Andina, Shoreditch

3 years ago

The Vibe

You can’t miss it. Facing ever up-and-coming Shoreditch High Street, Andina is perched amongst the cool cats and funky hats crowd. It’s laid-back here – the bartender sports a dashing moustache whilst mixing up boozy delights to a heavy

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Latin salsa. The walls are lined with colourful South American vinyl records and wooden shelves hold up jars full of exotic Andean ingredients.

It’s midweek and packed to the hilt. Bars both upstairs and downstairs accommodate the easy-going, whilst others sit at simple wooden tables and chairs adorned with a single tea tree candle, relaxing into the Peruvian climate. A rustic and unpretentious interior, Andina’s priority is to fill you with punchy Pisco Sours and the soul food of the Andes.

The Order

The menu is made for sharing, so start with a selection of street and ceviche dishes. The colourful Tiger’s Milk Trio offers three tasters of ceviche creatively served in shot glasses and accompanied with cancha (crunchy Peruvian corn) – swap them around, taking dainty sips whilst fishing out the occasional scallop, and allow the fragrant and spicy marinade to give you a kick. The Res (thin slices of beef) is served with figs (the sexiest fruit, according to D.H.Lawrence), and dissolves under the fork. Order a dish of dangerously moreish quinoa croquetas – in fact, order two.

The Lamb Grill is a tango on the tongue, accompanied by plump earthy kernels of choclo corn and a zingy lime vinaigrette. Set the tender meat off against a bottle of smooth and fruity Argentinean Malbec chosen from Andina’s impressive and reasonably priced wine list.

For dessert, the pumpkin donuts with vanilla ice cream are the way to go out on a high. Presented in a large wooden boat, which could have been drifting down Lake Titicaca before finding a calling as a donut vessel, this imaginative dessert comes with purple maize syrup and chocolate fudge dipping sauce for you to play with.

The Game

Meet at Shoreditch Overground and head straight to Andina. You’ll probably have a wait before you get to your table so order a couple of strong Pisco Sours and nurse them lovingly whilst you nurse each other. When seated, go on to wine and water so as not to entirely lose your sense of self – Pisco, or aguardiente (firewater) as the Latin Americans say, can do that to you. Warm staff are ready with excellent recommendations, so graciously accept whatever they offer and concentrate on the fine wine and exquisite company.

How you wish to orchestrate the rest of the evening thereafter is up to you. Quaintly named and domestically dressed, The Owl and Pussycat resides further into Redchurch Street if you fancy an intimate nightcap. Or, if you’d rather mix the pace up a bit, there’s always Lounge Lover round back on Whitby Street, waiting to make a film scene out of you.

The Faults

The waiting area is a dimly lit corridor with limited seating – not the best way to start romancing. But once in, it’s hard to fault.

Sex Factor

Steady 3. After a couple of Pisco Sours, you make your own luck.

The Lido Cafe, Brixton

4 years ago

The Vibe

Since David Hockney, we all know that swimming pools are beautiful and mysterious objects, rectangles of liquid, choppy troughs of sky-coloured ground. Brockwell Lido is one of London’s finest. The red-brick quadrangle around it looks like a pavilion and, on a summer’s evening, the sinking sun angles in over the treetops of the surrounding park. And guess what, callooh callay, there’s a cafe, too. The indoors bit conforms to expectations of what a swimming pool cafe would be like, with a vague nauticality and perhaps, whether I remember accurately or not, a jaunty mural of a dolphin, but you rush through there and sit in an area inside the Lido Cafe’s walls to watch the now-smooth water darken. When I was there, some ducks came in to land just before sunset, their shadows trembling on the ultramarine, and we watched them as we ate. There are maybe six or seven outside tables; everyone is young and/or attractive and seems to be murmuring pleasantries. It feels further out of London’s jangling even than the top of Parliament Hill.

