Sunday, 26 September 2010

secret supper clubs: part one

Here at the Great Date Guide we're all about secrets, and letting you in on them! So, here is our pick of the best secret supper clubs in London. Perfect for a delicious dinner date with a difference! We love the illicit nature of the supper club, not to mention the fabulous food and wonderful atmosphere that you'll experience.

We were planning on doing our top 10 but we discovered so many fantastic and original underground restaurants that we couldn't narrow it down!  Make sure you click on the links to find out about dates, venues (you'll probably only be told a few days before your dinner!) and suggested donations.

So, here is part one of our pick from London's exciting and original supper club scene - part two coming soon...

Bootleg Banquet: One of the Kings of the underground restaurant revolution, based in an abandoned pasta delivery kitchen in trendy Shoreditch. You'll be treated to delicious food, an in-house DJ and an eclectic bunch of dining companions. Helio and Pieter are extremely talented chefs with an impressive resumĂ© - you won't be disappointed, but book early because this place is popular.
Lex Cook You Eat: You only have to read the reviews to know that Lex Eat is a hugely popular supper club. Now in a smaller, more intimate, venue on Regent’s Canal, Alexis and Yohanna offer their guests superbly cooked food in a stylish and relaxed atmosphere.  Our favourite touch? Little messages to their guests written on the brown paper tablecloth!
The Old Hat Club: A pop-up restaurant based in Angel. Run by four friends who strive for well executed, home cooked, modern comfort food and a great laugh. It's not a quick bite to eat, but a slow, relaxing Sunday lunch cooked mainly in their outside wood-fired oven and eaten in the comfort of their home (and garden when the sun is shining!). Enjoy a Bloody Mary on arrival and let the good times roll!
The Secret Ingredient: Run by the excitable, Dennis the Menis apron wearing, Horton Jupiter this is a deliciously chaotic supper club. Since opening in mid January 2009 they've been serving 8 or 9 course meals of exotic vegetarian Japanese food  - people ask "why Japanese?"  because it's sexy says Horton! After a recent success serving tapas they've come up with a new concept - well, a new word actually, JAPAS! Held in a council flat in Newington Green every other Wednesday/Thursday, this is one quirky supper club!
The Friday Food Club: Set in the heart of Blackheath Village in the old GPO film studios, now a seriously funky apartment, Lee Behan, your classically trained Chef and host, cooks fantastic British Food with a modern twist with inspiration from the global larder. He also lets other chefs loose in his kitchen! Mark Hix, Dhruv Baker (Masterchef fame) and Anna Hansen to name but a few… Expect excellent food and a great atmosphere, but as usual, book in early!
love a locavore supper club
Cucina Cinzia: Flown over from Tuscany for the supperclub, Cinzia (and Fulham based Jill) want to welcome you into a Tuscan family atmosphere, serving authentic seasonal Tuscan food; things that you wouldn't normally find in Italian restaurants in London.  Their supper club is everything that you would associate with an Italian family supper: delicious home cooked food, an informal atmosphere and a real love of entertaining.
The Secret Larder: The Secret Larder is run by food writer James Ramsden and his sister Mary at their flat in North London. The atmosphere is cosy and welcoming, the food lovingly cooked, and the guests welcome to stay as long as they like. Sounds pretty good to us! It runs every other Thursday.
White Room Supperclub:  Located close to the Barbican in a stylish venue, with great views over town, this club is perfect to come to with your date, or in the hope of finding one! You'll be served delicious food in slick surroundings with a special emphasis on meeting new people and mingling. Every evening starts with a drink and canapĂ©s before being seated on one  big table for the meal. The location makes this one perfect for an original post work date…
Love a Locavore: A fabulous little pop up in the Sands End area of Fulham, the essence of which is UK grown seasonal food, much of which comes fresh from the owners family kitchen garden in the Costwolds.   This pop-up really is perfect for a date because, not only is the food delicious, but you have the opportunity to sit at a romantic table for two overlooking the "restaurant", or if you're feeling more sociable, you can join in at a table of 6 - 8 diners.
love a locavore supper club
Eat Meet Supperclub: They've had a break over the summer but should be back in action again in Brockley this autumn. Eat Meet Supperclub is fun and relaxed with every other supper being a singles supper club, and sometimes themed… Expect good food and good times!
Nomad Chef: A secret restaurant in the heart of Holland Park where an ever changing group of adventurous, interesting, eclectic food lovers meet to eat food from all over the world, and share stories and artifacts of their lives… in the true Nomad tradition.  Perfect for the free spirited adventurous daters amongst you! 
The Savoy Truffle Supperclub: Operating from a lounge in Blackheath (and other pop-up venues) this laidback monthly supper club is underground and exclusive, promising a multi-course feast of fabulous locally-sourced food (the veg comes from their allotment or a farm, just seven miles away), a buzzing atmosphere, a chance to meet new people, to talk to the chef - and to get a peek inside his home! Want to impress your date? Just tell them your guerilla chef has cooked for Orlando Bloom, James MacAvoy, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall... 

