Date Twenty – The Surprise Package
If ever one of my dates looked set to be dubbed ‘The No Show’ it was this one… I arranged the date at just over twenty-four hours notice after my original date cancelled on me. And where better to find an emergency blind date than Tinder?!
After the surprising success of my date with The Fresh Prince, I decided to scan the app once again and see if I could find myself a last minute fill-in. Realising I may need to explain why I needed a date for a specific day and venue, and appreciating not every guy on Tinder would be as willing to take part in my blog as The Fresh Prince had been, I concocted a back story. I messaged three guys who had shown an interest in me on Tinder to ask if they were available on Wednesday night. I told them that I had to write a review a restaurant and bar (so only slightly bending the truth!) and asked if they would like to accompany me.
The Surprise Package replied almost immediately (assuming I was a food critic!), and with that, a date was quickly planned. However, because of the complete lack of foundations to our communication – I had basically gone from saying ‘Hi’ to asking him if he was free – and the fact we knew absolutely nothing about one another apart from our age, names and a few choice photos, I was pretty cynical that he was going to turn up! I actually arranged for a back-up date (The Fresh Prince, who had texted me this morning with date suggestions for the rest of my challenge), just in case The Surprise Package didn’t turn up, as I’d had to pay up front when I booked dinner.
The Surprise Package (get your minds out the gutter!) gets his name from the fact I literally knew nothing about him. There had been no online dating preamble or flirting. He hadn’t been referred to me by a friend, or even a friend of a friend. In fact, in was a weird twist on a blind date, basically all I knew about him was what he looked like … Or rather what his face looked like – remember the guy from Tinder who turned out to he 5’4″?!
My date could have been anyone! I had judged him purely on his face, haircut and choice of photos (and obviously the fact he was up to go on a random date with a complete stranger at 24 hrs notice!)
And it turns out my superficial judgment was pretty good.
Lookswise, I wasn’t attracted to the Surprise Package in person. He proved some of the limitations of Tinder – i.e. the fact that you have no idea about a man’s height or build. He was very slight, and only 5’10”, and facially less attractive than his photos suggested. However, in so far as a blind date went, he was really interesting. He was a few years older than me, and had studied at Durham, and we had enough in common to spend the evening talking about sports and travel. Aspects of his job sounded particularly interesting, as he had travelled to numerous sub-Saharan African countries in his job role. To be honest, it’s rare that I meet someone who has travelled to places where I haven’t been, so I found it really interesting, and it meant conversation was different to the norm.
The first stop on my pre-planned date was IceBar by Ice Hotel, just off Regent Street. Rather than pay the £14 entry to the IceBar, I opted for the £29.50 two-course meal offer, which also included entry to the IceBar and a drink. The IceBar insisted on accepting payment for dinner when I booked. Booking times were complicated, as there are set 40 minute entry times into the ice room. I organised to enter the IceBar first, then enjoy dinner afterwards, before setting off for our second destination.
The IceBar has an annual theme, and this year’s is Galactic Frontiers. The redesign is coming up next month, so the beautiful globe will only be suspended in the centre of the room for a few more weeks.
We were each given a thick lined cape, with a furry hood, and attached gloves, and then we entered an airlock between the restaurant and the bar, before then heading inside. The walls of the ice bar are made of thick slabs, each decorated with different patterns. There was an igloo-like structure which you could climb inside, and two areas of the bar were filled with stools made of ice, topped with cushions. Each seating area had tables made purely of carved ice slabs.
The front of the bar was decorated with a beautiful etching of conifer trees, and in one of the corners was an ice mural of the galaxy.
We exchanged pre-paid tickets for drinks, and I paid an additional £4 for a glass of champagne in my ice-cube-like glass, while The Surprise Package opted for a gin cocktail. There were various choices of free cocktail included in the entry price, though The Surprise commented that he couldn’t really taste the alcohol in his.
After about half an hour we were starting to feel chilly, in spite of the warm gear (I only had a dress and ballet pumps on underneath), and I could feel my hair starting to freeze! We headed back into the restaurant, and were led downstairs to ‘Below Zero’, a contrastingly warm restaurant tucked beneath the bar. The restaurant was divided up into different areas, with various curtains hiding sections of the cellar. The cellar ceiling was vaulted and stripped down to the brickwork, and there were several films of raging fireplaces playing on plasma screens around the room. We were led to a large curved couch around a table, similar to the one which I sat in last week with The Pupil, and then told the two dinner options. The £30 deal included a two-course meal, which was either a starter and main-course, or three starters per person as a form of tapas.
We opted for tapas of chilli prawns, duck terrine, scallops, smoked salmon, salad and risotto. The food was really nice, and the restaurant was really quiet – which explained the meal deal.
The bar itself was a bit of an anti-climax. The only really impressive part was the intricate etched globe. However it was a novel idea for a date.
Our next stop was just a ten-minute walk away. Inspired by the Evans & Peel Detective Agency, where the Fake Pimpernel took me on Date Eight, on Monday, when we had been looking for an alternative bar, The Best Man and I had discovered a bar called ‘Mr Fogg’s’ in Mayfair. Unfortunately it had been closed for the Bank Holiday, however I made a reservation last night, and received a lengthy and dramatic confirmation email telling me how we would be visiting the home of (the fictional) Phileas Fogg. I liked the idea of a link to Around the World in 80 Days, somewhere in my 30 Dates challenge, and only wish I’d come up with the concept of Around the World in 80 Dates first!
