The Enigma, named after the famous code-breaking machine, was introduced to me by the New Year’s Eve Siren … a beautiful girl I went to university with, but didn’t actually know at Cambridge. The Siren used to date a friend of mine, and we both stayed with him in Edinburgh for New Year one year. The Siren has never met the Enigma, but he used to work with her boyfriend, which is how he heard about the challenge and the blog.
When The Enigma first asked me out on the date, his plan had been to send a cryptic text, something to the effect of ‘Have you ever had to escape from a room, only to discover that it’s pitch black outside, you can’t see anything, and when you do emerge, you’re in the middle of a Victorian townhouse?’ …. but then he panicked and decided it might draw odd first impressions about his sense of humour, and never sent the message.
What he did tell me, however, was that it wouldn’t matter if I was late, in fact it would actually be more fitting, and that I might need to be prepared to sign some autographs! He also promised that after last week’s less-than-perfect date with Mr Twenty40, he would redeem Friday night dating for me!
It’s funny, in the run up to Date Twelve, I actually really warmed to the Enigma, despite probably one of the most awkward initial contacts! The first time I heard from Enigma was with a call during my work lunch break. It turns out Enigma had rather adorably researched that if you’re asking a girl over the age of 25 out for the first time, you should do so by phone call, not text message! (something I didn’t realise! – and would probably suggest depends on the situation and the girl?!). He rang, and then midway through the conversation, after I suggested penciling in a date, went a bit weird and said he’d text me later. He later told me someone had interrupted him mid-call. However at the time, I remember feeling a bit awkward and wondering if I’d made it all seem a bit too business-like? I texted to apologise for sounding so formal, assuming it was my fault, and when he went to text back, he sent me a half-written, rather nonsensical message, which it turned out he’d revised several times before accidentally pressing send!
Not the best start, but over the next two weeks as we sporadically texted to organise the date, I grew to realise we’d probably get on quite well in person. Enigma refused to tell me what we’d be doing. We arranged to meet at Euston Station on the Friday evening after work, and so yesterday night I drove to a friend’s house in North London, and as per normal had to reorganise the date time slightly as after an hour stuck in solid traffic on the North Circular, I was inevitably running late. Enigma both reassured and perplexed me with the autograph text, but I decided not to ask too many questions, and to just wait and see what he had planned.
We met outside Euston. Enigma had described himself as wearing a blue blazer, and standing at the foot of a bronze statue. As I walked out of the station, still about thirty metres away from him, he looked in my direction, and caught my eye. I grinned in response to reassure him it was me, and he walked over through the crowd.
As we headed off towards the first date venue, he explained his slightly cryptic message. Where we were heading had been booked out weeks in advance, so he had embellished somewhat and told the owners that I was a ‘famous blogger and journalist’, and that I would be writing a review of the venue!
Luckily when we arrived at ‘HintHunt’ no one did actually ask for my autograph (or check my credentials!!) HintHunt is a Hungarian idea, and the Enigma had done a similar activity whilst in Budapest.
The concept is problem-solving, whilst being locked in a room. The room is full of hidden clues, and puzzles, and then various safes and padlocks that you need to open – with codes and keys hidden everywhere. If you solve all the puzzles, you can open the door and get out!
It’s basically like being a contender on Crystal Maze (for anyone old enough to understand that reference!) In fact one online review called it a mix of Crystal Maze and Cluedo. We were in the ‘Zen’ room – a Japanese-themed advanced room. The timer on the wall counted down the sixty minutes we had to escape the room, whilst also displaying any clues which our Room Guide chose to show us on the monitor – hints, cryptic clues, or photos of objects in the room which might help.
The room was designed for 4-5 players, and it was just the two of us trying to solve all the different puzzles, so at times we were running about like headless chickens, trying to do everything at once, whilst at the same time trying to make good first impressions on one another! At one point I think Enigma thought I was getting really stressed, and I was genuinely really excited by it all! (Though one of the puzzles did nearly kill me, as I’m a complete perfectionist with stuff like that. Something Enigma had great fun teasing me about afterwards!) It was such a fun activity, and definitely something I would recommend to anyone. HintHunt have 4 rooms – 3 that are the same, so you could compete against groups of friends in different rooms if you wanted. Apparently the record exit time is 53 minutes. Enigma and I failed to get out within the hour, but were maybe 4 minutes away from finishing (with a lot of help from our Room Guide!)
I’m not gonna lie, it was a little odd to make first impressions in that way. Running around, barking orders at one another, and trying to diplomatically split tasks. Whilst I think both of us worried the other person might misinterpret stuff we said or did, it was actually a really good ice breaker at the start of the date, as we were dropped into it so quickly, and had to work together and communicate loads, and above all trust each other. I found a key very early on, and Enigma tried all the padlocks in the room with it, and said it didn’t work. I remember part of me wanting to try them myself to reassure myself he was right, but the trust element was part of it. There was no way you could solve all the puzzles and clues on your own. We were also constantly in small spaces together, moving each other out the way and stuff, so you had to be quite hands on with each other, again something which really helped to break the ice.
