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Valentine’s Day: A view from behind the bar

These dates went wrong. Horribly wrong. London Bartender's reveal the worst dates they've ever served.

Valentine's Day cocktails, bars decked with balloons and waiters with fluffly wings... no thanks! Dating in London is tough enough without overgrown cupids and bad-tasting drinks, so to mark Valentine's Day we asked our pals behind London's best bars to tell us the story of worst (or funniest) date they ever served - just to make you all feel good about your own Feb 14th. After all it can't go as badly as these dates did, can it?

The worst tinder date I’ve ever seen was when I was working at London Cockctail Club Goodge Street. A couple walks in and sits at the bar and decides that they will try and one-up each other the whole time they’re there. It starts with who can chug a beer the fastest, and escalated to who can eat the most deep fried mac and cheese. The gentleman gives up and the lady proceeds to victoriously stand up on her bar stool, before deciding to projectile vomit all over her date from above him. I don’t think they lasted very long. - Nathan Shearer, Bar Swift

I was working a quiet Sunday with one other colleague and we had maybe a few handfuls of guests through the door. We were joined at the bar by two of my favourite regulars as well as a female in her mid 30's. Her date followed closely behind, but definitely after she had already packed in a drink or two. They were chatting away, rather loudly, to the point it was extremely difficult to not overhear every word. Mind you, they were sat at the end of the bar, at service station, in front of the glass wash so there was no where to position yourself so you weren't practically third wheeling. Suddenly it got interesting. He was asking about another guy, who turns out was her boyfriend, who she then announced she was cheating on at that very moment. But why? Mostly because she was into S&M and he just wasn't and didn't understand her lifestyle choices and sexual desires...you get the picture. At this point, our regulars moved from the bar to sit at a table to get a better view. The gent decides to start touching her thigh which slowly creeps up under her skirt. She's giggling and he's acting like a downright 13 year old rebel. We all begin talking louder as if it would drown out the cringy actions. It gets to the point that my colleague asks them if they could please kindly refrain from doing what they were doing. They stop. For T-5 minutes. Then suddenly his hand is back in her crotch. Please remember there were literally six people in the venue, including the two employees. Again my colleague asks them to please stop, it's making everyone a bit uncomfortable, while I giggle like an idiot in the corner. Then it happens a third time and the bill is placed in front of them, they pay and leave, to probably lean against the dumpster outside. Made a quiet Sunday rather entertaining and our regulars just got the best seats for one of those "I just can't pull my eyes away" dramatic comedy. - Zoe van der Grinten

A couple of years ago I was working at La Perla in Paris. To set the scene, I was young and still not completely aware of when I'm needed at a table and when I should stand clear... So, this lady comes in, walks to a table where a man is waiting - Margarita pitcher already on the table - and after a couple of minutes she starts whisper-screaming (now I don't know if you've seen people whisper-screaming. It's when they are angry but too conscious to make a scene. It is fairly bizarre, a bit like watching a movie with no sound and trying to make up what the actors are saying.) I think I'm going to save the day, and rush to the table with a smile. "Everything okay?" I say. The guy stands up, "it will be," he says and leaves the table. I am standing in front of the girl, a half empty pitcher of Margaritas... and divorce papers. Awkward is not a strong enough word. I have seen some lame Tinder dates, some awkward meet-cute ones, some failed attempts to flirt but to this date this one still is the worst possible date ever I've ever encountered. - Pierre-Marie Bisson, Milk & Honey

It was a first date and the guy just did everything wrong. It was clear straight away that he was getting drunk a lot quicker than she was, and he kept making passing sexist remarks about drinks, and in general, then trying to dig himself out of it. She was having a sense of humour failure about it all so I was trying to lighten the mood and joke with them both, however he kept responding with more sexist comments and just made himself look worse. Eventually he was in such a deep hole that he went to reach out to grab her hand and apologise, except he knocked her drink into her lap. - Rebecca Sides, Original Sin

