Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Bank Holiday Romance

So, the first Bank Holiday of the year. The weather has been fantastic over the last few days and summer's on its way, so Miss Mary thought she would plan a romantic little trip to the New Forest - she and Other Half will be staying in the adults only (ooh err) section of Toms Field Campsite in Hampshire.

The BBQ has arrived from Amazon, the sunglasses have been returned by the friend whose sunny garden they were left in, the sun cream's been dug out from the back of the bathroom cupboard, the weather forecast has been checked… hang on… what… change of plan? No way! Miss Mary's a true Brit and there's nothing we Brits love more than a little bit of friendly competition from the weather!

Other Half is not so excited about putting the sun cream back in the cupboard and swapping his flip-flops for a pair of wellies, but hey-ho it will still be a great weekend!

If you're not convinced that camping makes a great date you'd be wrong. Miss Mary isn't exactly suggesting it for a first date (that would definitely be a bad idea) but it's a great thing for couples to do. At the risk of sounding like a therapist, it gets you out of London, away from your laptop and (although I hate the phrase) it allows you to spend "quality time" together.

Having said that, it might be worth asking Miss Mary on Tuesday what the definition of "quality time" is, as she and Other Half will be coming to terms with the fallout over the tent-assembly-in-the-rain/dark situation!

If you think you've got a better idea for a great date this Bank Holiday weekend (some would argue that wouldn't be very difficult) then let us know. Post a comment below, on the website, on the facebook page, or email us.

Whatever your plans are this weekend - enjoy!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Action Date!

Below is the first of our features from guest bloggers - this week it is the wonderfully witty Sarah Finley who writes The Loves and Life of a London Girl. Keep reading to hear what she has to say about the fearful prospect of being asked out on an "action date"!

For me dating is usually in the safe surroundings of a bar or restaurant – where alcohol is readily supplied and comfort is key. So when a potential date asked me accompany him to a spinning class – for our first date – I almost bottled it.

Now I’m not the kind of girl to shy away from a bit of exercise – I’m a regular on the spinning bikes and running has recently become like a dear old friend, unlike the enemy it was during cross country PE lessons at school. But exercising and dating – now that would be a first.

And any sort of action dates, I suppose if I’m honest, scare me. I’m prone to falling over in heels after a few too many vinos so god knows what would happen if you armed me with a bowling ball, some ice skates or even a dart. More than likely it would end with some sort of embarrassment or my date phoning 999 – not the best first impression.

Begrudgingly I of course agreed to the spinning date – he was cute, I’m shallow and I hadn’t been on a date in ages! Getting me out of the house was a different matter – my friend had to literally push me out of the door before I changed my mind. And when I arrived at the gym I wasn’t any better – my nerves had hit that point which meant I was physically shaking and I’m sure I started sweating even before any exercise took place. How was I going to get through a whole spinning class? And more to the point did he actually think I’d be able to make any decent conversation while I was slowly turning a beetroot shade of red and panting for England.

But I figured if he still liked me after seeing me all hot and bothered then I must be on to a winner. So, on we span, with a middle-aged sweaty man in between us, while we tried to make decent conversation and I pretended not to be too self conscious about the sweat dripping down my face.

Of course I expected him to avoid me like the plague afterwards so when he asked me out on a normal date – in a cosy bar with all my familiarities – I couldn’t believe ‘action Sarah’ had actually gone and done it. Now where did I put those darts...

Written by Sarah Finley

For more of Sarah’s dating tales visit her blog

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

sunny afternoon in Ham...

I love London but I'm a country girl at heart so there's nothing I like more than getting out of the city. But, when the weekend is so precious I don't want to spend half of it in the car! So what's the answer? Ham! Not the kind that goes in a sandwich but the kind that sits between Richmond and Teddington on the mighty River Thames.

There are two ways of doing this. Either park your car in the National Trust car park at Ham House or hire a boat from Richmond and row up stream. I've never done the boat option but it's on my list! Anyway, organise your day as you wish but this is how we did it… We walked to Ham village green, which is a picture perfect English scene. I don't think I've ever been there when there hasn't been a game of village cricket going on! Then we walked into Richmond Park (always a GDG favourite), turned left by the Ham Gate duck pond and eventually popped out at the Petersham Gate. We then bravely walked passed one of my favourite spots - Petersham Nurseries, where the tea shop is located in a converted garden shed and the restaurant in an old glasshouse. It is a quirky and beautiful spot but it gets busy (hence why we gave it a miss on such a sunny day) so if you want to go to the restaurant you really have to book.

