Caravan, Clerkenwell

An Exmouth Market staple

The Vibe

Clerkenwell, you’re a diverse beast. On the one hand you bring us places that look like bike shops but are in fact coffee shops but will, if you so desire, fix your bike and serve you dinner/drinks. Groan*. On the other hand, you offer those of us who think we’re creative, but actually like a familiar restaurant formula, a handful of slick and modish dining options. Enter Smiths of Smithfield (post industrial space with jazzy small plates) and Caravan (ditto). Caravan is a smooth surfaced gem of a place, always full and with a bar that stands alone as a good date destination. It opens onto the glorious Exmouth Market, with outside seating perfect for sipping watermelon martinis on a summer’s night before you grab a table inside.

The Order

Run by the former head chef of the Providores and Tapa Room, the food is all about the creative sharing plates rather than solo main dishes. Topping the list are the spicy chicken plates, described by this date as ‘a posh version of KFC nestling on some greens’. Whilst it’s much better than that, the familiarity and comfort of it makes it hugely moreish. Order one each. The mussels, cured salmon and avocado on toast are all great. Choose three dishes each, a good bottle of crisp white and make sure you have a coffee at the end as they have a roastery on site.

The Game

Exmouth Market in the summer is achingly romantic, a pedestrianised street that can be hard to find but is teaming with laid back and trendy bars, restaurants and people. It peaks once night has fallen so make a 9.30pm reservation at the restaurant and meet at the bar for 9pm. Sit on the benches outside and relax into the evening, making sure to drop in a casual compliment before you’re seated. When at the table, agree to share everything and order a bottle of wine (cocktails take way too long to arrive from the crowded bar). It’s an energetic place, and the music is very loud, so spend the meal telling amusing stories that are peppered by hand gestures and mime. When the kitchen says its closing, order your coffees and

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a dessert to share, then pay up swiftly and head to Dollar Grills and Martinis bar opposite where you can secure a red leather booth and a dirty martini, and smooch away the evening to cheesey club classics.

The Faults

It can be hard to make yourself heard over the music so, if at all possible, sidle up next to your date on the banquette after the majority of the eating has been done.

Sex Factor

4.5. Proliferating cocktails and wine on this date, as well as a glut of places to go before and after, means that you are likely to be merry throughout. The cobbled, buzzing street also allows you to romanticise the whole occasion. If you manage a clichéd kiss under the street lights after the meal, then the progression to martini bar, cab and bed will be easy.

*Look Mum No Hands

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