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By Ruby Lennon
May 16, 2013

Sydney’s Ten Best First Date Spots

Because venue anxiety shouldn't spoil your night.

By Ruby Lennon
May 16, 2013

Lamenting singledom, or the limitations of your partner, is a favourite past-time for the many — and a full-time job for the few. However, when the planets align and you finally do get a chance to flex your dating muscle with someone you like/know/just met/kidnapped suddenly, a whole new set of problems arise.

We may not be there to help pick a new outfit or brainstorm what album to play in the car, but we can relieve some of that venue-related anxiety you have had since they said yes. These are our picks of the best spots for first dates of every variation.

The Hot Date: Low302

Okay, lets start on a high; you have gone all La Bouche over some lucky someone and now its time to set the scene. This category was tight, but there's something uniquely seductive about a place that takes a brick-walled, downtown-NYC-feeling space then decks it out with enough velvet to cover A Touch of Class, tucks a baby grand in the corner, borders the whole thing with ample couch space and sets the mood with the complete Black Keys discography. The kind of place you imagine Matthew McConaughey living in (circa bongo days). With table service to boot, you can rule out any of those mood-killing, half-hour fights to the bar for a drink at Low302.

The just-friends date: Shady Pines Saloon

The just-friends date can be trying terrain for even the most seasoned of daters, but if you are the one who puts the 'date' in that sentence not the 'friend' head over to Shady Pines Saloon. It's relaxed enough to not seem like a bold move away from the friend zone, but the combo of loud music, booze and peanuts seems to be working well for the bartenders, so maybe some of the charm that is Shady Pines will work in your favour.

The no-expense-spared date: Gastro Park

Here is a life rule: when you have money to burn always, always, always go to Quay. But I mean to burn. Otherwise, try out Gastro Park. Head chef/owner Grant King did just under a decade down at Pier before opening up this culinary gem with a view of the Kings Cross zoo, so it's some of the best cooking you will see in Sydney. Arrive early for a cocktail at the bar, and then, before your date can look at the menu, suggest the degustation with matching wines (no expense spared, remember?). Sommelier Brendan February will step you through some of the finer things in life, and this food is seriously guaranteed to impress.

Just remember when leaving: do not feed the wildlife.

The second-first date: Ms G's

So you are doing that thing you said you would never do — you are dating the ex. But where should you go? Sentimentalists, just go to wherever you went on your first (successful) date, but for the rest of you it is time to think of somewhere anonymous and loud enough to cover any unforeseen abusive tirades. Plus, close proximity to a taxi rank is preferable. This is all pointing to Ms G's on Victoria St, right? The food is good but more importantly comes out fast enough for you to wrap things up on the fly, if need be. Its proximity to the Cross means a plethora of a. transport or b. drinking away your sorrows options.

The Sunday Date: The Commons

The Sunday date is a tricky customer. You could spend the whole time fixating on who they saw last night and why you are on the Sunday rung, or you could do everything in your power to bring an air of romance to Sunday. Think open fires, sandstone, hearty eats and a full liquor licence. Think, The Commons Local Eating House. Its been tucked away on Liverpool Street for a few years so it will not be buying you any 'ahead of the curve' points, but a lend of its homely charm could be just the ticket for injecting a bit of snuggle into your Sunday.

The late-night date: Frankie's

All things late night seem to be happening at Frankie's these days, so why should a late-night date be the exception? Step down into the world of Scott and Forte, grab a booth under some plastic grape vines and (if you can hear each other) muse about the faces in all those photographs. Grab a drink, sit down, and scope out the crowd. It is a wonderful spot for people watching and this will be your fail-safe if adult conversation hits a snag.

The movie date: El Loco

Your plan ended when the credits rolled, and now you have been doing that aimless walking around thing for almost 20 minutes (which is never as cute as it seems). Do yourself a favour and head to Devonshire Street; not only is El Loco a low-key 'let's talk about the plot' kind of venue, it is also one of the places most likely to still be serving food when your 8.30 session comes out. Plus, jalapeno margaritas are a well-known cure for that-was-the-worst-movie-I-ever-saw/I-want-my-two-and-a-half-hours-back-itis. We read that somewhere.

The date on a budget: Missy K

There are plenty of nightly deals around Sydney that can turn a lot of venues into a budget option (take Hinky Dinks' $1 wing night on a Wednesday for example), but if you want something reliably cheap and cheerful forget Bar Reggio and Bill & Tonis; actually, forget the whole of Stanley Street and look a little further afield. Missy K's is a dumpling and tea house sitting opposite 4Fourteen and next to the long-closed Hopetoun in Surry Hills, so you are in the thick of it. The food is fresh, Asian, speedy, delicious. Grab some dumplings, duck pancakes and rice paper rolls and sneak out of there for under $30. Plus, budget-dater-favourite the Cricketers Arms is just up the road if things go well.

The blind date: Hinky Dinks

Okay, let's assume someone with half a brain picked you two desperados for each other and you have something in common — go somewhere with a bit of personality, maybe even your personality. Hinky Dinks may be it — there is good food, but it's not a restaurant so no one is getting stuck there for four hours, the drinks are excellent and, where your home will always disappoint you, the decor at Hinky Dinks is simply delightful. In short, Hinky Dinks gives you an air of taste.

The dance date: GoodGod Small Club

Come Friday make a beeline for the Danceteria at GoodGod Small Club—you might even check out what's on and buy tickets beforehand, if you are into that kind of thing. This Chinatown cellar has that brand of undeniably infectious dance energy from the young indie crowd — ie, 'the pogo' and all other brands of just-for-fun dance moves are more than welcome. As is your date.

Published on May 16, 2013 by Ruby Lennon


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