranteed date privacy (aka, not worry about neighbouring guests hear your awkward ‘get-to-know-each-other’ chat) – as the tables aren’t packed in. And after supper, there’s no need to leave the building…just head back to the bar.

Sex Factor

General ambience is definitely sexy. It’s smooth, it’s slick, there’s leather…Only sex factor fear is that once you leave the restaurant your date might not look anything like they do indoors due to aqua’s mood lighting.

Mind you, if you’ve tucked into a sufficient amount of their delicious and punchy cocktails that might not be a problem anyway. Got to love a good set of beer goggles.

Golden Week – Hakkasan, Hanway Place

2 years ago

The Vibe

The first thing that hits you is the smell – the spicy contents of a well-to-do lady’s perfume closet. Then the enveloping darkness as you descend into a glitzy labyrinth – the sort of mood-lighting that makes other date joints look like casual lunch spots. And then the elegant hostess who teases your coat from your hands and returns a transparent black plastic token slicker than a high roller chip. This place is meticulous at upholding the Hakkasan brand.

And what is that brand? Aside from luxury, Hakkasan is a Michelin-starred dining experience with an extremely sexy edge. It’s Chinese food in a boudoir setting, and a sure fire way to impress a date. Unlike pretentious style-over-substance joints, the crowd is a mix of people who have either loved it, en famille, for years or slick singles who use it as their first port of call for romance. Business dinners are conducted in a very Chinese way, with calm grace and good manners, while dates are conducted the only way they should be – with smouldering looks, delicate sips and the seductive feeding of dumplings.

The Order

Golden Week – 28th September – 18th October 2015

Hakkasan is currently celebrating the annual Chinese holiday with a limited edition signature menu to delight newcomers, and surprise old timers, of which there are many.

This menu is perfect for a boozy double date with your favourite couple. The tasting menu is made up of eight dishes and priced at £88.88. It’s all good, with a tender Angus rib-eye beef and lotus root as the highlight.

And to kick off proceedings, a POTENT Golden Iced Tea (Belvedere vodka, gin, tequila, rum, Cointreau, orchid tea syrup, peach bitters and Champagne).

And then…

Start with the Supreme Dim Sum Platter – lychee and lobster dumplings, abalone shumai with caviar, Alaskan king crab dumplings and dover sole dumplings with black truffle.

Then move onto a Sun-dried Anchovy and Taro Salad, with a pomegranate dressing. This was unlike anything I’ve tasted in a while, a strange combination between sticky/sweet and utterly delicate.

For the mains, it’s a Stone bass lion head in Royal Supreme sauce with golden enoki and dried scallop, Stir-fry Canadian lobster, divine rib-eye beef, and fried rice with abalone and seafood.

And for dessert? 3 divine Golden Macaroons, a delicate and creamy conclusion.

The Game

Your game is largely irrelevant here, since the Hakka empire have gone so far in creating a seductive assault on the senses. Aftershave is trumped by signature fragrances, clever make-up rendered pointless in the dim glow and expert chat eclipsed by tonnes of excellent food to tackle.

The only thing I advise is to get the dress code right – relaxed but expensive. Guys, focus on great shoes, nice jeans and a crisp shirt – just keep the work suit on if it’s a good one. Ladies, if it’s the weekend then go for a bodycon or cocktail number – not too trash, just one colour. Alternatively, the all black combo works a charm – blend in like a Scandi fashionista.

Meet at the table, so you can experience the descent alone. Stay for the allotted 2 hours and be pleasantly wafted to the bar where the real drinking happens. Taxi to Sketch for a nightcap and kiss like naughty kids by the egg shaped toilets in the coolest bathroom in London.

The Faults

Get excited about the food and you’ll be too full to function. And perhaps out of pocket.

Sex Factor

5. Coma dependent, of course.

Kintan, Holborn

3 years ago

The Vibe

You’ve sat at a sushi bar, snuggled at a ski chalet, and bean-bagged it up at a rooftop cinema. So what next on the ‘date with a difference’ agenda?  Somewhere that gives you a bit of interaction and ice breaking yet adds rather than detracts from conversational flirtation. Cue: Kintan. A Japanese Barbecue concept that provides enough meat to satisfy the carnal instincts of the toughest of cavemen, yet lends itself as perfectly to a couple’s dinner – from the most established, to the newly courting.  Each table has its own grill, and you will be brought platters of meat to cook yourself over the warming glow.

The Order

Go for one of the set menus. Don’t be put off by the fact that the menus have photos – this place is authentic and it’ll be full of Japanese.  Expect a lot of meat – arrive hungry and start with some sparkling sake (if you’ve never had it, it’s a good talking point). The emphasis is on beef here so enjoy the oozing strips of Sirloin and ensure you try the Filet Mignon. For variation, both the scallops and tiger prawns are excellent and halloumi cheese is a nice way to finish. Drinks wise, stick to Japanese – be it beer, sake or Shochu cocktails.

