Monday, 31 January 2011

What's on in February

We'll freely admit that Valentine's Day rather overshadows the rest of February for us, but there are indeed days either side of it, and there are in fact many other things to do this month! Let us show you the best of them...

1) Die Zauberflöte at The Royal Opera House (Covent Garden: 1st - 26th Feb 2011)

This February one of the world's favourite operas comes to The Royal Opera House. Yes, for those of you not gifted in German translation, this is indeed Mozart's Magic Flute. Featuring the much loved characters of Papageno and Papagena (we hear they use The Great Date Guide regularly) and the truly spectacular Queen of the Night's aria, this is an opera that everyone should see at least once… or twice... or perhaps a few times!

2) Tower of London Twilight Tour (City: 2nd, 9th, 17th & 23rd Feb 2011)

'Murder, mystery and intrigue at The Tower of London". A fantastic opportunity to join a resident Yeoman Warder (Beefeater) on an eery after hours tour of this historic monument.

3) Chinese New Year (Central London: 3rd - 6th Feb 2011)

Be a part of the biggest Chinese New Year celebrations outside of Asia. This year the New Year (2011 - Year of the Rabbit) falls on the 3rd of February, but the main celebrations in London are being held on Sunday the 6th. Trafalgar Square and Chinatown will be bursting with traditional Chinese entertainment plus stalls, food and lion dance displays… and it's free!

4) Kew Gardens Tropical Extravaganza (Kew: 5th Feb - 6th March 2011)

A festival of beautiful tropical flowers to brighten up the longest of winters. There'll be orchids a plenty, an Amazonian flooded forest display and behind-the-scenes tours - something for everyone.

5) UK Wedding Show (Excel Centre: 5th - 6th Feb 2011)

No doubt there will be many of you who, helped by excellent GDG guidance along the way, have now decided to tie the knot. Lucky for you then, that this year's UK wedding show will play host to over 150 stands with everything that you could ever need to plan the big day… and rather more besides we imagine! Just one more question remains… can we come to the wedding?

6) Valentine's Day (You decide: 14th Feb 2011)

Ahhhhhh, it's here at last... We're brimming with great suggestions for how you should be spending 14th February this year, so no hesitations please, just head straight to our Valentine's feature and get planning!

7) La Soiree (Southbank: Finishes 27th Feb 2011)

It's your last chance to catch this astounding cabaret / burlesque / comedy / circus show at London's Southbank. Housed in a pop-up Big Top tent, this is one performance not to be missed.

Take a look at the website for 100's more brilliant date ideas for Valentine's Day or any other day of the year!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Romantic Restaurants...

Toptable have just published a list of the most romantic restaurants in the UK, according to a selection of respected food bloggers, and luckily for us 12 out of the 15 restaurants listed are in London! 

This got the team at the Great Date Guide thinking... which are our favourite romantic restaurants in London, and what about you? Where would you go for the ultimate romantic evening? We'd love to know! Please scribble a comment at the bottom of this post or drop us a line on Facebook or on Twitter.

For me, romance isn't about splashing the cash (although I'll never say no to being wined and dined!) it is about cosy, candlelit atmosphere and good food.  This being the case I'll start the ball rolling with  Andrew Edmunds which always comes pretty high on my list of romantic restaurants. This charming, tiny, restaurant has all the right ingredients for romance: small, intimate tables dimly lit by candles are the setting for delicious, daily changing, French food and equally delicious French wine.  The friendly service and handwritten menu only serve to add to the relaxed ambience. This really is the perfect place for an intimate, unpretentious date. Perfect for cold dark winter evenings and post-work rendezvous!

Another favourite, especially for a long, languid summers lunch, is the newly Michelin starred Petersham Nurseries. The location has always been perfection: an assortment of beautifully laid rustic tables nestled amongst fragrant climbing plants within an old glass conservatory, on the banks of the Thames. But now the perfection of the food has also been recognised. The down side of this is that booking a table here will be even harder than before! But persevere because it is well worth it. As one reviewer put it, Petersham is like "the River Cafe and an English Country Garden rolled into one" and I for one couldn't think of a more romantic place to while a way a romantic afternoon...

Where do you think is the most romantic restaurant in London? Everyone has a different idea of a romantic meal so we'd love to know what you think!

Miss Mary xxx

Image copyright David Loftus

Friday, 21 January 2011

Burns Night - What's it all about?

As the 25th January draws ever closer, London is bracing itself for the annual pipe brandishing, haggis wielding and whisky fuelled festivities that Burns night has become famous for. So what's all the fuss about, and why should we at The Great Date Guide be interested?

