London may be a hub of singletons, but that means most of us have had our fair share of terrible dates.
Everyone knows to avoid the tourist areas like the plague, and to try and fit some alcohol into the evening (to either fuel the conversation or act as a tool to numb the awkwardness). But there are as many places to go on a date as there are Tinder matches on your phone, so here are our picks of the best ones.
You'll knock 'em dead with these venue choices.
1. Raise your spirits inside London's first gin hotel
It may give a worrying new meaning to AA stars but this hotel perched on Portobello Road is truly a gin lover’s paradise. Offering in excess of 100 types of the spirit, the ground bar offers drinkers the chance to see their tipples poured straight from a 400L Copper Pot Still, and other re-coopered barrels from around the world, making for some of the freshest booze in town. To go even more high-end, on the next floor up you’ll find GinTonica, a bar which serves gin with premium mixers crowned with extravagant garnishes, all served in signature Copa glassware. Beyond that, well, there are some nice boutique bedrooms, but we guess that all depends how well the date’s going…
2. Barbican centre conservatory
Afternoon strolls don't get much better than inside this hub of life, boasting tropical plants, birdlife and exotic fish. Especially if it rains...
3. Channel Don Draper inside Keystone Crescent
You know that Soho House membership you forked out on for a year only to go for drinks about once a month? What a tragic waste. Membership into this place, sat a stone’s throw from Kings Cross, whisking you away from the huddled masses into a cocktail den bedecked with Mad Men-era furnishings, a fireplace and quality music, only costs £35. Not monthly, not yearly, but for good. Just don’t tell everyone, yeah?
4. Walk around St-Dunstan-in-the-East
It doesn’t get much more romantic than St Dunstan-in-the-East. Greenery twists it’s way around the ruins of the imposing church, and you’re bound to get some decent Instagram snaps out of it.
5. Have coffee at the Tate Modern Café
Coffees are always a solid choice for a casual first date. So where better than inside this mightily cultural hub? If you can nab a seat at the window you’ll be treated to beautiful views of St Paul's, the river, the Millennium Bridge and the skyline all at once. Oh, and there’s some pretty good art around too.
6. Get lost in Crystal Palace maze
Forget the museums. There are dinosaur sculptures in a park, and a maze. Enough said.
7. Lift off at Sushi samba
Conveniently located opposite Liverpool Street Station, dining on the 38th floor inevitably provides some pretty great views. Paired with impressive cocktails, food and service you’re onto a winning evening.
9. Play ball at Bar Kick
No-one can resist getting animated over some foosball. You’ll see each other's true colours in no time.
8. Drink at Belgo Soho
Trappist monks have been brewing beers across Belgium for close to 2000 years now. To get your nose around some of the finest, head to Belgo’s latest branch on Soho’s bustling Old Compton Street, where you’ll have so many interesting brews to point at on the menu that any of that awkward first date chatter practically takes care of itself. With individually themed ‘caves’ and a menu specialising in sausages and ice-cream laden waffles, going on a date to this dimly lit drinking den is like taking the Eurostar without the faff of actually getting on a train.
10. Head to Hackney City farm
Yes, you’ll probably be in a sea of children and prams, but the novelty of sheep in the middle of London makes it worth it. And if your date isn't impressed by cute farm animals they probably aren't worth your time anyway.
11. Have dinner at The Palomar
Soho has more top notch restaurants on its streets than you can count, but the struggle comes when you try and book one of them. You can’t for the most part. And your date isn’t going to want to queue for an hour only to be kicked off the table after 40 mins. The Palomar on Rupert Street is an anomaly in two ways; you can book, and it’s a perfect blend of brilliant food and a romantic but lively atmosphere. If you sit at the bar you’ll get a show from the chefs.
12. Gordon’s wine bar
About three seconds walk from Charing Cross Station is Gordon’s Wine Bar (trivia for date night: it’s 125 years old), a solid outdoor heated café and enough nooks and crannies that you’ll probably lose your date when you go to the toilet. From experience, beware the tannins in the red wine. It tastes fantastic but there’s a good chance you’ll look like Hannibal post-breakout.
13. Take a boat down the Thames
Have you ever actually done this? Make it a first for both of you. For a fiver you can get the Thames Clipper from the 02 in Greenwich right into town passing under Tower Bridge and other landmarks you're not used to seeing from below.
14. Book Bloomsbury Bowling
Nothing breaks the ice like clattering balls. Retro vibes, chesterfields sofas and American diner food means you’re sure to bowl her over (sorry, we had to).
15. Eat at Chez Elles Bistroquet
Once you’ve waded through the city boys, hipsters and persistent restaurant owners on Brick Lane, you’ll find this quaint French bistro among all that chicken tikka masala. They serve up traditional faire, in French, with candlelight. Who need Paris?
16. Potter around Broadway Market
Whole pig spit roasts, homemade chutneys and jams, fresh bread and enough vintage bric-a-brac to fill your boots, an afternoon spent around Broadway Market is not wasted. If it’s going well, carry on over at London Fields Brewery or the acclaimed Cat and Mutton.
17. Chill at Zigfrid von underbelly
Bang in the middle of Hoxton Square, this place has been around since Hoxton has been Hoxton. It’s big, with plenty of seating, great lighting and live music downstairs. And should you wish for a dirty stop out, Meat Mission is just around the corner.
18. Picnic on Parliament Hill
Providing the weather is good, this Hampstead Heath spot will give you clear views of the city while being surrounded by green. It’s basically a weekend away in an afternoon. True to the upmarket area, there is a Waitrose near Gospel Oak station, so you can stock up on supplies on your way up.
19. Pedalos on the Serpentine
It may be cliché, but it’s a tried and tested method. As long as you avoid the worryingly cocky swans, it’s relatively safe. Worries you’ll end up going around in circles? Take the Solarshuttle instead, which glides around the lake by harnessing the power of the sun.
20. Walk down the Southbank
Essentially a year-long festival, if you get bored of the London scenery by the river,open markets, landmarks like Shakespeare's Globe, you can always watch the skaters skirmish with kids on scooters.