There’s no denying it, dating can be tricky. Aside from the anxiety that your prospective beau seems completely normal but could be a potential psycho, the sheer abundance of choice with regards to location and activity can have you giving up before you’ve even begun. To ease the pain a little, here is my suggested list of activities for the first five dates (all south of the river, of course…!)
On a first date, keep it simple. It perhaps goes without saying, yet a surprising number of people forget this golden rule. Ensure proximity to alcohol to take the edge off first date nerves; drinks at a low-key bar are perfect. Try Bar Story in Peckham for tasty cocktails (if dating on a budget, go between 6 and 7 for happy hour), The Gantry in Brockley (upstairs is the bar area, with comfy seats and a laid-back atmosphere), or The New Cross House.
Time to see whether the first date was a fluke, or whether your dating buddy is actually as funny as you remember through the drink-induced haze. Some sort of food-based event is ideal, but steer clear of a formal dinner. Borough Market is great for wandering around on weekdays and Saturdays, or try nearby Maltby Street Market for fewer crowds. In the evening head to the perennially popular tapas bar Jose on Bermondsey Street; the joint is small and friendly, serving up delicious nibbles such as chorizo in red wine and pan-seared prawns.
A daytime activity date is perfect for date three, when you are starting to get to know someone beyond the niceties of conversation about background, childhood and work. For adventurous types, The Biscuit Factory in Bermondsey has a climbing wall; for those who prefer something a little less strenuous, try Greenwich Park. Walk up to the Observatory for panoramic views of the city, or search for the park’s ‘secret garden’ and settle down for a picnic.
By the fourth outing, it’s time to splash out on an intimate dinner. With low lighting and well-priced delicious Italian fare, such as slow-cooked beef ragu and handmade pasta, Antico on Bermondsey Street is a good choice. If you’re in the Camberwell/ Peckham area, No67 at the South London Gallery is hard to beat; offering a daily menu with meals such as braised rabbit and clam linguine cooked fresh onsite, the little café turns into a candlelit haven come nightfall.
It’s a personal belief of mine that no date should be cinema-based until at least date five. I’d recommend eschewing the Peckham Plex (yes it’s cheap, but there’s a time and a place) and heading to the Ritzy in Brixon or the Picturehouse in Greenwich; both have comfortable seats, upmarket snacks and screen bars. Alternatively, once summer rolls around again keep an eye out for al fresco film showings- last year Bussey Building in Peckham, Horniman Gardens in Forest Hill and the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens all hosted outdoor screens, as did Brockwell Lido in Herne Hill.