The Order

Now, I’ve been to a lot of swimming pools in my time and never have I enjoyed anything in the concomitant eateries other than pommes frites with ketchup. At best a burnt and frozen pattie to which little has been done; at worst, egg mayonnaise. Nor did I expect this to be in its menu a restaurant rather than the titular cafe. I’d anticipated cheerful lasagne and perhaps a stuffed pepper. But no, not at all, the food here, much to my delight, is really fucking good. It’s delicate and summery, a huge step up in culinary nous from the mid-range London menu’s tendency to ask whether you wouldn’t like hand-cut chips with that. It’s different every month, so you’ll have to see, but I had some charcuterie, a green gazpacho, a mullet fillet with English ‘Nduja on potato hash and some baked aubergines stuffed with bulgur wheat and other tasty things. Also a pistachio tart. And some cheese. But forget about the cheese; the accompanying biscuits are rubbish. Everything else is a massive win. Also, since the dishes are light, the wine will probably go to your swim-cleared head. Which is nice when it’s summer and you’re outside.

The Game

Take your date from the sweaty fug of office and underground and leap straight into the Lido’s cleanness. It’s unheated, so will wash a day of working for the man off you as you break the surface. Swim some backcrawl and watch the big planes passing overhead like the bellies of sharks. Do some lengths, don’t show off, and emerge pink and invigorated to towel yourself in the sunshine. Well-being, shmell-being, you also get a glimpse at your partner’s goods. Remember when jumping out to pluck your cossie from your arse-crack. But trunk-malfunctions aside, at this point you should feel as good as new-born into the evening, released by the power of water from the cloying claustrophobia of city life, fresh, naked, honest and open to experience. If you want to make someone feel the sweet anticipatory melancholy of being young, and seek solace in your arms, take them swimming here. But be careful, get it too right and you’ll be out of the dating game for good.

The Faults

Brixton is pretty far and Brockwell is pretty far from the tube. Also, you will probably both feel too clean to want to get nasty.

Sex Factor

3.

 

Apero, South Kensington

4 years ago

The Vibe

Pushing through the tourists in South Kensington can bring out a very edgy side in you, mumbling things like oh yes that really is the best place to take a picture as you fight out of the underground and seek unpolluted pastures. Whilst it may seem silly to recommend visiting a hotel in this area for a date – there is, after all, a glut of posho pubs that make for sceneic summer dating – there’s something terribly calming about the Apero restaurant in the basement of the Ampersand Hotel. If you can suspend disbelief as you go through the grand entrance of the 5 star boutique hotel, once you make it to the charming restaurant you’ll be relieved to find something a little less stuffy, a lot more cute. Apero is unlikely to be full to the brim or particularly loud, but it is very pleasing on the eye (uber minimalist, comfortable leather banquettes, hanging lamps, metal studded wooden tables, turquoise touches, bowls of lemons) and a lovely spot for an intimate Sunday brunch.  When entering the restaurant head for the tables on your immediate left, a separate bit that they tend to sit couples in – families will sprawl around the main room. And what of the people? An attractive early thirties couple sip on chilled white wine and feast on brunch classics while the dapper gent flicks through his iPad (Forbes Online?) and his lovely companion picks up and puts down a slim penguin classic. Charming.

The Order

Someone recently told me that juice and coffee didn’t mix, which is a shame for the breakfast routine, but crisp wine and Americanos really do. Ordering a brunch cocktail here would seem a little superfluous – a Bloody Mary is permissible but a Mimosa has a bit too much pesssaz and occasion for the calm little restaurant. The menu is not too adventurous, but appeals to both the very hungry and the very healthy. Avocado on sourdough? Tick. Eggs Benedict? Of course. Sides to share? Buttery mushrooms and a fluffy muffin please. No fuss, no surprises, and mostly under £10.

The Game

As Usher said, I just wanna take it nice and slow (damn gurl). You brought your date here because you wanted to make the most of your Sunday together and this area yields myriad possibilities. This is just the slow warm up, a long breakfast to digest both Friday and Saturday nights’ events and show them that (having already demonstrated your moves and drinking capabilities) you can be a steady and familiar presence to chill with. Although it won’t seem like all that much when you enter, I promise you you’ll stay in there for a minimum of 2 hours, long after the food has come and gone. There’s no pushing from the waiters – in fact, you’re lucky if you get more than a few minutes of face time – so you avoid the cloying interjections of a formal dining process (oh no really I’ m fine for water/wine/bread). When the trickle of conversation comes to a natural end, suggest you gather your things. One of you efficiently took care of the bill while the other was in the bathroom so your exit is seamless. Then either wander to the Natural History Museum or to the Angelsea Arms to sit outside and immerse yourself in a frightfully jolly West London crowd.

