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News / Sex & Dating

Five of Manchester's best date spots

Champagne Cult

When it comes to dating, it sure can be a jungle out there. Whether you’re venturing out for a first date, treading your way through the early stages of something that might be or marking affections a bit more established, there’s no denying that the whole pressure of going on a date can often get those palms a little clammy. Alleviate some of the stress by making damn sure that the venue of choice is one that can calm nerves, create a relaxed environment and – if all else fails – get you bladdered. Here are five of Manchester’s best spots to fit the bill, including chilled ones, smart ones, boozy blowouts, romantic feasts and more.

The First Floor Bar at Cane and Grain
The strong drinks menu is certainly good bait, but it’s the space itself that makes Cane and Grain’s First Floor Bar such an invincible date den. You’ll have to ask for a table at the desk stationed on the ground floor before being led up a semi-secret staircase to the drinking saloon above, and it’s this whole charade of exclusivity that not only keeps the rabble from the streets out, but also makes your date think you’re more of a hot shot than you actually are. Once upstairs, it’s a sultry cavern of dark wood, low-key lighting, antique glassware, boothed seating and one hell of a sexy copper bar top. It’s got the works when it comes to arousing the senses, especially with the delectable rib menu that makes for wonderfully relaxed, informal dining. Just banish the preconceptions that messy food is a dating no-go and get stuck in – it’s the ones that are too precious about getting barbeque sauce all over their cheeks that you should be more worried about.

The Castle 
There always needs to be a pub on your dating radar, and perhaps the city’s soundest is Oldham Street’s The Castle. Both steeped in history and packed out with countless nooks and crannies for that all-important semi-privacy of a date, The Castle also has a good calendar of gigs, theatre and spoken word nights, should you want your date to take a little more direction. There’s always a great range of ales on tap, and behind the bar you’ll also find harder stuff like the dangerously drinkable Patron XO should the date need more of a playful pick-me-up. And, as the jewel in its crown, The Castle’s jukebox – crammed with classics from old school bands like Creedence Clearwater Revival – will help you make the ultimate judgement call when it comes to your date’s music taste.

Umezushi 
Umsezushi is one of the city’s best for sushi, and accordingly it’s great for the moments when nerves have given rise to a faltering appetite, or that faintly queasy feeling that makes light, clean flavours and shareable dishes your best bet. Of course the obligatory chopsticks may spark panic among the inexperienced, but an extensive sake selection and good range of bottled beers will soon help you ease into the date and out of the anxieties over table etiquette. That said you’ll have to be careful to ensure any rogue edamame beans don’t pop from their shell and into the wrong lap, given the very intimate layout of the bijou sushi bar.

Epernay 
Many of us are often of the mistaken belief that dating needs to pull out all of the stops, capitalizing on every possible ounce of wow factor and upmarket opulence to win the affections of their potential love interest, but actually, sometimes it’s best to tone down the theatrics in favour of something a little less intimidating. Whilst Epernay bills itself as a champagne bar, it somehow manages to specialise in the fizzy stuff in a way that feels entirely approachable, as mirrored by a cosy yet elegant interior, complete with candles stuffed into empty magnums and a brilliant terrace overlooking Great Northern Square. It’s a much less obvious – and in many ways less daunting – choice than the ever-popular, swankypants Cloud 23 in the Hilton, and in being more unassuming Epernay actually emerges as being a whole lot more impressive.

Montpellier’s 
Whilst French-themed bars and restaurants can veer rather dangerously into pastiche and Parisian gaudiness, Montpellier’s channels the flipside: the effortlessly stylish, relentless insouciance that we have become slightly envious of our friends across the Channel for. Indeed, the interior is simple, smart and unfussy but also warm and comfortable, traits that combine to make drinking here a total pleasure without feeling like a big deal – the perfect amalgam for a daunting rendezvous if ever there was one. The food harnesses this classic yet uncomplicated ethos, and though it may not prove much to write home about, you’ll find some great sharing boards for textbook sociable scoffing. Crucially, however, Montpellier’s is a joint slightly set back from the main Northern Quarter hubbub, and it is through this discretion that it becomes more unlikely that you’ll run into someone you know.

WORDS BY JESS HARDIMAN

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