First date restaurant etiquette

Some restaurant dos and don'ts for that imperative first date! And we recommend some top spots.

by: Tracey Hadfield | 11 Jul 2012

Picture this: You’re at the office/gym/pub and the sexy stranger across the room catches your eye. You finally work up the courage to speak to them, and, wonder of wonders, they agree to go to dinner with you. Boom! Right?

Except, if you’re anything like me, 5 minutes after this the nerves hit and my brain starts spinning:

What restaurant do I choose? Do I let the guy choose? How expensive should it be? Will my date judge me if they think I’m being cheap? I asked him out, so do I pay for dinner? Do we split the bill? And what on earth will I wear?

Suddenly the excitement of the first date seems ‘n bietjie min in comparison to the minefield of potential embarrassment and disaster.

Here is a useful guide if you are experiencing the same reservations...

The venue

If you initiate the date, it’s up to you to choose the venue. It should be quiet enough for conversation, but busy enough to have a buzz. Don’t call unnecessary outside attention to your table. Rose petals and violins are fine for an anniversary, but way over the top for a first date.

We recommend El Burro, Josephines Cookhouse, Polana, Takumi, Fork, The Leopard, The Good Luck Club, Thomas Maxwell, Orient, The Cargo Hold, Unity Bar, Market and Mundo Vida.

Restaurant vs drinks

General consensus is that if you’re going out with someone you’ve only just met, a drinks date is a better idea than dinner. An effective way to “dip your toe in the dating pool”, drinks are a lot less pressure than a candlelit table for two.

Do relax and have a cocktail if you feel like it – it’ll calm your nerves and make you less self-conscious.

Don’t overdo it. Beer goggles make your date look hot and you look… drunk.

We recommend Tjing Tjing Bar, The Winchester Mansions, Wafu, Wolves, Moyo u Shaka Pier, Spiga and

The price

This is one area where mediocre can be a good thing. Too expensive, and you’re showing off. Too cheap, and…well, nobody likes a miser. Don’t go over the top – a private dining room and 8 different forks tends to be more intimidating than impressive.

We recommend La Boheme, La Mouette, Bardellis, So Yum and Mooki Noodle Bar.

What to order

It’s pretty common knowledge that unless dinner is on you, it’s bad form to order the most expensive item on the menu. That said, if it turns out your date is a less likeable version of the Grinch, go right ahead and order the lobster. They probably deserve it.

Do pay attention to what your date orders – if he/she is only having a main, you might want to skip the starter.
Don’t order for both of you without consulting your date first – most girls I know find this arrogant and presumptuous, and  guys may feel emasculated.

Who pays?

Call me spoiled, but in my experience on the downward slope to 30, most guys my age and older like to pick up the cheque. Chivalry lives! Splitting the bill on dates is more common for under 25’s.

It’s still unusual, though not unheard of, for the woman to pay for the whole meal. It is important for the girl to at least offer to contribute. A token reach for the bill when it arrives is considered good etiquette, as is conceding gracefully if he politely declines your efforts.

Do pass the after dinner mints to the lady first. Small things like this make a good impression.

Don’t stiff the staff – unless the service was terrible, not tipping appropriately reflects badly on you.

Have you had any standout first dates? What made them work so well? Or do you have a first date disaster that we can learn from? Share your stories, and let’s kick bad dates to the curb!

Read more on: restaurant  |  romantic

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