Keep an eye out for part two, appearing on the website soon…

Friday, 24 September 2010

Brilliant Restaurant

To kick start my 'curry makes a great date crusade', GDG was treated to a very pleasurable evening at the Brilliant Restaurant in Southall last night, an Indian Restaurant made famous by Mr Gordon Ramsay himself. 

Whilst Southall (where?) may not be renowned as one of London's top culinary hotspots, we had been assured by a fairly reliable source that this would be the finest curry we would ever taste. So, full of anticipation, we made the long trek west, enjoying several highlights along the way such as a fried chicken shop called 'XFC' (looking remarkably similar to Colonel Sanders' well known Kentucky eatery), and an electrical goods shop called 'A Shoka'. Well, it kept us entertained anyway…

Dinner itself was no disappointment. A range of tandoori chicken starters along with generous portions of Kenyan style Tilapia fish was a mouthwatering start. Our mains were the outstanding Methi Chicken, their signature dish, and Chicken Palak, a combination of succulent chicken with freshly chopped spinach in a delicious masala sauce. Perfection. The staff were cheery and attentive, much buoyed by their recent Ramsay-driven fame (the F Word episode featuring Brilliant Restaurant was proudly played on a large flat screen TV). We dined like Marharaja's.

Well, if you name your restaurant 'Brilliant', you sort of have to deliver, don't you...  

Monday, 20 September 2010

The Bad Date Blog

Some more words of wisdom from our unlucky in love Bad Date Blogger, who has a cautionary tale to tell about friends bearing photographs…

A great way to get out there on a few dates is to call on your friends for a set-up or two. Most people I know always love a bit of matchmaking and are more than willing to help you find a date for Friday night - usually some amazing catch that they’ve been hiding away from you for years. But beware, while I’m sure much happiness has been found using this technique, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into, and more importantly that you tell your friends exactly what you’re looking for.

My tale starts with a suggestion of a set-up from my housemate with his friend from work. I happily agreed to a photo exchange, which now seems to be standard practice for set-ups of any kind. I quickly sent off the most recent photo of myself I could find on facebook where I wasn’t drunk/hungover/embarrassing myself. This was easier said than done but thankfully the fancy dress outfit didn’t scare off my potential date and an email with his chosen piccies soon arrived in my inbox. First impressions were not bad – nice smile, tall, full head of hair – pretty much all I’m looking for in a man…. Ok, so maybe not 100% my type but definitely worth a drink.

So a week and a bit later and I was heading off to meet my set-up for a drink in South Ken. I was feeling pretty optimistic, he’d chosen a great bar to meet in, seemed lovely on pre-date texts, and of course, I’d already seen the photos….

I wandered into the pub and started scanning the crowd, but no one was looking familiar apart from the spitting image of my dad’s best friend propping up the bar in the corner. I did a double-take but ignored him as there was no way the 65 year grandfather of three from Oxford would have been downing a pint in London on a Tuesday night.

Thinking I must have arrived a bit early, I grabbed a table and planned to wait for my date to come to me. But 5 or 10 minutes passed and still nothing… until I catch the eye of Gramps at the bar. He stares back. He smiles. He heads over to my table…
copyright Xavier  Bertels 
Unsure what to do I smiled nervously back as he approached wondering what this old man might want. I started to feel uneasy as he pulled out a chair at my table, sat down, and started to speak:

‘Hi ****, I didn’t see you come in – what would you like to drink?’

Damn, he knows my name, definitely my “blind” date then, as I realise the photo evidence I had seen must have been taken more than a few years (and dress sizes) ago. Not exactly what had been advertised by my housemate. Right, only one thing for it -

‘Mine’s a gin and tonic. Large’

Several drinks later I was actually having a good time. My OAP escort was pretty funny and easy to talk to… it was just a crying shame that he looked 30 years older than every other bloke in the pub! Did I have a good evening? Yes. Did sparks eventually fly? Ummm, no.  As lovely as he was I just didn’t fancy him. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer that personality is much more important than looks but I don’t think love was going to flourish when my first impression was disappointment. I was promised a tasty-looking young chap but ended up with a slightly more ‘distinguished’ gentleman.

