Summer is an exceptional time of year to fall in love. Your skin is great, the sun is shining, London’s array of feral pigeons are somewhat delicately cooing in the background. Sadly, that also means that during the summer you can pretty much fall in love with anything and anyone. A bonsai tree, an entirely decrepit flat whose only redeeming feature is a small sun-trap communal terrace, or an estate agent who genuinely appears to have confused Hilary Duff with Hilary Clinton given their long winded rant about ‘the missing emails’ when you mentioned Lizzie McGuire. Yes, real relationships start in the winter, when your skin is shit, the weather is apocalyptic, and you really just want someone kind who understands which t-shirts should go on a cold wash. But summer, the summer is for the dreamers, the romantics, all the people who are willing to make bad decisions based entirely on a brief spike in Vitamin D.
So seeing as you’re probably going to decide you’re in love with someone who might, maybe, be entirely wrong for you (oh dear god, so wrong for you) over the coming months, you might as well do it in style. Here’s to summer love, romantic restaurants, and many, many strong negronis.
The First Date
Whether you’re meeting someone from Hinge or a nice Uber driver who you asked out after four glasses of wine and a questionable logic that both hating the North Circular showed clear romantic potential, there’s a high likelihood that right now you feel like a large kangaroo is hopping around your abdomen. Introducing our good first date friend, whisky. Get you, your anxiety, and your date down to Milroy’s in Soho, an old school whisky shop on Greek Street. Start things off lowkey with a couple of cocktails out on their pavement seating and progress to their moody little basement bar that’s hidden behind a bookcase in the shop. If you’re one of those daters who is obsessed with having ‘an activity’ for early dates, keep an eye on their website for upcoming whisky tasting sessions.
Obviously feel free to rinse and repeat this stage until you locate the lucky human who gets to be your only (well, ‘primary’) kissing partner for the next few months.
The Second Date
Royale @ East London Liquor Company
It’s so nice meeting up with a prospective partner without the feeling that faking your own death is a good shout, isn’t it? When you’re feeling something that could quite possibly be hope then it’s time to make a booking at East London Liquor Co. A whisky and gin distillery in Bow Wharf, this industrial look bar has huge date potential. For starters, it’s a distillery so you can do the maths on how good the cocktails are. Secondly, lockdown rotisserie chicken specialist Royale have moved in and are providing scotch bonnet sauces, crispy potatoes, as well as great little snacky items like olives, prosciutto, and chickpea fries. Basically, it’s the ideal place for a couple of martinis to turn into a full-blown meal complete with a side of pandemic-celibacy sponsored PDA.
The 'Wink Wink Nudge Nudge' Third Date
Alright so technically they came back to yours at the end of the second date because ‘they needed to charge their phone’. You’re only human. Blame summer, with all it’s glorious horny sunshine and the fact that you’re always more likely to get it on with someone if you don’t have to face peeling a pair of skinny jeans off in front of a person you find relatively attractive. But in the interest of keeping those sparks flying, we’d like to introduce you to The Winemaker’s Club. This is undeniably a wine bar that promotes serious flirting, thanks to its setting in a series of old arches under Holborn Viaduct and the fact that there are as many candles as you’d find on the set of a Bridgerton ‘love’ scene. Cue feeding each other cheese and maybe - deep breaths - a little hand holding whilst you make your way through a top bottle of Bordeaux once the sun has set.
The Fourth Date
Fourth dates are a romantic black hole. You want somewhere classy but still casual, somewhere buzzy but still quiet enough that you can start discussing your childhood pets, and somewhere sexy but not so sexy that you get politely asked to leave for the sake of the innocence of the 8-year-old eating arancini at the table next to you. That’s where Lina Stores comes in. A pastel-coloured retro deli that feels distinctly like the set of a rom-com that would have a tagline like ‘they came for the linguine, but they stayed for love’. They have a few big meat and fish dishes on the menu but you’re here for the pasta and the pasta alone. NB: sharing the tiramisu is also a great idea. Our game plan would be to start out with negronis and dog-watching on their mint-green terrace before moving to their indoor counter once you’ve soaked up enough sunshine, and finally grab some nice things from their deli for the morning. Your place or mine etc.
