On a recent Sunday evening I found myself on a good date in a bad pub. Surrounded by screaming children, the music was terrible and the lighting even worse. Had the date being going badly, the venue would have been the nail in the coffin.

There are enough uncertainties when going on a first date, a bad setting doesn't need to be one of them, which is why I've decided to share my wealth of knowledge with the masses.

The last two years have seen the rise in popularity of the walking date, and I've done my fair share of research into finding the best routes that the county has to offer. Alternatively, if you want to dive straight into an evening of food and drinks, I've gathered a list of hot spots from across the city that are sure to heighten any first meeting.

There are loads of creative date options to be enjoyed (my Instagram feed has been flooded with everything from axe throwing and adventure rooms to sunset hikes and sea swims) but, when it comes to a first date, I'm sticking with some low-stakes classics: coffee, drinks* and light bites.

Coffee & a beach stroll

Strand Fare, Sandymount and Happy Out, Bull Island

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A date format that anyone who was single over lockdown and within 5k of the coast will be all too familiar with: coffee and a stroll.

I consider these option as more of a pre-date - a way of spending an hour or so with someone to suss out the vibe. Then, if all goes to plan, you can commit to a night on the town with dinner or a gig.

I actually loved the change from the standard Friday night drink to a mid-week caffeine hit. It's more casual, less of a time commitment, and there's something relaxed about walking side-by-side rather than sitting opposite one another.

Strand Fare and Happy Out are both lovely spots to pick up a coffee and a treat to be enjoyed on the nearby beaches of Sandymount and Dollymount respectively.

Strand Fare are serving up Bread 41 pastries (if there’s a better custard tart to be found in the city I’m yet to find it), while Happy Out offer pastries from Tartine Organic Bakery as well as toasties and some breakfast options for any early birds.

Coffee & a park stroll

Lolly and Cooks, Herbert Park and Market, St. Anne's Park

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If you don't happen to be situated by the coast, you can switch up the seaside for a leafy park.

Lolly and Cooks in Herbert Park was the scene of my first ever Tinder date (Conor, 32, if you're reading this it really was me, not you). My dating game has thankfully improved since then, and both Herbert Park and St. Anne's Park have proved to be ideal for a casual coffee or impromptu picnic.

Lolly and Cooks serve sausage rolls, salads, and soups but on a casual walking date I’m leaning towards the sweet treats (mine’s a blondie, thanks) and a coffee.

You can grab a coffee and cake at the market in St. Anne’s Park too but if you do feel like something more substantial check out one of the many street food stalls. With options like a falafel wrap or a grilled cheese sandwich it’s the perfect spot if you want to upgrade your coffee date to picnic status.

Puppies & pints

MVP, Dublin 8 and The Bernard Shaw, Phibsboro

My top dating tip? Go to dog friendly pub. No matter how a night is going, it can only be improved by being surrounded by cute pups.

MVP and The Bernard Shaw are great, dog-friendly date spots. The latter was the place where, while on a first date, an acquaintance came over to say a quick hello... and then over-stayed their welcome for a good 15 minutes. To make matters worse, I proceeded to completely forgot the name of my date (sorry Mikey, 37, I did actually know your name).

But at least there were nice dogs around.

MVP have cocktails, a variety of non-alcoholic options, tasty toasties, and occasional nights of bingo and comedy to mix things up .

The Bernard Shaw has a dedicated food market, Eatyard, with stalls including The Village Pizza, Janet’s, and vegan favourite The Saucy Cow. There are regular quizzes, bingo nights, and table tennis so you won’t be short of things to do if the conversation is slow to get started.

Fun & games

Token, Smithfield and The Hideout, South William St

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If you’re feeling a little nervous for a date, an activity can help break the ice. Gigs and movies are great but you don’t get much of a chance to chat which is why I tend to avoid them on a first date and instead suggest somewhere with games. This is also a great way alcohol-free date option.

Situated in Smithfield, Token is a restaurant with a retro arcade and pinball parlour, and with over 40 machines there’s plenty to entertain you on a fun first date. There is a bar if you do want drinks and the food is casual with burgers, tacos, and tenders on offer as well as a good range of vegan options.

The Hideout on South William Street has pool tables and ping pong, a perfect place to flex those table tennis skills you haven’t shown off since college. You can BYOB for €5 but, again, this is a nice option if you want to skip the drinks.

There are also lots of bars with large board game collections you can play while you get to know each other like Blackbird in Rathmines and The Back Page in Phibsboro.

Midweek light bites

Taphouse, Ranelagh and Bonobo, Smithfield

I like a midweek date as there's not much else happening, meaning that it's the perfect time to meet new people without giving up a precious Friday or Saturday night with friends.

It also works as the perfect get-out-of-jail free card as you can blame an early start for a quick getaway if needs be.

If you're not sure if food is part of your date night plan, you need a trendy bar with a casual dinner menu so that you can play it by ear. Pre-Covid, I (along with half of Tinder) could often be found in The Taphouse on a Tuesday evening. Another bonus is there’s lots of seating so you’re less likely to have to awkwardly search for a table while you introduce yourselves.

While the Ranelagh hot spot offer up flatbreads, sliders and a selection of tacos along with their drinks, Bonobo has delicious range of pizzas and an extensive cocktail menu.

Cocktails & tunes

Hen's Teeth, Dublin 8 and The Blind Pig, Dublin 2

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For something a little different, check out an exhibition in Hen’s Teeth or listen to some live blues and jazz music over a cocktail in The Blind Pig.

As a shop, gallery and café with a focus on art, food and music, Hen's Teeth is known for its aforementioned exhibitions, great tunes, and phenomenal food.

On a recent visit, I enjoyed one of the most delicious dishes I've had in a long time: miso glazed celeriac with mushroom dashi, and Pak choy. It's very reasonably priced for the quality so I definitely recommend booking ahead if you want to have a bite to eat.

Head into town and you can find (if you try really hard) The Blind Pig. This underground speakeasy is famed for its delicious cocktails and chill vibe, with live music adding to the atmosphere.

The menu features antipasti, meat dishes and pasta but maybe save the lobster spaghetti with brandy, garlic, and tomato sauce for a mates date. You can book ahead for either dinner and drinks or cocktails and bites which is a handy option if you don't want to chance a walk-in.

*If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can visit Ask About Alcohol