One of the fun things about dating, other than the excitement of potentially meeting someone who could just be Your Person, is that it’s a great excuse to visit some really great bars in London. Getting to explore somewhere new with someone new is exciting, and if your date turns out to be a bit of a loser, at least you now have a great place to go back to with your pals another time.
I have a few standard venue rules I like to stick to, to ensure a date goes as well as possible in London. They’re pretty simple and relatively logical, and sticking to them could help put you on the road to ever lasting happiness… or at least a second date:
- Pick a venue on neutral territory. If your date invites you to meet at a bar which is located conveniently right next to their flat (and is in no way convenient for you), alarm bells should start blaring; they’re either a lazy toad or want to make sure they get you back to their flat with minimal effort. You can probably expect a not so subtle invitation to check out their vinyl collection or something equally boring or bizarre. None of that, thanks.
- Pick somewhere you know you’ll get a seat. Nothing worse than walking around aimlessly for ages looking for somewhere for you both to sit. Gordon’s Wine Bar, while an amazing location for a date, will usually leave you perched on the edge of someone else’s table while they stare at you begrudgingly, which is not comfortable or conducive to easy chatting. A place you can book is even better!
- Don’t pick a place that blares their music out too loud. Having to shout an anecdote into your date’s ear is not sexy. This rules out most of the London Cocktail Clubs (especially the one at Monument which H and I once left after one drink because we couldn’t hear each other!), and the same goes for places that are packed with loud, screechy punters. If you walk into a bar and spot a hen party or a gaggle of students shotting Sambuca (and by the way, if you’re over 24 you shouldn’t be in places that attract students), turn around and leave immediately.
- Ladies, personally I think you should ALWAYS go dutch on a first date so don’t suggest a bar you know you can’t afford. If you don’t at least offer to pay you are a bad person and that is a fact. If he insists, make sure you pay on the second date or get the round in the next place. Pay while he’s in the loo if you have to.
Follow those pretty simple rules and you should have a decent night if your date isn’t a complete loser of a human being. The following bars all work well within these boundaries and are a few of my personal faves. Hopefully one of these will be your go to the next time you get a match on your app of choice…
D.R.P, Kingly Court
At the beginning of the year, I managed to get myself a membership to Kingly Court’s brand new underground cocktail bar, Disrepute, known in shorthand as D.R.P. It’s a classy 60’s inspired cocktail bar; a beautifully vaulted den of jewel-coloured upholstery, marble floors and polished brass accents with plenty of little nooks perfect for a couple to sit together and make their way through the menu of many a luxury libation.
The cocktail menu is a bit different. Rather than a standard list of drinks with brief ingredients description, instead it is a collection of intriguing short stories. You’re encouraged to make your selection based on emotional instinct, which I think is a wonderful twist and a great talking point for any date. On my first date with H, we both opted for The Welder’s Apprentice, aka T.W.A, aka two rather delicious and smooth Old Fashioned’s. They certainly went down very well, so much so that we ended up enjoying a few more rounds before stumbling upstairs and out into the night. The cocktails aren’t cheap, with each setting you back at least £10 each, but on the other hand, their bottles of wine start at £21, and their beautifully light, pale rosé is gorgeous! This bar is elegant, opulent and chic, and bound to impress on a date.
This Old St based cocktail bar pays homage to the best of Britain’s seasonal produce and ensures not a single leaf, peel or seed goes to waste in the process. The decor takes on some Scandi influences, with clean lines, chic angular seating areas, larger tables for groups and intimate booth seating for smaller bookings, making this a spot on date spot.
All ingredients used in the cocktails at Scout – excluding the spirits – are foraged and sourced from the British Isles so you won’t find a drink that includes citrus fruits or any other exotic herbs and spices. Rather you can expect to see a variety of ingredients you might never have heard of. The menu is subject to change as frequently as every week because it’s all dependent on the supply of each ingredient, so it’s difficult to know what you can expect when you visit. It’s all so unusual, you’ll have a lot of fun trying the fun and complex creations with your date. The food is great too, and the plates are small but big enough to ward off any hunger. You can read my full review for DesignMyNight over here.
The Beaufort Bar at The Savoy
If you’re really trying to impress, or you really appreciate an extremely well-made cocktail, the Beaufort Bar in London’s most infamous hotel is utterly sublime. This dark, sultry bar often has a pianist tinkering away at the edge of the room, which allows you to play one of my favourite games: name the song! This venue is all about splendour and decadence, with gold gilding around the walls and theatrical lighting around the art-deco bar.
The cocktails are priced between £16 and £250 (!) so it’s probably not a spot to so go if you’re feeling the pinch, but if you are feeling flush or craving the best Dirty Martini you’ll probably ever have (like the one below which I enjoyed with my pal Adam back at Christmas) then this is the best place to go. The service is exceptional and the bar snacks are quite a delight (the olives, in particular, are dreamy) It’ll certainly be a date to remember and if all goes well, you can return on your anniversary and maybe splurge on a £200 Old Fashioned to celebrate!
The Blind Pig, Poland Street
The menu at this cosy cocktail bar above Jason Atherton’s Social Eating House is inspired by some of the best pieces of children’s literature. From Harry Potter to the classics of Beatrix Potter, and from the Narnia Chronicles all the way down the rabbit hole to Wonderland. I think you can learn a lot about a fella based on the books he reads, so it’s pretty easy to lead the conversation in that direction (not that “so what’s your favourite book?” isn’t an easy question to ask!)
I enjoyed the Hunny Pot when I popped in here one evening last month, which is topped with my favourite gummy sweet of all time, a Percy Pig! This rum based cocktail comes served in a terracotta pot and is sweet with honey, citrus and cider brandy. Very refreshing and extremely fun. The illustrations included in the menu are also gorgeous. There’s a lot to like in this bar, and it has a relaxed atmosphere so it doesn’t feel too intense or pretentious.
A late 'Happy birthday' to the late, great A.A. Milne born 18-01-1882. As a dedication to his work that inspired generations of children and adults, we give you this sneak peak from our new menu launching next week! The 'Hunny pot' Butter washed havana 7 rum, Hive honey mead, Somerset cider brandy, Lemon and orange bitters, garnished with a percy piglet! #yum #itsnotjustanycocktail #cocktail #cocktails #drinks #drink #aamilne #100acrewood #winniethepooh #honey #hunny #imacloud #mymy #itlookslike rain #bar #wednesday #birthday #happybirthday #new #2017
Vagabond, Charlotte Street
Wine is always a good idea on a date. Just ask my friend Milly who has many a success story on this subject. One of the best wine spots (where you can actually book a table) is Vagabond on Charlotte Street (one of my favourite streets in London) where you can spend your evening wine tasting to your budget. With those ever popular Enomatic wine dispensers, you can work your way through the entire wine collection from rosés to dessert wines, and if you want to learn while you drink, there are some handy note cards provided!
Using a top-up card you add whatever amount of credit you feel comfortable with (£20 gets you quite far), place the card in the machine slot and press for a sample, a glass or a bigger glass pour. You know exactly how much you’re spending as you go, and you might discover a new favourite wine, which will give a lot for you to talk about. With delicious cheese and charcuterie available for snacking as you drink, you could easily spend a whole evening in here getting gently pickled with your date.
Obviously, London is filled with amazing bars that lend themselves perfectly to a first date, and if you’ve picked well hopefully the person you’re meeting will have some great spots up their sleeve, too. Luckily the venue is actually the easiest part of a first date. For great tips on how to conduct yourself once you’ve found the best spot, make sure you read Milly’s excellent blog which is literally filled with priceless tips on how to (and how not to) conduct yourself in the persuit of love.