To be fair, I’ve not been on a date in years – so I’m hardly an expert. But from what my hazy, alcohol-infused memory can remember – the dating game is an absolute nightmare – one wrong word or phrase or a bit of spinach stuck in your teeth are just a few of the things that can scupper your chances.
With this in mind, it’s always a good idea to ensure that your choice of date is fool proof, so make sure you shave your pits, brush your teeth and wash your genitals before you head on down to one of these…
Twenty Twenty Two & Dead Eye Darts
With its trendy white tiled walls, underground entrance and welcoming atmosphere, Twenty Twenty Two is a great place to have a few drinks while listening to some fantastic tunes. On top of this, one of the main draws has to be the ping pong tables in the back room. Not only will these provide a little injection of competition into the date, but will also provide a welcome distraction if you find yourself struggling to come up with things to talk about. They’ve also recently introduced Dead Eye Darts in the back, so if you’re good at throwing arrows – you can show off here too.
Twenty Twenty Two, 20 Dale St, Manchester M1 1EZ
As I’m sure you would all agree, it’s great that live music is now BACK after a fucking long and arduous year of COVID lockdown horrible-ness. With Manchester being Manchester, there are absolutely loads of places to check out live music, starting with the big boys over at the Manchester (now AO) Arena, via the O2 Apollo, Manchester Academy and even Band on the Wall. You can also add the Albert Hall and Blues Kitchen to the list, who have a big calendar of music and acts, as well as the much smaller venues such as the newly re-opened Gorilla, Night & Day, YES and Gulliver’s on Oldham Street.
A gig is usually a pretty enjoyable experience as a date – there’s plenty of time to drink and chat before the band come on, there’s the chance to have a groove, and they usually end early enough to still have time to get the 142 back to their flat and get them topless before you have to be up for work in the morning.
Nothing screams ‘I Love You!’ better than kicking the living shit out of someone on Mortal Kombat 3 and then laughing and jeering at them when they cry and start to ring their mother to come and pick them up. This can, of course, be done at one of Manchester’s two NQ64’s – either in the NQ or on Peter Street.
Both offer up the perfect date environment, one where the competition can kick in pretty early, and the cocktails will get you both suitably drunk enough to shake off that fear and tackle that dancing game together.
This one was a particular favourite of mine in the dark days of 2006. Grab a girl, get her on a bus to Sale and show her the sights and sounds of Mecca Bingo on a Tuesday night. Guaranteed winner. The thing with Mecca Bingo is that not only is it pretty cheap but it’s also always jam-packed full of enough whinging pensioners and scrotes to make even the ugliest date 10x more attractive.
If you don’t feel like potentially getting stabbed with a knitting needle for winning a line, then you can also head on over to the Albert Hall who run regular Bongos Bingo nights to usually packed out crowds. Bongos is so far removed from Mecca that it’s probably an insult having them in this same category, but you can expect music, dancing, mental prizes and stupid games to keep you and your date entertained all evening.
Manchester Climbing Centre
Located in an old church in Gorton, there’s likely to be plenty of silent prayers as you dangle from a 30ft wall with nothing but a flimsy rope and stupid helmet to protect you if you fall. My inherent fear of heights did not stop me from heading here once, although I must admit that I only managed to get about 5 ft off the ground, and considering I’m over 6ft in height – isn’t really much of an achievement.
As a date venue however, you can’t really go wrong. Not only is it challenging but you will have a proper laugh at each other as you wear those truly flattering harnesses; I suppose it will give you both a chance to take a sneaky look at each other’s’ gussets to prepare yourselves for what’s in store later should the date go well.
Another one of my former favourites, the Roundhouse provided the perfect setting for a date – food, drinks, a bit of culture and a cinema in which to try to show off your knowledge of trendy art-house films instead of turning up at the Odeon to watch Transformers 6.
Now that everything has moved to HOME on First Street, there’s even more events on including theatre, art and workshops, as well as the old favourite cinema – surely there is something here for even the most difficult potential date to enjoy.
