Sex At the Table: Date Restaurants
Culinary seduction; HANNAH GELBART discovers the way to a student’s heart is through their stomach, via one of these four great restaurants.
Whether you’ve been dating since Freshers’ week, or have finally plucked up the courage to ask out that cutie you see around the Fac, we’ve got the best – and some of the cheapest – romantic restaurants in town:
For starters, try the sushi-esque cured mackerel with fun jellied soy cubes and a sprinkling of sesame seeds; portions are small but complex flavours make up for it.
Get a wine recommendation from the expert sommelier. He’s called Kyle and is almost as appealing as the food.
The crispy-skinned sea bream main was oozing with moisture, exquisitely decorated with garlicky coils of carrots and smooth button mushrooms tipped off by puffed pumpkin seeds. Or, try the creamy-green broccoli risotto (vegetarian) with a potent blue-cheese croquette balanced on top.
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Exciting deserts included a sliver of dense, syrupy parsnip and walnut cake with salty-sour cream cheese and a refreshing orange sorbet. Sourpusses will enjoy the rhubarb parfait: innocent sweetness balanced by a shudderingly bitter rhubarb sorbet.
Eat before 7.00pm or on a Monday or Wednesday and it’s 2 courses from £15.50 or 3 from £19.50.
You can tell by the sensual interior of chocolate leather and stained wood in D’arry’s Cookhouse (map) that it’s a man-size portion kind of place. An expanse of bottles framed by empty picture frames line the back wall; and you can taste every tipple by the glass (from £3).
The bar at D’arry’s Cookhouse.
For a selection of small plates, the heavily battered tempura prawns (£8.20), and dark duck and hoi sin dumplings (£7.45) are great, both served with a generous heap of leaves and bean sprouts. Individual flavours are quite overpowering and salty, so get a bit of everything on your fork to balance the tastes.
The enormous Moroccan lamb shank (£14.50) is bursting with a fruity spice. The seafood paella (£17.95) was also a boisterously juicy success of smoky mussels and bacon.
The boisterous paella.
The crème brulée (£5.95) was light as a mousse, with jolly espresso notes to keep you both up all night.
With three courses and wine for about £35 or a main course and wine for less than £20, D’arry’s isn’t cheap, but is highly satisfying.
If your date deserves something out of the ordinary, treat them to an exotic and very reasonable dinner within the Bedouin tent of Al-Casbah on Mill Road. Shoulder to shoulder in this intimate joint, the homeliness is emphasised by a huge, vicious grill where your food is cooked before your eyes.
Whet your appetite with a special mezze (£5.50) – a selection of salads, nutty hummus and unusual yoghurt dips (try the aubergine) served with a basket of hot bread that will more than suffice for two.
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Main courses are immense, so pick wisely and prepare to share. Get the real hands-on experience with a brochettes casbah (£12.95), where you can satisfy your carnivorous desires by sinking your teeth into a crisp chop or tender skewer drowning in lemon marinade. I loved the brothy tagine of cous cous royale (£11.95); a sizeable pyramid of comforting lamb and chicken served with a terracotta jug of sauce. The vegetarian brochettes (£8.95) with spicy courgettes stuffed with melted cheese and sophisticated grilled peppers and mushrooms are a veggie delight.
Al Casbah teases your taste buds with unpredictable and innovative twists and is an experience to be shared as much as the food. Three courses (far too much) and wine came to £22.
The scallop starter was like fluffy clouds with a light citrus sauce to bring you down to Earth. If a scallop could be a man, this would be Mr. Right. He’s tender and touches you in all the right places.
The crisp pork belly’s rustic crunch was lightened by the addition of spiced apple compote. My favourite main was the Cajun swordfish, doused in guacamole, with a golden-crusted skin and pearly inside. The vegetarian grilled halloumi was a stimulating whoosh of the Mediterranean. For dessert, the flirtatious chocolate fondant was an eruption of molten pleasure.
It’s three courses for around £30 or, for £15-£20, you can satisfy your first date with a generous main course and wine. Even if your small talk falls behind, this elegant restaurant will almost guarantee that you’ve scored.