The 'I Actually Quite Like You' Date
They like David Bowie! And you like David Bowie! Sure, technically he is one of the most popular artists of all time but you also get the same quilted brand of luxury bog roll so really, you could be like, the perfect match? Around this point you’re probably going to be feeling more comfortable and chilled around your date (LOVE OF YOUR LIFE???) therefore you can forgo super-formal restaurants and opt for a lazy Saturday afternoon of eating lamb tacos and wiping birria consommé off each other’s chins. Bake Street is the place to do just that, although please note that people travel far and wide to hit up their legendary brunch menu. Luckily you can also get things to takeaway, so feel free to make a nice bench in nearby Hackney Downs park your date spot instead.
The Romance on Steroids Moment
Ah, the height of the affair. It’s around this point you start sending messages like ‘i’m hungover, can u come over and stroke my forehead? bring the San Pelly I like please’ and staying over at theirs - partially because they have a Dyson fan but mostly because you think they look really cute when they, like, breathe. Bask in the glory of your hot summer union at the best al fresco table in London, Noble Rot’s limited but entirely magnificent terrace seating. A restaurant and wine bar that is so wildly charming and romantic that it makes single people cry and/or download Hinge (not not a true story), you’ll need to call ahead to reserve one of their two coveted outdoor tables. Get a full slap-up meal, get your best sunglasses out, and get ready to fall madly in love… with Noble Rot’s bread.
The Cute Couple Day Out
You and your beloved - herein named The Lovebirds - no longer need the sweet silly distraction of a menu or an emergency exit. No, you’re above all that now. You’ve moved onto talking about ‘the real stuff’, namely whether it’s too soon to get a dog together. The answer to that is, of course it is but in our humble opinion it’s not too soon for your first faux ‘vacation’. Head to Richmond for deer-spotting, sweet strolls in the sunshine, and lunch at Cue Point. We are lowkey obsessed with this British-meets-Afghan catering company who have popped up at The Chiswick Pavilion. Expect a 10/10 brisket bun, beer on tap, picnic benches, and your first appearance on their Instagram stories just so you can prove to everyone that you’re properly loved up. Or sunburn. Either or. Looking to take your Great British Romance on tour? Check out our guide to A Totally Stress-Free Day-Trip To Brighton.
The First Time You Realise You Might Actually Hate Them
It’s pissing it down and out of nowhere the ick creeps up and taps you on the shoulder. After all, you do really like making out in Victoria Park when it’s 30 degrees but lately you have started to question whether they really are just following those Jeremy Clarkson stan accounts on Instagram purely ‘for the lols’. But it’s probably fine, right. Right? Next time the sun once again graces you with its presence, head to Villa Mamas. A restaurant this good and cosy is the ultimate litmus test for a ‘relationship’ that’s success might solely rest on your obsession with Solar Power by Lorde. A Bahraini spot ten-minutes from Sloane Square, their terrace is the perfect place to plonk yourself down on a cute little sofa seat, eat a lot of (arguably quite pricey) hummus, and fuck it, enjoy having someone kiss your forehead whilst you’re wearing Birkenstocks.
The Rescue the Romance Date
On the one hand, the sound of their voice makes you want to stuff your ears with Mini Milks. On the other hand, it’s mid-summer and it’s now scientifically proven that incredibly good looking people will get with someone like Matt Hancock if they’re wearing the right pair of Ray Bans. In the interest of resurrecting your iconic 2021 hot vax summer pairing so that you have someone to drag to your mate’s BBQ, it’s time to bring in the big guns. And by ‘the big guns’, we do of course mean oysters. Well and Bucket is a neighbourhood pub in Shoreditch that has a great back garden where you can eat affordable oysters and mentally recite all the reasons that you definitely aren’t going to break up with them. If all of the reasons are ‘so I don’t have to go to that socially-distanced wedding alone’ that’s okay too.
The Inevitable Demise
Allpress Espresso Roastery & Cafe
Well you had a good run. Thanks to your incessant Love Island viewing, you’ve convinced yourself that it’s physically impossible to dump someone if you’re not in close proximity to an OTT fire pit. Let us assure you that that’s simply not true. Might we suggest Allpress Dalston’s lovely patio to cushion the blow. A two-storey coffee shop (read as: many witnesses) they serve excellent iced numbers and there’s enough foliage to make it feel like you’re doing this in the classiest way possible. Once they’ve finished saying heartwarming things like ‘but think of all the bad things we did in London Fields lido’ and have retreated with some of their dignity, treat yourself to another coffee and accept that you’re never getting that Factor 50 from Boots back. Here’s to good coffee. Here’s to blissful solitude. And above all, here’s to the sweet mems that will keep you warm through the winter until you do it all again next summer.