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The Great Date Place Conundrum - Solved

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I've been on some disastrously amusing dates before now. Some worthy of a re-tell, some not.

For example, I once took a blind date to a specialist seafood restaurant only to find that he was a kosher Jew, who unfortunately left early with offence at my repeated attempts to feed him shell fish.

And I once took a second date to an album launch in a members club in Mayfair, only to find he could not be trusted around the surprise royal guest, finally being ejected by security for trying to 'touch' Prince Harry.

In these mismatches of mildly amusing dates I've come across some corkers of some places, and think I've not got three good options for three different London occasions, gay, straight or in between, which could help anyone suffering from that great Date Place Conundrum. Or DPC, if you will.

First up - a drinking den. You know when you meet someone and bond over a common love of booze? It's often the staple and consistent ingredient that you can be sure to pull out the bag, knowing you'll stand a good chance of being warmly received. So for the drink lovers who want a bit of drink infused lovin' I'd start with the Experimental Cocktail Club in China Town.

Now, this is a bit of a mystery of a place to many as it's elusive to say the least. You can only book by e-mail, and you sort of have to casually loiter half way down China Town, looking aloof and semi cool as you try to find the hidden doorway, upon which stands an androgynous hipster, gently eyeing you up an down, presumably assessing whether you're more cock than tail.

Should your tails pass the test, you're then whisked upstairs into a 50's style American spirit den, and promptly asked what flavours you like while a smooth stubbled number shakes crushed ice behind the stainless steel bar. It's got 'look how impressive this place, and therefore I, am' written all over it, and will get you steaming to say the least.

If this is sounding a bit too far poked up it's own arse, which to be fair it is, then you could go for a trusted old favourite of mine, Balans Soho, which by contrast has about as much pretention as a boiled egg on toast.

The cocktails are strong, the menu is vast, and the waiters are cute. There's also pumping music and a great vibe to the place, making the whole experience a bit like going to a civilized nightclub which, instead of serving up a dance floor, serves up seared salmon and duck confits.

I also think Balans Soho holds something that is key to any date - enough distractions to occupy the evening should your conversation run dry. We all know the feeling - it could be the first date, you could be four in, and suddenly you just realise there's nothing left in the tank. Balans prime Old Compton St spot is thankfully ripe for people watching, so as a safety net to fall back on you can, if anything, sit, point and laugh at the oddity of the Soho scene.

If pretentious cocktails or high octane dining are not quite what you're looking for, then my third suggestion might tick a more romantic box, albeit weather dependant. Down on the Southbank there's a fantastic gourmet pizza company, called The Gourmet Pizza Company, which should be easy to remember. They do great take aways, and conveniently opposite lies one of the old piers, jetting out into the Thames.

There are few places in Central London where you can walk 100 yards from the hectic urban throw and find yourself on the middle of a completely calm, quiet and seemingly unnoticed patch of turf. This pier is one of them, minus the turf. It's got the city buzzing round it from every possible angle, with boats whizzing past and horns honking from a far, but sitting on the end of the pier with a pizza in one hand and a glad of red in the other feels like you've been lifted into the OC and are starring in your own little title sequence of a Dawson's Creek remake. And for a date, that's pretty good going.

As for some other amusing dates? Well, if anyone ever suggests the wind tunnel in Bedford I'd strongly recommend Googling before committing. But that's a whole other story, and not really one for now...

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