I’m looking for an intimate cocktail bar or restaurant for a third date that isn’t too pricey. Preferably gluten-free friendly and central-ish.
First of all, congratulations on securing a third date. I’m pretty sure that actual engagements in the 1920s involved less planning and emotional turmoil than The Third Date in 2021. Depending on your means of romance, to get to this point you’ve probably invested several hours of your life into finding unique ways of answering ‘how was your day’ on a dating app, managed to secure someone’s actual phone number, dodged the pre-first date flake out, tried on multiple outfits, dodged the post-first date flake out, optimistically shaved, flirted outrageously via the medium of voice message, found an evening you’re both actually free, and somewhere in the midst of all that, pulled off two successful dates with the same human being. Not dying alone, arguably quite the faff.
Whilst I sit here and contemplate why Moonpig hasn’t replaced their ‘Congrats, He Put A Ring On It’ card collection with something more attainable like ‘Good job, You Matched’, let’s also address the big horny Durex-blue elephant in the room. If you abide to the Cosmopolitan school of romance, the third date also means you’re going to get laid. I for one think this is a ridiculous rule, championed by some kind of misogynistic mathematician who got horny for triangles and ghosted women who had the audacity to reveal an inch of nipple on the second date. Make sweet tender love on the first date, half-heartedly bang after a month, or wait for marriage - in case my grandparents are reading this, I obviously abide by the latter. Basically, you do you. But if there’s the potential that date numéro trois is going to be ‘a memorable occasion’ then let us double down on candlelight, cocktails, and things you can eat sans bib. Apologies to all our adult baby fans out there, your time will come (it won’t).
Moving swiftly on, let’s introduce intimate third date spot number one. Say hello to Bancone. Maybe even give it a wink, you know, for flirtatious practice. A little corridor of a restaurant on a quiet patch of Covent Garden, this place will provide all the important date night Ps: privacy, pasta, primitivo reds, and exposed light bulbs. That last one doesn’t begin with P but such is the sexual prowess of an exposed bulb that I will forgo my affinity for alliteration to tell you about it. The handmade pasta here is excellent, available gluten-free, and importantly, affordable. There are also lots of Nice Nibbly Things on the menu, including olives, burrata, and a datterini tomato focaccia that will go great with one of their negronis.
If you’re understandably not quite sold on eating a full-on meal on the date - I like to reserve ‘romantic meals’ for the part of the relationship where me and my beloved can both treat each other as dedicated udon delivery drivers under a mutual Hangover Feeding Pact - then wine bars are where it’s at. A quintessential date night territory, I have lovingly used and abused Farringdon wine bars for third dates on multiple occasions because the area provides that grown-up central sophistication and the vino will do all the hard work for you. The ultimate Farringdon spot for flirting is The Winemakers Club, an underground wine bar housed in a series of 150-year-old arches that is exclusively lit by candlelight. For all intents and purposes, it’s Gordon’s Wine Bar without the queues and more affordable chianti. Praise be. Alternatively, Quality Wines is just up the road and this shop-cum-nighttime restaurant is so charming that I would be in a lovey-dovey mood even if my date insisted on listing their favourite craft beers in alphabetical order. Sadly for me Margaret, that is a true story but importantly, is also testament to the overwhelming date night potential of this place.
Finally, it would be scandalous if I didn’t also suggest a speakeasy situation for your third date. As someone who famously went on a tangent about cute dachshunds during a psychology lesson on Pavlov’s dog, I do not have the human behavioural knowledge to tell you why being underground is so sexy. But if we take rabbits’ spirited approach to reproduction as our example, The Vault in Soho is a prime location to get all romantic. A cosy underground bar hidden behind a bookcase at the back of Milroys whisky shop in Soho, their leather sofas are the perfect place to curl up with someone, tentatively start chatting about your siblings, and participate in some lighthearted PDA. Start your evening out on the Milroys pavement terrace with a three-serve cocktail bottle for £15, then head downstairs for more cocktails or a bottle of wine.
Here’s hoping that the date goes well and all that candlelight gets the old oxytocin pumping.