The Faults

You’ll need to get over the fact it’s in a hotel. It’s not that buzzy.

Sex Factor

2. It’s a little early to sneak back into bed and there’s a lot more exploring to be done. Then again, if you live nearby, I don’t see why not.

Mari Vanna, Knightsbridge

4 years ago

The Vibe

There are very few Russian restaurants in London. That’s unless you count the atrocities owned by Russians but serving European/Pan-Asian food at skyscraper prices (you know who you are). But to find a Russian restaurant in a swanky area that manages to avoid shiny tack, be true to its native cuisine, and win plaudits, rather than sniggers, for its décor is something to be shouted about. I’ve wanted to go to Mari Vanna for a very long time. Not because I love Russian food – the thought of pickled fish on a date is off-putting – but because it seemed like a rare gem of a place in an area characterised by showy hotels, like the neighbouring Bulgari.

A little white town house with marble steps and blooming flowerbeds, you push through an old-fashioned door into what could be an eccentric Russian grande dame’s house, which has been turned into a museum of knick-knicks and frivolities after her death.  The dominating embellishments are: white painted wood, chandeliers, French lace fringings, St Petersberg crystal, antique wicker chairs, tapestry carpets, picture frames and flowers in kitsch vases, all enjoyed by an elegant Russian/Georgian clientele. It’s both over-the-top spectacle and cosy living room,  a bit of a dream, for those willing to pay for it.

The Order

This is what you call ‘babuska cooking’, homely and carby fare. Not necessarily the best date food but, if you order wisely, you can mix up Russian staples – meat jelly, aubergine caviar (very good), pickled herring- with conventional and well executed mains, such as an excellent lamb shank, Chilean sea bass and herbed chicken. Excellent they should be at £20 a main, but two courses will leave you satisfied. It’s not a case of drinking vodka by the carafe full here, for that you can go to wet and wild Nikitas in Fulham. Drink wine. Sweet wine lovers, be adventurous and try the Georginan white. Otherwise, the Malbec is perfect, a comforting red for a cosy set-up.

The Game

You better brush yourself up for this one. Only the super rich Russians can treat this place as a home from home, sporting casualwear from Prada and stepping into Lanvin loafers to give their Choos a rest for the night. Everyone else, just go into your wardrobe and pick out something smart and silky, with heels or slick shoes, a very nice bag and a very polished face. Then try and make it look casual. Meet your date on the steps of the restaurant; it’s nice to go in together. When you book, ask if there is a round table going spare so you can sit close together and avoid interview-style dining. Order a cocktail and spend a long time discussing the menu. Swot up beforehand on Russian classics in order to explain to your date what each mystical item is. Then focus on the setting. Talk about that too. You see the thing about this place is, whether you have lots in common or not, there are myriad things to observe until dessert. Two or three drinks down you can finally focus on each other, begin the flirting and, if the spark suddenly emerges, suggest checking out their infamous bathrooms on the way out. Risk a kiss down there and then run out of the place in fits of schoolboy laughter. There’s a positive glut of cabs should you want to escape but if you don’t, head to the Blue Bar at The Berkeley for a nightcap, or dance the night away at the equally kooky Wellington Club opposite.

The Faults

The food is a tad heavy, the prices even more so.

Sex Factor

2. It sure is beautiful but more of a romantic destination than libido-enhancing hotspot. Perhaps one for an anniversary, or a high-maintenance first date.

