As soon as my relationship status on Facebook changed last year, I knew it was time to take part in that classic game of dating, and there are fewer better places to date than in London. You have the biggest choice of dates to pick from, from the casual day-time coffee date, to the cultural museum date, from the drinks date to the dinner date. You’re really never going to struggle to find a wonderful place to meet possibly the love of your life (or just the love of your week…) And with Valentine’s day just two weeks away, love is in the air. And so, because I’m a complete hopeless romantic with unrealistic expectations of love brought on from watching too many Jennifer Anniston movies, and because I’m feeling a bit optimistic with the idea of romance (ish!), here are a few recommendations of some of the best date locations I have found around London…
The Casual Day-Date
A date in the light of day is automatically going to be a little more casual than a date which takes place at night. I’m not sure what it is that makes the day time more relaxing and less formal, but it certainly makes you less inclined to want to sit in a dark cocktail bar drinking alcohol. And so, I believe the best places for day dates are cute little coffee shops or nice casual pubs, with no pretence or pressure attached to them. With this in mind, I have some recommendations for places to go with your date, which are especially nice on warm afternoons or at least when it’s not raining.
If you’re looking for a great place for coffee, head to Notes on St Martin’s Lane – a pretty little coffee shop serving some delicious cups of coffee and pots of tea in a chilled out environment. The latte’s in particular are delicious, and while slightly more expensive than if you were to buy from a generic coffee shop chain such as Starbucks or Caffe Nero which can be found opposite this shop, the extra cost provides you with a much more satisfying experience. You can also purchase a sandwich or panini here if you’re peckish, and if you fancy a casual glass of wine, you can do that here too, as they have a large selection of reds and whites on display. But this little shop doesn’t just sell light lunches, wines and coffees; dotted around the tables you can find a selection of old DVD’s and CD’s available to purchase at low prices – a perfect way to distinguish your dates film and music taste! This cafe is in no way pretentious, and you could spend hours chatting away in here without feeling the pressures which sometimes come with a date.
Alternatively, if you fancy some casual pub lunching, you should definitely head to The Dickins Inn at St Katherine’s Dock just around the corner from Tower Hill. This is my favourite pub in London. To begin with, it’s beautiful, and is situated in a gorgeous setting, overlooking a small marina which in turn overlooks the river. The pub is three stories high, serving different foods on each floor. I can definitely recommend the pizzas, especially the duck and hoisin sauce one. Very nice. As well as this, they serve traditional pub food, along with traditional pub drinks, as you would expect. And before or after you visit this charming venue, there are plenty of options to enjoy the views along the Thames, as there are plenty of footpaths which follow it along, whether you choose to venture further East into Wapping where you will find some lovely parks and a canal, or back towards the city, where the impressive views of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London await. This is one of my favourite parts of London, and on a sunny day, I could sit by the river all day long – and there are normally plenty of ice-cream vendors situated along here ready to offer you a cooling desert should you want one!
The Cultural Date
If you want to do something a bit cultural on your date, maybe impress them with some knowledge or just give an illusion that you are deeper than a puddle, London is full of fantastic museums and galleries that you can visit, and more often than not, their exhibitions are free. This is an obvious ‘cultural date’ option, but it’s good fun. The most impressive of date museums has got to be the British Museum in Bloomsbury. Just walking in to the main concourse will take your breath away a little bit. It’s stunning! This museum hosts the biggest and most comprehensive collection of human history and cultural artifacts in the world, which is quite impressive. Alternatively, a favourite of mine has to be the Science Museum in South Kensington, which has four floors of interactive science experiments and videos to educate you. It’s exciting, because not only can you discover what you would look like as a member of the opposite sex (would your date fancy you if they were gay?) but you can also spend the day dressed as a cockroach and do the guided tour around the museum. I might be the only one who thinks this would be an incredible date, but just imagine scuttling around a museum dressed as a giant bug. I don’t think romance comes in a better form…
If museums aren’t your cup of tea, but you still want to showcase your sophisticated cultural side, why not visit one of the west-end’s theatres. More often than not there will always be tickets left to purchase at the theatre’s box office on the night, and selected theatres keep a small number of tickets reserved to purchase on the day at the low price of £10. The Noel Coward Theatre does this, and is currently showcasing a selection of plays by the Michael Grandage Company which each feature some famous faces, including Dame Judy Dench, Jude Law and David Walliams. For more information or to purchase tickets in advance, visit http://www.michaelgrandagecompany.com/
The Drinks Date
I’ve already done a fair bit of talking about amazing drinking locations in other blog posts, but I suppose there is a difference between great places to drink with friends, and great places to go with a date. The majority of my dates tend to include the consumption of alcohol (lowers those inhibitions) so I probably have more to write about in regards to this type of date. One of my favourite date destinations is probably Gordon’s Wine Bar by Embankment Station. A dark basement bar which serves some delicious wines and food, including cheeses and pies. This is the oldest wine bar in London, founded in 1890, making it a pretty special place to visit. As you make your way down to the cellar, make sure you duck as the ceilings are low, and watch your step as you walk to get to your rickety candlelit table, the ground is uneven and it’s very dark – anonymity is guaranteed! If the sun is out you can also sit outside in Watergate Walk and enjoy watching the world go by. This bar gets very busy very quickly in the evenings, however you can book in advance. Your preparation might impress your date.
