Thursday, August 07, 2008

the dating game

Unusually for me, it has been over four years since I last had a first date. I’m not one of those creatures who pair for life and lets just say, in the dating department there has been a fair amount of H20 under the bridge.

Now as much as I am free to “date” (the SE and I are hot on honesty and cool on ownership) its been months since I've met a new soul that has made my heart flutter. We were in a group, sharing a lunch and chatting our little heads off. I knew something was up when I struggled to get through even half the food on my plate.

What struck me most, when I read this piece in The Observer’s last food magazine about what to eat on a first date, was the bits that Jan Moir left out.

I was amused when it covered all the things that could go wrong in selecting your venue, with the conclusion that you leave the choice of restaurant to your date so they can take the heat if it is a bad choice. Rubbish! One of the things I’ve always enjoyed is trying to match a person to a restaurant. Perhaps on a first date the lack of knowledge about the fellow dinner can be a bit of a challenge but surely it breaks the ice a little in the pre-date chat to talk about food and what kinds of places you most enjoy eating in. For me my radar would go off if anyone came in with a strong preference on either end of the scale – from ‘I never eat out, restaurants make me feel uncomfortable’ (oops I should have listened to that one when it happened) to someone who names only the current top hot spots (trying too hard to impress).

Years ago I had a first date at the Vegie Bar. It had just opened in a little corner restaurant, before it expanded to the current barn-like space next door. We’d bought a bottle of plonk (in the days where the only places in a student price range were BYO) but it hadn't got its liquor license yet. The owner colluded to hide the bottle and we drank it out of teacups. Far from being a disaster it bought about conspiratorial closeness, a story to tell and a memory that has lasted much longer than the accompanying night of smooching.

Moir advises against ordering oysters (too obvious), sushi (chopstick embarrassment making you look like some kind of uncoordinated, messy fool) and strong smells like garlic or coffee. It sounds like a very boring date to me! Even worse, she advises against getting plastered, which we all know is the only way to survive some of the more hideous first dates. Well maybe total inebriation will only lead to tears but I disagree with the advise on ordering a type of beer based on sophistication. Order what you usually drink so as not create a false impression, would be my advice.

One of my most memorable first dates involved being taken on a picnic in my hometown. It was a spot I’d never been to before, a cliff top from where you could see the South Island. He’d cooked and I bought a thermos of orange juice laced with brandy. Fortunately we had met before, otherwise such a remote location may have been tinged with palpitations of fear rather than excitement.

So what are Melbourne’s best first date restaurants? If I am meeting someone I really don’t know, I prefer a coffee in daylight, or a glass of wine somewhere low key. A meal implies a longer period of time spent together and it is much harder to leave half way through. Much worse would be lust at first sight, ordering a fabulous meal and not being able to stomach more than a mouthful or two. Sadly the first flutter of attraction is about the only thing, bar illness, that makes me loose my appetite.

My last first date was to meet for casual drinks at dusk on a Sunday. There was no assumption that it would turn into dinner or more, just meeting up when he was going to be near my neighbourhood. There was a glass of wine at a good first date pub – comfortable chairs, a fireplace, pleasantly full of people but not too noisy you can’t hear each other. A couple of hours later dinner seemed the natural progression and we headed down the road for Spanish (lots of garlic!), a glass of sherry and paella to share (the not eating much being less obvious with a shared dish) and then not ready to say goodbye – we strolled back up the street to a swish intimate bar for a nightcap.

Some dates work best when you break all the rules!

Provincial Hotel
299 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.
Enough light to see what the date looks like but not too bright to show all your flaws. Avoid the Friday night crush though.

De los Santos
175 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.
For first date garlic breath.

401 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Low lights, plush velvet, great cocktails.

First date tips and disasters - the comments section eagerly awaits your response!

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Anonymous Fitzroyalty said...

Great post! I'd say a first date does not necessarily need an entire meal, but some food or drink does provide a good social context. Other top places could include Gertrude St Enoteca (sophisticated, low light and intimate sexy atmosphere), Min Lokal (cosy with excellent coffee) and Newtown SC (also great coffee, cute interior).

3:22 pm  
Anonymous kitchen hand said...

First date: movie at Westgarth followed by coffee at Mario's.

Second date: dinner at Mario's since we liked it so much and to entrench that I was a creature of habit.

This bit me back on third date when we went to my favourite Japanese tatami-roomed restaurant only to find it had closed down; ended up in a Thai place with more space between us across the table than to other diners.

4:44 pm  
Blogger Dani said...

Well its been more than 12 years since my first date and to be honest I can't remember where it was. Or if we even had a first date, we'd known each other for a couple of years.
I do remember first dates where I was taken to places with an obvious attempt to impress, they never did. First dates at quirky places like Supper Inn or Waiter's Club were usually more successful.

8:51 pm  
Anonymous Fitzroyalty said...

Would you be interested in seeing your work about local places syndicated on local news blogs? See Fitzroy and Brunswick for examples. Many local bloggers are contributing. There's no advertising and no exploitation of your content - just a convenient way for local people to read local news. To contribute please add suburb categories, tags or labels to your posts, such as 'Fitzroy', 'Brunswick', etc and let me know you've done this. RSS feeds for these tags are created and added to the local news sites. You may find that syndication brings more traffic to your blog and more comments from readers!

12:46 pm  

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