Ideal if you’re looking for a fun date night in the capital.
Those first few dates with a potential love interest can be stressful. With both sides feeling their way, testing the water, and trying their hardest to show their good side, some of the more traditional first date venues actually make the least sense.
Many fear the prospect of sitting across from each other in a restaurant, attempting to strike up a friendly, flirty conversation in an environment akin to a job interview. Others find it understandably difficult to get that initial spark to ignite when sitting in silence in a cinema, theatre or concert. Indeed, it’s any wonder traditional relationships ever got off the ground when conducted in such romance-sapping settings.
Instead, for those first, second or third dates, why not try a more relaxed or unconventional setting? Dates with a little competition involved are always fun and frivolous, and represent a great litmus test for any chemistry between you.
Moreover, they provide natural breaks and prompts in conversation, awkwardness is easier to navigate, and the spirit of rivalry fosters a connection between the two that naturally leads to flirting.
You can also see how someone reacts to winning and losing, which is hugely important – if they scream in your face and do a little dance or victory lap…well, perhaps ghosting is allowed on this occasion.
Yep, dates with a little healthy competition can be a very good thing. So without further ado, here are some competitive date night ideas for Londoners.
SWINGERS CRAZY GOLF – IDEAL FOR MINI GOLF AND EXCELLENT STREET FOOD
Get your head out of the gutter; we’re not talking about that kind of event. A little too niche a suggestion for a first date, perhaps…
Nope, swingers it’s all about crazy golf and a playful place to take your date. Indeed, the spirited nature of the game can put those date night nerves to bed, fast. What’s more, it’s easy to be coy and flirtatious when you’re playing a game of crazy golf….’show me how to perfect that swing’ and all that.
At Swingers, it takes around 30 to 40 minutes to play 9 holes. This means that if a date isn’t going well, you have the opportunity to leave after a round and exit a bad date early, no questions asked. On the other hand, if the date is going well, you can suggest a quick bite to eat…
Amazingly for a crazy golf venue, you’ll find some of the best street food vendors in town here; Patty & Bun, Breddos Tacos, Pizza Pilgrims, Made of Dough and Hackney Gelato are all under one roof, feeding hungry swingers. They also do pretty darn good cocktails with a menu featuring over 40 alongside premium beers, wine, mocktails and soft drinks.
Swingers has two central London locations, one in the West End on Prince Street and one in the heart of the city in Browns Buildings. A recent study revealed that the top choice of dates for twentysomethings was mini-golf, so if you’re in this age group, this date night idea suggestion will probably go down well.
THE CLASSIC PUB QUIZ – IDEAL FOR GETTING YOUR FRIENDS’ APPROVAL
Let’s get quizzical! If the first couple of dates have gone well and you’re looking to introduce your newfound love interest to your friends, then consider the classic pub quiz, which is a tried-and-tested ice breaker and heaps of fun, too.
What’s more, a pub quiz offers you a chance to show off your smarts; that is, provided you’re good at trivia and have any! You can also figure plenty about your partner at their suggested team name ideas; any with derogatory undertones should be a red flag, for a start.
Some of the best pub quizzes in London include:
- The Lexington, Islington
- The Spread Eagle, Homerton
- The Pineapple, Kentish Town
- Vaulty Towers, Waterloo
- The Star of Bethnal Green
- The Boogaloo, Highgate
That said, there are pub quizzes, usually hosted on a Monday or Tuesday night, all over London, meaning you won’t have to cross several zones to get to a good one!
And if you exit the competition early, why not bring a pack of custom printed playing cards along with you and organise a game while you finish off your drinks? Card games and pubs go together like beer and salty snacks after all. If you forget your pack of cards, “Never Have I Ever” and “20 Questions” are a couple of other games you can also play while learning a thing or two about your date.
BOUNCE AT OLD STREET – IDEAL FOR PING PONG
Bounce, with venues in Old Street and Farringdon, has become something of a London Institution, with friends, couples, blind daters and first timers heading here for a few rounds of ping pong and cocktail or two, every night of the week.
Interestingly, the Farringdon outpost occupies the basement site where the game of ping pong was first trademarked, but it’s the Old Street venue we love the most, with its rows of ping pong tables conducive to competition and courting. Indeed, Bounce is a pretty noisy venue (all those balls bouncing…) which offers you an excuse to scooch closer to your date and whisper in their ear. Perfect!
The food here is a fantastically fully loaded carb-fest – which after a few rounds of ping pong, you’ll feel like you’ve earned. The menu is mainly about pizzas – for many, the perfect sharing date food and much more intimate than having your own individual plates.
Moreover, since you can eat a pizza slice with just one hand, the other hand is free for holding over the table. If you don’t like pizza (not everyone does) then there’s some loaded nachos and fried chicken for you to get messy with. Sides include gorgeously crispy potato puffs and some popcorn cauliflower with a BBQ glaze. Perhaps don’t wear white, hey?
