10 Of The Best Bars For A First Date

Planning a first date is always stressful, but let's be honest, they always seem to go a hell of a lot smoother (or so you think) when drinks are involved. From Ian Fleming's favourite haunt to a speakeasy in Bristol, we've put together 10 of the best bars in the UK for a first date

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Best For: Cocktails

No longer just a stamping ground for practicing lawyers, Holborn is fast becoming a favoured hangout for Londoners, thanks to the newly opened Scarfes Bar at the Rosewood Hotel. Named after the famed British artist and caricaturist Gerald Scarfe (whose works will adorn the walls later next month), the bar serves up some great signature cocktails.

Position yourself at the long bar by the entrance and order a glass of Bubble & Shrubs – 
Sipsmith Gin, elderflower, home-made berry shrubs, dashes of orange bitters and splashed with bubbles – or the warming Humidor with Chivas 18 year Whisky, dry white port, absinthe and stirred with Spice Formula #GIO8 and Xocolat bitters. And should you ever run out of conversation, you can always choose from a selection of their 1,000 antique books to read.

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252 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7EN, rosewoodhotels.com

Best For: Competitive fun

The ideal location to combine getting-to-know-you chat with an amusing distraction, Bounce is a social ping-pong club that combines killer cocktails and table tennis (as well as a generous selection of antipasti and pizzas from the wood-burning oven). Contained within a former nightclub and hidden under an office block in Holborn, they've also just added a new music night 'Hits From The Pong' which will take place every Saturday night. Expect hip-hop, funk, indie and mash-ups.

121 Holborn, London, EC1N 2TD, bouncepingpong.com
 

Best For: Risk takers

No one likes the thought of being rejected before the date's even started, but if you're feeling particularly confident (or smug that your hot date will get you both in) then head to Bristol's new prohibition bar. Pass the crowd lingering outside the White Lion pub where you'll find a discreet door. Now all you have to do is ring the doorbell and hope one of the barmen will show you in. Once you're in, it's worth exploring the different lounges in this Grade II listed townhouse. Don't leave without trying their signature cocktail, the Milk Thistle Daisy with Tanqueray gin, lemon juice, spiced pear syrup and topped with fizz.

Quay Head House, Colston Avenue, Bristol BS1 1EB, milkthistlebristol.com

Best For: Great bar snacks

A first-class underground drinking den in the heart of the city, this is our resident chef Mark Hix's second bar (the first Mark's Bar located beneath his signature restaurant on Brewer Street, Soho). As you and your date attempt to try every drink from the lengthy cocktail menu (go for the Hix Fix with Morello cherries in Somerset eau de vie, crowned with champagne) we suggest you order a few of their unique bar snacks which include baked bone marrow with toast and quail's egg shooters with chorizo. She'll be impressed and you won't have to pop in to your local kebab shop on the way home. Win. 

9a Devonshire Square, London EC2M 4AE, marksbar.co.uk

Best For: Pushing the boat out

Redesigned by Parisian architect and designer India Mahdavi, the Coburg Bar at the Connaught is nothing if not visually striking. The bold graphic carpet, purple velvet seats and Julian Opie portraits gives this otherwise homely, traditional bar a contemporary twist. If your date is struggling to choose from their biblical cocktail menu, we recommend you go for the Apple Martini. Rest assured it won't come out neon green in colour as this martini is created using their homemade cinnamon, pear and apple liquor.

Carlos Place, Mayfair, W1K 2AL, the-connaught.co.uk

Best For: To show off your wine knowledge

Recently exported to the UK, the traditional Italian concept of enoteca allows people to experience (and then buy) new and interesting wines from around the globe. Opened back in May 2012, the wine list at Vinoteca is staggering. Whether you're after the celebrated options from France and Italy or the lesser-known wines from Slovenia, Croatia and Germany, there are over 250 bottles to choose from. An unpretentious, bustling joint in the heart of Soho, sip on a glass (or two) of red and nibble on their hearty platter of cured Spanish and Italian meats by the bar.

53-55 Beak Street, W1F 9SH, vinoteca.co.uk

Best For: Innovative cocktails

Opened back in May 2012 (the same owners of the award-winning Bramble Bar), The Last Word is now considered one of the best cocktail bars in Edinburgh. Renowned for their innovative approach to mixology, the menu includes unique inventions such as The Candidate – an intoxicating blend of Mezcal (the glossary informs us it's similar to tequila), fresh pink grapefruit juice, thyme infused honey and chilli jam and John Candy with vodka, pineapple and sage shrub, homemade pineapple bitters and ginger beer. With an open fire and low level lighting this bar screams romance.

44 Stephen Street, Edinburgh EH3 5AL, lastwordsaloon.com

Best For: Martinis

Nestled away in a peaceful alley a stone's throw from the well-to-do area of Mayfair, Dukes bar serves some of the best martinis in the capital. Regularly visited by James Bond author Ian Fleming (this is where the Vesper Martini was invented), when it comes to mixing the lethal concoction, this legendary haunt doesn't mess about. Made simply with a frozen spirit of your choice, vermouth and a garnish, there's a reason why there's a strict 'two per customer' rule. Opt for their homemade truffle infused vodka to get the conversation started.

Duke's Hotel, St. James's Place, SW1A 1NY, dukeshotel.com

Best For: Afternoon pub session

If you prefer something a little low-key then you can't get much better than an afternoon stroll and a pub session.  If she's happy to walk amongst the swarm of tourists, start the date by wandering through the antique stalls on Portobello Road. Once you've made it back to Notting Hill station head to the Mall Tavern round the corner for a well-deserved pint. With it's wooden floorboards, glass cabinets filled with various knickknacks and beaten leather seats it's the perfect place to wile away the hours. And if the date's going well, why not stay for a hearty British lunch?

71 Palace Gardens Terrace, W8 4RU, themalltavern.com

Best For: Intimate date

The Vault –as the name suggests – is a basement bar set in Brum's Jewellery Quarter. The maze-like layout and VIP booths means there are plenty of areas where you and your date can 'get to know each other better'. If you fancy taking it up a notch why not treat her to a cocktail making masterclass? 

Newhall Place, Newhall Hill, Birmingham B1 3JH, vaultsbirmingham.com

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