Dating is hard. Luckily we have some of the best experts on the case for you. Maître d' and waitress from the First Dates UK restaurant Fred Sirieix and Laura Tott are on hand to give Euronews Culture their top tips.
It’s Valentine’s Day today, which means dates.
There will be the comfortable candlelit dinners for established couples, nervy nibbles for new pairings, and the odd drunken delinquency for singletons in solidarity.
Whichever way you do it these days, dating is a fact of life.
Euronews Culture spoke to First Dates UK’s Fred Sirieix and Laura Tott for their advice on the perfect dinner date. For anyone anxious about putting forward your best self on a date this Valentine's Day, their tips are absolutely essential.
First Dates is a reality show where two real people, paired by a research team, go on a blind date together. It started in the UK and has been a global success, with versions popping up in several countries including Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Italy, France and Portugal.
In the UK version, all the daters are welcomed to the restaurant by trained maître d' and television personality Fred Sirieix, before being served a meal by waitress and paramedic Laura Tott.
Together, the pair have witnessed hundreds of dates, good and bad. The show has led marriages and children, but also heartbreak.
Here’s Fred and Laura’s guide to good dinner dates.
How can you tell if a date is going well?
Fred: I think it's all in the body language, the facial expressions and the way people behave. How they pay attention, the way they look at the other, the flick of the hair smiles. I think there are some telltale signs that that don't lie. Of course, there's always somebody who holds their cards very close to their chest. But by and large, you know when it's going well.
Laura: One of my favourite things is when you go to take the order, and they say they haven't even looked at the menu but they've been in there 15 minutes already. The conversation is flowing so much. And you can go over two or three times. And they're laughing because they still haven't even looked at the menu.
What about a bad date?
Laura: We creep on a lot of people. We like to pretend we're filling up a water glass, just to have a little listen and see how it's going. If their eyes are wandering, even if that's just literally just looking at the ceiling or the menu but a bit too much, that's a massive indicator it's not going well. Or if they're talking to the waiters and everyone else more than they are their date? Not a good sign.
Is it possible to always know?
Fred: That’s the trouble with a date. Sometimes somebody says something and somebody understands something else. Communication is tough. We've seen that before on First Dates. But again, you know, you never know what's going to happen until that final moment when the question is asked “Do you want to see each other again?”
How can you be more confident on a date?
Fred: The only way to be confident with dating is you have to do it. There are no shortcuts here, because at the end of the day, you will have to sit down with somebody and have a conversation and open up.
Laura: When you're on a date there's two of you. You're both in the same situation. An icebreaker is just saying, “You know what, I'm feeling really nervous.” And the other person probably is going to turn around and say, “Oh my gosh, I am too!” And what a relief that is instead of both pretending to be confident.
Why is the dinner date still the best?
Fred: It's simple. You are sitting down with somebody for a couple of hours. You have the time to get to know them. You've got to have a conversation, nothing is going to distract you from your date, it's you and them alone.
Laura: Food is the way to the heart. For me personally, food is just everything. So I'd always have to be paired up with someone that feels the same. I know it can be daunting for people because you are forced to have those conversations, because it's quieter there, it’s a really intimate way to be with someone.
What should you order if your date is a vegan and you’re not?
Fred: You know, 27% of people are now flexitarian, which means that they eat meat, fish, but are trying to reduce that to choose plant-based alternatives. Among young people between 18 to 24, it’s as much as 45%. For me, it’s different. I was brought up in the 70s and I’m a food guy. If I was on a date with a vegan, and they order what they want and I fancy a steak, I will have a steak. I'm going to respect their food choice and they've got to respect mine. I think it's very important that not everybody has the exact same attitude towards food.
What’s your ideal dinner date menu?
Laura: When Sean (her husband) and I have date night, there always has to be cheese in every dish. There’s this tear and share Camembert that I like but won’t share with Sean. What Sean will cook to impress me is a steak. He smashes a steak. That's my go to and then dessert, either cheese cake or anything chocolatey.
Co-op research shows 49% of people say cooking is an act of love and 60% say cooking isn’t just about the food but the energy and time involved.
Should you cook dinner for date number two?
Laura: For our second date, I went and cooked for Sean. We actually did the food shop together. And that was lovely because I was finding out about silly stuff like what biscuits he liked.
How has dating changed over the years?
Fred: The difference is that a lot of people meet online. That’s okay as long as you can meet somebody. But once you've met them online once and you make that connection, go and meet them in person, go have a conversation, go on that walk in a park or a coffee or a meal or whatever, so that you can actually meet them for real and meet the real person.
Kiss on the first date?
Fred: That’s the dream. Some people will say, “No, I'm not kissing on the first date. I want to wait for the second or the third.” I mean, it's a personal choice. As long as you want to do it and it’s not a kiss for kiss. You want to kiss that person because you feel the attraction. And it's like two magnets that you put together. Getting that kiss after the first date? That's like winning the world cup, isn't it?