Having travelled to London for work since 18, I’ve been to a fair few places. The cool haunts in Shoreditch, the Instagram spots in Notting Hill and Covent Garden. In between that, I’ve visited the luxury overpriced places – the ones where the waiters sound as though they went to the same public school as the customers wearing pearls and Chanel. If you’re wondering where a guy should take you on a first date, avoid these fancy establishments at all costs.
But what if he’s rich? What if you love luxury and generally visit fancy restaurants yourself? What if you want to be wined and dined?
Wealthy men generally do not pick the most notably expensive places. They will choose a favourite bar or restaurant that they believe serves the best steak and cocktails. Going somewhere as obvious as The Ritz or The Shard is usually someone hoping to impress you with money followed by sex.
First dates are not wining and dining opportunities. Of course, you don’t want a guy to act cheap and turn up with a Groupon voucher or over scrutinise the wine list. And if I’m honest, it’s always nice when they offer to pay.
With that said, even if you are looking for a guy with a high-earning salary, when money is too involved in your first meeting, it clouds your judgment and masks personality. The big issue with fancy places as well, is that they tend to have very little atmosphere.
Some years ago, a guy I met at a salsa bar invited me out for drinks. Around two hours before we were due to meet, he tells me he’s booked a restaurant – somewhere I knew was expensive because I had looked at the menu before and decided it was out of my price range. Long story short, our date occurred in a silent room filled with older couples. It was awkward and annoying because I didn’t feel comfortable expressing my poor manners like resting my elbows on the table.
Forget fancy restaurants – any restaurant is a bad idea if you’ve never met or have barely spent time with someone. I mention money and fancy places however because that seems to be what a lot of us hope for. And it can put unnecessary pressure on men to choose somewhere extravagant.
First Date: Who picks the place?
Traditionally, as well as the woman wanting to feel a bit spoilt, it’s often expected that the guy selects where to go. From my experience, this isn’t always the best idea.
If a guy really likes you and wants to impress, they may choose somewhere fancy that they believe will impress you. You could end up like me and guy a few years ago walking around for ten minutes trying to find a hidden bar.
It was plush, velvet and secluded. As we walked in, we realised it was just us and another couple – not particularly great when you are sat with a stranger.
The best option for me is when a guy offers a couple of suggestions. That way, he’s taken initiative, but I also get to participate. I know it seems romantic for a guy to plan everything himself but first date locations can really make or break a situation. If he does want to take full control, try to find a way to hint what you like.
What to do on a first meet-up with a guy
My advice is stick to low-key first date ideas. As Science of People says, ‘Instead of dinner and a movie, suggest trying a local bar or a hip new coffee shop instead. The casual environment serves as a convenient space to have an engaging conversation, without the pressure of dressing fancy or buying an expensive meal.’
A first date should act as a steppingstone to going on a date. It’s the pre-drinks if you will – the appetisers that prepare you for the next course. It’s simply a way to say, hey, do I like you to enough to spend adequate time with you or are we better off meeting other people?
The exception to low-key first dates is if you know the person already. Let’s say you’re going out with an old acquaintance or a friend of a friend. You both already know you like each other and have chatted past polite introductory conversation. That’s when you can consider not necessarily something more extravagant, but something more personal or unique.
Check out my review on Unique date ideas in London
The benefit in choosing to visit a coffee shop or a casual bar is that if the date progresses, you then have the option to head off somewhere else after. Maybe you hit a couple of other bars or try out the latest jazz club. If you’re in a restaurant and realise your date isn’t for you, you can’t exactly leave mid-course.
If you love the idea of dressing up and heading off a Friday night, why not stick to drinks. Again, you can leave early and make plans elsewhere if the date sucks. Imagine sitting for three hours with the worst date ever, only to then pay halves and entirely waste a weekend night.
Where should a guy take you on a first date? Dos and Don’ts
Having spoken to a lot of women about this, I’ve put together some key points to consider. Remember – you can speak-up and recommend options for your first date. You can also fully take control (one woman said to me last week she feels nervous about doing this). It’s 2023 and while the whole who pays debate is still touchy, we can get involved with planning.
DO: Choose a spot that feels somewhat familiar
Going somewhere you’ve not been before is not only more dangerous (particularly if you’re dropped off at a train station wondering how on earth to get home) but familiarity means you’ll have some idea of what’s around. If you do decide to go somewhere else after, you can suggest a few places. You don’t want to find yourself endlessly walking down a high street wondering if there’s another bar nearby.
DON’T: Go for the most obvious, local place
First dates may not be about wining and dining, but you still want to feel special. A red flag for me is a guy suggesting a coffee shop chain around the corner from his house. When I was dating, my biggest pet-peeve was guys assuming I was okay to travel out of my way towards them.
Rather than a chain, I appreciate independent, quirky places because they feel as though someone has taken more time to consider them. Even opting to go to a hidden dessert shop or one of the best bakeries in town feels more thoughtful than just Costa Coffee.
DO: Look at activities
I did say low-key options but these days, there are many affordable activity dates. Why not suggest mini golf, a VR arcade, a guided walking tour (trust me, it’s better than it sounds) or a small comedy club. In the summer, rooftop bars are amazing for dates. Just do your research because some are much more expensive than others.
DON’T: Try to arrange something too long-winded
As mentioned, you don’t want to get stuck on a bad date and the first date itself shouldn’t be more than two people deciding if there’s chemistry. However, relationships are not black-and-white. I am sure we all know couples who spent hours together on their first date and ended up getting married.
Just use this advice as a caution. What can happen is two people spend hours together, end up putting huge expectations on their second date which then struggles to live up to pressure. Also, spending too long on a date can make you overshare and forget that you’ve only just met one another. It’s additionally a recipe for heartache if your date doesn’t arrange to see you again.
DO: Check atmosphere
Hugely important! This is why everyone involved should pitch in on their first date location. Go somewhere too packed and you may end up squashed between other couples. Too quiet and the date can feel lacklustre. If the location is overly casual, you may feel forced to wear flats but too fancy can feel too stuffy.
DON’T: Just say yes to something that sounds nice
And following that last point, don’t just agree to whatever sounds good. A little research makes all the difference.
Where should a guy take you on your first date – Have you been anywhere unexpected or surprising that ended up being great or terrible?
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