The writer and dating expert recalls the highs and lows of her dating experiences in Seven Dials – where the food and drink delivered where the dates didn’t
Lockdown is over, and for single people like myself, this means one thing: so long virtual dating, hello face-to-face romance. I’ve missed you.
But, where to go? As someone who has lived – and dated – in London for nearly a decade, I know that finding a great date spot can be difficult.
It needs to have a busy atmosphere but not feel too crowded, offer friendly but not overbearing service, and have dim lighting (there’s nothing quite like staring into someone’s eyes under bright fluorescent lights).
Years ago, on Valentine’s Day, I had dinner with a boyfriend at The Barbary, the acclaimed north African restaurant in Neal’s Yard. Given I’m now single, you can imagine how that went (I ended up crying in the toilets and we broke up soon after). But, despite the disastrous evening, I still remember the delicious fattoush salad and black salmon dukkah, as well as the kind waiter who passed me a tissue.
As an area, Seven Dials offers something unique; it’s smack-bang in the middle of London but still has an intimate feel, thanks to its many streets and hidden drinking holes.
For instance, if you want a laid-back pub vibe, there’s the charming Crown & Anchor (the aforementioned ex-boyfriend and I had a pint there before dinner). Or Pix Pintnos – still one of my favourite tapas bars in the city – where you simply choose your snacks by picking them up from the bar, take as many as you want to your table and pay afterwards.
The bartenders are usually very attractive too, so if the date doesn’t go well, there’s a back-up plan.
For those brave enough to try daytime dating (I salute you), I highly recommend spending a day stuffing your face with street food at Seven Dials Market, run by KERB.
Start with a round at Pick & Cheese – which has an actual conveyor belt rolling around with all kinds of fromage – then share a classic Reuben’s sandwich from Monty’s Deli and finish off with a vegan burrito from Club Mexicana, with a side of tequila, of course.
I can’t guarantee you’ll fall in love with each other, but you’ll definitely salivate over the food.
Finally, if you’re out to impress, take your lover to Escapologist, a basement cocktail bar that once housed a secret society and men’s club. It’s run by the guys behind Bar Elba and Goodnight Josephine in Waterloo, so it’s a guaranteed hipster’s dream, complete with bearded bartenders and a concealed entrance.
A man took me here on our first date once, and spent the entire evening talking about his business and his ex (with red-wine stained lips that put me off kissing him). But I still had a great night out – thanks to the extensive cocktail list. In case you’re wondering, no, we didn’t have a second date.
I know what you’re thinking: so many disappointing experiences in one area, and I keep going back. But here’s the thing – Seven Dials always delivers, even if the dates don’t.
I take it back, finding a good date spot isn’t difficult.
But finding a person to take with you? That’s a whole other challenge. So you might as well enjoy tasty cocktails and food while you do.
Almara Abgarian is a freelance writer and dating expert who writes for Metro, The Independent and Stylist
If you’re looking for a good spot for a date then look no further than Seven Dials’ collection of restaurants, which are extending Eat Out to Help Out deals until the end of the month. The magnificently fun and delicious Flesh & Buns is offering 50% off your bill, up to £10 per person every Monday to Thursday. At Seven Dials Market the wonderful Pick & Cheese is offering £20 Bottomless Plates from Thursday to Sunday in September. And at Rossopomodoro customers can enjoy 50% off the restaurant’s divine artisanal Neapolitan food and drinks, up to a maximum of £10 per person.