Hey everyone, I’m still single! Yay. But don’t worry… as you probably know my love affair with food has continued nicely over the past year since my last dating post, so i’m not completely alone. Yes, the only spooning I have been doing is spooning ice cream out of it’s container, but i’m actually okay with that.

So it’s coming up to that time of year again. Valentines Day. Love it or hate it, no matter how hard you try, you can’t avoid it. It is everywhere. It literally looks like cupid has thrown up all over London. And so you might as well just embrace it. And even when Valentines is over, there’s no need to rid yourself of romance. Dating in London is actually pretty fun, and there are plenty of great places to go and things to do. And here are my own personal suggestions for you to try out, if you’re stuck for ways to impress your date. Just don’t judge me on my own dating success rates…

The “Try To Demonstrate Self Restraint” Date…

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Each branch of this great tapas restaurant is small and intimate and by extension, a great date venue for those looking for something relaxed but a bit different. Pix Pinxtos is all about self service tapas. Each small dish, much like a  bar snack, is held together by a skewer and served in a shot glass, ramekin dish, or on crusty bread. There’s no menu or ordering involved – just grab a plate and help yourself to the dishes displayed across the bar. All pintxos are priced at either £1.95 (indicated by a shorter skewer) or £2.95 (for a longer one). They expect you to be honest when paying for you meal, as you must present each of your used skewers to the cashier when you leave in order for them to calculate your bill. It can get quite expensive very quickly without you realising, as the temptation to keep returning to the buffet style bar and stocking up your plate with fantastic snacks is quite huge. My favourites of the ever-changing selection of dishes has to be the Seared Tuna Pipperade on Crusty Bread, the Honey Glazed Cod Fritters, the Chilli Chicken Kebab with Mint and Coriander Yoghurt and the Marinated Fig & Goats Cheese on Toasted Croute. And when it comes to their small sweet dishes, I have returned to the bar time and time again to enjoy their fantastic Churros with Chocolate Sauce, and the Espresso Chocolate Mousse!

The “Lets Defy Social Conventions” Date…

IMG_5542Not many people can say they have tried traditional Ethiopian food, so Merkato on the Caladonian Road is a great option if you want to treat your date to something a bit different, and have something to talk about throughout! Those who have tried it will know it’s quite an interesting experience, and unlike anything you will probably ever have had before. Ethiopian cuisine traditionally consists of vegetable and spicy meat dishes often in the form of a stew like curry, and is served within a large sour dough flatbread (called an injera) which looks a lot like a spongy pancake. This is then all eaten with your hands by tearing up the Injera and picking up the curry, essentually using it as a utensil to scoop into your mouth. Very messy, but there’s something about it that seems so right!

Dishes I suggest you try are Doro Wot, a national dish of chicken stewed in red pepper sauce, Asa Tibs, Pan fried crisp fish served with seasonal salad, and Tire Siga, high quality raw beef considered a delicacy (very much like Steak Tartare and something I would definitely recommend at least trying – it’s not for everyone, but I liked it!) A lot of the dishes are quite spicy, so if you’re not a fan of spice, it’s best to check with your server before you order – you don’t want to go all ‘Along Came Polly’, do you! This restaurant offers a Tastecard discount of 50% so if you’re not looking to spend too much on your date (but you are willing to eat with your hands in front of them) this is the place to go.

The “Up The Shard Innuendo” Date…

577962_10151858648695549_275257471_nThe view is the thing. Why else would you visit London’s tallest building? Well, let me tell you why. Because it will impress the hell out of your date. My best friend treated me to a visit to The Shard for my 24th Birthday, something i’ve been waiting to do since the foundations were laid three years ago. Rather than going to the viewing gallery, a view that will set you back £25 and includes nothing but the view, he treated me to a drink in the Aqua Shard bar that has tables looking over towards Tower Hill and the City on the 32nd floor… the same height as Paramount at Centre Point. While my visit wasn’t in a romantic capacity, I do remember thinking it would be a fab date location, and would probably steer a date in the right direction to get a cheeky snog at the end of the night, as long as they avoided any jokes about taking me ‘up the shard’… But anyway, needless to say, I was impressed, and it was an amazing birthday treat, and if you haven’t been up there yet yourself, you’ll definitely enjoy it too! Win/win situation! The price isn’t as expensive as you might think, but still expect to shell out at least £20 for two drinks.

