Bunga Bunga

1 year ago

The Vibe
Bigger and bolder than the original, Bunga Bunga in Covent Garden lives up to its Berlusconi-inspired name. The crowd is beautiful, rowdy and come prepared for a riotous time. The main venue is grand and Vegas-esque, featuring marble interiors and a speedboat fashioned into a table (complete with orange life jackets – of course). Staff are outlandish, yet charming, and spend the night encouraging all sorts of “Italian” mayhem. Expect plenty of booze, fun and a dash of debauchery.

The Order
An Italian sharing feast like no other! Tuck into mouth-watering metre-long pizzas, authentic Italian antipasti and a delicious drunken tiramisu. Pair your meal with a quirky cocktail from the bar by picking your favourite Italian icon, shaped in the heads of ‘The Godfather’, ‘Balotelli’ and more! Even better, you can order a ‘David is Goliath’ sharer cocktail served in a life-sized chiselled replica of Michelangelo’s David, complete with a very surprising tap …

The Game
One for the fun seekers. Meet in BungaTini, the Italian bar upstairs, for a delicious pre-cocktail to start your evening. When ready to move on you’ll be led through the meat locker at the back of the restaurant and enter an immersive world of Burlesque, Broadway or Variety – depending on which day of the week you visit. Watch the night unfold around you, join in if you wish and bond with your date over a sweet rendition on Bunga-oke! By the end of the night your inhibitions will have been truly lost, take advantage and stay out in West London until the early morning.

The Faults
Not one for the introverts. Bunga Bunga is a night of themed fun and a very bold first date choice.

Sex Factor
4.


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Sticks ‘n’ Sushi, Covent Garden

4 years ago

The Vibe

Scandinavian hey? Well congratulations Sticks ‘n’ Sushi for branching out from all of your bare-wood, bright-light minimalist compatriots. After topping the Japanese cuisine market back in Denmark, Sticks ‘n’ Sushi turn their sights from the Danes to Denmark Street, with this recent opening in Covent Garden adding to their other London outpost in Wimbledon.

This place is sexy – sleek black lacquered design makes you feel as though you’ve tumbled down the stairs at Hakkasan. The lighting is date-perfect dim, service is slick and the food is perfect for sharing and caring.

The Order

Never have I seen quite so many menus in a restaurant. They come as a sort of overwhelming collection of anthologies for you to sift through. Reading these will break up crucial conversation time so opt for the following (or ask your waiter to choose for you and send out a selection): Beef Tataki and a bowl of grilled edamame to start, Skewers of either black miso cod, salmon or asparagus wrapped in bacon. A half order of the Maki Deluxe sushi platter.

The Game

You’ve got to love a double layered restaurant – for first dates, opt for downstairs where you’ll perch prettily on high stools while watching the kitchen and sushi chefs doing their thing. If icebreakers aren’t needed, go upstairs at the back where it’s more intimate. Start with a “Kiruyi Delight” cocktail each (elderflower and sake, topped with Prosecco), then order a bottle of white. After hours…. you’re in Covent Garden: if things are hotting up and you feel like letting your hair down, head to the London Cocktail Club. Looking to get fun and funky? You’ll find the Earlham Street Clubhouse close by.

The Faults

It’s pricey, like most good sushi in London.

Sex Factor

4. Starting to smooch whilst still at the table wouldn’t be overly surprising.

Augustus Harris, Covent Garden

4 years ago

The Vibe

Augustus Harris offers cichetti, crostini and spritz in a Ventian bàcari replanted in Covent Garden. So far so sophisticated, but what’s cicchetti, what’s bàcari, and what’s it doing in Covent Garden, you fellow ignoramuses may well ask? Carbs and cocktails imbued with romance and taste, it turns out, and much of them.

In a sympathetically lit, subterranean cavern, wavy-haired blondes in Ralph Lauren pullovers bray good-humouredly with gilded girls of an Italian hue. But this is Covent Garden, not Chelsea. There are no snobs. Everyone’s welcome and anyone would fit in, although, for the moment, it appears that only those in the loop know it’s there. And long may it last, for Augustus Harris is rather small and, more to the point, too good to share. Even on a Wednesday night, tables are cluttered with people swapping tales of their yoga and polo regime.

In keeping with the Italian, family-run feel, to my left the owner was holding court with some friends. Charles McDermott fled a job in finance some years ago to move to New York and learn to cook, returning to start up Augustus Harris, inspired by a university year abroad in Italy. He is toff’s totty with the transatlantic drawl of someone well-holidayed and full of tales as an upstart start-up on the London restaurant scene. Estate agents failed to return his calls when he sought a letting; others doubted that England’s small-minded inhabitants would respond well to foreign words etched onto the windows. He seems to have followed his instincts with some tenacity: speakers pump out a soulful soundtrack to his ‘80s childhood and ‘90s youth, all Men at Work, Boyz II Men, and in spite of a window dressing advertising ‘alimentari’ he seems to have no shortage of custom.

The Order

Stracchiatella, if nothing else. This bowl of cool buffalo milk mozzarella, served with warm rosemary focaccia, is the perfect dish. Like the cheese, cocktails are as smooth and fragrant as can be. Pepper vodka and basil (the ‘Basilico’), gin and rosemary (‘Rosmarino’), Campari and Aperol spritzes are all reasonably priced by London standards at £8 each. Order a baguette’s worth of crostini, each heaped with an imaginative topping, like mackerel with pickled red onion or gorgonzola with pear, grapes and honey. The Tiramisu hits you in the back of the throat

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with its cocoa dusting leaving you coughing and spluttering, but who cares? You’ll die happy having tasted it.

The Game

The place could overwhelm a yet-to-be-convinced first encounter with its romance – leave this to date two or three; or ask for seats at the ground-floor bar rather than venturing into the subterranean cavern.

