"Married and bored or single and lonely”. That’s our choice according to Chris Rock, the reigning comedic heir to Eddie Murphy and Richard Prior. Whether Rock’s right is a matter for debate, but having gone through the rigour of dating in the 21st century, I would opt for boredom every day of the week.
Back in the day, we found our better halves through friends and colleagues – it was a limited pool of applicants but the path was well trodden. These days you’re invited to compete in real time against any other eligible (and a fair few ineligible) bachelors or bachelorettes with access to a smart phone in a five mile radius. One of the plethora of these new dating sites, The Inner Circle, has put together a list of the most popular dating places among its discernible members. It’s a solid list and all are worthy of your patronage:
1. Nightjar in Old Street
2. Experimental Cocktail Club in China Town
3. Purl London in Marylebone
4. Happiness Forgets in Hoxton
5. Archer Street in Soho
Nightjar deserves its number one spot, even though in another life I accidentally went there on a first date with a scantily clad – embarrassingly so – fetishist. The date wasn’t a complete loss: it’s when I learned there’s an inverse correlation between carnal daring and the ability to hold a conversation. Since then, Nightjar has been fully rehabilitated in my mind – after all, it’s one of the slickest bars in the world. The alpha option for men and women alike is the London Mule: Tanqueray gin, apple and rhubarb, Kamm & Sons, lime, honey, Galangal beer and stout bitters.
Happiness Forgets is my top choice for dates. It’s where I took my now fiancée – the reward of an exhausting three month campaign on OK Cupid. We drank cocktails largely undisturbed for hours, and like Nightjar, and all the best bars for dating, it’s seating only. As well as having one of the best names for a bar, Happiness Forgets also has the undisputed top tagline: “Great cocktails, no wallies.”
Inner Circle’s list is a good place to start, but there are seven days in the week and who can honestly say they haven’t gone on two dates on the same Saturday? I would add Dandelyan, Satan’s Whiskers and Chelsea Prayer Room.
For the classy guy or gal, Dandelyan cocktail bar at the Mondrian Hotel is probably your best bet. The measured cocktails of Ryan Chetiyawardana – AKA Mr Lyan – mix nicely with the glamour of Tom Dixon interiors. There’s also a secret Rumpus Room rooftop bar, though trying to find the hidden lift that takes you there would be a risky move for a first date.
I’ve only ever left Satan’s Whiskers a dozen or so sheets to the wind. It’s a neighbourhood bar in Bethnal Green and a synonym for the word fun. The cocktails are punchy – try the Salty Dog (vodka, grapefruit juice and pink salt) and A&B sour (Amaretto, lemon, sugar, Bookers Bourbon) – and the regulars are Goldilocks cool: just about right. If your date isn’t into taxidermy then probably avoid (the date that is, not the bar).
Chelsea Prayer Room
Living in west London has its plus points, but we don’t have the bars to compete with the east. However, running against the grain is The Chelsea Prayer Room at The Goat. You need an ever-changing code to get into this intimate speakeasy, which I imagine is rather tiring for the receptionists who have to trudge up and down the stairs to let you in. On school nights they have 2-4-1 cocktails before 8pm. Get there early – the distinctive Afghan Sour: poppy seed infused vodka, amaretto, Pedro Ximenez sherry, honey, lemon juice, Peychaud’s Bitters and egg white – is a solid opening bid.