One of the many benefits of living in a city like London is that there is always a restaurant, bar or pub that you haven’t been to yet. The vast majority of Londoners have their own version of the ‘list’ – nearly always ambitious and completely unachievable – an eclectic range of the eateries and watering holes that a well placed source told them that ‘they just have to try.’ However, when out with friends you tend to return to your favourite haunts time and time and again; places that are a mix of affordable/easy to all get to/please everybody. However, when dating, this logic seems to go out of the window. Maybe its the excitement, maybe it’s the nerves, or maybe it’s wanting to explore a side of yourself that you don’t normally get to, but when playing the dating game you’ll somehow find yourself happy to pay £14 for a cocktail on a Tuesday night, about 15 tube stops and an expensive taxi ride away from home. Having joined the dating pool earlier this year, I’ve already had my fair share of experiences, and what has become increasingly apparent, is the power of place. Having done the trying and testing, I thought I would compile a list of my favourite date places to save you singletons the head-scratching that follows that dreaded question; ‘so where do you want to meet?’ Ranging from slick hotel bars to cosy pubs, this list is a selection of my favourite places to get to know somebody new, safe in the knowledge that the drinks / food / décor / vibe just won’t let you down.
- The London EDITION
In my opinion the London opening of 2013, The London EDITION hotel is somewhere I absolutely cannot get enough of. Perfectly located just a few minutes walk from Oxford Circus, this is one incredibly central hotel, meaning that it’s not far from pretty much anywhere. Whether you want to just sit in the lobby and take in the vibe, tuck in to a divine dinner at Jason Atherton’s Berner’s Tavern beneath those beautiful golden chandeliers, try out a range of exotic punches in the dark and sexy ski-chaletesque Punch Room or party till dawn at the hotel’s underground nightclub (probably in that order), EDITION always delivers. If you don’t trust me then just look at EDITION’s golden-plated credentials. A collaboration between hotel heavyweight, Marriott, and Ian Schrager, founder of the legendary Studio 54, Morgan’s hotel group and generally considered the Steve Jobs of hoteliers, London EDITION was the hot ticket at last year’s London’s Fashion Week. The ultimate ‘it’ girl of the moment, Cara Delevigne, and her fellow partygoers just couldn’t stay away.
2. The Bar at Rosewood London
Just a hop, skip and jump from The London EDITION, The Rosewood hotel opened late in 2013 as one of the brand’s many upcoming hotel openings worldwide. A sexy, current blend of boutique meets luxury, The Rosewood hotel is located mere seconds from Holborn tube station. Their bar is probably my absolute favourite London cocktail bar; easy to get to, atmospheric without being try-hard, convivial without being loud, reassuringly expensive without being bank-breaking; in a nutshell, The Rosewood is somewhere you should go if you haven’t already (now!). My top tip is to sneak in early, while everybody who works nearby is still beavering away, in order to shotgun that (much in demand) sofa in front of the burning fire. London evenings don’t get much better than sat there in good company, cocktail in hand, listening to the jazz piano tinkling away in the background.
3. The Thomas Cubitt
One of London’s best gastro pubs, The Thomas Cubitt is a London institution that is the answer to so many drinking and dining conundrums. Where to meet friends for drinks on a thirsty Thursday? Where to go with colleagues after work? Where to go for the perfect Sunday roast with your parents? Where to go on a first date? The answer is always The Thomas Cubitt because it just never lets you down. Serving great food and drink, sporting a good crowd, always buzzing but never overcrowded, situated on one of London’s prettiest streets and so well located, just minutes walk from Victoria, I adore the Thomas Cubitt, and I don’t even like pubs. It’s just that good. On warm summer nights al fresco tables are set up under the stars and people pour out into the street, crisp white wine in hand. In winter, by contrast, it’s a cosy and inviting haven from the cold. And if you find yourself needing to walk off a few cocktails, their sister pub, The Orange, on Pimlico Road, is just as short stroll away.
4. Refuel Bar at The Soho Hotel
Located within the ever-so-cool Soho Hotel, this is the place to take someone who is part of the edgy world of media / music / publishing / graphic design. Tucked away down a side street easily missed by those not ‘in the know’, The Soho Hotel manages to be perfectly central but feels wonderfully tucked away. In a couple of minutes you can be at some of the city’s coolest restaurants on nearby Greek, Wardour or Dean Streets, or if the date isn’t going quite as planned, you can be back on the tube in no time at all. Kit Kemp interiors, including that un-missable mural, flickering candles and killer cocktails make Refuel Bar tick all the boxes you’re after on a date; it’s cool, classy and sexy but all in an unassuming and modest way. Patronised by a sprinkling of celebrities, cool cats, well connected tourists and professionals who all work nearby, in my experience it’s hard to find someone who won’t like it here.
