I think any girl who has watched First Dates, whether religiously or just from flicking through and laughing at the awkward-ness of it all has definitely dreamed (probably more than once) about going to the First Dates restaurant. Amirite? The food always looks so good, the restaurant looks swanky af with glistening wine glasses and cutlery, and you picture yourself there shoving strawberries and chocolate fondue in your partner’s face (or not lol).
Well, the First Dates restaurant is actually called Paternoster Chop House, and (as you might’ve already seen when the hopeful daters come sauntering into the restaurant on the telly, it’s located right next to St Pauls Cathedral in London. I was lucky enough to be taken there as a late birthday treat by my boyfriend, and so before I get onto anything else I’m going to (reluctantly) set a few things straight first.
Fred is not actually the maitre d’. Yep, I would’ve loved to have been greeted with a kiss on the cheek from him too, but alas it did not happen. Merlin the barman didn’t work there either *sad face*, and neither did any of the waiting staff that we usually see on the telly. When I found this out I felt a little bit cheated by First Dates not gonna lie, but after 2.8 seconds of disappointment, I was so excited to see if the restaurant lived up to my (high lol) expectations.
Our table was booked for 9.30, which was the only time we could get on the Friday as the restaurant is so popular. We arrived at around 9.15, and after having our coats taken by the two girls by the door (who were very kind), we headed to the Merlin-less bar for a cocktail. I went for the ‘First Dates’ cocktail (so predictable of me), while Dom just went for a beer as the cocktail menu wasn’t huge. We were also given some bbq roasted nuts on the house as the barman spilt a little bit of my cocktail on the side, which was a nice touch from them. They were so tasty and v moreish, so I’d definitely recommend them if you’re reeeeeeally hungry before your meal and want a little snack to have with your drink beforehand.
When we were seated, we decided to forgo the starters as I wasn’t hungry anymore after all dem nuts, but some of the starters included hand-raised pork pie (omg), carrot and coriander soup, and Colchester rock oysters, which you could buy singular, or not (Dom was going to get one, but wasn’t feeling adventurous enough in the end lol).
The main menu was very meat-orientated, as the name of the restaurant suggests, with loads of different types of steaks. There was only one burger though, which (if I hadn’t already settled on the chateaubriand), would have been a little disappointing. There were also pork and lamb dishes, as well as salmon, cod, and sole dishes. If you’re a veggie though, I probably wouldn’t come here, as there was only one veggie option, the autumn vegetable curry, which I’m sure is tasty nonetheless, but you’re pretty stuffed if you don’t like curry.
The bottom corner of the menu had the set menu option, which was really really reasonable considering the quality of the food, and the pricing of other things on the menu. The price of the set menu was £20 for two courses, or £25 for three, and included dishes like glazed brisket and pan fried fillet of Pollock (not sure what that is either tbh). This is definitely a viable option if you want to go somewhere nice but without the high prices. You can view the full menu here.
In the end (it didn’t really take long as Dom had already asked me before we got there if I wanted to share the chateaubriand) went for the Heron’s Farm Chateaubriand to share. I’d heard from my brother who had been there before that the steak was probably the best he’s ever had, so this option really was a no-brainer for us.
When it came out, the steak was beautifully presented on a wooden board on a metal wire pedestal type thing. Around one edge of the plate were four or five little pots of dipping sauces, including two different types of beef dripping, a spicy Thai-style dip, béarnaise, and horseradish. The only downside was that we did have to order sides separately as they weren’t included with the steak, and we got chips and garlic Portobello mushrooms.
Now please believe me, this steak was possibly the best thing I think I’ve ever eaten. We asked for it medium, and it was perfectly cooked, literally melt in the mouth type thing. The dipping sauces complemented the meat really well too, and I tried them all (except horseradish because I find that minging). We got 600g of the chateaubriand between the two of us, which along with the sides was probably just the right amount – I was full, but not overfull. Would I recommend? YES. It is one of the more expensive steaks, but I think with things like this you definitely get what you pay for, so it’s worth paying that bit extra, in my opinion.
When it came to drinks, we were really impressed because usually when we go out for dinner, we want more than a glass each (obvs), but getting a bottle each seemed a bit excessive with dinner, and buying multiple glasses normally works out quite pricey.
But here, there was the option to buy a 500ml bottle as opposed to a standard 750ml bottle, or a singular glass, which worked out to just over two large glasses. And as I mentioned earlier, it was perfect as a bottle each would’ve been too much with food. We went for the cheapest red and the cheapest white (yes, my palette is not mature or sophisticated enough for red wine with beef yet ok). Even though they were at the top of the wine menu, they were actually really pleasant to drink. Another really nice touch from the restaurant is that we got given a free glass of prosecco (everybody loves free alcohol right?) each as it was my birthday.
When we had finished eating, the waitress (who was lovely btw) came and took our plates, and offered the desserts menu. I politely declined as I didn’t want to ruin my meal, but some of the desserts included sticky toffee pudding, autumn mess, and dark chocolate and hazelnut tart. They also had a cheese and chutney board if you’re feeling adult af.
It turned out that my boyfriend had rung up the restaurant and requested a birthday surprise for me – which I was made aware of as the waitress bought us out some homemade chocolate truffles with ‘happy birthday’ written in chocolate on the plate. Even though he rung up and asked, the restaurant didn’t have to go to such effort, and it really was a lovely way to end the meal.
After finishing our deserts and the rest of our wine, we grabbed our coats and headed home, happy and full. Would I recommend Paternoster Chop House? Most definitely. There are options for those watching their dollar, as well as other options if you’re wanting to push the boat out a little for a special occasion.
Plus, it’s all exciting and fun because you can pretend you’re on First Dates. Ok, just me then.
Have you been here before? Let me know what you thought!
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(Some images provided by Paternoster Chop House)