So you’ve managed to woo/trick someone you’ve recently connected with romantically into going on another date with you. Well done.
By now you’re feeling pretty confident that your next date should go well, because you seem to have a lot in common - like living in London, being alive, and both liking that one Jack Whitehall joke. But obviously, you still need a seamless game plan where food and drinks are concerned.
This is where the One-Two Punch guide - a foolproof set of itineraries for nights when you want to have a great meal followed by a drink at a bar nearby - comes in. If you go with one of our combinations, we can promise your date will be impressed with your good taste, and your night won’t be in danger of ending prematurely. Unless you need to take that emergency call, of course
The one-two punches
You’ve had a couple of dates with a person from the internet, and you're 99% certain they can tolerate gluten, but only 15% certain they’re not high-maintenance. Affordable yet classy pasta spot Padella is a great place to test both of your tolerance levels. This restaurant has a no-booking policy, so plan to meet before 7pm to ensure you have your name down for a table and avoid a potential mini-tantrum from HRH.
Just a two-minute walk away from Padella, you’ll find the The Breakfast Club. When the host asks if you need a table, you’ll have to utter the slightly cringeworthy phrase, ‘I’m here to get lucky’. You’ll then be escorted to a dark, beach bar-themed speakeasy hiding underneath the restaurant. Once you've recovered from having to use a password to get in, you're in for a good time.
You were unusually attentive to the words coming out of your date’s mouth last time, and have written down in your dating spreadsheet: ‘Not had great sushi since their travels to New York/LA/Tokyo’. Yashin Sushi, just off High Street Ken, does some of the best sushi in London, and is a good location for a date. The sushi is topped with things like truffle, whiskey jelly, and flowers, so your well-traveled companion should be relatively impressed.
There isn’t much happening on High Street Ken in terms of bars, but you should grab a cocktail at the Baglioni Hotel. It’ll ensure your entire date night in the hood is consistent in its theme of being pricey yet interesting.
You’re not much of a planner and forgot to make a reservation. Don’t freak out yet. Tell your date to meet you around 7pm to get your name down for a spot at the bar at The Palomar. This place does all the heavy lifting for you: there’s great music, great energy, and great Israeli-style street food. Don’t mess it up by talking about your pet ant collection - you’re only a few dates in, after all.
When you put your name down at The Palomar, there’s a good chance you’ll actually end up needing a pre-dinner drink, and Swift Bar is where we’d send you. If it’s pre-dinner, have a martini somewhere on the ground floor. If it’s after dinner, head to one of the comfortable booths downstairs.
You really love Italian food and it turns out the person you’re going out with loves Italian food too. Now you have two strong things in common (you both also hate chicken on the bone). Book yourselves into Luca, one of the best Italian restaurants in London and an exceptional date night spot. Order the parmesan fries to start your meal, and we can guarantee you’ll just have found a new thing you both like. This one’s gonna last, we can tell.
Clerkenwell has a lot of good pubs, but post-Luca you will need something slightly more than a pub, and the Cocktail Lounge at the Zetter Townhouse will serve you well. It’s a great, slightly old-worldy spot to grab a nightcap, especially if you have some smoothing over to do after eating that last parmesan fry.
On your first few dates, you’ve gone for small plate establishments - low commitment places. When it’s time to go on a date that involves actually ordering a proper plate of food and settling into dinner, hit Holborn Dining Rooms. You can get things like a delicious mutton pie, but there are smaller options like an excellent fish finger sandwich, too. Knock it all back with something from their 500-variety-strong gin selection.
Scarfes Bar is right next door to Holborn Dining Rooms - in fact, you won’t even have to leave The Rosewood, where both are based. This is one of the best hotel lounge bars in London - with Gerald Scarfe’s naughty cartoons on the wall, antiques all over the place, an excellent cocktail list, and a 1920s swing band to help you end the night right.
You’ve been on a few dates with a person who’s great, but could talk for England. Your next date spot should be Roka, the liveliest Japanese restaurant in London. Try for a seat at the sushi counter, where you can watch as your dinner is prepared. This should keep your talkative date entertained briefly, but if they start chatting with the sushi chef, it won’t be embarrassing here.
Shochu Lounge is conveniently right underneath Roka, so this is another one-two punch where you won’t even have to leave the building. It’s a slightly calmer spot that’s great for a comedown from the high of dinner.
This is one of London’s classic date night spots, and taking a date here is a way of saying ‘I like you’ without actually saying ‘I like you’ - because you won’t have the courage to say that for at least another three dates. Here, you’ll eat by candlelight and have some very good modern European food.
Just up the street, look for the door with a pig’s head below the sign for the optician, and you’ll find Blind Pig, a speakeasy bar located within Social Eating House. It’s another dimly-lit place, and the perfect spot to get an Old Fashioned to top things off. If it’s a weekend, you’ll probably want to book.
Just a short stroll up Brick Lane, you’ll find the underground tavern 5CC. This small cocktail bar has brick walls, low ceilings, and low lighting. Use it to recover from all the flowers you ate at dinner.
Sardine is your ace card when you find out that the person you are currently dating really meant it when they put ‘I love art’ on their dating profile. This restaurant used to be an art gallery, and the southern French-inspired food happens to be quite good as well. Make sure to book, or risk being seated at the communal table where you may have to talk to full-blown strangers about art.
After dinner, walk down into the Old Street area, and have drinks at Nightjar. If it’s towards the end of the week or weekend, definitely book ahead. The drinks come in ridiculous vessels ranging from flower pots to a cactus to a skull to a metal frog, which should at the very least give you something to keep talking about. There’s also a live jazz band.
If you’ve been to the original Hoppers and thought to yourself, ‘It’d be fun to take a date here, but I don’t want to wait two hours’, here’s some good news: the new location of this excellent and fun Sri Lankan restaurant takes reservations. Order the bone marrow varuval curry, and it’ll be hard for anything to go wrong.
After your meal at Hoppers, walk around the corner to Bar Termini Centrale. Like Hoppers, it’s another spot originally from Soho with a satellite location in Marylebone. Let one of the apron-clad bartenders make you a spritz or an espresso martini.