I have a friend who met a man online who asked her on a date recently. He took her to Pizza Hut. I’m not sure what appalled me more. His amazing lack of judgement or the fact that she stuck it out and enjoyed the all-you-can-eat salad buffet. This isn’t a snobbery towards Pizza Hut mind you. It is just the subject of his affections was clearly not a Pizza Hut girl. She was called Henrietta for Christ’s sake.
Dates are a tricky little bugger. Especially in London when possibilities are endless but nothing quite works. You can overdo it. I once got taken on a date where he’d read up on the best table beforehand to arrive to an empty restaurant and seated on a table halfway up the wall. It was a surreal experience but this effort was wasted on me as I’d have been quite happy with a few drinks in the pub (blind dates need less attention in my humble view). Dates with an ‘activity’ also tend to instil horror in my girlfriends who are expected to get competitive whilst playing virtual golf in Piccadilly Circus alongside hordes of tourists.
The key is let a date show your personality. Don’t pick a venue because you read about the live band via Time Out or because the pub is round the corner from your house. Both look lazy or a little creepy. It’s good to get out of your comfort zone or just book one of your favourite bars or restaurants where you’d meet your friends or take your Mum for a birthday tipple. Here are my suggestions for some fail-safe London date venues to impress in relaxing surroundings:
The Radio Rooftop Bar, The Strand
If you’re meeting in Central London, she might work in the City but live in Fulham. Do not suggest a wine bar in Green Park. Far too boring. Instead, wow her with the pimp view from the Radio Rooftop Bar on the tenth floor of the ME Hotel, found on the Strand. Dress to impress to sashay past the concierge with intent. If you don’t get in, we suggest The Delaunay round the corner. You may need to buy supper for this option. Just drinks here looks a little tight.
The Talented Mr Fox, Soho
IF they’re a little harder to impress (not every girl is wowed by a good view) then head to the Soho backstreets for a trip to the Talented Mr Fox. From the creators of the Whistling Shop, this speakeasy bar has a menu to shock and hipster barmen to make up good eye candy if the date is failing to impress. Bringing back childhood memories (Monster Munch anyone?) you know you’re in for a good time if the object of your desire is adventurous with their cocktail selection. Adventurous with the cocktail list? Adventurous in the bedroom.
The Boundary Rooftop, Shoreditch
Impress with your insider knowledge of one of the best rooftops in London (all weather so don’t worry too much if the sun hasn’t shone on you that day). Conran’s Boundary rooftop is all cosy chairs, stunning views and a tantalisingly good menu. It’s open until 11pm at night so a great spot for a romantic nightcap or if you’re sensible, you’ll get there early and welcome her with a chilled bottle of blush rosé and watch the brownie points rise.
The Book Club, Shoreditch
The failsafe option is to be found in Leonard Street – the Book Club is a great little venue for relaxed drinks in a quirky bar that only East London can do so well. It helps that it has a fantastic conversation starter in the sporadic ping pong tables to jump on if all else is failing. My favourite part? The nibbles are out of this world with homemade pork scratchings and one of the finest scotch egg recipes in London. Not for those trying to appear ladylike throughout but good to line the stomach and all that.
Seven at Brixton, Brixton Market
A good bet for a casual first date in South London is Brixton Market – relaxed, a little alternative and great food so you can drink or eat without reservation in most places meaning flexible options. I love Seven at Brixton – a little tapas restaurant tucked away offering delicious food (great for sharing) and homemade cocktails. Expect the classics but then a few delights in experimental lemon cheesecake martinis. Meaning she can go back to her friends with a better story than “He took me to Bunga Bunga”.
214 Bermondsey, London Bridge
This is a great central location for those flailing weekday dates when you wonder why you agreed to it the first place. Handily on the way home for most, this underground bar specialises in gin and the classics. It’s perfect for those dates where you’re still undecided (first dates here are not ideal as they have rather moody lighting so you may never find your date unless you have a sign with you). They even make their own tonic here which is a nice touch.
This is a new welcome addition to West London – Parlour is a one stop shop for any kind of date. The joy being that you can stay for a drink and make your excuses if sparks aren’t flying but if the date progresses then you can appear spontaneous, whip out a cheeky suggestion to Paradise next door to carry on the party. Bands such as The Correspondents and guest DJ’s appear so make sure to check the schedule before you go.
The Waterway, Maida Vale
Head to the canal and the Waterway restaurant for a little frisson of the romantic. You can eat on the terrace (great for people watching) soaking up the waterside rays or just tuck into their fresh Summery menu. Plus they do live performances every Thursday night so if conversation is waning, you can at least watch the band as a good distraction.