The Luggage Room, Mayfair

4 years ago

“ He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed like a flower and the incarnation was complete.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The Luggage Room Stairs view

The Vibe

Oh Fitzgerald. With all this noise about the new film, I forgot what a Panty-Dropper your prose could be. If we can leave Baz Luhrmann’s world of high-octane action, big name stars and hip hop tracks for a moment, let’s reconsider the 1920s as a place where the rich, when not flapping around on Egg Island, were hanging around in polished hotels and cutting loose. Theses joints were as wet as the speakeasies, but a little more exclusive.*

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The Luggage Room is not the place to visit in costume after having watched the movie. It is a place to go if you are unaffected by the proliferating prohibition bars in East London and would rather play house in an Art Deco hotel bar in Mayfair, making an elegant nod to the era. Leather banquettes, stiff drinks, polished mahogany, marble floors, luggage studded trimmings, lots of champagne, cobblers and punches. So goddamn classy – with the concurrent price tag of course. And for a date? It offers intimacy, perfect acoustics for whispers and giggles, and a healthy dose of fancy escapism.

The Order

It’s only the best for the lady. Whether supping on the rich hug-in-an-expensive-glass Malbec, going for an ‘heritage’ cocktail or just taking a double shot of Mezcal straight up, you’ll adore the drinks. The Penicillin is fantastic for whiskey lovers – Johnnie Walker, lemon juice, honey, ginger and talisker. The Pisco Sour should be sampled as it’s so en vogue right now (been to Ceviche or Coya?) and an Old Fashioned ordered for style points. The best thing about these sorts of bars- and by ‘sorts’ I mean pricey, old school and residing in hotels- is that the cocktails are punchy, no scrimping on booze. Unless, like my companion, you want to lose all feeling in your legs and trip straight out of there, give up on spirits after two rounds and move on to wine. This is also a kind consideration to your bank balance (only marginally though). Miss out on the bar snacks – the refillable nuts and vegetable crisps are good enough, but the pork pie or anchovies are one to avoid on a date night.

The Game

The game is very much focused around said order. If you get that right, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be pinning them down on the leather couches by the end of the evening. There are darkish corners and the place does not heave with crowds, all the more reason to be inappropriate. One thing I will say is dress the hell up. What’s the point of living the high life if you look like a tramp. Guys, this calls for the slickest of your shirts, a new suit perhaps and some strong cologne. If you want to mack on all night, you had better make sure your face is smooth and your mouth tastes of butterscotch (How? I don’t know). Ladies, resist the call to flapper dress this up, themes spell death to a first date. But do embrace the desire to wear your heels high and your dresses short, with racy lipstick, lots of Coco Mademoiselle and a slinky little shirt draped over your shoulders to feign modesty. Chat, drink, touch, laugh, really stretch this out. And split the bill please, it’s a bitter burden for one person to shoulder. Very hard to leave but it’ll spit you out at 1am, so have that cab ordered.

The Faults

It ain’t cheap and you may be the coolest/youngest cat in there.

Sex Factor

5. You came, you stayed, you drank and spent way to much. I think the effort’s been put in darlin.

*Sooo Interesting: During prohibition, wild columnist Elsa Maxwell held a barn dance party in the Waldorf-Astoria featuring real livestock, fake trees and liquor from a life-size papier mâché cow, “which squirted champagne from one teet and Scotch from another”. Heaven.

Slate, Shoreditch

4 years ago

The Vibe

With some affection and a little annoyance do I confront the deeply unhumble Shoreditch coffee shop. Filling up in Ozone, the Grind and the n-n-nasty Look Mum No Hands I have acquainted myself with the scene and grown accustomed to their ‘like it or lump it’ ways. Industrial chic layouts, arty characters playing with Macbooks, artisan coffee, chilled vibes, got it. Well here comes Slate, a secret I really should have kept a little longer since it’s a welcome enigma on the caffeinated scene. This coffee shop is teeny-tiny, nestled on Curtain Road, very easy to miss. But cutesy cringer it is not. Edgy graffiti on the walls, seriously pumping beats, close together tables, and a passionate proprietor at the helm, this coffee joint has (comparative) balls. A quirky little nook, this is the sort of place for those who consider themselves more Left Bank Parisian than East London trendy. In fact, the eclectic clientele crushed into this space are one of the biggest plus points, from the tattooed Spanish student grabbing a take-away to the solitary Aussie photographer flicking through highbrow picture books. Not to forget the hungover twentysomething couple taking it easy on a Sunday – they get everywhere. This is the sort of box-joint you should claim as your own before the crowds descend, and then return ad infinitum every weekend.