Head a little further down the river bank and you get to Ham House. It's worth a whiz around the gardens (and house if you like that sort of thing) but most import is the tea shop! It's located in the old Orangery Kitchen Garden and is an idyllic spot, away from the chaos of the river on a sunny day. Laze around the gardens at Ham for as long as you want or take a stroll along the river bank - there is always something going on. If you want to venture further afield you can always hop on the £1 ferry outside Ham House that takes you over to the other side of the river…

It is so easy to walk from place to place along this stretch of the river that you can happily while away a romantic summers day. This is a perfect date for those wanting to bask in the glory of their existing romance, but equally good for those early days when you want to get out of London but aren't quite ready for a mini break!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010


Tired of the same old restaurants? Read on to find out about something VERY different! In fact, we are not even talking about a restaurant, we are talking about a bustaurant! That's right - the Rootmaster is a restaurant on an old Routemaster bus!

So, if you are looking for a quirky date we think we've come up trumps. You can start your date off by grabbing a drink at one of our East London favourite haunts The Boundary, or go to any of the trendy bars within the eternally hip Truman Brewery.

Once you've quenched your thirst, head along to the bus, located in Ely's Yard which is part of the Truman Brewery. The Rootmaster is London's first vegan bustaurant. Founded in 2006 it aims to promote healthly living and respect for the environment, but if that all sounds too noble for you, don't worry - it is also a fantastically original venue in its own right serving delicious grub! Anyway, it will do you good to have a conscience for the night - it might even impress your date...

Having said that, if your date is a serious carnivore they might not love you for taking them to the Rootmaster but we think even hardened meat eaters should allow themselves one night off to come to this brilliant bustaurant. Renowned for it's relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff it would make a great option for a first date.

You'll get turfed off the bus at 11pm (10.30pm on Sunday) but that doesn't mean your night has to be over. There are loads of late night venues in the area but one of our favourites has got to be The Brickhouse. They offer live cabaret every night so you and your date are guaranteed to be entertained until the wee small hours!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Sitting in a Tree

Sitting in a Tree is an online dating and matchmaking site that's different, refreshing and fun. Started and run by real-life love gurus who know what makes for a great relationship; their success rate is second to none!

Having met the three lovely ladies who set up Sitting in a Tree we can safely say that they are on your side! Having heard the laments of many an ex-online dater, their aim is to elevate the internet experience to a new, friendlier, more enjoyable level.

So, what makes it different to other online dating sites? Well, take a look below:

"We’ve got two choices for you folks looking for love. The online bit is a community for you to seek out the perfect partner in a fun way. If you want to get to know a fair bit about people before you commit to a date, have a look through our illuminating profiles - they tell you what the person’s really like. If you want to meet up, we make that part easy too, calendar functions, venue suggestions, the works. The only thing we don’t do is come on the date with you. That would be weird."

"If you don’t have much free time to spend picking people yourself, we can do the legwork for you. So long as you jump the right hurdles and sound like our cup of tea, we let you into the fold. We’ve got a bespoke London-based service where we personally match you using our own magic methods."

As you know, we don't usually promote online dating and matchmaking sites but we really love because they tell it like it is. The site is all about being honest and not discovering any nasty surprises when turn up for your date!

These girls have successfully "matchmade" most of their friends - why not give them a chance with you?

Friday, 16 April 2010

Tasty Tuscan Kitchen

So, now that "I'm Back" I thought I better start posting some stuff! But then I thought, hang on... it's Friday night. So, I'm going to post something I actually wrote a while ago for the website but never put on the blog.

It's a review of a fantastic Tuscan restaurant in the historic town of Rye. It's only a couple of hours from London by car, so if you're stuck for inspiration this weekend I strongly suggest you hop in your motor and speed down there. Not only is Rye a gorgeous, quaint town, with plenty of cobbled streets to wonder along, but the endless stretch of white sand that is Camber Sand is only a ten minute drive away. And with weather set to hit 18 degrees this weekend you'll feel like you really are in Tuscany!

I feel quite excited about writing this review… I have read so many fiercely opposing opinions on the Tuscan Kitchen in Rye that I am itching to join the fight, and I'll tell you now - I am firmly flying the Tuscan flag!

Address: 8 Lion Street, Rye, TN31 7LB.

Tel: 01797 223269

We booked a table courtesy of a recommendation, and from reading several very glowing reviews. The trattoria (NOT restaurant - see definition at the bottom of this article*) is located on a quaint cobbled street in the charming Sussex town of Rye and is in fact housed within what used to be a very olde worlde teashop! This incongruous setting is your first indication that any preconceived ideas should be left at the door. You're in for an unexpectedly wonderful experience.

Looking beyond the low beams and memories of cream teas and doilies, the trattoria is simply arranged with wooden tables, paper napkins and lovely blue glasses from Italy. Don't expect interior design - it is all about the food (although the plates and mugs have all been imported from Italy and had me lusting after them).

