Where To Take Her: Quirky Korean, Oddball Cocktails And Wine Wars

Our guide to impressing your other half on your next night out

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1 | The Korean Pop-Up: Galvin at Windows (above)

You don't really expect to find a Korean-inspired tasting menu at one of London's highest profile French restaurants (in reputation and location, on the 28th floor of The Hilton Park Lane). So what's the reason? Well, Head Chef Joo Won is originally from South Korea for starters, but the idea to run a special menu only fully took hold when Won took owner Chris Galvin and General Manager Fred Sirieix on a foodie tour of his homeland this May.

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The result is an August-only pop-up menu which skillfully combines those big and bold Korean flavours, ingredients and techniques with the principles of elegant French haute cuisine for which the restaurant is known.

Each of the seven courses manages to surprise in the best possible way. If we had to pick a highlight it might be the Iberico pork with pickled mooli and soy beans. Or maybe the braised short rib of beef with kimchi and white courgettes. The herby sponge cake with red bean cream and black rice ice cream rounds things off perfectly. All this, and a view of the Queen's tennis court thrown in. If you're looking for something with an original 'wow’ factor, then get this while you can. Will Hersey

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£110 per person; 22 Park Lane, London W1K 1BE; galvinatwindows.com


2 | The Oddball Drinks: The Zetter Townhouse, Marylebone 

The bizarre and yet homely Zetter Townhouse in Clerkenwell is well established as the boutique hotel in London. And now its sister site has opened in Marylebone, thank goodness – you can never have too much of a good thing. Whilst the original venue is based around the foibles of Great Aunt Wilhelmina, this new one is prey to the whims of wicked Uncle Seymour, a much-traveled gent of eclectic predilections.

Designed by Russell Sage, the interiors are as curious as you’d hope, with mementoes (including countless miniature bottles of booze) every which way, all fused by grand furniture and sumptuous silks. The cocktails in the bar are, like Clerkenwell’s, taken care of by the don, aka Tony Conigliaro. We recommend the Royale Royale (champagne boosted with champagne liqueur) or the Fleur du Mal if you need a serious kick (rose and orris vodka with lemon and absinthe). We’re also hankering after The Rake (Beefeater gin, powdered notes and black spots – it looks damned cool) and the Turf Club, made with grass. Grazing options include potted shrimp, duck and so forth, or toasties, or Scotch eggs with curry mayonnaise, and who knows what else.

Curl up in the lounge and you may never want to leave.

28-30 Seymour Street, London, W1H 7JB; thezettertownhouse.com


3 | The French Dining Room: Jean-Jacques

So a Russian-owned French restaurant has arrived in Soho. Sounds dubious, no? But this Frith Street townhouse is an absolute delight for dinner – slinky in the basement, easy-going on the ground floor and bright, breezy yet refined on the first, all further enhanced by a winning welcome. Honestly, it’s not just service with a smile but service with a good old giggle, and that’s by no means to the detriment of its efficiency nor your own evening (there’s nothing worse than awkwardly extended small talk).

Good job the food lives up to the vibe, too, with a menu full of classics that are done brilliantly well: chicken liver parfait that is rich and devilish, scallops cooked to perfection so as to melt in your mouth, tender lamb encrusted with herbs atop Provençale vegetables that absolutely brim with fresh flavour and are bolstered by the sly kick of olive. The list goes on. And you really ought to give the pear soaked in Sauternes a go if you can manage it, not to mention something from the lovely wine list. There is nothing to shock on the menu - nothing crazy, silly, nor exotic - but there is nice, neat simplicity. And plenty of tastiness. 

In addition, Jean-Jacques won’t just be another Soho eatery but a hub of activity, hosting film screenings and talks by writers, artists and directors (much like its counterparts in Moscow and St Petersburg). If you just want a drink, there's a sneaky little secret terrace as well.

45 Frith Street, London, W1D 4SD


4 | The One To Book Ahead: Wine Wars At Arbutus

A new monthly fixture at Michelin-starred Arbutus is well worthy of your to-do list. If you want a treat option that incorporates food, wine, more wine, and some ridiculous laughs (with a bit more wine on the side), then the Wine Wars are for you. Ever the good sport, owner Will Smith (above, on the left - as you will notice, not an American rapper-cum-actor) is each month pitting himself against another London wine buff to see which of them can find the better pairings for a regionally-themed menu. August’s food was inspired by Piedmont, September’s will be of the Loire Valley, October’s of Greece, and so on.

The result is a mirthful dinner party on full restaurant scale, in which you get two glasses of wine for every dish and are equipped with cardboard cutouts of the competitors faces to wave about after each round in order to pick your winner. You really don’t need to know anything about wine, you just need to know what wine you like the taste of alongside your dinner. And exquisitely delicious dinner at that, from co-owner and chef patron Anthony Demetre (on the right).

Get booking now, while there are still places going.

Tickets cost £85 per person
63-64 Frith Street, London, W1D 3JW; arbutusrestaurant.co.uk


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