Jameela Jamil is well versed on dating. Not only does she host a podcast called Bad Dates, the London-born, LA-based actress, activist and podcaster has dated her boyfriend James Blake for seven years, enjoying romantic evenings with the musician on both sides of the Atlantic. Here, Jameela shares her favourite dating anecdotes and where she goes for romance, from a cosy Indian restaurant in Marylebone to the arcades on Santa Monica Pier.
If anyone knows where to take someone on a date on either side of the Atlantic, it’s Jameela Jamil. The actress, podcaster and activist is an LA-based Londoner living the Hollywood dream. After hosting C4’s iconic youth strand T4, she headed Stateside in 2016 landing a role in the Netflix hit The Good Place with Ted Danson and Kristen Bell, and now hosts two popular podcasts – for her mental health platform i Weigh and, rather more lightheartedly, Bad Dates (so, yes, she knows where not to go on a date, too).
“I once went on a date with a famous comedian to Dans Le Noir, the dining-in-the-dark place in Clerkenwell, and it was a disaster,” she laughs. “We went for the chef’s surprise, which was a mistake in hindsight as it was all shark’s cheek and zebra arse – I’m no adventurous gourmet, I really am a pizza and chips person – it’s all Ritz crackers and Philadelphia with me. The food was way too out there for me.”
That turned out to be the least of Jameela’s concerns, though. “I couldn’t see him and we were shy about what we could say to each other because he has a recognisable voice. I felt self-conscious and, when that happens, I get overwhelmed and go completely silent, so he reached over to check I was still there and accidentally stuck his fingers up my nose.”
“I screamed, jumped up and lifted the table because I didn’t know whose fingers were up my nose, I couldn’t see anything,” she recalls. “What made it even more humiliating is, that day, I’d been filming something in a chicken suit for the BBC and someone stole my bag with my change of clothing in it, so I had to wear the chicken suit on the date.”
Bad Dates, the podcast, has featured Hollywood heavyweights like Conan O’Brien and Sean Hayes, as well as comedians Jack Whitehall, Mae Martin, Katherine Ryan and Grace Campbell, all sharing similar mortifying tales of terrible encounters. “It’s the one thing that everyone, absolutely everyone, has in common. It doesn’t matter how hot or smart or funny or cool or successful you are, you’re never exempt from a bad date,” says Jameela.
The 37-year-old stopped her own bad dating – though she claims she wasn’t asked out much anyway saying “I’m very bad at giving off romantic signals. I don’t get flirted with very often” – when she met musician James Blake seven years ago. “We’re so different as people and I don’t think anyone understands how we fit as a couple. But he’s just so funny, and he’s my best friend. When we met, we would go out for dinner together and then sit in the car talking for, like, nine hours until my bladder was about to explode. Being in the car gossiping is still our favourite thing to do.”
They live together in LA, along with most of their friends. “We’ve got three flatmates at the moment so it’s a busy household. We’re very sociable. The house is always full of about ten people, so dates are sacred to us,” she says.
When they’re not talking in the car, Jameela’s favourite cuisine for date night varies depending on where she is. “I eat a lot of Italian food here in LA. I love Osteria la Buca,” she says. When it comes to her curry fix, her boyfriend James cooks it when they’re in LA. “In London, I love the Bombay Brasserie – it’s really boujee, but very delicious – and the classic Lahore Kebab House. James DJs a lot, so we will go there at 2am.”
Jameela and James’s dates are often crashed by their cavapoo Barold (yes, Barold) and his friend Winnipeg. “We’ll go for a picnic in the Pan Pacific Park in LA, or if we’re in London we like Regent’s Park or Hyde Park. We walk for hours and then go to Pizza Pilgrims or Mildreds with the dogs,” she says. “But dogs really suck the romance out of any moment. James will come home, and he can’t even kiss me without the dogs getting in the way, so we have to mark out time for ourselves.” For a little romantic inspiration, here are Jameela’s top date spots in London, Los Angeles and New York.