The bar is tucked away in a dark side-street, in an intriguing building. A fake heritage plaque announces subtly that Phileas Fogg ‘lives here’, and there is an antique-looking bell pull above the door, should you need to use it.
When we visited it at night, it was far less inconspicuous than Evans & Peel had been. There was a doorman waiting on the doorstep, and the lights and music could be seen and heard from the street. We were ushered inside by a man in Military formal wear, and greeted by another similarly-suited waiter. We were led to our designated table – two rocking chairs in front of the fire. Above our heads was a hot air balloon decorated with Phileas Fogg’s initials and Union Flags. One entire wall of the bar was decorated with shelves full of Mr Fogg’s travel trinkets. There were imperial-style expedition helmets, framed butterflies, stuffed animals, various animal heads on the walls, maps and photos from the 1800s. The tables and chairs were all mismatched. People ate and drank from huge battered clothing trunks, dynamite crates, and Union Flag-covered bongos. Everywhere you looked there was something unique or different. Penny Farthing bicycles hung from the ceiling above the bar, amongst a variety of foreign flags, and the lights were suspended in various size bird cages, fitted together to look like a chandelier. I managed to take just one sneaky picture inside, which probably doesn’t do the place justice at all!
There was just so much to take in. Everywhere you looked there were vases, or books, or tiny little extra touches, and the wall behind the bar was made from cut glass, and stocked with every alcohol imaginable. A mock up of a crocodile skin hung to one side of the bar, and bar snacks were distributed in kitschy old china.
When our bill arrived, it came in an old tea jar, with traditional lemon sherbets inside for us.
The only thing out of keeping with the setting was the music. It seemed unnecessarily loud and modern for the theme of the bar, and if I’m honest was a bit too loud. I’d expected Mr Fogg’s to be more of a speakeasy, like Evans & Peel, but it was actually pretty tough to hear each other talk over the constant loud, upbeat music. The cocktail menu was huge, and when The Surprise Package went to order a G&T, he had an entire page of Gins to choose from.
I think Mr Fogg’s would be a great place to go on a Friday or Saturday night, or in a bigger group, however it was a bit too loud for a midweek date, and it just made me want to get really drunk!
I liked the concept of the bar, and it did feel like we were sitting in a decadent sitting room, however I think I probably expect a bit too much from a themed bar! It didn’t compare to the Evans & Peel allure of disappearing through a book case.
The date had a weird feel to it. I’d paid for dinner upfront, so The Surprise Package had to pay me his share in cash, which was odd in itself, but he was also the first date I’ve been on to literally not offer to pay for anything during the date- not even a drink. Which considering I’d arranged everything (and he finished by saying what an entertaining night he’d had, and that he was really glad he’d been introduced to both locations), I found a bit weird! Maybe I just wasn’t a good date? Or maybe he thought I got my expenses paid for when I was ‘reviewing date locations for my friend’s dating blog’ …. The lie that developed when he quizzed me about what I was reviewing!
I hate lying! So much of my life at the moment revolves around this crazy dating challenge, and I found myself having to stop telling stories because my random Tinder date knew nothing about the challenge! To be honest, after meeting him, I think he probably would have gone on the date if I’d opened with the 30 Dates Challenge, but I kind of tied myself in knots telling him about my ‘friend’s blog’.
I know I’ve discussed whether I should tell dates about the Challenge or not, and all I will say is that I won’t be concocting an elaborate story again! Luckily he didn’t ask me too many questions, but I still felt bad about lying. And in reality, with what I told him (and what he knew about the places we went), if he was curious enough, I’m sure he could stumble upon my blog easily enough! Though he didn’t even ask the name of the website I was talking about, so maybe he won’t even look?
So I’ve learnt I’m a diabolical liar … which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! However, I did manage to get a date on Tinder at 24 hours notice, and he actually turned up (which I genuinely didn’t think would happen!), and was quite agreeable.
We met – at the IceBar
I wore – a maroon polka dot dress, beige pumps
He wore – a navy suit and white shirt
We drank – champagne, gin cocktails, G&T, rose and lemonade, Diet Coke
We chatted about – travel, university, Whistler, exotic locations, work, online dating, Tinder, unique date locations
The date lasted – 4 hours
The date ended – after one drink at Mr Fogg’s
Marks out of ten …. Probably one of the dates I had the least chemistry with (that wasn’t really appalling!), not that that’s meant to affect the score! The IceBar was a bit of a let down, I expected there to be more ice installations than just globe, and it was rather crowded. The BelowZero restaurant itself could have been any restaurant. And whilst Mr Fogg’s was cool, I think I had expected more! So I’m gonna go 7.5/10 ….
Do you think I’m getting more picky as this challenge goes on?!
Next Date – Have two amazing date ideas for September 7th, but just need to find some willing volunteers to go on the dates! As I enter the final third of the Challenge, it’s definitely getting harder to pin guys down!
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx
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