Choosing where to go on a first date can be a minefield. Are you after somewhere relaxed or swanky, are you after just a drink or perhaps some food as well? It might seem unimportant, but in my experience the location of a first date plays a big part in whether there’ll be a second.
I was in the rare position of being asked to choose where me, and let’s call him Josh, should meet. The Clapham Junction area was convenient for both of us, and so I choose the local branch of mini wine bar chain, Humble Grape.
Humble Grape has 5 branches across London, mainly around the City and Docklands. The Battersea branch is their only foray south of the river. I’d arranged to meet Josh outside and was pleased to note that he was slightly on the early side of punctual (well done)
Josh had booked, which proved to be a godsend, as by the time we arrived the main room was leaning towards the packed side of busy. We were seated towards the back, in what felt like a wine library, it was candlelit and very cosy and replete with couples and small groups.
Josh had pre-ordered a flight of Italian wines for us to taste, one sparkling, one white and two reds. These were delivered by a knowledgeable but (for me at least) overly fawning waiter. It was a great introduction to the wines however, with the waiter talking us through the grape varietals and production methods. It was a bit like being at an annotated version of Vagabonds.
There is a good choice of foods, from small sharing plates, to larger platters that can be shared or had as a main course. I was a bit peckish but didn’t fancy a full meal and we agreed to share three of the smaller plates.
The padron peppers were very moreish, and so I probably ate more of them than Josh did, though without tasting one of the extra spicy ones. The meatballs were well cooked, slightly sweet, but the blandest of dishes, whilst the cubes of lamb shoulder served with rice and pomegranate seeds was to me the standout dish. I was pleasantly full after that, though Josh did grumble that he might have to grab something later.
We had a further 500ml carafe of white wine from the excellent if eccentric wine list, and then called for the bill. Josh said he’d get it, but I insisted on splitting and between us we’d eaten and sipped our way through £90, so £45 each.
On the plus side, this was a great place to meet and relax and was comfortable whilst feeling upmarket. The knowledgeable service made this feel like an experience as much as just a drink and got me engaging with Josh in a way that perhaps I wouldn’t have without prompting.
So, would I go on a date at Humble Grape again? Definitely. With Josh, well now that would be telling. But I will say that wasn’t the only place we drank that night.
Battersea Rise, Battersea
Words by Kelly Roberts