I was up in the JubJub on my own, when our first booking came in. Young couple, quite Shoreditch looking, vintage gear on and all that. Within a few minutes it became obvious they were on a first date, I could hear some of the usual 'Where do you work?', 'Where are you from?' type questions. I had to spend a bit more time at the table than I usually would with a couple on a date, as we had a pretty weird menu at the time and it needed a bit of explaining. They had a few rounds, and it seemed to be going very well, laughing and joking, none of the usual awkwardness when people find themselves on their own in a bar. Anyway, they signalled for the bill, and were discussing where to go next. I gave them a few suggestions, and off they merrily went. Next thing I know, she's come running up the stairs, stuffed her number in my hand, and said 'I know it's a bit cheeky. but..' And run back downstairs. Poor bastard didn't have a clue. - Terry Cashman

I wasn't working at this bar, which is good because it meant I could focus all my attention on watching this (presumed Tinder) date. Long story short, this guy was not only shit faced but also punching above his weight. She had a pained look on her face the entire time. Eventually she asked a member of staff if she could leave through the emergency exit and offered to even pay more than the bill for this service. She wasn't allowed to do this and had to tell him she was leaving. He spent the rest of the evening with his head on the bar. - Robyn Wilkie, Seven Tales

I was serving a first date, sat at the bar, which was going quite well when the guy suggested they get some food. The lady said she wasn't very hungry and had eaten before she came out but could possibly eat a tiny snack if he wanted to eat, suggesting some ham or olives or something. He then proceeded to order the whole menu. Literally everything on the menu, it was Spanish tapas, so there was so many options, he ordered the meat platter suitable for four, he ordered croquettes of all the different flavours, cheese board, seafood, Patatas bravas - literally so much. It was actually embarrassing as it wouldn't all fit in front of them. True to her word the lady had maybe a couple of bits of ham and cheese while he ate everything else. Scoffed it like an animal! And then when the (HUGE) bill came he was like - so we'll go halves then yeah? It looked like he'd just invited her on a date so she could pay for him to have a massive dinner. I could tell she was fuming but she still paid though - it was over £100 each. - Anonymous 

This was when I was waitressing in the upstairs bar in Callooh Callay. A couple sat at a table, ordered their first drinks and got happily chatting away. When I brought the cocktails over the girl asked for two shots of tequila, presumably to break the ice. The guy looked a little shocked but didn't say anything, so I went and got the shots. When I returned with them the girl was talking about what a great drinker she is and they downed them immediately. The girl looked delighted with herself, the boy not so much. He was rapidly turning a pale grey colour and then promptly brought the tequila straight back up, plus a few extra things which had evidentally been lurking in his stomach, straight onto his date's lap. He got up immediately and rushed down the stairs to the loo while she just sat there. We gave her napkins and a damp cloth and repeatedly suggested she go clean herself up but she simply sat there waiting for him and when he returned they simply carried on their date, with his sick on her lap. - Jane Ryan

And on a personal note...

So, a few years ago, I met this girl. I wasn’t exactly looking for love at the time, but I liked her and decided I was really going to put in an effort - ended up chasing her for like 6 months. Somewhere along the way, I took her to a nice Italian restaurant (original, right) in Fitzrovia and all was going well - good food and wine, she thought I was funny… cool. Then, after a particular anecdote, she laughed and, as there was still a little food in her mouth, a small morsel was ejected and propelled majestically through the air, finally coming to rest on my forearm. My initial thought was not to react and hope she didn’t notice to save her the embarrassment, but in a moment, I knew that was not possible. So I brushed it off with a shrug, as if to say ‘no big deal’. Silence fell and outstayed its (already limited) welcome just a little, before she burst out laughing and dropped the following - God, I would just be SO embarrassed if this were a date. By my count, it was our third. Apply ointment to burned area. - Elliot Ball, Cocktail Trading Co