The new romantics

Looking for a date venue that doesn’t involve alcohol or a three-course meal? Ashley Gummerson explains why you’ll find love in a third-wave café. Photo by Joshua Ness

Whether you’ve been matched with a date by an app or set up in the old-fashioned friend-of-a-friend manner, it’s important to find out if you and your potential partner are on the same wavelength quite quickly. You don’t want to realise they’re wrong for you in the first 10 minutes and then spend the rest of the evening – and a big wodge of cash – in an expensive restaurant, counting the minutes until you can get away. The perfect solution? A coffee shop date.

Googling “dating in coffee shops”, throws up over two million results (“4 Tips On Coffee Shop Dating”, “5 Reasons Coffee Shops Are Better Than Bars”). So if you’re considering – or even fantasising about – meeting a life partner in a cosy neighbourhood independent or taking your significant other on a romantic café date, you’re certainly not alone.

There are many reasons coffee shop dates are great. We at Caffeine find the heady aroma of brewing beans whips us into a frenzy – we have to remember not to sit right next to the grinder – but even if you’re not quite as passionate as that, speciality coffee gives you something to talk about. And beside, cafés are made for friendly conversation. There’s definitely a lot less pressure there than sitting across from someone you barely know in a fine-dining restaurant, trying to find common ground.

And don’t make the mistake of thinking that cafés are only for the start of a relationship. Couples who have been dating or married for years can enjoy romantic coffee dates. With the variety of venues and products on offer these days, it’s a great way to experience a new atmosphere or try a new brew or food.

But there’s no doubt choosing a good coffee shop as a date venue gives a great first impression. “It says a person is relaxed and wants to keep the date light and breezy,” says Vicki Pavitt from dating service Match.com. “It’s ideal for a first date to take the pressure off those early encounters.”

If you realise early on you’re not into the date, you can always chug your espresso and head for the nearest exit. “We once saw a woman tell her date she was going to the toilet and she actually ran out the back door,” laughs Henry Ayres of The Gentlemen Baristas. “The guy thought she’d got locked in the bathroom. We had to tell him she’d left 15 minutes before.”

If you’re enjoying the caffeine courtship, though, there’s always the option of continuing the date elsewhere. And for the second date, if you’re looking to spend more time together but still keep it casual, brunch works well. Cafés such as Aside in Peckham serve light meals in a low-key setting that, again, won’t break the bank.

Even in a low-pressure rendevous, you still want to impress. “Choose a unique place and show that you have insider knowledge,” says dating coach Johnny Cassell (johnnycassell.com). “It adds value to your presence, which is inherently attractive. A coffee shop that makes you look interesting is 10 times better for a date than going to one of the four Starbucks near your office.” Do some research. Look for a coffee shop that has an art show every week, or perhaps a cute French café that’s candlelit even during the day.

If you’re planning a date in a speciality coffee shop, it’s a good idea to do a little research into the brew too. “If you’re diving from Tinder headfirst into a cappuccino, it might  as well be a unique blend from a place you know something about – this will help you to sound cultured,” says Johnny. “And be pleasant to the staff. It reveals a lot about your character.”

Many people who’ve been on the dating scene for a while find they get sick of meeting in bars – not least because the next morning, everything’s hazy and they need another date to remember whether they liked the person or not. It’s much better to be sober, especially if you’re looking for a serious relationship rather than a fling.

Matchmaking websites and apps are tuned in to dating while caffeinated. Match.com had an event earlier this year where singles could come to a coffee shop and have the face of a potential partner printed on the coffee foam. It may sound cringey, but it’s definitely an ice-breaker.

And even though there’s no booze, funny moments may still happen. “We once had a man come to a date while riding his electric-powered unicycle,” says Henry. “After they left, he rode away with his date running after him down the road…”

There is an inherent downside to coffee shop dating that we should mention. What happens when you want take things further, but have coffee breath? If you’re expecting a kiss, perhaps order a latte or a mocha instead of an espresso. If you’re already in a relationship, however, kiss your partner – they probably won’t mind!

 

Top 5 cafes for dating

Ozone Coffee Roasters 11 Leonard Street, London EC2 4AQ; ozonecoffee.co.uk

If laid-back and antipodean is your vibe, take your date to Ozone. Famed for its Kiwi cuisine, it’s the perfect spot for an unhurried flat white over brunch on a lazy weekend. Just don’t be upset if your date falls for the barista…

Covent Garden Grind 42 Maiden Lane, London WC2E 7LI; grind.co.uk

For centrally located coffee and cocktails, there are few better venues than Grind’s Covent Garden site. There is an energetic playlist and lots of booths to cuddle up in. If the date goes well, you can drink espresso martinis into the night.

Monocle Cafe 18 Chiltern Street, London W1U 7QA; cafe.monocle.com

Serving Allpress Redchurch blend, this stylish, bijou coffee shop in Marylebone is the perfect place to snuggle up over a cappuccino on a rainy day. Make sure to try the delicious cinnamon buns – a  proven aphrodisiac.

Fernandez & Wells Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA; fernandezandwells.com

F&W brews coffee by Staffordshire’s Has Bean. Enjoy the views of Somerset House, order some excellent tapas (great for sharing!) and finish with a walk around the Courtauld Gallery to see works by Monet and Van Gogh.

The Ned 27 Poultry, EC2R 8AJ; thened.com

Want to impress? Take your date to this five-star City hotspot located in an art deco masterpiece. Start at Malibu Kitchen and, if the date goes well, move on to one of the six other restaurants (or even one of the 250 bedrooms). Just check your bank balance first.