The Order

You’ll be confronted with the biggest goddamn sandwiches this city has seen, made from entire loaves and stuffed to the brim with meats, cheeses and grilled vegetables. However, I think the idea is for them to break you off a piece of that (you said it sister). The sweet treats are swell and the teas and coffees come on black slates accompanied by little glass bottles of milk and small jars for spoons and honey. Adorkable.

The Game

You woke up in East London together and, after tumbling around in bed till noon, you’ve got your hunger on. Suggest a casual wonder down the road to find a flat white and lead them here. Providing you’re still hanging, the sweet beats pumping from the stereos will be a nice reminder of last night’s jolly at Plastic People and a welcome contrast to the chilled coffee joints you’d virtuously brunch in. You already picked up the papers on your way so divide the supplements accordingly and hold on to these props to fill gaps in conversation. Start with coffees and copious amounts of water, then share some sandwiches and start to feel more human. Once the eating phase is over, take a break from chatter and comfortable silence it out for the next 30 mins, regurgitating the odd line from an interesting article, exchanging looks when new and curious characters enter. As the Sunday fear starts to descend at 4pm or 5pm wrap things up there, stop off at the gritty Roadtrip Bar for a final dirty whiskey, lead them to Old Street station, kiss the heck out of them and walk away.

The Faults

Nothing. Until the crowds descend.

Sex Factor

1. Already happened. This is where you see how comfortable you can be, and how far it could go.

The Rooftop Cafe, The Exchange

4 years ago

The Vibe

The latest in altitude dining, the Rooftop Cafe’s minimalist approach to food and wine combined with a 360° view of London from the south of the river, make it a memorable date. The fact that it lives in a start-up incubator space makes it a bit cooler too. It’s not as high or flash as the Heron Tower’s restaurants but much more individual. It is a canteen by day and only serves dinner twice a week, which gives it a relaxed but unique feel. Given that this place is pretty new, it’s unlikely your date will have been before. Get in there before it becomes a standard stop on the well-trodden gastronomy tour of London Bridge.

The Order

No way of knowing till you get there. Four starters, five mains and four puddings – the modern menu from Australian chef Magnus Reid changes daily. Keep an eye out for the razor clams. Start and finish with Prosecco.

The Game

Don’t tell your date where you’re going – just arrange to meet at the bottom of the Shard. Ring the buzzer at the Exchange, an unassuming office block. The lift can be a bit of a buzzkill – there was a bucket of dirty, soapy water when we went up – all the better for the element of contrast when you actually get to the top. Your reservation should be for one of the tables on the left as you walk in, by the window. In between courses, suggest checking out the view from the terrace – currently empty but for some potted fruit and veg (no doubt organic and obviously seasonal). Enjoy the view of the night skyline including the Shard and use this time to make sure you’re on the same page for after dinner… Gents, put your jacket around her shoulders – a cold summer has some dating benefits. Ladies – this might be a good time to lean in.

Bedales wine bar in Borough market is a good option for a final nightcap.

The Faults

At the moment dinner is served only on Thursdays and Fridays.

Sex Factor

The compact space with its handmade range of furniture and open kitchen is cosy: you’ll be footsy-distance from your date but possibly also the other diners. That said, the opportunity for intra-course canoodling on the terrace bump sex factor score to a 4, reserving the right to a cut if it gets too popular and crowded (if we ever get a summer).

