I stumbled across the South Place Hotel in passing a few years ago, having only popped in once or twice for a glass of wine in between meetings. The modern boutique hotel is a true stand-out amongst the offices of London’s traditional Square Mile—with its achingly cool structure and monochrome outdoor seating, the seven-story hotel’s ground-floor windows provide passersby with just enough intrigue to wander inside and discover more.
I figured I’d use part two of Cocktails & Acquaintances, a series where the premise is simply to meet new people at London’s best hotel bars, to try and change the fact that I haven’t been on a date for the better half of a year. I decided to invite someone who I had been in intermittent contact with (let’s call him ‘Ted’) for a drink or two at the low-lit, vibrant 3 Bar at South Place Hotel. We had been meaning to hang out for a while now. More on that later, but here’s what happened when I spent a night at this sophisticated East End mainstay.
I walked through the low-key Conran-designed lobby adorned in vibrant, retro art and was instantly offered a cocktail upon arrival. Don’t already judge me but I chose water, you know, stay hydrated. I could hear musters of a private party happening upstairs on the Secret Garden Terrace as I was led through an MTV Cribs-esque all-black corridor to my room. The sound of Meek Mill bumping in the background had me ready to get the night started, hoping my choice of outfit (a maroon slip dress and Celine boots) was trendy enough for my impending semi-blind date.
Upon first impression, the room situation at South Place is incredibly high-fashion. The minimal setup featured sleek essentials: think coffee machine and teas, Bang & Olufsen speakers, lounge chairs, and translucent curtains for the floor-to-ceiling windows that overlooked the city beneath us. A major highlight for the start of my night was the grey-slate bathroom with massive rain showers, I felt like I was in a Jennifer Lopez music video and happily helped myself to heaps of shower products while I blasted Neneh Cherry from the speakers.
Around 9 PM, I slipped out of my bathrobe and into my dress to make my way downstairs for drinks. The 3 Bar acts as a lobby bar of sorts in-between the reception and The Chop House restaurant, and I found my space reserved for two as I nestled in a corner by the window. I figured I’d people-watch and eavesdrop on the giant 30th birthday celebration next to me as I waited for my date. The DJ played my favorite genre, nineties hip hop, as I admired the eclectic range of sculptures and explored the evening menu that had a different theme for every page. From gin-based cocktails to non-alcoholic, I found myself craving something sweet and ordered The Napoleon while I waited for my guest of honor.
I felt butterflies in the pit of my stomach as one normally does before they go on a blind date, and in a matter of moments the words “I’m here” flashed on my phone. I looked up and found a lost-looking Ted wandering around the space. I stood up and waved my hand. Tall and stylish in a casual blue button-down, dark jeans and sneakers, Ted was perfectly cute. We performed the usual niceties before sitting down and discussing our surroundings.
“I had no idea this place was right here?” Ted gushed.
“I know, cool right?” As I twirled my hair.
“Can I get you a drink?” Ted, the gentlemen.
I was one step ahead of Ted and as my Napolean arrived, he opted for The Redemption cocktail at the recommendation of our kind waitress, Antonia. The Napoleon is perfect for any fan of the Aperol Spritz. With Spanish bitters, lemon, and egg white, it was the perfect cocktail to take the edge off what could’ve been a nerve-wracking conversation.
Ted is a music photographer from London (and yes, he is OK with me saying this!) who shoots all over the world for small bands, big stars, and everything in-between. His work can be seen on some of your favorite album covers as well as in the style pages of the notable broadsheets. As someone who travels so much, I am sure he is used to staying in plenty of hotels. And since I’ve had a school girl crush on Ted for a while (I heard through friends that he was kind, sweet, and a major catch) I tried to play it very cool as I asked him about his life and keep the topic off of well… me.
“How many days a year do you think you aren’t sleeping in your own bed?” I inquired.
“I would say 3-4 months of the year in total, of course, interspersed throughout the year,” he casually admits.
“Where is the coolest city you’ve ever visited?” I turned rosy-cheeked.
“Tokyo was cooler than I could have ever imagined, have you been?” He asked humbly.
We exchanged chat about travel, work, photography, fashion and the works until Jagged Edge’s Where the Party At started playing and the crowd went wild. Ted immediately started laughing as I put my drink down and began shimmying in my seat, interrupting our conversation whilst trying to match the crowd’s level. I could not help myself, the DJ’s mixes were pure gold. I checked to see if Ted was embarrassed throughout my brief one-person dance parties, but he was confident enough to let me do my thing. What that thing is, I am not certain.
We brought up the fact that setting a hard date for us to finally meet up was incredibly mature of us—going against the eleventh-hour cancellations today’s dating culture is famously known for, and veering far away from an 11PM: “wyd, you out?” text. The laid-back, trendy house party atmosphere of South Place allowed for us to sip on our drinks with ease and not bombard one another with questions about past relationships and why things never worked out in the past.
In an attempt to keep things light and fun, I kept referring back to the drinks. We worked our way down the cocktail menu, ordering a few of the gin cocktails 3 Bar is famous for. May I add, The Bloomsbury with fresh celery-infused Tanqueray gin, Aperol, St. Germain, lemon, Earl Grey tea syrup, and rhubarb bitters was so good I ordered two.
Ted was the perfect gentleman, he continued to ask questions without prying, sipped his drinks slowly, and made generous eye contact. He didn’t talk about himself unless he was prompted by my lengthy series of 21-questions, and he did not check his phone once.
“You haven’t checked your phone once!” I said as the music got louder.
“I don’t need to,” he replied.
The crowd around us was slowly turning the bar area into one giant dancefloor.
“Shall we?” Ted asked as he nodded towards the dancefloor.
“I thought you’d never ask,” I gushed.