Go for a Walk
Our Weekend Walks series is immensely popular, because sometimes people don’t want to spend all night in a loud, smelly bar with someone they hardly know. Instead, get your walking boots on and be at one with nature, with fresh air, exercise and something (else) pretty to look at. There’s thousands of places you can head, right on Manchester’s doorstep, but here’s a few to get you started. A bag of cans and ciggies are an optional extra.
Another interesting ‘activity’ date location where you could find yourself either looking brilliant or coming across as a right tool. If you’re middle class then you’re probably pretty good at skiing and will be able to show off your skills, belting down the slope, flipping over kids with broken ankles and generally spraying powdery snow all over the place in a revealing ski suit.
On the other hand if you’re working class then there’s always the Wetherspoon’s on site where you can grab a pint and a burger for 6 quid. To be fair there’s quite a lot to do here if you’ve never been skiing, including some excellent induction classes on their baby slope as well as a bit of tobogganing where all you need to do it sit down and scream.
A Bit of Tapas
Tapas is the perfect date food and nowhere does it better than Manchester. Well, apart from pretty much every single city in Spain. There’s a ton of fantastic places down on ‘Tapas Alley’ or King Street as the council like to call it, from El Gato Negro to Tast to La Bandera just tucked away down at the bottom. Outside of the city, in Chorlton no less, you’ll find one of the greatest tapas bars in the world – San Juan – a place where I managed to impress and bamboozle a woman into being my wife. You can’t beat some patatas bravas and sangria for getting the romantic juices flowing.
An Escape Room
What better way to show your date that you are a well-rounded, thoughtful individual than locking them up in a room with you and showing them that you can solve puzzles. Being locked up in a small room with someone can reveal a lot about their character, and so these things are perfect for getting a good idea of whether you want to spend the rest of your life with someone.
If you like, you can also deliberately make mistakes and get things wrong so you have the chance to spend more close, personal time together – although that might just give off a whiff of desperation if you’re not subtle enough. Best be careful.
Your date is sure to be massively impressed if you bring them to Tattu, open the doors, head to the bar and order an absolutely mental cocktail, featuring more dried ice than a Michael Jackson concert and enough rigging and pirate booty to sink Jack Sparrow’s dinghy.
To impress them even more, head on into the restaurant and order some of their modern Asian inspired dishes, while surrounded by their fantastic cherry blossom tree and the odd celebrity. Finally, you can impress your date even more by actually paying for it all, or alternatively, offering to do the washing up for the next 4 years once you realise your debit card has been declined and shredded.
Tattu, 3 Hardman Square, 4 Hardman Square, Gartside St, Manchester M3 3EB
If there was ever a more suitable date event and activity it would be ten pin bowling. Not only is it bloody good fun, but it’s indoors, it’s easy to play (and therefore show off) and you can also slowly get leathered over the course of a game while constantly flirting with each other. The only downside is the stupid shoes that you have to wear, especially if you have big feet because they make you look like you’re walking around with a couple of canoes on the end of your legs.
Dog Bowl on Whitworth Street is perfect for a date, not only do they have the bowling, they’ve also added some arcade machines, and they have a great selection of cocktails too so you can both get sloshed and enjoy each other’s company that little bit more.
Head to one of Manchester’s many museums on a date and you’ve already scored a couple of points in the little black book. I mean, for one, they’re free so you’ve saved each other a few quid. On top of this you have some of the best museums and exhibits right on your doorstep, including the fantastic Science & Industry Museum, the Football Museum and the People’s History Museum who continually create compelling and exciting events and special exhibitions for a range of subjects and interests.
There’s also the Manchester Art Gallery and Whitworth Art Gallery if your date is a fan of that kind of stuff, or even the Manchester Museum where you can show off your knowledge of dinosaurs and Egyptian mummies which you learnt watching that Jurassic Park and The Mummy ITV2 marathon last Sunday.
There are about a million places in Manchester where you can both enjoy a lovely cocktail, but it’s rather rare to find somewhere where you can see the whole city from a few hundred feet up in the air. Not only will your date be impressed with the stunning views of Manchester and the surrounding areas, they will surely be bowled over with the classy, luxurious surroundings and the fantastic selection of champers and cocktails.