The “When You Really Like Them” Date…

One of London’s oldest and most famous restaurants positioned just off of St Martins Lane, The Ivy is the place to go if you want to catch a glimpse of a glamorous celebrity indulging in some high quality fine dining – a good place to come if you want to pretend to be someone a bit famous for the night! The facade of this restaurant reminds me of a Tiffany Lamp. It is glamorous, elegant and yet understated and not imposing. That’s probably the best way to summarise the vibe of this restaurant.

It is by no means cheap to dine here, so maybe this is where to come if you want to treat someone who you already think is quite special… a 7th date maybe? I think the £16.75 Seared Foie Gras with caramelised chicory tart & sour cherries might just be one of the best dishes i’ve ever had in London, and in my opinion is the best way to start a meal here. I would then recommend carrying it on with the main course sized Steak Tartare, priced at £20.50 (see what I mean about saving this for someone you really like?!) and for a simple and yet luxurious dessert you should definitely opt for a plate of Scandinavian Iced Berries with a White Chocolate sauce. It sounds simple, and maybe it is, but the combination of the sweet, tart berries and the creamy chocolate sauce (which is so light, it would take a lot of it to become too sickly to enjoy) works so well, it’s almost a stroke of gastronomic genius!

The “Guaranteed To End Up On Your Back” Date…

For a date with a difference, you might want to consider taking a trip to the Renaissance Rooms Rolla Disco309001_10150379036640549_1084742641_n in Vauxhall, where from Thursday to Saturday you can enjoy a disco on wheels within two skating arenas, which hosts four fully licensed bars and all the best disco hits, all from just £10 each. And that includes your skates and all safety gear too. You’re bound to end up on the floor at some point, if not from your own lack of balance, it will be from someone else’s (I was wiped out by someone with two left skates and no brakes!) and it is a guarantee that your moves will be put to shame by some of the regulars who will whizz past you at ridiculous speeds backwards on one foot – but if anything, this is just the perfect excuse to cling on to your date and get a little bit close! But if you want to show of a little bit, you can always go crazy with your outfit. You definitely won’t look out of place in your florescent pink leg warmers – and we all know that look is a winner on any date!

The “Lets Learn Things While We Get Drunk” Date…

060105_vinopolisDrinking is such an important part of dating. It’s the thing that breaks down those awkward barriers and allows conversation to flow freely. And so I would say the best thing to do is partake in a spot of wine tasting at Vinopolis, situated behind Borough Market. You can choose which wine tasting experience you want to have (i.e.: how pissed you want to get) with packages starting from £27 per person. Each package includes a short introduction to wine tasting with a free sample of wine – this is the bit where you practise all the sniffing, swirling and slurping that should hopefully enhance your experience when later selecting your own samples on the experience. The next bit is a self guided tour around all the different educational zones of wine and spirits (yes, there are spirits too!!) with samples available to try in each. All you need to do is exchange the tokens you were given at the beginning (number of tokens depends on which package you opted for) From personal experience I would highly suggest you pace yourself… but know that this is a very fun way to spend an evening, and a great way to ensure the conversation never runs dry… as long as your glass doesn’t either.

*Vinopolis are actually running some special masterclass packages for the week leading up to Valentines, including Cocktail Making Masterclasses & a Wine Tasting & Comedy Night from £35pp. They also are offering 2-4-1 tickets to those with a Tastecard over the next few weeks! Go go go!!

The “Anti-Valentines” Date…

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 12.31.32And finally, if you are completely opposed to the idea of romance, you could throw an almighty plot twist into the equation and visit the pub that I was taken to on last Valentines by the best friend. The Flying Scotsman in Kings Cross is one of a few “strip pubs” in London, where the drinks cost more than a full on fanny-out dance! The ladies perhaps aren’t of the calibre that you might find in the more pricey strip clubs… expect C-Section scars, cellulite, questionable tattoos and a look of sheer desperation and despair across their faces. Before each dance (which takes place on a four by four stage and is accompanied by a song of their choice, played on an old CD player that occasionally skips) the girls come round with a plastic cup, in which you are expected to drop a single pound coin if you intend to stay and watch them dance. If you don’t fancy it, head on though to the other part of the bar and wait for their three minute dance to end. Your average customer in this place is middle-aged, unattractive and quite creepy… and yet, I loved it! It’s so completely unromantic (although Josh did give us some pound coins to spend on which ever girl we fancied which was very chivalrous!) but it gets 5 stars for entertainment value. Just try not to think about how miserable these girls lives must be… it’ll ruin the buzz of the evening!