So you’ve met The One. Which means your 2020 wasn’t a total shitshow. We’re happy for you. No, really we are. And we don’t mean to burst your little love bubble, but how many times have you actually met this person? Have they met your friends? Your family? Have you even seen them somewhere that isn’t a park? Have they FaceTimed you without their ring light? As things open up are you opening up to the idea that you might want to see other people? You know, just to be sure? These are all things you might want to think about, and - as April 12th approaches - maybe plan for.
This guide is for precisely that, different restaurant recommendations based on the six stages of lockdown love.
FOR THE 6 MONTH TEXTERS
You matched on Monday, sent your first message on Tuesday, exchanged numbers on Wednesday, and told them your life story by Thursday. Six months of incessant messaging, occasional voice notes, and innumerable dog videos later and you’re fairly sure this person who you’ve never met knows more about you than your oldest friends. They know that Theo’s is where you go when you want a strong cocktail and a saucy Neapolitan pizza al fresco. They know that you seem to spend much of your life in Rochelle Canteen or trying to get a booking at Rochelle Canteen because it’s ‘your happy garden place with cremant’. They know that even if you’ve got nothing left to say to each other, The French House has plenty of history and even more booze behind the bar.
FOR THE ETERNAL SECOND DATE OPTIMISTS
You’ve finally met the perfect person. And when we say ‘met’ we mean had one lukewarm coffee in the park and a twenty-minute stroll with. And that was back in November. But still, they are perfect. They’re kind, funny, generous, sexy, so bloody clever, they’ve really got their shit together, and importantly, their entire personality is a figment of your desperate intimacy-deprived imagination. Oops. Time to crack out the old litmus test, the pub, and see if you’ve accidentally interpreted mild attention from a living breathing human as meaning they’re your soulmate. We’ve all been there. The Compton Arms is one of those certified nice pubs that serves genuinely excellent food and is casual enough to suggest you haven’t spent the last three months mentally morphing them into a Mother Theresa-cum-Thor hybrid. If you’re one pint in and they give a stranger’s dog side-eye then - hello, red flags - deeply troubling. But if you progress to dinner and they too describe the burger as ‘a meaty masterpiece’ then hey, maybe they are perfect after all.
FOR THE ONES WHO ARE LOOKING FOR A WAY OUT
It was fun while it lasted. Well, as fun as getting to know someone during a national lockdown can be. But now that things are opening up, you’re starting to see it for what it was: something that won’t be carried through to real life. But you’re a good person, and they have your second favourite hoodie, so you’ll see them one more time to end things in person. You’ll want a place that says ‘this is over, but there’s a chance I’ll be in touch if there’s another lockdown’ and what better way to say that than with a single slice of pizza from Homeslice or Slice by Pizza Pilgrims. It’s nicer than doing it over a quick coffee, and not as confusing as breaking up over drinks in a candle lit wine bar, so they’ll hopefully turn up with some idea of how this is going to go. Eat a slice, hug it out, and don’t delete their number, just in case.
FOR THE ONES WHO ARE KEEPING THEIR OPTIONS OPEN
You watched one season of The Bachelorette over lockdown and have decided that this was the only way for you to approach dating from now on. And we’re not here to judge, we just ask that you document your experience and send it to us for entertainment. But while virtually dating seven people at once isn’t that hard, the IRL version can get a lot more sticky. Our suggestion? There’s a few ways to play this, firstly there’s the classic one date a day for three to five days, depending on how many you’ve got on the go. For a situation like this, we’d opt for a cafe-by-day-restaurant-by-night situation. Vardo is an excellent option for this, the outdoor setup is a great spot to interrogate, ehm we mean get to know, your date over a great coffee or golden spiced milk, and if they tick enough boxes to get them through to the next stage, you can think about taking a look at the all-day menu.
Another way to play this is what we like to call the Seth Cohen Special. AKA gathering your potential candidates in one place, at the same time, on different, faraway tables and splitting your time between them, making sure they never cross paths. Call it a very risky speed date. A place where you could have even the slightest chance pulling this off? Petersham Nurseries. This Richmond spot is essentially a restaurant in a greenhouse, and has about 94 different hiding spots, and a great exit route into London’s biggest park if it all goes very wrong.
Please note: this has the potential to be very stressful. Also, you will probably end up very single.
FOR THE ONES WHO ACCIDENTALLY ENTERED A 40-YEAR MARRIAGE (OOPSIE)
Moving in used to be a decision based on love, trust, and okay, realistically, how fucking expensive renting in London is. Then along came the pandemic and the battle lines were drawn. Move in or be denied, erm, ‘hugging’ for the foreseeable future. So last March - around the time you last had sex with your significant other - you opted to move in together, because really how bad could it be? Following 82 years (12 months) of ‘domesticated bliss’ sponsored exclusively by Netflix and going for long walks to escape the sight of their face, we give you The Palomar. A buzzing Israeli small plates spot, you’re always guaranteed a good time here and for the first time they have an al fresco terrace situation perfect for an exciting date night. Soho! 3D People! A wine list! The combination of food like octopus hummus and tipsy central London dining is just the thing to jolt you back to a beautiful time of innocence and intrigue, you know, long before you witnessed them lick clean a jar of peanut butter at 10am. Just don’t bring up that fight about the bin bags again.
FOR WHEN YOU NEED TO SEE THEM IN A SETTING THAT ISN'T THE PARK
You’ve both said the L-word, and you’re sure it’s the real deal. But now it’s time to venture into the real world as a couple, because up until now it’s been a walk in the park. Literally. But once the picnics are gone, and they’re not surrounded by daffodils and rose bushes, do you still fancy them? Your best shot of finding out is booking a table at Campania and Jones. This is the restaurant where people go to fall in love, and the perfect place to see if the butterflies are still there after they spill ragu down their t-shirt. If they are, congratulations, your love is officially certified.