The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town, Shoreditch

4 years ago

The Vibe

On a little street in New York, in a hot dog shop, behind a payphone, there’s a little bar called Please Don’t Tell. It used to be the place to be, mostly because of the convoluted way of finding it: enter the shop, locate the pay phone, pick it up, give a password, and enter through the back wall. However, then Time Out wrote it up and everyone flocked there to see what the fuss was about. Enigma no more. The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town in Spittalfields is up against the same sort of time pressure. Nestled in the Breakfast Club, the bar lies somewhere beneath, with entry granted by requesting to see the Mayor (oh come on) and then being led through a Smeg fridge to a hidden staircase. Gimmicky? Hell yeah, but one can’t help but feel a thrill at the playfulness of it all. Arrive downstairs and it’s much the same speakeasy set-up as most – gratifyingly low lights, small (but high) tables, strong cocktails and finger food. What it thankfully doesn’t have, perhaps due to its city location, is a smattering of media types and frantic in-the-knows. No no, this is more the place for that endearing city character who thinks he/she’s found the coolest bar around and now wants to show his colleagues or date. But the tourists, they are a comin’, so date there now.

The Order

This cocktail bar serves wine, a faux pas these days in joints like this but one that daters will welcome. Unlike other secret bars, the staff are goddamn delightful, no sides of self-importance with the margaritas here. With that in mind, don’t feel the pressure to talk shop with them and display your knowledge of bourbons; neither they nor your date will care. There are no reservations but on a Thursday you can start at the bar and be assured of a table in less than 30 minutes, not bad for these places. After the cocktail, get a bottle of wine and some delicious skin-on or cheesy chips with a triple side of dips to line the stomach.

The Game

This is Tuesday-Thursday dating; it’s perhaps not on-trend enough anymore for a Friday night. Meet after work at Liverpool Street station and head straight to Spittalfields Market. When you get to the Breakfast Club, charmingly ask for the Mayor. The hostess will almost definitely look smug-apologetic at first and mumble something about being ‘at capacity’. Stare blank-faced at her and tell her you’ll wait; she’ll lead you down in five. A little trick for these sorts of places, especially on a date, is to be fazed by nothing. If you must wait, then wait. If it’s full, be nonchalant and then threaten to walk off. Like marketplace bargaining, the old walkaway routine works a charm. Once down there, make sure you point out how ‘fun’ as opposed to ‘cool’ this place it, then tuck into the drinks and keep carb-loading. Push the limits of how long you can stay, feed each other chips, kiss on the lips across the table, order more wine and decide how badly you want to compromise tomorrow (very).

The Faults

Where are the East London trendies?

Sex Factor

2. This place has just the right amount of fun to avoid any awkward date vibes and certainly provides a glut of gimmicks to give your date a story to tell should you fail to provide a better one. But the signs wryly forbidding ‘heavy petting’ can be taken at face value,  both the high stools and the PG-13 atmosphere make this hard.

Cantina Del Ponte, Shad Thames

4 years ago

The Vibe

There are some restaurants that come into their own in the summer. Like the young women of this city they are catalysed by heat and light to get themselves looking more polished, more attractive, more consumable. Enter Cantina Del Ponte, a decent Italian restaurant in winter for post-work city meals, a fantastic restaurant in summer for al fresco dating. Unlike the humble trattoria that speedily improvises at the hint of sunshine, flinging a couple of round steel tables out on the pavement, Cantina builds its offering around a spacious al fresco dining area that sprawls across the scenic walkway by the Thames, deal-closing views of Tower Bridge et al. Cantina is part of the very slick D&D London restaurant brand, which counts Chelsea’s Bluebird and Southbank’s impressive Skylon under its name. With this in mind, wily daters will benefit from the slick marketing campaigns that offer menu deals, happy hours, pasta making classes and opera nights. This is a recommended post-work summer date for the St Paul’s workers or Bermondsey-residing young professionals.

The Order

It’s a tricksy one. Whilst the pasta is truly excellent- specifically the linguine al vongole- going for a lighter option seems more season appropriate. That said, we’re not all carb dodgers here so do the following. Start with the small ravioli with prawns to share, bolster it with a caprese salad and some fresh focaccia. For mains, share the veal chop milanese style, the baby squid starter and a side of green beans (the spinach is laced with garlic). Drink rosé wine by the bottle, nay bucket. Re-adjust sobriety levels with an espresso, then keep going.

