Monday, 30 November -0001

How to Choose a Restaurant for a Date

Notoriously cutting food critic Giles Coren's new book is a roaringly good read. In this extract he imparts his advice for that all-important date night meal...

NOT LONG AGO a young chap I play cricket with, about 25 years old, nice-looking, rich family, clean clothes (hell, I’d go to bed with him myself), emailed me as follows: 

‘Hi Giles, How are you? Can I ask a quick favour of a restaurant recommendation? I’m going on a first date with a girl and I’m not really sure where to take her. There are basically no criteria other than somewhere that would be nice for a first date; sorry I know that’s not helpful. Yours, Tom.’How to eat out

I was about to delete it and pretend I had never seen it (as I do with most requests for help in this area from friends) but came over all avuncular and replied like this:

‘Hey Tom. First off, don’t take her somewhere too quiet, or too romantic. That’s a bit scary for both of you. Where do you live? More importantly, where does she live? Is she into food? What are you hoping to achieve? Main thing is for you to be comfortable. I can tell you the right place but I need a tiny bit more.’

‘I live in Notting Hill,’ he replied. ‘And she lives in Knightsbridge. I met her in the gym. I don’t know what she thinks about food. I was thinking of E&O. My aim is to get to know her and get a second date.’

And I told him this:

‘Do NOT go to E & O! It is a shithole and any half classy Doris can sniff that from the door. Also, do not let her see that you cannot leave your mimsy little bourgeois Eurotrash hood. Go to Bar Boulud, at the Mandarin Oriental.

‘When taking a chick out the crucial thing is to be near HER home. That way she hasn’t had a hassly journey when she arrives, and she isn’t just sitting there worrying about how she’s going to get home. And on the off chance that action is on the cards it is she who has to ask you back, not vice-versa, so you don’t come over all rapey. At the same time, there is no danger of her being offended by your NOT asking her back. Bar Boulud has advantage of being big and bustly so you’re not laying on a heavy romantic shtick, but the food is very good and also plenty of scope for her, being a chick, to eat lightly. Also getting a table isn’t too hard, as long as you give them a bit of notice.’

It’s not like I think there’s anything magic about that. I’m just passing it on because Tom replied so enthusiastically and added, ‘If you have another child, I hope you have a son, as this is choice advice that definitely needs to be passed on.’ But I don’t have a son, I have a daughter. And if any man so much as invites her out for a cup of coffee, EVER, before she is 25, then I will personally cut off his knackers.

How To Eat Out: Lessons From A Life Lived Mostly In Restaurants (Hodder & Stoughton, £12.99) is out now.

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