Jameela Jamil’s Favourite Date Spots
A weekend in London almost always involves Zayna. It’s my absolute favourite restaurant in the capital and a big motivator for me to want to move back. It’s a little Pakistani place, and it serves the most unbelievable curry I’ve ever eaten in my life. It’s close to Hyde Park so you can go for a beautiful walk beforehand, and the restaurant is cosy and cute. It’s not a scene – I can’t stand a scene – it’s quite bare bones but the food is delicious. It’s quiet and somewhere you can really get to know each other. There’s nothing more bonding than a great meal.
25 New Quebec Street, Marylebone, London W1H 7SF
Duck & Waffle
One of my favourite date spots ever. James took me here the night he first told me he had feelings for me, so it’s the most special restaurant to us. It’s 44 flights up in the glass lift, so it is not for the faint hearted, but then you can sit there with a 360-degree view of London. They’re not forcing the romance on you, it’s inherently romantic. It’s open all night so, if you’ve come over from LA and you’ve got jet lag and you want a massive dessert at 3 o’clock in the morning, you can go there and watch the sunrise.
110 Bishopsgate, City of London, London EC2N 4AY
Bob Bob Ricard
Bob Bob Ricard in Soho feels very on the nose, almost too on the nose, with the seduction on a date. You sit in one of the booths and it’s got these ‘Press for Champagne’ buttons on every table, and it feels ludicrous and like you’re in a movie. It’s basically saying, ‘We’re going to have sex tonight’.
1 Upper James Street, Soho, London W1F 9DF
Gjusta is an upmarket deli and bakery with unbelievable sourdough, amazing meat and loads and loads of salads. The food is some of the best you’ll ever put into your face. You sit outside on these higgledy-piggledy tables and stools. At night they put all the fairy lights on, so it’s a fun place to go with friends, but it’s also a great date spot because it isn’t stuffy or high-end. You can relax, you can wear whatever you want. You don’t feel like anyone is up their ass there, it’s just a bunch of hippies really.
320 Sunset Ave, Venice, CA 90291
Cinespia & AMC Theatres
Cinema in the US is a real event in a way that it is in no other country. James and I went to see You Hurt My Feelings, the new Julia Louis Dreyfus movie, on a date recently. Open air cinemas here are brilliant and an amazing part of LA’s culture, Cinespia hosts screenings downtown and in the Hollywood Forever cemetery, which is so iconic. I also love a multiplex, like AMC Theatres, for a date because it feels big and exciting. The size of the hot dogs and the popcorn, and they have something that I can’t believe is legal, but it’s a butter pump – a ginormous pump with melted butter in it for the popcorn. No wonder there’s a healthcare crisis. But you feel like a kid again when you go to the movies in America. When I’m in London, I go to the Electric or the Everyman. That is such a hot date. To have proper food and just be boujee, that’s never really worn off for me.
Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica Pier, just outside Los Angeles, is one of my favourite places to go on a date with James. Anything where you can go on little rides and play air hockey is always good – I really think we fell in love playing pool together. There’s an incredible arcade and then you can go for a long romantic walk on the beach. We go there when we are trying to maintain the spark. We also love Dave & Busters because it’s a fun, cheap games place that brings out the best in everybody, and The Spare Room at The Hollywood Roosevelt for the bowling alley. It’s very cool, very glamorous, very 1950s and very sexy as you get to be competitive with each other.
We go to New York on romantic trips and always end up at 19 Cleveland in Nolita. It’s an Israeli restaurant where the music and the atmosphere are amazing. The tables are all on top of each other – there’s a real sense of energy and chaos. There’s an intimate, friendly vibe where no-one is looking at each other and no-one cares who anyone is, and that’s really fun.
19 Cleveland Place, New York, NY 10012
Bad Dates with Jameela Jamil is available one week early and ad-free on Amazon Music and Wondery+ before publishing on all other podcast services