First dates are for drinking too many pints on a weeknight. Second dates are for realising that you actually do want to kiss this person even if the aforementioned pints aren’t involved. And third dates are for, well, you know. Whether you’re planning on ‘really vibing with your date’ (read as: awkwardly meeting their flatmate tomorrow morning, wink wink, nudge nudge) or you just want to get to know them better before doing anything drastic like deleting your Hinge profile, then it is imperative that you pick the right place. You want somewhere cool, somewhere cosy, and importantly, somewhere with just the right amount of candlelight that says ‘I like you, but I definitely haven’t used any online photo software to discover what our future children will look like’. Introducing the London bars and restaurants that are perfect for that all-important third date.
You’re like, really casual about this whole third date thing. Yes, somewhere out there your mother is online shopping for a wedding fascinator after you called her and uttered the fateful words ‘I’ve met someone’. But that’s beside the point, because this is all just very casual. Totally casual. As casual as dinner at Daddy Bao. A laidback Taiwanese restaurant in Tooting, the romance kind of sneaks up on you here between bites of shiitake mushroom bao and sips of their plum wine negroni. The moody red lighting will hide that inevitable sheen of panic-sweat you’ve developed on the tube and the affordable prices will set a tone of cool and - third date buzzword coming in hot - casual.
Cheese, we would like to thank you for your eternal support during hangovers, your exceptional ability to turn bread into a meal, and for providing endless flirtatious dining in the form of fondue. A third date power move for the ages, we have often presumed that fondue can only be present on the dates of Formula 1 drivers, advanced skiers, and people who really know their way around Aspen. Alas, no. Hear our battle cry that you too can utilise melted gooey dairy goodness in the name of ‘intimacy’ at La Fromagerie. There are a couple of these Provencal-feel cheese shops dotted around London, but the Bloomsbury location is our favourite for a candlelit basement space that’s perfect for making your way through their own-brand roc red. It’s excellent.
The best film trilogies inspire and entertain before eventually becoming self-obsessed, bloated, and fizzling out. Relationships follow a similar pattern post third-date, only with less George Lucas. One way to keep feelings and excitement sky high is via a rub of yaji and a dollop of shito. There’s bags of flavour in the West African fare served at Chishuru, from soft ekuru with a fiery scotch bonnet sauce to caramelised plantain dusted with yaji, and it’s impossible to leave this cosy Brixton restaurant without fizzing in excitement.
Dating someone new is the best feeling in the world. Minus the dry-heave of anxiety you get every time you think about them ghosting you, the state of your overdraft from all of the ‘effortless’ outfits you’ve bought to impress them, and the fact that you’ve got at least another four months of pretending you don’t burp like a Somerset farmer every time you drink a Heineken. But mostly, it’s the best feeling in the world. Channel all of that oxytocin into dinner at Bar Douro, a charming Portuguese restaurant where croquetes de alheira, prawn rissole, and pretending you’ve fled the country is encouraged. Don’t skip the Azeitao cheese either.
Bancone is a little corridor of a restaurant on a quiet patch of Covent Garden that will provide all the important date night Ps: privacy, pasta, primitivo reds, and exposed light bulbs. That last one doesn’t begin with P but such is the sexual prowess of an exposed bulb that we will forgo our affinity for alliteration to tell you about it. The handmade pasta here is excellent, available gluten-free, and importantly, affordable. There are also lots of Nice Nibbly Things on the menu, including olives, burrata, and a datterini tomato focaccia that will go great with one of their negronis.
Not only is Humble Chicken your future nauseating pet name, it’s also the restaurant where you’ll adopt said name with a skewer of chicken thigh in your mouth. The yakitori restaurant is right in the mix of things in Soho and you’ll also want to throw yourselves right in the mix at the counter. There are sticks twirling on the flames in front of you, bits of chicken left right and centre and, most importantly, a tap of ice cold Asahi with both of your names on it.
Bar des Prés
This little spot on Albermarle Street has everything you’d need for a successful third date. Moody lighting, intimate booths, sexy bar seating, a very long wine list, and the kind of attentiveness that means your glass of water will be refilled instantly (and without your conversation being awkwardly interrupted). It’s in Mayfair, so yes it’s on the pricey side, which is why we’d stick to some nibbles and drinks, some salmon sashimi here, a prawn salad there, and a cheeky pecan praline mille feuille to finish off. However you choose to play it here, you can be sure that the lighting is enough to secure you a fourth date.
A quintessential date night territory, we have lovingly used and abused Farringdon wine bars for third dates on multiple occasions because the area provides that grown-up central sophistication and the vino will do all the hard work for you. The ultimate Farringdon spot for flirting and charcuterie platters is The Winemakers Club, an underground wine bar housed in a series of 150-year-old arches that is exclusively lit by candlelight. For all intents and purposes, it’s Gordon’s Wine Bar without the queues, more affordable chianti, and zero risk of running into a tourist that keeps comparing ‘the vibe’ to the London dungeon. Praise be.
If The Winemaker’s Club is leaning a little too ooh la la for your third date manifesto, then head for Quality Wines. It’s just up the road and this shop-cum-nighttime restaurant is so charming that we would be in a lovey-dovey mood even if our date insisted on listing their favourite craft beers in alphabetical order. Sadly for us, that is a true story but importantly, is also testament to the overwhelming date night potential of this place. The menu of tasteful, and tasty, small plates on the blackboard - see, charming - changes regularly, but you can expect hey-lardo-meet-toast-you’ll-be-great-friends dishes, done right.
While you’re pretty comfortable in each other’s company by date three, you should also know that relying entirely on your personality is a recipe for disaster. Instead, lean on London’s best dumplings and be safe in the knowledge that a deliciously scalding xiaolongbao offers excellent respite as you ready your best Live At The Apollo anecdote. Soup dumplings are just one of the things Dimsum & Duck in King’s Cross is good for. The other 50+ Cantonese classics or so are on the menu and, combined with its incredible value and lowkey atmosphere, it makes for a superbly delicious date.
Okay, so technically we once went on a tangent about cute dachshunds during a psychology lesson on Pavlov’s dog, therefore we do not have the human behavioural knowledge to tell you why being underground is so sexy. But if we take rabbits’ spirited approach to reproduction as our example, The Vault in Soho is a prime location to get all romantic. A cosy underground bar hidden behind a bookcase at the back of Milroys whisky shop in Soho, their leather sofas are the perfect place to curl up with someone, tentatively start chatting about your siblings, and participate in some lighthearted PDA. Start your evening out on the Milroys pavement terrace with a three-serve cocktail bottle for £15, then head downstairs for more cocktails or a bottle of wine.
As we’ve established, the third date is kind of a big deal. And while it’s way too early to start introducing this potential LOYL to your parents, it’s potentially not too early to introduce them to the mammas at this lively Italian spot in Chelsea. Fortune favours the bold, as they say. This troupe of female chefs make some delicious pasta dishes all while having a little party, and have been known to pull couples up to dance with them which is always fun. What better way to show your date that you’re fun and wholesome whilst also having great taste in restaurants? Trick question, there isn’t.