It comes like clockwork: the sudden onslaught of proclamations to ‘embrace your singlehood’ that arrive every February, conveniently, right around Valentine’s Day. If 14th February is an invented Hallmark celebration, existing purely to cajole hapless couples into unnecessary spending, it’s also now arguably a tool to convince singletons to ‘get out there’ and meet that special someone, and (hopefully) spend some big money in the process.
Restaurants are now just as likely to be booked up on Valentine’s Day with speed dating events as they are with table after table of loved up couples. So it was no surprise when I received an invitation to a private dinner party at Notting Hill’s The Little Yellow Door, hosted by members-only dating website The Inner Circle, just a week before Valentine’s Day. The concept was cool enough; cocktails and a three-course meal by The Wandering Chef.
But banish any thoughts of awkward mixers — you know the type; where the men stand one side of the room staring into the bottoms of their glasses, while the women stand on the other, pretending to be nonchalant — The Inner Circle cleverly placed food at the centre of this events. Though billed as a three course meal, the Italian-themed spread was more of a feast. Antipasti included burrata with mint pesto, cured tomatoes, smoked aubergine, confit onions, and rye crisp and mushroom and asparagus arancini with truffle and porcini mayonnaise, while a stodgy egg tagliatelle with spiced duck ragu was served as a starter, followed by belly porchetta with caponata, pickled baby vegetables, sultanas, capers, and pine nuts for the main course. It was all finished off with a trio of desserts that included pine nut caramel tart with marsala raisins.
The ‘dating’ part of the event was surprisingly relaxed and almost secondary. The dinner-party structure meant there was no pressure; if you didn’t like the person you were sitting next to, you could easily turn your attention to your neighbour on the other side. The informal setup at The Little Yellow Door, a venue arranged to look like a lived-in flat, lent itself to the relaxed atmosphere, where one genuinely feels that they are at a friend’s house (albeit, a friend with only single friends). I was promised ‘successful, attractive and inspiring’ singles, and the event organisers were not far off, though, sadly, I didn’t meet the love of my life (unless you count the exquisite cocktails). The Inner Circle’s next event will take place in the new member’s club and restaurant Ramusake on February 11th. In the (new) spirit of Valentine’s Day, you might just find me there.