Where To Go On A Double Date
photo credit: Karolina Wiercigroch
Ah, the double date. An adult rite of passage where if you’re lucky, you’ll know (and like) one half of the couple. If you’re really lucky, both. Unfortunately, the chances are you’ll be having dinner with one semi-stranger who comments on the "cracking bread” at least twice an hour and, as things get increasingly desperate, the weather.
Whatever the circumstances, you need a certain type of restaurant. One that's comfortable and booze-filled if necessary, with food and atmosphere good enough to negate any conversation attempts about the traffic. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up having a really good time.
For double dates that are lacking energy, Little Georgia can pick up the slack. This Islington spot has walls covered in decorative posters and, what at first glance looks like a speaker, but is in fact a hunting horn. See! Fun! That’s not to say it’s not romantic too. Get the oozing cheese khachapuri to share and dodge the candles as you reach over the table to tear pieces of this pillowy bread. If things are going well, embark on a discovery trail of Georgian spirits via the restaurant’s by the glass options.
The good news is that while your social anxiety is on a rollercoaster all of its own, your tastebuds will be too. But unlike you, they’re guaranteed a good time. Chuku’s, a Nigerian tapas restaurant in Tottenham, is ideal for ensuring that at least the vibes and food will be immaculate, even if the date itself is not. Order an ice-breaking round of caramel kuli kuli chicken for the table and watch the mood improve as the spice levels of the food rises, from smoked yam all the way to chicken in a fried scotch bonnet sauce. By the end of the meal you’ll be buying Chop Chat Chill baseball caps for everyone and booking another date in for next month.
The best thing about Noodle & Beer, a Sichuan restaurant just off Spitalfields Market, is that it gives you options. If the double date isn’t going well, inhale some crinkle-cut, wok-fried chips bathing in chilli oil and make a hasty retreat—but not before ordering a takeaway batch for the post-mortem you and your partner are planning for the journey home. If things are going well, start with deep bowls of handmade noodles and broth that multiply into red bean-filled taro balls, and are followed up with plump choo-shou chasers.
Proper, unanimous crowd-pleasers are few and far between, but Mr Bao is one of them. If you don’t like bao, you’re a bit of an oddball, or gluten intolerant. Mr. Bao, whoever he is, seems to have clocked onto this. Everybody comes to this restaurant. That includes double-daters, leaning across the table, arms entwined, eyes as soft as the pilowy buns being chewed. The room is small enough for there to be a buzz, but big enough for it not to feel cramped.
If you’re certain you like these people, and therefore certain that you won’t be taking an ‘urgent’ phone call precisely 90 minutes into dinner, then Leroy is where you should spend your evening. It’s a classy and relaxed Shoreditch restaurant and wine bar that encourages conversation as much as it does a second or third bottle. The smaller European-leaning sharing plates, like a cheese-covered chicory salad or tartare on toast, are particularly tasty, and work perfectly alongside a glass of whatever’s keeping the conversation flowing.
Abeno is your double date dream if you’ve convinced yourself you have nothing to say to two people you’ve literally never met. The reason being is that this Japanese okonomiyaki spot in Bloomsbury is as entertaining as it is tasty. Watching one of the superb chefs fry and flip everything from a cottage pie okonomiyaki to prawn dumplings, can form at least 60% of the conversation. Which is, surely, more than enough. Your other half can pick up the remaining 40%.
What’s that? You sincerely, genuinely, love both of these people? You’ve laughed with them both. Cried with them both. In that case, you don’t need distractions, just a great restaurant serving great food, and Supawan, a Thai spot in King’s Cross, does just that. The yum khao tod crispy rice starter is likely to be a revelation, even to four people who know a frankly concerning amount about each other, and the same goes for the stuffed chicken wings. There’s nothing try-hard or show-offy about Supawan. It’s just a good restaurant made for good friends.
When it comes down to it, double dates aren’t actually dates. They’re cut-throat social competitions. They’re the Hunger Games, only eating is almost entirely irrelevant. They’re about showing your superior knowledge, taste, and ability to eat a chargrilled grail without asking for another napkin. Avoid all that by going for an understated classic, like Trullo. A classy, casual, Islington Italian that will have the couple opposite eating pappardelle and Amalfi lemon tart out of your hands until the end of time.
Although Campania is one of London’s most romantic restaurants, that doesn’t rule it out of the double date category. Because, well, it’s really lovely. This rustic-ish Italian off Columbia Road is all about cobbles, candlelight, and carbs. The space has lots of wooden tables and chairs that invite ragu and red wine to be splattered on them. Both of which you’ll be consuming lots of. Whether you choose to be here day or night, it’s extremely hard not to relax and settle in for the long haul. Although lots of people, and we mean lots, will be thinking the same thing, so book ahead.
Aside from being a convenient middle ground and having a menu that’s accessible and delicious for every dietary requirement, Rovi is also a superb restaurant. This central London Ottolenghi outpost has a vegetable focus and a futuristic-feeling dining room with lots of wood, and some colourful art deco touches. Sink into one of the curved sofa seats and work your way through Szechuan tempura herbs, crumpet lobster toast, celeriac shawarma, and a beetroot chocolate tart that will have you DMing Yotam himself. You’ll come here as a group, and come back alone.
Oh pizza, the great unifier of our times, and more importantly, of couples who haven’t seen each other in bloody ages but at some point decided meeting up again would be a good idea. Head to Theo’s in Camberwell for some truly great wood-fired, sourdough pizzas that are tasty enough to act as a conversation starter. You’ll find plenty of booths here but you should book ahead if you’re swinging by on the weekend.
Darjeeling Express is an Indian restaurant in Soho that not only serves amazing curries and kebabs that are perfect for sharing, but it’s also got the kind of comfy rattan furniture and cosy booths that make plenty of grown-up fun possible (not that kind). Even if these days you’ve all traded lurid cocktails for a couple of curry leaf martinis and a preventative paracetamol. Be warned, everything from the keema toasties to the puchkas here make this place popular, so book ahead.