Where To Meet Up With Someone You Swiped Right On
When you're finally ready to move out of the DMs and meet IRL, go to one of the spots on this guide.
In a time when ordinary people get TikTok famous through story times about their failed Hinge dates, meeting someone online is far from rare. But that doesn’t mean you can go to any old place when you're ready to meet up. It needs to have a special something about it. Whether it’s a walk-in restaurant that will make you seem cool and unbothered, or a cafe near a lake in case you need to escape on a pedalo, these are the 10 spots to meet someone when you want to decide if you fancy them or are going to block them in precisely three hours.
USP: There are escape pedalos
Nobody likes to manifest something going wrong but when it comes to the world of app-based dating, it isn’t unwise to choose a public space with some aggressive wildlife. Just in case they’re a catfish. Or, worse, listening to The Diary Of A CEO when you meet them. Victoria Park’s idyllic pond is a lovely middle-ground meeting point for everyone and Pavilion Cafe is a spot that’s as good for a sit-down Sri Lankan-style breakfast by the water, as it is for a coffee and a stroll around the park. There are also pedalos and rowing boats close by—depending on if you’re envisioning a Bridget Jones-style anecdote or a low-level 007 escape.
photo credit: John Carey
USP: There’s a secret upstairs
If, like us, you think that everyone should be impressed by anything a magician does, then you’ll enjoy Passione Vino. This Shoreditch wine bar has a moody and velvet-heavy upstairs that’s accessed through a door that... wait for it… is a… mirror. Illusions aside, there’s plenty about this wine bar that impresses as well (so you can put that thumb trick back in your pocket). The atmosphere feels like a private members’ club and, outside of superb Italian wine, there’s also handmade pastas, charcuterie boards, and more.
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photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli
40 Maltby Street
USP: Very cool, very casual, walk-in only policy
40 Maltby is open Wednesday to Saturday and this wine bar and restaurant is strictly walk-in only. Cue music to the ears of anyone who has trouble planning something as straightforward as a trip to big Sainsbury’s. With a changing menu that jumps from terrine to fritters to rhubarb jelly with Jersey cream, this Bermondsey spot is an any situation kind of establishment. Given their excellent wine list, spending any amount of time waiting at the bar is a blessing rather than a curse.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
La Crêperie de Hampstead
USP: It’s a public space
Nothing says “no pressure” like a first date at this Hampstead crêperie. It’s been here since the beginning of time and has seen many a date involving the sweet and savoury-filled crêpes lead to a conversation on a bench inside Hampstead Heath. Because the best thing about park dates are the snacks, duh. Plus you can get all of the “how long was your journey” chat out of the way in the queue (which is usually a little wait), so you can get to the more interesting topics, like their favourite colour, while taking a stroll through the park.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
USP: Candles, fairy lights, and truffle ravioli
So, you know your angles/got a bit trigger-happy with the Facetune app. Some call it catfishing, you call it manifestation. We’re not going to give you a TED Talk about all that self love bs, instead we’re going to point you in the direction of Vine Bar. It's a romantic little restaurant and deli in Vauxhall, with the kind of dim lighting that’d make Gollum look kind of hot. There are wine bottles lining the walls, fairy lights everywhere, and a whole gnocchi section on the menu. The al tartufo is a winner, and you’re highly encouraged to end with a slice of tiramisu.
Ozone Coffee Roasters
USP: Coffee that turns into lunch, and maybe even dinner
Feeling nervous? Well, one of our mates accidentally poured an entire iced latte over their partner on their first date and now they’re getting married. We know, it’s a modern fairy tale. And we hope it makes you feel better about your forthcoming date. No matter what faux pas you might make, Ozone will still impress. A fail-safe friend in coffee shop form, this Bethnal Green spot serves some of the best brews in London and it’s big enough that you should always be able to find a table. And spacious enough that other diners won’t be able to pick up on any awkward first date conversation.
USP: You’re drinking cocktails… on a boat
On paper, a canal-side barge isn’t the greatest suggestion in the world to someone you’ve never met. You’d think at best it’s giving incense and WOMAD anecdotes, but Bruno’s is somewhere that’s very seductive (and doesn’t have any parachute pants in sight). It’s a softly lit and plushly decorated cocktail bar that bobs next door to Islington bistro Caravel. The vibe is what we’d describe as ‘cosy-luxe’ and is perfect if you want to whip out the “I know this little place” line.
USP: Wine and cheese
There’s something very right about ham, wine, and cheese on a date. We’re not suggesting five slices from Tesco and some Babybels, we’re talking ibérico and award-winning dairy. It’s the perfect way to get your date to tell you about their 2016 trip to Huelva without admitting you’ve stalked their Instagram religiously. Plus, there’s no way you can’t look sexy while nibbling on some olives. Anyway, Llerena on Upper Street is perfect for this. It’s a cosy, straightforward tapas place that has everything you need to set a great precedent for eating out together.
USP: Walk-in only for peak nonchalant vibes
You’re not sure if you’d like to spend one hour or the next six months with this person. No worries, this Notting Hill cafe can help. Pop in for a hazelnut latte before committing to a spontaneous full-blown brunch situation. The lighting, exposed brick, and menu filled with things like a Turkish breakfast for two and Nutella-stuffed doughnuts all make for the perfect backdrop to a casual first date. Plus there’s enough background noise to stop any gaps in conversation from being awkward. But only you can decide whether you’d like to see them next Saturday, or block their number after a 45-minute coffee.
The Compton Arms
USP: It’s 0.2 miles from the tube
Pub? Pub? Yeah, pub. It’s hard to go wrong, isn’t it. Except it is, if said pub isn’t familiar to you, is miles from a tube station, and serves Madri on tap. There’s none of that in The Compton Arms. The low-key, bungalow-ish, Islington boozer is a couple of minutes walk from Highbury & Islington station, and is the kind of pub you’d wish was open all night thanks to its always buzzing, bustling atmosphere and the impressive weekly-changing menu. Expect things like chicken escalope or handmade pappardelle with ragu but, FYI, you’ll more than likely want to book ahead.