The Faults

It only stays open till 11pm. Well-brought up boys and new kids on the block, they don’t want to irritate the neighbours – not for now at least, they may succumb to pressure from happy customers.

Sex Factor

5. The loos are unisex, tasteful, spacious…

London Cocktail Club, Covent Garden

5 years ago

The Vibe

You enjoying your drink, baby?‘, says the frankly bizarre waitress as she deposits four happy hour cocktails on your table. Drinks deals may not be the chicest start to a date but they do guarantee a degree of fun, whether drinking to toast your partner or obscure them. London Cocktail Club strikes just the right balance between cheesy and cool; it’s a dark basement bar, where familiar strains of speakeasy chic are juxtaposed with pirate touches and a lick of vintage. I’m talking velvet skull wallpaper and brightly painted tattoos on the walls, nostalgic menus printed on video tapes, big old bowls of rum cocktails and either a Tarantino or Disney soundtrack. This place has a sense of humour and, most importantly, will chill a date right out. The drinks come in twos – a little too much ice, a little too much fruit -and come thick and fast, promising to deliver some, metaphorical and literal, bang for your buck. On weekends it’s pretty popular, so book in advance. But on a Tuesday or Wednesday, go around 6pm and try and grab one of the corner tables in the back. Since the staff are so hands on and hyped, it keeps you at a safe distance and will also let you smooch to your heart’s content.

The Order

At £7.50 a pair you can drink your fill of the ‘Club 18-30’ list: Mojitos, Hurricanes, Bellinis and Brambles. Oh it’s classy. Their forte is rum so ask for the bartender’s finest Captain Morgan concoction or step up to the £100 dram in a silver cup with your name engraved. At 70ml a measure, this is excess at its tackiest. But if you do want to swank it up a touch there’s the ‘Continental’ list, for those who shun sugary drinks in favour of slick Sours. Like any playful bar worth its salt, there are punch bowls for 2 to share, and rum buckets for 7 if you’re feeling stupid. There’s also food to line the stomach, but mostly of the hot dog/cheese/chip variety so skip that and maybe wander elsewhere later. Just so you time this right, happy hour is 5pm-7pm Tuesday to Saturday and all night on Monday. Start the week badly, please.

The Game

As woman-loving Charles Bukowski said, ‘if nothing happens, you drink to make something happen‘. Apply this to your date. Meet, sit, order and wait patiently. There are two possible outcomes. You drink ever more quickly to assuage the boredom and soon find a happy place where you are purely intent on amusing yourself. They sense your sarcasm and respond in kind, leading into a evening of over-the-line teasing, a tacit agreement that you are badly matched and a very drunken kiss to confirm this fact. Or, a couple of drinks down you start enjoying yourself. They have livened up and you’re being forced to rethink your initial judgement. You quickly chalk down the lacklustre opening chat for nerves and start to pay more attention, marvelling at the newfound momentum to their stories and swooning at the racy glaze over their eyes. Happy hour comes and goes. You move onto the posh cocktail list and make a pact with yourself to imbibe till the moment you kiss. It happens. You fumble in the dark for hours and are spat back onto the street at an ungodly hour. You should not, must not go back to theirs, but the likelihood is that the homing device that usually returns you safely to bed has been deactivated by booze and you’re now going where they’re going.

The Faults

Very Central London.

Sex Factor

5. You’ll get more ass than a toilet seat.

Notes, Covent Garden

5 years ago

The Vibe

‘Say, how about that coffee?’, says the handsome Yank to his co-worker on the corner of 51st and 6th. She blushes and momentarily wonders whether it’s right to fraternise with a colleague but quickly acquiesces and ends up in love.

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Oh the precious coffee date, loaded with so much more meaning and hope than a lary catcall to the pub. But Brits are perhaps not yet convinced of the merits of a boozeless date and so compromise with wonders like Notes. Enter the coffee shop/bar hybrid, a place that is 80% virtuous, with its freshly ground beans, homemade sandwiches, cakes and elderflower pressés, and 20% feisty, with its reasonably priced and delicious wines to take away or drink on the premises. This place is softly industrial and woody, perfect for a late afternoon coffee date that loses its resolve and turns boozy around 6pm. Perch on the high chairs at the front or slouch down at the tables in the back. The brainchild of twentysomething Rob Robinson – who started out in the biz serving coffee from a van in Paris – and Fabio Ferreira, Alan and Marion Goulden, Notes has multiplied into two shops and four carts. Visit the shop at night and the cart the morning after.

The Order

Skinny flat white, half-caf, make it a large. And the scrumptious tart, perhaps with the cheese and charcuterie on the side. Plus one of those pastry things; yes, you’re right, the brownie does look good. And wine, you say? Well, two glasses of red if you insist. Better make that a bottle to go, as well.

The Game

Masquerade under the notion that this is a coffee between friends; they need not even know it’s a date. This way you’re at ease and can chat through choice topics that demonstrate your intellect, caustic wit and adorable smile. Feel free to mention the hordes of suitors after you, an innocent enough comment in this set-up. Dig down deep and find out about them, whilst coyly blowing the steam off your cappuccino and asking enthusiastically if that really was the way it played out on their trip to the Serengeti. This act will last an hour, 90 minutes tops. Then, as it cools outside and the sun starts to set, suggest a little glass of wine and a bottling of sparkling water to accompany. Drink the two simultaneously and then go for one more round. Exit once the evening has fully arrived, with a light head but a clear conscience. Then walk towards the river and, once you find it, do your worst.

The Faults

Not a darn thing, it’s simply charming. Perhaps it could push its opening hours to midnight?

Sex Factor

1. This is more of a slow set-up.

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