It certainly hasn’t put me off set-ups as it was a perfectly pleasant evening but I’ll be wary of friends bearing photos in future. Needless to say I had words with my housemate - false advertising just isn’t cool people.

Written by our lovely, anonymous, bad date blogger!

Thursday, 16 September 2010


It's the wonderful Brick Lane Curry Festival this Sunday, during which over 200 chefs and 50 local restaurants will 'curr-ify' the whole of... yes, you guessed it, Brick Lane. It's got me wondering why, despite the British obsession with this eastern delight, 'going for a curry' does not feature more highly in the rankings of dating options?

I know very few people who don't like curry. In fact, most people I know simply LOVE the stuff. Yet I've never been taken to a curry house on a first date, and I'm not convinced that I'd have been particularly impressed if I had. Sure, I've had many a romantic night in with a take-away, and an evening out at our local Indian is definitely a treat, but for some reason I simply can't imagine being taken there on a first, or even second or third date. 

I wonder why? Is it because we don't consider it exciting enough? (If anyone else is mourning the loss of Westbourne Grove's Urban Turban you'll surely disagree with this one...) Is it because we can't shake off the image of drunken boys and that awful Vindaloo song? Is it simply because, with one on every other corner of London, it just seems a bit too easy?

Whatever the reason, I vote for a change of heart and am hereby promoting the return of the curry house as a dating staple. So how about kicking it all off with a day of exotic gluttony at the Brick Lane Curry Festival, in… yes, Brick Lane.

Miss Mary x

Thursday, 9 September 2010

New Dates

Some great new dates on the website over the last week or so… 

Romancing at the V&A (which, by the way, is home to the London Design Festival from 18th - 26th September), Urban Golf (Scottish lovely Dougray Scott spotted at the Kensington branch on opening night - got to be a good sign), a Chiswick date for all you 'westenders' and 'Notting Hill by night' to remind you that there is life after carnival…

Go on, take a look!

Miss Mary x

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Little London Observationist

Miss Mary is very proud to feature in this weeks Listen to a Londoner, the weekly Q&A session from one of our favourite blogs, Little London Observationist. Packed full of everything that we love about London, this is a blog about what makes a London life a fabulous life.

Here's a sneaky peek at part of the interview, head to Little London Observationist for the rest!

LLO: Would you consider London a romantic city?
Miss Mary: Absolutely! Although, I believe that any city can be romantic if you approach it with the right attitude. It’s less about the city – more about how you interact with it. That is one of the reasons we started the website, to help people find the great dating spots in London that might otherwise have passed them by. I do think London is special though, and full of quirky romantic places.

LLO: Where’s the best place for a date in your postcode?
Miss Mary: For a first date, I think my local pub, the Lighthouse in Battersea, is pretty perfect! There’s a great garden for the summer and a roaring fire in the winter. The atmosphere is seriously relaxed so you can start off with a glass of wine, and if the date is going well you can settle in and order food. If the date is going really well you can finish off with a romantic stroll around Battersea Park and then reward yourself with a cheeky kiss on Albert Bridge – definitely the most romantic bridge in London!

LLO: Tell us about the best date you’ve ever had in London.
Miss Mary: I’m in the lucky position of having had lots of wonderful dates in London with my boyfriend. It’s hard to pick a favourite but I think I’d have to say when we took a day trip to Greenwich. Taking the boat down the river, you’re really reminded what a fantastic city London is. Then in Greenwich there is so much to do: fascinating museums, beautiful art, colourful markets, romantic walks with spectacular views, not to mention standing on the line where time officially starts! We finished off the date with a delicious meal at the Rivington Grill and then a very tipsy boat ride home in the dark, mesmerised by the lights of London and the romance of it all. It was a perfect day.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

The Cineroleum

NEWS FLASH!  Tickets for the 4th & final weekend (9th - 12th September) of The Cineroleum go on sale at 4pm today.

Here at the Great Date Guide we've been telling you all summer about the fabulous Cineroleum, or in their own words: "a derelict petrol station on Clerkenwell Road transformed into a hand-built cinema celebrating the extravagance and ceremony of the picture palace".

This afternoon tickets will go on sale for their final instalment of films, a smorgasboard of cinematic classics ranging from Badlands to the 1949 film noir classic The Third Man. Tickets are £5 each and we reckon that's a small price to pay for one of the most original dates in London this summer.

Tickets are available through the website but be quick, the previous films have all been sell outs…

For more tips on a original things to do in London then check out our website by clicking here.

Happy Thursday - the week's nearly over!