The Game

This isn’t a date you had planned for weeks, it’s something you orchestrated two days before. It’s for someone you just started seeing who works nearby, or a last minute meet-up with a fellow professional you found on Lovestruck. Wear a crisp and summery outfit to the office, something that screams purity, athleticism and impeccable summer hygiene (well-aerated white shirts/blouses and accent colours). Meet outside the restaurant and guide them to the railing by the river where you can both gaze out for a moment, marvel at the view and set the tone of romance. Then turn around, introduce yourself to the maître d’ and make sure you’ve been placed outside. If you want to drag this out start with a glass of fizz before moving onto wine. Sit languidly, loosen a button or two in front of them and veto any office talk. This is the time to chat over future holiday plans and reminisce over former stays in Tuscany or the Ardèche. Then, as the booze kicks in and the sun starts to set, loose the whimsical tone and turn the flirt on, otherwise there’s a danger this could get too smultzy, too soon. Move your chair to join them and face the view. Sit in silence for a bit, let the tension build, turn and go in for the kiss. Afterwards go for a river walk, stopping and kissing at intervals, and then deposit them at London Bridge station with a bit of a crush.

The Faults

The inside does not make as effective dating.

Sex Factor

3. Sun and skylines accompanied by wine and rustic food, oh come on.

 

Got a London date suggestion to share? Leave your comments below.

The Hampshire Hog, Hammersmith

4 years ago

The Vibe

Do you remember when the well-to-do residents of Primrose Hill- the celebutantes, models and JPs- were getting their petitions in a twist because a pub called The Engineer was being shut down? This scandal actually hit the papers, as a small enclave of drinkers fought hard for their really rather fabulous gastro pub. But lo, the brains behind The Engineer were not to be defeated and so headed west to leafy Chiswick (ahem, Hammersmith) to spruce up the pub scene. And the result, The Hampshire Hog, a pub that seems too pretty and well thought out for the rather dismal high street it sits on, like a child that dressed a little too well on mufti day and now looks woefully misplaced. Were it not for the bad rep that Hammersmith gets, we’d be dating here every weekend, come rain or shine.

Interiors are a mix of Scando-chic and classic gastro woodiness, meals are wholesome, furnishings are tasteful but eccentric enough to be memorable, the whole damn thing just works. Save a family group too many on weekends, this is just the place to turn a lunch date into a drinking session, without the gritty aftertaste. And the beer garden in the back, well, it’s bucolic, a place to neck your Pimms and rosé in no problem. This pub feels like home – providing home is a place where Eccles cakes are baked and naughty terriers are put out.

The Order

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In East London we snigger at cocktails in jam jars, in West London we appreciate these trendy notes. This pub takes its drinks seriously, with 10 signature cocktails including the Louisina Jam – Southern Comfort, apricot jam, mint and lemon. If you’re on a lunch date, it’s a little punchy to start with the cocktail list, but a Bloody Mary would be passable. This isn’t the place to get too drunk too soon so for the lightweights there’s an excellent Virgin Apple Mojito (although you have to be pretty self-assured to play around with mocktails on a first date). Food-wise, we all know how to order in a gastro: eggs at brunch, red meat at lunch.

The Game

Don’t make the mistake of meeting at Hammersmith Broadway and walking down the high street; it’s a buzz kill. Instead, head to the tucked away Ravenscourt Park station and meander down from there. Like The Engineer, this is a place where you have to kowtow to the staff a bit; there’s a sense (rightly so) that you’re walking into their residence. So throw a beam to the barman when you walk in, ask for (and take) one of his recommendations and hope that they place you somewhere good outside. Since there’s something preppy and cutesy about the place conversation may get a little ‘in ten years I can see some little rascals shouting down my house’. But that’s fine, sometimes. If you start to get tipsy, and the heat of the sun bears down, move inside, pull up a bar stool and stay there till close. Making out would be too much in here but the second you cross the threshold onto the mean streets of Hammersmith heavy pet away.

The Faults

The street doesn’t sell it.

Sex Factor

2. It’s a great day-to-night date. Yes you could choose to pursue the end goal, but you’ll have more fun if you forget about it for now.

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