5. The Charlotte Street Hotel
Another outpost of the Firmdale Hotel empire, The Charlotte Street Hotel is a perfect bend of elegant, cool and easy-going but still with a sense of occasion. Managing to combine that cosy homely feeling with an exciting and current edge, as all Firmdale hotels do, The Charlotte Street Hotel’s Oscar Bar & Restaurant both have a lot of similarities with The Refuel Bar, but feel less ‘under the radar cool’ and more ‘elegant sophistication’. Located just minutes walk from Goodge Street tube, unlike Soho, this part of London is tourist-free and you don’t have to go to Piccadilly Circus in order to get there (a big plus in my book). Another plus is that there are just so many great restaurants on your doorstep; whether you’re looking for a solid burger at Byron, exciting Peruvian food to tickle your taste buds at Lima, celeb spotting at 34 or cosy cuddling up at Bubbledogs (if you can ever be bothered to queue).
6. The Breakfast Club
Slightly less glamorous than the other entries on my list, The Breakfast Club is definitely a more low key option, and one perfect if both parties live in and around Clapham Junction / Lavender Hill. Although better known as a popular brunch spot (where the queue on a Sunday morning curls down the street), this is a fun place if you’re looking for wacky cocktails and an easy-going atmosphere. Perfect for a first date, The Breakfast Club has lots of conversation starters, from those vintage 70s posters in the loos to the weird and wonderful cocktails (the Hemingway Dqauiri is my favourite). With the bar connecting onto the restaurant which serves comfort food favourites, this is a perfect place to go for ‘just a quick drink’ but where you can end up staying all night if things go well. You know that any bar menu which sorts its wines as ‘cheap’, ‘good’ and ‘Charlie Big Potatoes’ is somewhere where you’ll have fun without taking yourselves too seriously.
7. Radio Rooftop Bar at ME by Melia
One of the coolest bars to open in 2013, ME by Melia’s Radio Rooftop Bar is the perfect place if you’re looking to impress. Located on the corner of The Strand and Aldwych, ME by Melia is spitting distance from Covent Garden, theatreland and its many restaurants, making this the perfect place for after dinner drinks. With literally jaw-dropping views over Somerset House, The Strand, the Thames and even The Shard, this small but seriously sexy bar is pretty hard to beat. With limited capacity and pretty strict door girls (what other kind are there?), it can often be a mission to get in, especially on hot summer nights when everybody in London just wants to be on a rooftop, so it’s worth going on slightly less popular nights of the week (I’m thinking Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays). Order a cocktail, perch by one of the outdoor fire pits, recline on the white leather sofas (which should feel kitschy but just work), and watch the world go by from high above.
8. Hakkasan Mayfair
Surely one of the capital’s sexiest restaurants, Hakkasan is the place to go if you seriously want to impress (and have recently remortgaged your house). Located on Berkeley Square, this is the kind of place that merits budgeting some extra time that morning to get your outfit just right. From the moment you walk in and descend the staircase, bathed in cool blue light, everything feels slick, sexy and just so cool. Attracting a similar crowd to celeb hotspots Novikov, Nobu and Zuma, here you’ll find mix of local hedge-fund boys, ladies dressed in head-to-toe Chanel and the odd snap-happy food blogger. With dark wood interiors and atmospheric mood lighting, Hakkasan serves good modern Cantonese food. Although all delicious, I’ve certainly eaten finer Asian food; people come here for the name, the vibe and the kudos – all of which won’t disappoint.
9. Donovan Bar at Brown’s
Grown up but lots of fun, The Donovan Bar is the place to meet someone who you know appreciates the finer things in life. Located within Brown’s Hotel on Albemarle Street, The Donovan Bar is a great option if your work around Green Park or are heading on to one of the area’s many fancy restaurants. Tucked inside the hotel, this isn’t a bar with its own entrance, meaning that people don’t stumble into it by mistake – unless they’ve just spent a boozy afternoon at the hotel’s Hix restaurant or a champagne Afternoon Tea in the elegant English Tea Room. Dedicated to legendary photographer Terence Donovan, the walls of this intimate bar are lined with 50 of Donovan’s black and white photographs which give the space a distinctive hedonistic sixties feel. Sit back with a perfectly crafted cocktail in one of the rooms many dark corners, enjoy the jazz and admire its beautiful crowd.
10. The Bar at The Mayfair Hotel
Although I’m not a huge fan of the hotel, the bar at The Mayfair Hotel is everything you are looking for on date. It’s centrally located, always busy and buzzing, frequented by a good mix of people and serves cocktails that are just expensive enough so that you feel you’re somewhere special. The Mayfair Bar is the kind of place that’s loud enough to feel you’re somewhere popular without having to shout over one another. Waitresses are flirty and pretty, on a week night you’ll find suited and booted businessmen from nearby offices at the bar and there’s a sense of fun that comes when everything’s just right.