Picking the perfect dinner date spot

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If you thought asking someone out was the hard bit, think again. Picking the perfect dinner date venue can be a minefield so we’ve asked Europe’s No. 1 online restaurant booking website toptable.com for some advice:

The place you choose will say a lot about you and you don’t want to scare someone off with somewhere that’s too formal, too trashy or just downright bad. Planning ahead is key – if you’re 99% sure that the food will be good, the service slick and the ambience just right, you can relax and concentrate on your date. Here are a few tips to help you pick the perfect dinner date spot.

Setting the mood

Save the hush-hush dining rooms for your first anniversary; in the early stages it’s best to keep it casual. Think cosy trattorias, laid-back bistros and – most importantly – restaurants with great lighting and an inoffensive soundtrack. (You don’t want to spend the night shouting across the table or sweating under strip-lights). The smart new breed of gastropubs are a good choice, as are luxe lounge-bars and restaurants with great views, as long as the food lives up to the scenery. Still nervous? Play it safe and go for a familiar favourite – if you know what to expect, you’ll feel more comfortable and so will your date.

Getting the food right

On those nervy first, second and third dates, the dish of the day is anything that gets you talking. Sharing is a great way to break the ice so try dim sum, tapas, mezze or charcuterie platters that you can pick at whilst chatting. There’s something deliciously flirty about swapping tasters and using your hands rather than guarding your own plate and trying to remember which fork to use first.

If your date’s into cooking, try a teppanyaki restaurant or somewhere with an open kitchen so you can watch the action or a Korean barbeque where you can do a bit of cooking yourself. That said, if your date has mentioned a passion for pizza or a Thai food fetish, then get online and find the best local example of the food you know they’ll love.

Places to avoid

In the early stages, it’s best to steer clear of buffets and chain eateries, even the good ones, as this suggests a lack of imagination. Avoid anywhere that specialises in messy food like ribs, noodles and unshelled seafood, plus anything you have to eat with chopsticks or off the bone. Asian food is always a winner but skip the super-hot curries or spicy Sichuan dishes unless you’re sure that both you and your date can handle the heat. Bars are great for pre-dinner drinks but stay away from packed pubs, overly pricey hotel bars and anywhere with a student-style Happy Hour.

The price

This is a tricky one, even if you’re going dutch. Going for a Michelin blow-out might seem like a great way to impress your date, but the combination of sky-high prices and stiff service is hardly conducive to a relaxed evening. At the opposite end of the spectrum, don’t insist on the early bird special and resist whipping out a discount voucher. You can still get a good deal, without the embarrassment, just book online at toptable.com for exclusive special offers at top restaurants across the UK.

The back-up plan

Even the best laid plans can come unstuck, so it’s good to be prepared. Reservations get lost, tables can be double-booked and that ‘hidden gem’ might prove hard to find after dark with a date in tow. Don’t panic, just do a quick Google search beforehand so you’ve got a handful of back-up venues to head for if everything goes belly up.

If this all sounds like hard work, just remember that if things go well it will be your date’s turn to plan the next one! If you’re stuck for ideas, why not check out our romantic restaurants suggestions. With a great meal sorted in seconds, all you have to do is show up and be charming company.

What is toptable.com? toptable.com is Europe’s No 1 online restaurant booking website, where smart diners go to search, book and rate more than 5,000 restaurants from Michelin-starred gastro-temples to hidden local gems across the UK and in 15 countries abroad.  Booking restaurants with toptable is free, fast and simple to use.

toptable gives diners valuable insider information, real up-to-date diner reviews, thousands of exclusive money-saving special offers and a terrific top rewards points programme that gives diners free meals, culinary books and blinding gastronomic experiences.


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