Below and Hidden, Farringdon

2 years ago

The Vibe

Your 1990’s best friend’s parents have given her the garage to use a den, which she decorates herself. She does so on ACID.  There are ashram-esque wall hangings draped on the walls, a small but perfectly formed corner bar area, just enough room for the DJ to set up a modest station and deep buckets filled with ice on each table.  The super fun lighting will make you grin from ear to ear.  Below and Hidden is the perfect little place to know about for after hours canoodling, boogieing and boozing in London.

The Order

Jim Wrigley’s in charge of the drinks and the cocktails here are artfully conceived, lovingly made and best of all – lethal.  The Banktown Special – Venezuelan light rum, fresh lime, raspberry liqueur, honey and cranberry juice – comes highly recommended!  The white rum makes all the difference.  Also noteworthy The Still Life consisting of Polish vodka, aperitif wine, peach liqueur, fresh lemon, apple and pineapple juice.  Fresh and very drinkable.  My date’s favourite cocktail of the evening – a manly one – was the Diamond Daze (100% Agave tequila, Italian and French vermouth, fortified Peruvian wine, and house bitters).  It blew his mind. Snacks from the bar are served until late.

The Game

So, you arranged a quick drink on a Thursday night after work because you just didn’t want to count your chickens with this one.  Whaddya know?  You’re getting on like a house on fire: dinner at Blackfoot went marvelously because he/she is a devoted carnivore, so you’ve kicked things up a gear and taken your date for an elegant nightcap at B and H Buildings; signs are 100% vital.  But, things have gone from flirty to 60 and you’re all out of ideas: so, why not take it downstairs and make hay while the sun shines we say.  Order a bottle of pre-made Diamond Daze, get it on ice, continue your merry flirtation and make sure you finish off with some dancing – just pretend you don’t have an 830 am meeting.

The Faults

It’s not a huge space but this is actually it’s very charm.

Sex Factor

Solid 3 which could easily rise to 4.

Crabbieshack @ The Hat and Tun, Farringdon

3 years ago

The Vibe

The Hat and Tun is a top notch pub even on your average day / date, frequented by a bustling local crowd of design, web and tech geniuses. Unpretentious and cheering, it’s already a regular for many, and within a stone’s throw from Smithfield Market it has of late been proving itself a curious foodie’s haven, giving platforms to rising stars on the London street food scene. Earlier this year, their Morty & Bob’s Grilled Cheese residency pop-up proved an oozy booze-up, and they’ve only gone and done it again with Crabbieshack. Brainchild of former restaurant chef Douglas Robertson-Ritchie and Winner of the London heat at last year’s British Street Food Awards, the giant crab claw décor doesn’t exactly scream romance, but with the bar just a two-step away from the table that could all change.

The Order

An Old Bay battered soft shell crab in a bun with some extras. Maybe two. Be a girl and order salad instead of a bun (salad combinations are in fact pretty extraordinary) at the risk of seeming half-hearted. Menu options include fillings of sea aster and tartare sauce, sweetcorn salsa and lobster mayo, or for the fusion fanatics a sprightly combination of pickled cucumbers, chilli, coriander and wasabi mayo. Next time (and there will be a next time), I’m trying one with nori seaweed, apple, white cabbage, spring onion and Sriracha mayonnaise. At £9.50 a pop (or £7 for the plain jane crab roll), it’s slightly pricier than your average street fare, but you’ll get what you pay for and you won’t have to fight for space on the kerb. If you fancy a bit on the side, those who like their foraged sea vegetables are in luck!

The Game

As much as you’ve come for one reason and one reason alone, resist the urge to jump straight in. If you order your burger straight away, I can pretty much guarantee there will be very little in the way of preamble chat. Have a drink, have two, enjoy your Crabbieshack stack. Discuss. Repeat. And don’t forget, this is your chance to set the tone – crack open a bottle of champers or settle on a pint.

The Faults

High probability of leaving with lobster sauce on shirt / dress / hair / beard. Although the upside to this is, of course: if your date can laugh and forgive you for your faults then you’ll know they’re probably worth keeping around a bit longer. If you only discover the creamy mess when you look in the mirror at home, you’ll know they’re not to be trusted. Win win.

Sex factor

2.  Hmmm…crabs and pickled cucumber. Fun and scrumptious, yes. Sexy, not necessarily (though we know it takes all sorts).

Crabbieshack is at The Hat and Tun for just three nights, 13 – 15 May.  See you there.

crabbieshack_opt

Polpo, Smithfields

5 years ago

The Vibe

Picking Polpo for a date invites a nauseating question: Oh, but which one? Just chill your lima beans. Whether Soho, Smithfield or Covent Garden, it’s going to be a similar experience: small plates of Italian food to share, tasty wines in little beakers and a simple Venetian setting (wooden tables, chipped paint, rustic as a spruced up wine cellar). Plus with restaurateur Russell Norman behind it, the genius fortysomething Londoner who gave us haute-sliders at Spuntino and a taste of the New York Jewish deli with Mishkins, dating here is an inevitability, whether now or further down the line.

Polpo is as hip as King Charles (well, not quite), the sort of place you can’t reserve but can, à la New York, get yourself down on a list for a table, nursing a Campari at the bar while you wait. Lighting-wise, this place is spot on for a date. Food-wise, who doesn’t like a sharing plate (ahem, cicheti)? Described by some as a humble eatery, it’s more like an aristocratic Duke masquerading as a civilian. A little less smudge on the white walls and I would have been convinced. Nevertheless, I challenge anyone not to find this a foolproof date spot. The exceptional food is just a bonus.

The Order

Just a morsel here and a morsel there. But if you want to have a hope in hell of being full, add on some pizzette (small pizzas) and a basket of focaccia to bulk it up. Start with a Campari spritz or a Negroni, then move onto wine. Menu highlights include the anchovy and chickpea crostini, the sliced steak with porcini cream and the fritto misto. For afters, fuse coffee and dessert with an affogato al caffè, ice cream floating in espresso.

The Game

Play it casual, play it cool. Send a lunchtime email to your beloved suggesting ‘an early bite at a cute place you know in town’. The inconvenience of not being able to reserve can be counteracted by an early arrival, say 6.30pm at the bar. Nurse your drinks while you wait for the table and politely decline the invitation to eat at the bar; it is neither comfortable nor wide enough for everything you plan on ordering. When seated, keep your concentration on your date, merely glancing at the menu and fondling it every now and again. As I said, it doesn’t really matter what you order, it’s all good, so choose a dish from each category (pizzette, chichetti, meatballs, meat, veg, fish). Rather than imposing the formality of a bottle on the sequence of events, order your wine in rounds. Drag it out for three hours if you can, conversation moving quickly from the trivial to the existential, locking eyes and later stroking hands over the petite tables. If you can, stay till asked to leave and then emerge onto the cobbled streets to kiss against the cool walls until shooed away. Then trip back to theirs.

The Faults

Everyone knows Polpo. It’s great, but you’re playing it safe.

Sex Factor

4. You won’t be too full but you may be too drunk.

 

[Image courtesy of Paul Winch-Furness.]

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