Smith and Wollensky, Covent Garden

7 months ago

The Vibe

Clanging forks and the sound of a Central London Sunday brasserie bustling away with Mimosa-soaked friends and smug couples. That’s not what you’ll find walking through the doors of Smith & Wollensky for weekend brunch. Instead, it’s dulcet piano tones as you glide through the room where diners look remarkably relaxed, content, sometimes tipsy but mostly just charmed by the old school vibes of the place. Sharp white-jacketed waiters bring you coffee as you peruse an extensive brunch menu ranging from brunch classics to steaks. A word for the wise, dress for the occasion (crisp, relaxed glam) and make it a Champagne kinda brunch.

The Order

It may take you a good 20 minutes to work through the options so order coffee to get you up to the task. The braised beef hash and poached eggs was rich but delicately portioned so you’re still able to split waffles for dessert. For burger aficionados, the cheeseburger was honestly up there with the best – strong cheddar and juicy patties and yet confusingly light. For dates this is perfect; you can eat well and still feel desirable by the end of it. Before you leave, order a Negroni to share then head towards Somerset House to amble the day away.

The Game

The scene for relaxed romance has already been set. If you booked, make sure you turn up early and beg for a booth. Sitting next to each other is infinitely preferable. Drinking after you’ve eaten is a better idea, it doesn’t feel like the sort of date you booze your way through. Chit chat about your weekend and make it very clear you have nothing else to do after brunch, paving the way for a day of chilled fun. Don’t go straight into the intense grilling , this is the first hour of a longer date so keep it trivial for now.

The Faults

The service is so efficient you might find the meal goes a little too quickly; slow things down by asking for more time.

Sex Factor

2. It’s a Sunday and you’re in your best.

*Special Event*: And for something a little different, on Friday 17th March, they will be celebrating St Patrick’s Day with Jameson cocktails and a big old celebration in the Adelphi Bar from 5.30pm. We’ll be there…More info HERE.

MASH London, Soho

3 years ago

The Vibe

Despite having to bypass two sets of hostesses to descend into an emporium of leather and whiskey, everyone at MASH looks remarkably at ease, happy and unperturbed by price or pomp.  Walking into the bar feels like a paean to Mad Men, corporate huddles waiting for 8 person booths and the odd dater snacking nervously on popcorn and nursing a Star Hill Negroni as they wait for their date.  Originally opened in Copenhagen, MASH is an American steak house with a Danish accent. This might account for the fact that, brashness aside, it makes for an ambient, pleasing experience – masculine US dining with a cosmopolitan relief.

MASH also knows a thing or two about branding – not a seat in the house will escape the deluge of red upholstery, complementing solid wood furniture,  low-lit tables and intimate booths.  Break focus for a moment to look around and you’re as likely to see a table of hedge funders kicking back as you are an A List celeb stopping for photos with a tourist, a blogger and a drunk. Central London, you crack me up.

The Order

Who knew steak was such a complex beast. Choose from a Uruguayan cut, a Danish, an American or the beer-massaged Wagyu beef. Or better still, order 3 steaks to share and spot the difference – from the marbled, fatty American cuts to the tender, sweeter Danish. Starters are good but less necessary (tuna tartar, rich foie gras) – perhaps just share a Caesar salad as you start on the red wine. With your steaks, order a mac and cheese, chilli spiced fries and green beans you’ll forget to touch. Dessert is an afterthought but play with a crème brûlée as you polish things off with a bourbon cocktail.

The Game

On a Wednesday, the vibe is just right, punters buzzing off the fact that this is rather indulgent for mid-week dining. The coat check and myriad hostesses provide a little too much admin to kick start a date so meet by the bar once you’ve nailed the obstacle course.  Gents, wear your best suit and a red dogtooth tie. Ladies, err on the Danish side of fashion and choose minimalist elegance (black cashmere and leather) over secretarial pencil skirts. After drinks by the bar, head to the booth and let the waiters guide you through the wine and steaks. Get into character and turn the chat instantly to love, sex and money. Role play this out, letting the gents dish out the food and pour the wine. Hell, he can even stand when you go to the powder room.  Smile and chat with fellow diners as you wait for your coats upstairs, then spring a last minute visit to Mark’s Bar at HIX for a nightcap and a kiss in the basement.

The Faults

Like most good steak houses it requires a corporate expense account or a healthy attitude to paying for meat.  It’s also a little showy for a first date.

Sex Factor

It’s a solid 5.

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