I was grinning from ear to ear by the time we left HintHunt. But it turned out that was only the first adventure of the night, and inadvertently the Enigma had put me off the trail of the second phase, by implying he didn’t have concrete dinner plans. He did have plans – amazing dinner plans! In fact the place he chose for dinner was a venue I had actually been about to post on Facebook as a suggestion of where I wanted to be taken!
We were to dine at Dans Le Noir – a unique restaurant off the Clerkenwell Road, where you eat completely in the dark! All the waiters are blind, and the food is a complete surprise – all you select are your drinks and the menu option. White is a Surprise, Blue is Fish, Green is Vegetarian, and Red is Meat. We selected White and Blue and decided to share the meals – which made for an extra challenge in the dark! We devised a way of switching each course half way through, and laughed about whether we’d each left the other half of the plateful! I also decided to complicate things by making my own rose spritzers in the dark at the table!
The dinner was amazing – the food tasted fantastic, though it was really hard to try to guess what we were eating. All etiquette went out the window, and I prodded at my plate to work out where different types of food were. I gave up on my knife, and luckily the wine was served in sturdy beakers so you couldn’t smash them.
Getting in and out of the restaurant was an adventure in itself, we passed through two sets of thick curtains and were then guided around the tables in a form of conga line – I had to hold the shoulder of a man from another couple and Enigma held my shoulder. At one point, as I was seated, I wondered if we’d be matched with the right partners! But our waiter Darren was fantastic – amazingly attentive and communicating all the time.
The staff are constantly communicating, letting one another know if they’re on the move so that no one collides with food or guests. Everything was run so slickly, with the plates being different shapes and sizes to identify the different menus and courses.
***SPOILER ALERT – about to spoil some of the food surprises for anyone planning to go***
We ate so many different things – the starter and main both consisted of various different mini meals – so we had crab, langoustines, sashimi, ostrich, zebra and a host of other amazing treats – some which we identified, others which we didn’t have a clue about. We ate an amazing lavender creme brullee with chocolate-dipped strawberries for a dessert, and drank surprise wine throughout, which the Enigma poured whilst I dipped my fingers in the glasses to check the level!
The meal was phenomenal – a really unique experience. It was difficult at times to keep track of conversation over the noise of other guests, especially a birthday party, however we were the last ones to leave, so the latter part of our dinner was really quiet. Again the situation forced you to lean close, communicate well, and make physical contact with each other, as I repeatedly had to grab Enigma’s hand to work out where he was, what he was handing me etc etc. Definitely not something I would have done with some of my more awkward dates – I mean, who knows what the Burlesque Dancer would have handed me in the dark?! 🙂
At the end of dinner, we asked the waiter about the layout of the room, which he traced on the Enigma’s palm, and then Enigma traced onto my palm, still in the dark.
After dinner, we were led back out into the light and told what we had been eating. As the restaurant closed around us we realised it was time to move on, and headed off to the Zetter Townhouse, a beautifully decorated cocktail bar. The main area was designed like the library of a fancy house, and then in the basement was a games room, and the most amazingly decorated loos I’ve ever seen! The walls were covered in pristine sections of newspapers and magazines. The setting was so interesting – literally everywhere you looked there was something to investigate, or read. Not that we did much reading! We drank cocktails, and then not even realising the time, were once again kicked out as the bar closed!
The only issue with the exciting settings for the first two parts of the date was that it was quite hard to have a proper lengthy conversation without interruption, so we carried on the date with a walk around Farringdon – originally to find another bar, but once we realised none nearby were open, we simply walked and chatted.
It was only when we realised that it was half two that the date came to an end and called for taxis.
The date was fantastic. Literally if Enigma had reached into my mind and picked my ideal date, he wouldn’t have done better. Everything we did were things I would genuinely have chosen myself (if I even knew about HintHunt!) and I would hope that would be the kind of date I would create if the tables were turned.
I genuinely don’t know how Enigma could have done better. He knew about the blog, and had obviously risen to the challenge of it all, but did so in a really fun and genuine way. He told me some of the other ideas he’d demoed over the past couple of weeks, and some of them would also have made for an amazing date … so maybe a second date?! 🙂
We met – outside Euston station
I wore – a black lace top (which I spilled a lot of drink down at Dans le Noir!), black trousers, black and gold ballet pumps
He wore – a check shirt, cashmere jumper (I had to feel it in the dark a lot!), a blue pin stripe blazer, jeans and loafers
We drank – diet coke, lemonade, ‘surprise wine’, cocktails, Champagne
We talked about – Budapest, cricket, skiing, university, date ideas, the challenge, work, teaching, volunteer work, family, friends
The date lasted – 7 hours!
The date ended – at 2.30am, because it was 2.30am and we’d been walking around London for over an hour!
Marks out of ten – I don’t know how it could have been improved, which means that it’s the Challenge’s first 10/10! I wonder if I’ll see another one before the end of the thirty dates? I would definitely go on a second date with Enigma (if he asks me!), and would recommend Hint Hunt, Dans le Noir, and the Zetter Townhouse as date venues to anyone and everyone.
I had SUCH a fun night! Am still grinning today just writing about it!
Next date? Tomorrow (Sunday) with the Original Pimpernel! Let’s hope it’s just as good! 🙂
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx
- The Second Date, The Enigma & The Eclipse (30blinddates.wordpress.com)