The Game

Its central location makes Kintan a good place to meet after work and it’s obvious enough that you can just find each other at the table, which you should absolutely book as this place is often full in the evenings. There are some excellent two seaters, or go opposite each other to gaze adoringly across your heated grills. On that note, things can heat up a little so wear layers that you can shed (seductively if possible). Take out any choice and opt for a set menu – there are a few to choose from but it’ll save you from feeling self-conscious about just how much meat you can happily consume. Cook for the other; this is oh so simple but a great little gesture – “here, this is a good bit”…of meat. Try to pace yourself slightly to avoid crashing and burning, and continue into the night where you can ‘accidentally’ swing by the ever romantic Rosewood for a nightcap.

The Faults

Not for a veggie, obvs.

Sex Factor

3.

Le Chalet, Selfridges

3 years ago

The Vibe

The lift delivers you to the rooftop floor of London’s favourite department store with a bing. You step out into a magical winter forest scene, fairy lights winking at you, lanterns littering the path ahead. Take your date’s hand and lead on. Alpine cabin cum urban grotto, Le Chalet is this season’s offering from the team behind BBQ restaurant Q Grill in Camden and the Q on the Roof pop up at Selfridges this summer, and very cosy it is too. Blankets are provided and hot alcoholic beverages featuring various types of chocolate nail the après-ski effect. This is the adult version of going to see Santa.

The Order

If it’s a cosy dinner you’re after, choose from warming starters such as baked raclette with bresaola and pickles which is perfect for a bit of sharing. Mains are stick-to-your-ribs hearty and will see the colour back into your date’s cheeks – the smoked Highland venison with black pepper ‘neeps’ comes recommended or how about an indulgent char-grilled lobster? Desserts are decidedly playful: tickle your wonderland fancy with the eggnog snow egg or a slice of Black Forest cheesecake. From the bar, the hot choctails are a complete must and don’t leave without trying one.

The Game

Le Chalet is ideal for a day-time weekend date – start with a little window shopping hand in hand along Regent Street then book in for an early afternoon matinee film at Everyman Cinema in the basement of Selfridges. Take care to check beforehand what time sunset will take place that day and plan your visit up to the roof for an hour before. You could opt for the Afternoon Tea, a spot of early evening supper or a post-film hot chocolate to sup as you discuss your thoughts on the movie.  As the winter sun starts to set, the last of its pinky and orangey beams tingeing the evening clouds, move closer and get under the same blanket. Watch together as the night falls and enjoy spotting the colours and lights of the Giant Wheel and the Winter Wonderland Star Flyer across the City in Hyde Park. The hot choctails here offer you dating on a silver platter. Try the ‘Double Choc’ (Courvoisier Exclusif, white chocolate, hot chocolate) which is served topped with cream. Ask for two straws and play Lady and the Tramp meeting in the middle for a marshmallowy first kiss.

The Faults

Booking is essential if you want to be able to put your moves on without worrying about ending up stood at the bar with all the other lastminute.coms. Preparation is the mother of all sexytime.

Sex Factor

4. Given the cosy and alcoholic factors, this has the potential to end VERY well. Winter has never been so sexy.

Paramount, Bloomsbury

3 years ago

The Vibe

Dizzying heights done well.  Paramount is the big brother to the new crew of spring chicken towers popping up around our city’s skyline. It’s wise and knowing, the staff are slick and the drinks are strong.  The 360 degree viewing gallery upstairs seems wonderfully immune to tourists and the restaurant is much more than a room with a view.  City boys sit with dates or mates, groups of women high-flyers shimmy past en route to the bar, and the general atmosphere is one of slightly smug cosiness, at the top of the Centre Point.

The Order

Portions are generous, as are the wine pours. The menu is that sort of modern British blend that allows you to have anything from sea bass with coco beans and samphire, to venison with ‘dehydrated chervil root’. Seasonal changes are inevitable in a place like this that clearly cares about produce but if possible do try the scallops and pork belly starter, and the duck with celeriac puree. You’ll need to save room for cocktails in the bar so go with a glass of the Sancerre followed by one of the Bordeaux reds to see you sophisticatedly through.

The Game

Meet downstairs and ascend the lift together.  If you meet there, you’ll miss sharing the wow factor as you step out of the lift and share the first glimpse of London by night. Arrive when it’s dark or if you can be sure of timings, coinciding with the sunset is never going to be a downer. Candlelight and dark wood make this as easy venue to steer the evening towards an early kiss so don’t be shy and claim the altitude has got you giddy if it all seems too forward. Start and close the night with cocktails, either in the entrance bar or one floor up in the viewing gallery, and a window table whilst dining will more than seal the deal.

The Faults

The bill will mount up, but divisible by levels above ground and the ice shattering views, it’ll be more than worth it.

Sex Factor 4. This place is oozing in it, and it knows it.

