There’s a question I’m regularly posed with by friends, by colleagues, by random followers via Twitter. Once, by a potential date, which was awkward, because the question I refer to is “Where can I take someone I want to impress on a date?” He was referring to me, but his lack of imagination/research skills/effort landed him with an obligatory hair wash excuse, which I’m not proud of, but I stand by.
It’s a burning question for many people. Dating in London is a seriously hectic scene. Securing a date with someone half-normal who doesn’t collect knives, who doesn’t make jokes about you potentially being related after your first kiss or who doesn’t start the evening’s conversation with “Full disclosure: I’m looking for someone to date so that I can move out from living with my parents and have a fun-loving partner in crime to do my washing for me…” is a bit of a mission. Also, add ‘finding someone who doesn’t refer to you as their ‘fun-loving partner in crime’’ to that list too. So, once that date has been secured – or maybe it’s a second or third date with someone particularly normal, nay, ‘desirable’ – Londoners want to be able to take this potential piece somewhere which will reflect really well on them, without making them look like a showy douche. Unless that’s what they’re going for. However, in my case, add ‘finding someone who’s not a showy douche’ to the list as well.
Breathe a sigh of relief, London. We’ve found a new place which perfectly fits this description, which will impress your potential future side-serving and which will have your Mother quaking with excitement in no time, shrieking something about getting her hat out. Everything about it is flawlessly cool, without being too try-hard and we’ve already recommended it to two of our own friends who wanted to impress their casual lust interests.
The place I refer to is B&H Buildings. It’s in a great, central location without the added streams of deafening traffic. It’s actually in a really peaceful little corner of Clerkenwell, round the corner from Exmouth Market. It’s next to a park with a play area you can play on afterwards with the date, if you both end up especially boozed and want to get a bit handsy without getting off with each other in the street.
If you heed our advice and go here, refer to B&H Buildings as this ‘little place’ you love, which will win over your date with your knowledge of lesser-known London gems, because this place really is quite special and has emerged on the city’s dining scene without the usual fanfare and hype which, actually, it probably deserves.
Walking into B&H Buildings, it’s love at first sight. The interiors are absolutely to die for. They’ve gone for that 1900’s American safari glamour-vibe which I’m really into. Bright white walls, sanded parquet floors, huge lush potted palm plants, a sweeping bar you can sit up to, incredible furniture pieces, wicker ceiling fans, beautiful fabrics – including some House of Hackney numbers and a glossy grand piano you can play chopsticks on as you leave, to further impress the plus one. Actually, don’t do that. Tom and I spent a good twenty minutes photographing every inch of this palatial dining establishment, including – I’m ashamed to say – the toilets. I know. We went there. However, when a place puts an antique roll-top ceramic slipper bath in the toilets as a giant sink to wash your hands in, with freshly-laundered white towels to dry your bathed hands on, it’s a scene worth capturing.
We sat up to the bar where the smartly dressed bar staff worked away mixing cocktails and pouring Prosecco. They all wore white shirts with those long white pinnies around their waists, which I’m also really into, by the way. With the seriously-attentive staff and the vintage American glamour, I felt a bit like I was in the first class lounge of an old US steam ship, but without Leonardo DiCaprio nagging me to sprawl naked for him across a sofa.
We opted for their Bottomless Brunch – so-called due to the inclusion of refillable Bloody Mary’s. I saw ‘Poached eggs Royale’ on the menu and had a knee-jerk reaction to order it, but instead opted for something less predictable. Good golly, did it pay off. I started with their homemade granola with fruit compote and yoghurt. I don’t understand how granola – something which is essentially bird food – can be that delicious. There must have been honey in it or something, either way, it blew my mind. Granola. Blew my mind. Then, I had their crispy potato hash with duck eggs and braised beef. I mean. I’m actually exhaling with a head shake as I remember back to this dish of dreams. It was perfect. The beef was full of flavour and fell apart with the lightest of fork prods. It made me utter something about it being the best goddam brunch dish I’d had in ages. Tom ordered their drop scones with middle back bacon and maple syrup. It was really lovely. I’d give it a strong eight. But it wasn’t potato hash with braised beef. Nothing has been potato hash with braised beef ever since, in fact.
We fell hard for this place. It really is the ideal go-to for schmoozing the future other parent of your as-yet unconceived babies. It’s got everything. Sophistication. Class. Cuisine. Giant sink baths. Just promise us that when you go …and when you schmooze …that we’ll at least get an invite to the wedding? We’ll settle for just the night do? Done.