A Michelin-starred Meal
Sure, if you’re packing a fat wallet and want to seriously impress this date, you can take them to the city’s only Michelin-starred restaurant – Mana in Ancoats. It’ll set you back a pretty penny, but it’s worth it – as Simon Martin takes you on a gastronomic and culinary journey that you’re never going to forget, no matter how dull and boring the actual date turns out to be.
It’s just a massive risk, spending so much money on a date which might be a disaster – so maybe save this one up for date number 5 – once you know they’re not a crazy person.
Escape to Freight Island
Easily one of the best venues in the world at the moment, Escape to Freight Island is like a modern version of the Coliseum in Rome, except without the lions, bad fringes and brutal killings. No, where it’s similar is that there’s a huge range of entertainment, food, drink and music – all under one roof. Oh, and everyone flocks for miles around to come down. So, actually nothing like the Coliseum really. It’s great for a date though, especially if there’s some music on from The Untold Orchestra, or a bit of drag. Grab some food, sink some pints and flirt away.
There’s no better date food than pizza. First of all it’s not messy – unless you have the kind of dexterity that would make Stephen Hawking laugh that is. You can easily eat it with your hands, and on top of this, I’ve never met a human being who doesn’t like pizza – I just don’t think that person exists.
Even if you hate tomatoes, or can’t eat cheese, there’s still hundreds of options out there for you – so it’s definitely a safe bet. In Manchester you have a fair whack of choices when it comes to the Best Food in the World™.
First of all I recommend you to head to Rudy’s where you will both have a choice of one of their fantastically authentic Neapolitan pizzas – rammed with a choice of toppings and finished with a lovely beer or wine. Or you can head to Noi Quattro or Ciaooo in the Northern Quarter, or Honest Crust in Mackie Mayor.
Finally, you could both go a bit ape-shit on the pizza front and head to Crazy Pedro’s – where it probably wouldn’t be unusual to find a roast dinner perched on some dough and served by the slice. If you’re date doesn’t like any of these places, it’s probably safe to assume they are an idiot and therefore not worth your time or effort.
Unless they are devoutly religious, you can’t beat a bit of science for your date – impressing them with your GCSE Physics knowledge and explaining the insignificance of their existence, clinging to a rock hurtling through an empty void at 30km per second in an endless universe populated with billions of worlds; likely harbouring billions of species of life that we will never live long enough to meet.
Once this has been explained, getting them to agree to come back to yours to watch The Jungle Book in bed will be a cinch. So head on down to Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre for one of the largest radio telescopes in the world and a host of interactive exhibitions and displays for you to get your head around. The surrounding areas are amazing too, so you can head to Mobberley or Knutsford afterwards for a few drinks and some grub.
Platt Fields Park
There’s plenty of parks in and around Manchester, it’s only because I used to live round the corner from Platt Fields that it gets a mention here. If the weather is nice there’s no better place to take a date – not only can you take a stroll around the lake and feed the ducks, there’s ice cream, a little playground and plenty of grass to have a picnic and some ciders.
On top of this there’s usually a decent amount of skateboarders and BMX’ers there who you can watch fall off and have a giggle at, and if you’re both into sports – perhaps a bit of one-on-one on the basketball court like in that terrible Halle Berry movie Catwoman. There’s also a brilliant Market Garden on here now.
Walk Around a Market
The city and it’s surrounding environs are awash with a variety of weird and wonderful markets throughout the week, from the up-market indoors variety (Altrincham Market, Mackie Mayor) to the rough and ready outdoors-in-the-rain kinda gaff (Levenshulme & Ancoats).
Another great date, and this is from personal experience, is a Car Boot, where you can both hunt for bargains amongst a bunch of old tat, chat to some old fella about his crappy cigarette card collection and generally flirt yourselves into each other’s arms. Take a look out at Alexandra Park in Moss Side, The Carlton Club in Whalley Range or Bowlers in Trafford to see what’s going on.
Karaoke is not about singing at all; I’ve always said that it’s about having a laugh, getting sloshed, and belting out some absolute classics while your friends look on horrified. That’s got to be good for a date, right?