If you’re looking for something a bit special, you may wish to treat your date to drinks at Paramount, the 360˚ bar and restaurant at the top of Centre Point on Tottenham Court Road. This bar has views which stretch across London, from the towers of Canary Wharf to the arches of Wembley. You’re guaranteed to wow your date if you take them up to this bar, but drinks are a little on the expensive side, with a good Gin & Tonic setting you back about £11, but you are paying for the view as well as your tipple. You will need to book at least 24 hours in advance to head up to this bar, but once you’re up there, there’s no time limit, and you can head up to the viewing gallery with your drinks too. I don’t think anyone can say that a moonlit view of the whole of London is not a romantic setting.
The Dinner Dates
The dinner date comes with a set of unwritten rules which all should abide by, especially if it’s a first or second date. These rules include never ordering spaghetti or noodles, or any type of food notorious for being tricky or messy to eat. Dribbling down your chin is never attractive. This annoyingly also rules out juicy burgers, ribs, wings and hotdogs. It is best to choose a restaurant which may provide a talking point – a way to ensure you never hit an awkward silence. With this in mind, I have some great recommendations for you which would be perfect for that. The first of these is The Tramshed in Shorditch, a five-minute walk from Old Street Station. This is the latest culinary venture by Mark Hix where steak and chicken is always the order of the day. The menu is simple and tasty, while the decor is bizarre and intriguing. In the centre of the large dining room, you eyes will be drawn to the Cock and Bull installation – a clear glass box raised high above the surrounding tables and chairs, filled with blue liquid and a full-sized cow and cockerel, while at the back of the room, on the wall of the mezzanine, hangs a large canvas of popular Cartoon Network show, Cow & Chicken. There is no doubt that this restaurant specialises in these ingredients, and I would be surprised if you fail to find something to talk about in this fascinating environment, and the thanks for this goes to artist Damien Hurst. After you meal, you can head downstairs to their very own art gallery, with exhibitions that change every 6 weeks.
If this doesn’t grab your fancy, you can venture closer into Central and visit one of my favourite restaurants in town – Inamo St James on lower Regent Street, and Inamo, Soho Wardour Street. These fusion restaurants are pretty special, and are guaranteed to provide some entertainment on your date, as well as several talking points. What makes these restaurants special is the way in which you view and order your food. Guests are seated at interactive tables which can be operated by the swipe of your fingers. The menu is displayed, showing the many choices of small and large dishes, drinks and desserts. Choose what you like and electronically send it through to the kitchen. I can whole-heartedly recommend the vegetarian Red Thai Curry (yes, vegetarian) and if you arrive during their pre-theatre dining period, you could enjoy one of two set menus, which include a main, side, a miso soup and a selection of nibbles including pickled vegetables and edamame beans. Whilst you wait for your food to be cooked and delivered to your table, why not enjoy a game of Battleships with your date? This is one of the games from a small selection that you can play upon the table surface. As well as this, you can look into what you could do after your dinner, as an interactive map gives you suggestions of great bars and clubs to visit in the area. You can even change your table clothe pattern if you fancy a change of scenery.
The breakfast date (the morning after the night before)
I’m not the kind of girl to usually find myself in a position where i’m being treated to a morning after the night before breakfast, but it’s always best to know if you do find yourself in that position, what your options might be. The obvious options are of course your generic coffee chains for an overpriced croissant, or McDonalds for an Egg McMuffin (pure class right there) but sometimes, if your date was worth it, you might want to treat them to something a bit nicer than that.
One of my favourite places for a different kind of breakfast fry-up is The Rocks in Pimlico, which can be found along Vauxhall Bridge Road. This Cypriot cafe serves a mixture of traditional english and interesting mediterranean food and a relatively cheap price. For £6.50 you can get yourself a Full English and a cup of coffee of your choice, and the the same price, you can go a bit exotic and have a traditional Mediterranean breakfast, complete with chorizo sausage, halloumi cheese, mushrooms, sun blush tomatoes and olives. They also serve wraps of the same persuasion, and fresh juices. If you don’t mind pushing the boat out, I would suggest you take a visit to Tom’s Kitchen at Somerset House, the second of Tom Aitkin’s brasseries in London, the other situated in Chelsea, which serve a gorgeous brunch from 12.30am until 3.30pm every Saturday and Sunday. Choose from a delicious selection of fresh pancakes and waffles, eggs of any variety, or enjoy what has been one of my favourite meals in London, the Chicken Liver and Foie Gras parfait served with shallot chutney and brioche. At £13 per portion it is an expensive brunch treat, but the taste will probably be as exciting as the night before.