Blackfoot, Exmouth Market, Farringdon

3 years ago

The Vibe

Exmouth Market is a foodie date destination and a half.  Caravan, Moro, The Quality Chop House and Medcalf all occupy units here.  The brainchild of Tom Ward (founder of Leon) and Chef Allegra McEvedy, Blackfoot joined the party last year and has proved itself as yet another capable host.  A former pie and mash shop, the original décor has been retained whilst the wooden booths and wall tiling really add to the eccentric charm.  It’s a cosy diner vibe with a killer menu and comes highly recommended for a casual date with someone who has humour and appetite.

The Order

This is pure unadulterated fun, perfect for those among you for whom eating is a seduction in itself.  Ordering a portion of chilli crackling, eagerly attacking your sticky, aromatic ribs (braised with lemongrass, ginger and lime) or unashamedly mopping up the remainder of your pork and clam soup with your toasted ciabatta is exactly the protocol here.  Don’t be afraid to be yourself.  It’s actively encouraged.  Start with the Lomo (air cured loin from pigs fed on goat’s whey in Dorset) or the Trevelez Jamon (aged for 24 months in Spain).  Fill thy boots pig fans.

The wine list is excellent and varied, the drinks are robust with some tasty British ciders on the roster (apple and piggy being such best friends) and every taste is catered for; you can have fizz, a spritzer or a long drink.

The Game

Having recently visited the newly opened Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings just around the corner on Northampton Road, I would suggest meeting there and having a couple of cheeky pre-dinner cocktails.  A short walk around the corner and along the atmospheric market, you’ll soon be greeted by the glowing neon sign declaring PORK.  Bundle inside and nestle into your booth for the evening.  Let the drinks flow and order whatever you fancy from the menu, giving absolutely eff all thought to what is more ladylike or gentlemanly to eat.  If you make the cardinal mistake of turning up wearing white, ask for a bib and roll your sleeves up.  Enjoy.  Depending on how you feel after your meal, you could always hop across the market to have a few final jars at the excellent Café Kick or the Exmouth Arms before stumbling home suitably satisfied and relaxed.

The Faults

Service can be a bit intermittent but on the whole the staff are keen to make recommendations and bring you pig in all its wonderful forms.  It will be easy to eat too much so just bear that in mind when deciding what the postprandial plan is.

Sex Factor – 3.  A down to earth treat.

Boulestin, Mayfair

3 years ago

The Vibe

Charming, or rather mignon, is how I would describe a breakfast date at Boulestin. Were it the summer, some efficient Tindering would ensure I had at least two dates here a week – a Wednesday afternoon office escape over coffee and a light Friday morning breakfast in the scenic courtyard. A black and white uniformed maid from the nearby hotel sweeps the stone floors outside at 9 a.m., allowing you to imagine this is actually breakfast on a minibreak in St Paul De Vence, not a quickie before you head for a day of work in a nearby private bank.

Queen B – an affable nickname for our crush – is a smart and good looking joint with a pinch of character, like a polished Parisian workaholic who has let a few stray hairs blow out in the wind. It’s the sort of dainty place that even the suits and business meetings of Green Park don’t manage to spoil. Pull up a wicker chair, empty a cafetière together and get a slow flirt on as the steam rises over your cup.

The Order

The breakfast menu at Boulestin is expansive. While classics like Eggs Benedict are done simply and very well, it remains the sort of rich dish you’d like to ask to have ‘to go’ and enjoy the rest at your desk as the weekend creeps closer. Sadly that would be crass on a date, so refrain.

Very reasonably priced, the light breakfast menu at £11.50 includes tea or coffee, a fresh juice and a plate of avocado with red pepper flakes on whole wheat or an egg white omelette – just enough to set you up. The trad English breakfast is very tempting but perhaps for a shared work hangover or lazy breakfast, not a delicate date. Marmalade martinis or mimosas are there to be imbibed but a boozy Saturday brunch this ain’t so – unless adept at wagering deals drunk – drink deep of their juice menu.

The Game

St James is a funny old place. For those who work there, faces in the street quickly become recognisable and missed connections are romanticised. This is the sort of date you take that person you always see in the queue at Pret and finally strike up a chat with. Or the friend of a friend who works in the building across and has already been checked out on Facebook. Or perhaps a colleague (naughty!) or an app date. Either way, meet on a Friday morning for just an hour. Talk about plans for the weekend but be open about your Friday evening. Insinuate that a post work pub session or cocktail at Sake No Hana is not an impossibility. Then leave promptly at ten – you have meetings to dominate – and send silly emails throughout the day. “Oh I could eat that all over again- repeat next week?” Or “how about something less virtuous next time – drink?” You get the gist. All going really well sneak out of the office at 4 p.m. and return for a stolen moment over a carafe of Beaujolais and a cheeky almond tart.

The Faults

So far so great. It’s not packed out in the morning but that adds to the charm.

Sex Factor

1. The precursor to a very long affair.

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