Well, poetry and romance of course go hand in hand, and as it turns out, Rabbie Burns was a bit of a romantic. On second thoughts, romantic may be a little generous, but he was certainly very interested in women! He was of course also a fabulous poet, and it is this (rather than the philandering) which we celebrate each Burns Night. Why we're really interested of course, is that it makes yet another great excuse to get yourself out on a celebratory date, particularly if you can claim some Scottish roots... 

An alternative is to go DIY and create your very own Burns Night Celebration. Here's what you'll need:

- One set of bagpipes + piper (ear plugs optional)
- One large haggis (notoriously hard to catch but very good to eat)
- One large ceremonial knife
- Neeps (swede / turnips) & tatties (potatoes). Scottish-English dictionary also useful
- One Scot (for poetry reading)
- One generous helping of whiskey…


Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, 
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race! 
Aboon them a' ye tak your place, 
Painch, tripe, or thairm : 
Weel are ye wordy o'a grace 
As lang's my arm. 

NB - if you prefer to leave it to the professionals, some of our favourite restaurants are putting on Burns Night specials… Try The Boisdale (Belgravia / Bishopsgate) for a set menu, pipes and poetry, Sam's Brasserie in Chiswick for an usual twist on Burns night fare (plus piper), and The Swan at The Globe, who are offering a brilliantly varied Burns themed menu.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

New Year, Old Flame....

Those of you who follow my blog will know I wasn’t exactly blessed with good dating karma last year.

Blind dates, internet dates, they all seemed to go awry in their own special way. But not to be deterred I decided to throw myself into 2011 with a new and improved dating outlook – no more disasters, no more debacles, just good old-fashioned boy meets girl.

I was therefore thrilled when the first dating possibility of the year came from an old flame at university. We’d been on a couple of dates and although it had fizzled out I remembered him being fun, chatty and definitely a bit of a catch. He’d stayed up north after graduation rather than joining the mass exodus to London and I hadn’t heard much from him since. We sent the occasional text but this was the first time he’d wanted to meet up. He was heading to London for work and wanted to take me out to dinner – brilliant, the perfect start to my new year, new love life.

All the pre-date banter was spot-on; he was a man with a plan and had the bar, the restaurant, the timings all sorted.  I’m normally not one to commit to dinner on a first date as you never know how things are going to go and if you’ll end up stuck in a restaurant with your worst nightmare. But this was an old friend, no danger here I thought and happily agreed to his dinner date.

I nervously waited at the bar for the man I hadn’t seen for a few years and hoped he was just as I remembered him. And suddenly there he was – looking exactly as I remembered him… even down to the uni rugby top and slightly battered jeans that he always used to wear.

We ordered drinks and started reminiscing about our uni days – the people, the bars, the clubs, the Union… but we just didn’t seem to have anything else to talk about. We’d covered everything we had in common by the end of drink two and it was clear to me that whatever chemistry we had a few years ago was sadly long gone. I was sure he felt exactly the same and was about to suggest we leave it at just drinks when he brought up the restaurant.

‘I’ve made a reservation for 8.30 so we should get going – I can’t wait to take you to this place, it’s meant to be amazing!’ he said.

“Oh right…great then!’ I replied, not wanting to be rude when he seemed so keen to try this place.

10 minutes later and we were seated at the restaurant trying to drag out yet more uni conversation over two long and awkward courses. We were obviously both working hard to keep the chat going but the date was quickly falling flat. At long last it was time for the bill and we could both make our escape, and even though he’d made it clear he’d wanted to take me out for dinner it just didn’t seem fair to let him pay when it was so obvious there was no attraction from either side. 

When the bill was put on the table I reached into my handbag for my wallet and waited for him to do the same. I waited, and then I waited a bit more… click here to find out what happened in the end!

Written by our lovely, anonymous, bad date blogger!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

New Site Live!

So here it is... (trumpet fanfare please) your brand spangly new Great Date Guide has landed, and we're thrilled with it. We'll leave you to get accustomed to it in your own time, but here are a few bits and bobs that we thought you should know about.

1) Basic functions
We've not really changed much when it comes to the basics of how it works. You can still search for a date by keyword (location, dating stage, activity etc) or by browsing the different categories. We've put a changing selection of our favourites on the home page too, to try and tempt you into trying something new!

2) Booking 
In an attempt to make your date organising experience as painless as possible, you can now book online (where possible) through the site… for free! We've enlisted the help of trusted partners, such as Toptable and Ticketmaster, so that you can be confident that your booking is in safe hands. 

3) Concierge 
Another new addition, you can now get us to organise your date for you. Whether that's because you're too busy, a touch workshy (!) or because you could just do with a little help in deciding what to do, we'll gladly help you out, free of charge. Just give us a call or fill in the online form and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

Remember, we're always keen to hear your feedback, and better still we'd love to share some of your own favourite date ideas. So keep in touch, keep submitting dates and reviews, and help make The Great Date Guide even better still!