|Illustration: Jamie Wignall|
More people are eating out than ever before. This is obvious to see from our great independent dining options as well as the boom in chain restaurants popping up all over the city in the last year. Bill’s have just reported gastronomical (get it?) profits for their last financial year and you couldn’t walk through Market Square in February without being bombarded by restaurant windows full of love hearts, balloons and Valentine’s offers. It’s clear to see that eating out and dating have long held an association. Think about Lady and the Tramp – two doe-eyed dogs sharing that bowl of spaghetti and meatballs over a candle. Romantic right? Look back on your own (however painful) dating history too and I’m confident you’ll have memories of eating out on early dates.
Single? Hungry? This could be just what you need.
Tell me briefly about Small Plate, Speed Date.
Sally: It’s a dating night with a difference. Basically a series of mini dinner dates where people can meet over a bite of food. We have taken the speed dating format and added food to it as a sort of an icebreaker.
Becky: It’s a chance to meet some nice people, maybe make a friend, maybe something more…
Where did the idea come from?
S: A drunken conversation with a friend who was thinking of trying speed dating but didn’t really want to. She thought that it would be cringe and hard to talk to people so we started thinking about whether it could be slowed down a little to allow more conversation (the usual time frame is 3 minutes per date) and whether we could add something to bring people together – food was the obvious answer.
We all eat and we all have passionate ideas about food so there is always something about food two strangers can connect through.
B: Definitely. Plus it’s really hard to meet people these days. Aside from the ton of apps and dating websites, how do you meet someone? If you can’t hit that holy grail of getting together with a ‘friend of a friend’, perhaps meeting in this way, in a cool bar, with some great food and a relaxed atmosphere would be a good way to go. And then we thought of the name and we couldn’t say no!
Neither of you lives in Nottingham right now. Why did you choose it?
B: Nottingham is still the place I refer to as ‘home’, even though I don’t live here anymore! I guess home is where your friends are and we still have a huge link to the city in that respect. Nottingham deserves cool stuff to happen and with the lovely new bars and restaurants opening up it feels like a good time for the food scene.
S: I agree with Becky, we still have lots of friends and family here and actually I still work part-time in Radcliffe. A few months ago we were offered a new home for our Nottingham supper club at Creative Occupations Bureau cafe in Cobden Chambers and when we were talking about our ideas for this year, they were really excited about speed date and asked us to do two nights.
Some people will be put off by the idea of speed dating – how is this different?
S: We’ve put a lot of thought into how to make this a unique, fun night for daters. Neither of us has ever been speed dating and I guess that says a lot! We said we’d create a night that we would like to go to and hope others feel the same.
Each couple will have an intimate table and space to talk freely. They will be served a small plate of food and given 6-7 minutes to eat and chat. There will be breaks every few courses to replenish drinks and mingle too.
B: Everything’s better with food, right?! We will also have some lovely hosts who will wander and make sure everyone is ok. Everyone is welcome to just come dressed as they like, be themselves, relax and have a nice evening meeting new people.
What kind of food can your daters expect?
S: The menu is vegetarian so that everyone can eat the same thing. There will be 10 courses covering starters, mains and desserts so it should be pretty satisfying. We toyed with the idea of making international dishes so that if people have travelled it gives them an extra angle to talk about. In the end, we went for more European flavours as it makes a more coherent dinner. The most important part of the evening is providing a space for people to connect, the food is just one way of enabling those connections.
B: We have some pretty yummy dishes lined up, from a Spanish tortilla with romesco sauce to mushroom and hazelnut tart and frozen praline nougat for pud.
Were you conscious to avoid things that get stuck in teeth or slop down your front?
S: OMG yes. We have thought about this A LOT. The practicality of the food has been the most important aspect when designing the menu and we have become a bit obsessed with it. Imagine arriving at a 6-minute date to be served a bowl of ramen noodles – all that slurping – horrible!
B: Oh the horror of serving something like spag bol which people would instantly drip all down their fronts. I am very clumsy, so this particular topic has been very close to my heart. It’s been fun doing the recipe testing and figuring out what will and won’t work. I think even I could eat these dishes elegantly!
Why do you think food and dating are such a popular combination?
S: Why are food and sex popular??
Have you had any disastrous date night meals?
S: Mmmm I can’t think of anything clean enough to put in print!
We’ll finish on that note. If you fancy attending Speed Date, Small Plate, tickets cost £25 per head and numbers are limited. The evenings will take place at COB, a newly opened arts cafe & event space in the centre which is fast becoming a hub for the city’s creative community.
There are two Small Plate, Speed Date events coming up:
18th March for girls who want to meet girls (now sold out).
19th March for men & women to meet. Fancy it? They are still on the lookout for a couple of men to join in. Visit arecipeforgluttony.wordpress.com to buy tickets.