Loving Italian food I was very excited about the meal and the intoxicating smell of truffles as you walk through the door only heightened the anticipation. Jen, the charming owner, brought us some wine (we just asked her to choose - it was excellent) and some bread and oil to eat while we decided what to order. This was the first teaser for our taste buds. The olive oil had an incredible taste and was made with olives from their own grove in Italy. Ask nicely and they might sell you some - it really is worth it!

After salivating over the menu it was time to order. Everything looked delicious but I plumped for Insalata Invernale (a winter salad of pear, blue cheese, walnuts and Tuscan honey) followed by Ravioli Porcini (homemade ravioli in wild mushroom sauce) and finished off with Pollo All 'Aceto Balsamico (strips of chicken in Chianti and aged balsamic, grilled with radichio and truffle oil). My Better Half chose the Antipasto followed by Tuscan meatballs, culminating with beef fillet with a white truffle sauce. It was clear we were in for the long haul; but we were ready!

Our food was incredible. It took its time in arriving but that was no matter as we were enjoying the Tuscan wine, the atmosphere and our host’s conversation. We really felt as though we were enjoying a home cooked meal in their kitchen in Italy (hence the name of the restaurant as Jen pointed out!). The salad was delicious, and confirmed what I had heard that Franco and Jen source their ingredients from either Tuscany or quality local producers - the flavours and textures really were superb. The antipasto was also great, and could have easily fed two.

Before our pasta course arrived we were treated to some truffle honey with Italian hard cheese. This is possibly the most amazing thing I have ever eaten. It felt so decadent, like you were eating something incredibly expensive, I think I'm going to name it liquid gold!

Swooning over the truffle honey happily occupied the time waiting for our pasta. Every dish is made to order and comes to your table piping hot, in a reassuring way, letting you know it has been made for you and you alone. It's no surprise that the pasta dishes were delicious but we were both getting a little full and made a mental note that next time we come we'll skip the pasta course and head straight to the meat (unless we haven't eaten for two days previously).

Again, no surprise for guessing but our meat course was sensational. Better Half managed to eat all of his, but I have to admit I was a little defeated by my delicious chicken (we had only just finished a full English Breakfast a few hours before)! At this point I should also point out that the "closed" sign was put up on the door. There were only 3 tables being served but Franco and Jen know when to stop. With only Franco in the kitchen they just can't serve up the quality food that they take pride in if the trattoria is overly crowded. There were no complaints from us - it felt like a lock-in in a secret, member’s only restaurant!

Desert looked enticing but was flatly refused by both of us. Better Half still had room for some 40% grappa though, so it was clear who was driving back to London. Talking of London, I can't stress enough that the quality of food we enjoyed in Rye completely surpassed any experiences of Italian food I have had in London. The prices are also a nice change from London (particularly considering the generous portions), with the meat course averaging at £14.95.

In order to digest our food we sat and chatted to Jen and Franco for sometime about their business. They've received a little bit of negative press from customers who have not understood the concept of the Tuscan Kitchen, so here are a few tips!

  • arrive hungry, with time to spare.
  • it is part of the Slow Food Movement which should give you a clue to ethos behind the food.
  • don't feel obliged to eat every course - unless of cause you have a huge appetite in which case lucky you!
  • sit back, relax and enjoy the Tuscan experience of a leisurely, delicious meal, cooked with integrity.

We think this extract taken from the menu at the Tuscan Kitchen really sums up the experience:

"We offer the taste and tradition of Tuscany in the heart of Rye. You will not have restaurant service, though you will be treated well, and with great respect, if you return the favour".

*A trattoria (Italian pronunciation: [trattoˈria]) is an Italian-style eating establishment, less formal than a ristorante, but more formal than an osteria. There are generally no printed menus, the service is casual, wine is sold by the decanter rather than the bottle, prices are low, and the emphasis is on a steady clientele rather than on haute cuisine. The food is modest but plentiful (mostly following regional and local recipes) and in some instances is even served family-style (i.e. at common tables).

Thursday, 15 April 2010

I'm back!!!

Hello everyone!

So, clearly I've been otherwise engaged for a while... sorry about that! Work, life, more work and hitting the big 3.0. got in the way somewhere along the line. But now I'm back.

There's been loads of really exciting stuff happening at recently. The website is getting more and more popular and we have some great new guest writers who will be sharing their pearls of dating wisdom on the site soon. I've also been having meetings about something VERY exciting, but currently top secret, so watch this space... more to follow.
Anyway, I'm exhausted having struggled through watching the whole of the leaders debate so I'm off to Bedfordshire.

It's good to be back London ;)