Get yourself down to The Millstone in the NQ, or one of the many karaoke venues in Chinatown and get Bon Jovi, Always on the screen, have a little bit of Dutch courage and get singing the song at the top of your lungs. If after the 3 minutes 41 seconds she’s not deeply in love with you – I’m sorry – it’s not meant to be.
Sticking with the idea that playing some sort of game for an added competitive edge is a good thing, you can always give Junkyard Golf a try and down some cocktails while trying to hit a tiny ball with a thin stick. There’s three themed rooms to choose from in here, and a ton of brightly coloured, sweet-laden cocktails to sink – should you get bored of playing golf.
A mini golf game is one of the first dates Homer took Marge, and their marriage has been going for pretty much 30 years now. Although to be fair, the golden age was in the mid-90s and it’s been on the rocks for the last 15 years – it’s still pretty romantic.
A more dignified and elegant alternative to grabbing a Ginsters butty from a petrol station, smuggling it into a Wetherspoon’s and ordering 2 gin and tonics – afternoon tea has experienced a massive revival in Manchester over the past couple of years or so, so that now you can pretty much get it anywhere.
I suppose it depends on your budget, and how much you actually like the other person, but there’s plenty of options for you. There’s pure luxury at The Lowry Hotel, a great new one from The Refuge, and even one which you can have in the back of a Black Cab whilst the driver tells you all about the places whizzing past through the window.
This pub on Thomas Street is one of my favourites, it’s always full of a great crowd, staff are brilliant and their Strongbow is fizzy as fuck. If you’re looking for a no nonsense date, where you can have plenty of drinks, loads of chat and meet some interesting ‘characters’ then The Millstone is one of the best choices in the city.
It’s not the only choice though – there’s loads of great, proper boozers in which to take someone on a date, where you can slowly get merry while eating some British Tapas and laughing at the old bloke in the corner who keeps pinching everyone’s arse on the way past. Other favourites include The Briton’s Protection, The Unicorn and Seven Oaks.
The Millstone, 65 – 67 Thomas Street, Manchester, M4 1LQ
Frog and Bucket
They always say that it’s easy to laugh someone into bed, and if you find yourself in the enviable position of genuinely being funny, then you probably don’t need any dating tips off a knob head like me. Alternatively, if like me you’re about as funny as a dead badger, perhaps it’s useful to let the professionals do most of the hard work for you.
It’s a well-known fact that most comedians are physically grotesque; from the ‘chubby funster’ Peter Kay to the posh Auntie appearance of Michael McIntyre – it’s highly likely you will be visually superior – so why not let them do the hard work – get your date all giggled-up and then swoop in. Head on down to the Frog and Bucket at the top of Oldham Street for one of their brilliant comedy nights and treat your date to some food, some drinks, some fantastic gags and then a cheesy disco afterwards where you can clumsily make your move.
Frog and Bucket, 102 Oldham St, Manchester M4 1LJ
Fish and Chips
This one is my personal favourite dates ever; so if anyone is reading this and fancies trying it on with the Brownmeister – take some notes. First of all, head on over to one of the city’s best Fish & Chip shops – in this case I suggest Kingfisher on Tib Street. Order fish, chips and mushy peas (x2) with loads of salt and vinegar.
While that’s being sorted out, one of you runs out to the nearest offy and grabs some ice-cold ciders. Then take the fish and chips and drinks down to the canal in Ancoats and proceed to scoff your face while having some bevvies – ideally in the sun. It also works in the rain, but does involve some slightly depressing undertones, and don’t try to recreate the same effect indoors – I tried once and it failed miserably.
There’s only one bad thing about Bottomless Brunch as a date, and that’s the fact that you have to get up early in order to do it. It works perfectly if the other person has woken up in your bed though, just grab your clobber, wipe the lipstick off your face and head out the door for 2 hours of non-stop Prosecco and some grub.
The city has some truly excellent options open to you, from Elnecot in Ancoats, to Spanish Brunch at La Bandera, check this list of the very best places to head on a weekend…