There are many things that make a date venue ideal. Somewhere relatively easy to get to, with lots of people around but without being crowded. Somewhere with good drink options but where it doesn’t feel pretentious, and with enough of a twist to make it all interesting and give you something to do if conversation falters.
By those standards and more, the Four Thieves Pub in Clapham is possibly the perfect dating venue.
Situated on a side road five minutes walk from Clapham Junction station In London (making it super easy to get to), the Four Thieves offers everything you could hope to find and then a little bit on top. The walk from the station (take a left out of the main road exit and walk along that road, crossing directly over the traffic lights and it’ll be on a road to the right) is short enough that it can be managed in heels but long enough to give you the chance to suss your date out a little with some preamble and chat.
Most nights of the week it is relatively busy, which means there is always an atmosphere, but thanks to effective door management it rarely feels crammed. Be sure to arrive before about 7.30pm, though, or you may be caught up in a queue to get in which is no fun for anyone. While it’s reassuring to know that it’s definitely a popular venue, there are few things less enjoyable than standing around outside somewhere waiting to get in. And don’t forget to bring some ID of some kind – even if one look at you would demonstrate that you have survived more than enough winters, it’s a door policy that it’s not worth arguing over.
Upon entering the place you’ll be greeted with what, to many eyes at least, is perfection. A pub which blends old school charm with modern standards, cleanliness with character, style with substance. It’s as if Idris Elba and Olivia Colman had a baby and that baby was actually a bar.
There are usually enough seats and tables around to find somewhere to perch, but grab them quickly lest you be left standing. While one of you goes to grab drinks that’ll leave the other person time to look around them and appreciate the microbrewery vats and pipes and all the quirky art on the walls.
As for the drinks, there is plenty of variety available. Boasting 350 gins and both mainstream brands as well as less well known options on tap, there’s almost certainly something for you and your date to enjoy. Whilst the prices aren’t the cheapest in the world, they are actually remarkably reasonable for London and won’t make you start counting the pennies from round number one.
If it’s a nice day, pop your head out into the courtyard. It’s covered enough that you won’t feel exposed in the sunshine, but is a nice little haven to enjoy and has booths to snuggle into as well for cosier or more private chats.
All of this is lovely enough – what’s not to love about a well appointed, stylish bar, after all? But don’t get too comfortable, because the real joy of the place is something else altogether.
After a couple of drinks (definitely worth it to loosen up), and assuming you’re both getting on splendidly and not hastily arranging the “oh my goodness, what happened?! I’ll be right there…” phone call, it’s time to head upstairs. You’ll see the stairs as there will no doubt be streams of people going up and down; follow them as if they were the white rabbit and you were Neo. Because at the top of the staircase is something that makes the climb worthwhile.
The greatest pub arcade in London.
Streetfighter 2. Pacman. Time Crisis. Dance Dance Revolution. Dino Hunt and a lot more besides, all of this and more awaits you. Whether you like more traditional games like table football or throwing balls into hoops, or whether you prefer fully immersive VR booths, there will be something for you there. Most of the games are two player too, so you won’t be left watching your date while they rack up a high score for half an hour. They’re all relatively cheap to play as well (typically 50p-£1 a go), so you won’t feel like you’ve wasted £2 a go on something which lasts all of 30 seconds.
The best things, however, do cost a couple of quid. Dominating a quarter of the room is a giant remote control race car track. Eight or so drivers at a time file into race seats with a steering wheel and pedals in front of them in order to steer their remote control cars around the racecourse in record time, complete with commentary and often an appreciative crowd. It’s more difficult than it looks as you lose your car amongst the chaos all of the others bring, but is perfect for bringing out the competitive side in you.
After that, head over to the other end of the room for one of the strangest mini-golf courses around. Made of plywood and astroturf and painted with fluorescent paint, you can pick up a club and a golf ball from a booth on the right and then make your way around the course. It can get a tad congested if people take it too seriously, but gives you more than enough opportunity to laugh and have fun with your date as you swing or miss your way around the course.
With cheap bars upstairs you can while away a couple of hours if you want and if your supply of 50p pieces holds out. Afterwards you have the option of going downstairs to tease each other at your attempts at gaming or to toast the victor and decide on forfeits for the loser.
A great date venue will allow you to have fun, spend time getting to know each other better and perhaps give you something to do if you need an extra boost, all under one roof. The Four Thieves does all that in spades, all in an environment where you feel under no obligation to stay for a set period of time nor to take part in enforced fun. You can do as much gaming as you want or simply sit and enjoy a drink or two in someone else’s company.
Whether first date or hundred and first, be sure to add it to your list of places to visit the next time you’re looking to go out in London.
A Dating Dad will be going along to the Dating Show Live at the NEC in Birmingham on 29/30 June. The show promises to be the biggest and best dating show in the country ever, and is a must-attend for anyone serious about finding love or serious about having a great time. If you want to join him and 10,000 other people you can use his affiliate link to book your tickets, which will mean A Dating Dad gets a couple of quid to put towards maintaining this blog.