Oh, you can even play beer pong here, too! And if that sounds like your kind of thing, you could head on to Belushis, which has sites in Hammersmith, Greenwich, Camden and Shepherd’s Bush, and beer pong at each of them.
Booking a table in advance for Bounce is essential, by the way; it gets busy.
SIMPSON’S-IN-THE-STRAND – IDEAL FOR ENGLISH FARE & A GAME OF CHESS
After something more grown-up? Well, let us introduce you to Simpson’s-in-the-Strand, an altogether different type of London institution. This is the historic “home of chess” and was once London’s greatest chess club.
It’s also home to one of London’s oldest and most iconic restaurants, and dinner here is a spectacle. Victorian silver domed carving trolleys are wheeled to your table and provide the most tender slices of meat; a choice between roast rib of Scottish beef or Welsh lamb, with all the fixings included, of course.
The tradition of carving meat tableside here began as a way to not disturb chess players mid-game, and continues to this day. That said, after a renovation of both decor and menu in 2017, the restaurant has updated its menu slightly; you can now have Beef Wellington with your sliced beef.
Joking aside, there’s some lighter touches on the menu if you’re keen for your date to stay on the sharp side of sluggish; the sea trout with Scottish mussels and samphire is particularly good.
After dinner, move on to the bar, complete with chess-themed decor. Though chess boards aren’t provided, you could bring your own mini travel chess set and have a game of speed chess. You don’t want to upset the bartender with a 7 hour tactical struggle, after all.
And if you’re still peckish, order their signature roast beef and Yorkshire pudding sandwich while you play.
Right now, Simpson’s in the Strand is temporarily closed, but we hope to see them reopen later in the year.
VISIT A BOARD GAME BAR – IDEAL FOR SENDING YOUR HUGGING HORMONE SKY HIGH
Did you know that playing a board game with a romantic partner releases oxytocin which is associated with trust, sexual activity and relationship building? In fact, often referred to as the “love hormone or “hugging hormone ”, levels of oxytocin increase during hugging and orgasm.
But that’s not all; a study found that couples who play board games have an improved love life, with research suggesting that couples who play board games interact more because they are competing and talking about the game, and with more interaction, more oxytocin is released.
So now you know this invaluable piece of scientific research, you’re probably wondering where to play board games in London, right?
Well, in Haggerston you’ll find London’s first dedicated board game cafe, Draughts. There’s also one in Waterloo on Leake Street. With opening hours of 10 am until 11 pm, you can get truly immersed in the fun and frolics of an old school board game here, and this kind of date is ideal for one of London’s many, many rainy days.
The collection at Draughts is extensive, with stone-cold classics like Monopoly and chess rubbing shoulders with more esoteric options like Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot. The food menu is all cleverly curated finger food (Korean chicken wings, tacos….) and is perfect to pick at while never breaking stride on the board.
Perhaps the best part, though, is that this back-to-basics gaming will cost you only a £5 entry fee, after which play is unlimited. The beers, sadly, aren’t free.
Other great board game bars where you can play games on the table and footsie under it include:
- Loading Bar, Stoke Newington and Peckham
- The Library Pot, Richmond
- The Ludoquist, Croydon
- Escape Bar, Stratford, Sherpherd’s Bush and Dalston
- Scooter Cafe, Waterloo
ALL STAR LANES – IDEAL FOR AN AMERICAN INSPIRED DATE
First things first; dates should be fun, not full of friction and failing conversation. And let’s state the obvious here for a moment; bowling is fun.
Whilst it might feel a bit presumptuous to be kicking off your shoes and getting cosy on a first date, All Star Lanes might just be the most fun you can have donning borrowed shoes.
You can also check out your date’s socks, which we feel offers something of a glimpse into their soul. Are they matching? Mismatched? Holes in them? Or are they wearing some god awful novelty socks with Sponge Bob Square pants on them? Or worse, they’re mismatched and novelty, with Homer Simpson on one sock and Thomas the Tank on the other. Hmmm, this sounds like we might be speaking from experience. Let’s move on…
At All Star Lanes, you can pay £35 per person for their Drink, Dine and Bowl package, which includes two courses from their American diner inspired menu, a cocktail, and of course, an hour’s worth of bowling. Otherwise, it’s £15 for a lane and a regular game.
Hey, you can even do a spot of karaoke while you’re here. What’s not to love?
There are four locations in London; White City, Brick Lane, Holborn and Stratford. Though booking a lane in advance is highly recommended, they do keep a few free for walk-ins. Do be aware that during peak times, lanes are reserved for those who are dining.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Is there anything better for encouraging banter and bonding than a competitive date? We haven’t found it. And hey, if things go well, maybe the loser can pay for the next date?