Kat Shakespeare leaned across the purple pool table and looked around. A stranger took the hint and shuffled in behind her. Clenched together, they lined up to pot the eight ball.
It's a scene that might have been played out a million times in sleazy bars around the world, but this was no random pick-up. For this is silverspooning, the new dating club craze that young, affluent but lonely Britons are clamouring to sign up for.
Tired of speed dating - which just didn't give them enough time to get to know a potential partner - and weary of stuffy introductions, wealthy singletons are looking to organised excursions and booze-fuelled pub games to meet the partners of their dreams. But you won't find them down at the Dog and Duck. These trendy but refined types want to convene their "youth clubs for posh adults" in rather more hip establishments.
The strangers are brought together to play pool or table tennis in the grooviest of bars in London, Leeds and Bristol. Swanky 10-pin bowling alleys and an ice rink at Somerset House in London are also favourite haunts of the Silverspooners, so called because of the well-to-do backgrounds of members.
And the clubs are proving a godsend for those who have been, well, struggling in the love stakes recently.
A case in point is 29-year-old City lawyer Steven Gray. Breaking off from his session with Ms Shakespeare at the pool table of an achingly cool bar in Shoreditch, east London, he confessed that he had not had a girlfriend for 18 months.
"I love meeting all kinds of girls," he declared wistfully. "Playing pool is very sexy. It adds a sexy twist as there is a sense of solidarity with your partner," he added hopefully, eyes drifting back to the table.
Finally, he muttered: "I'd quite like to get Kat's number."
Kat Shakespeare is young, successful and single - but has no interest in one-to-one dates that invariably involve the nervous swigging of wine and long, uncomfortable silences.
"I've never really done the dating thing," said the 30-year-old from Little Venice, north London, who works in the global telecoms industry. "Speed dating sounds terrible and it can get boring just drinking in bars.
"This [silverspooning] means you can regress to the state of an excited eight-year-old and you don't feel like you're on a date - but you're still meeting loads of new people."
She is exactly the kind of person Justin Carter wanted to attract when he coined the concept of silverspooning. "Our bars have always been a boy-meets-girl kind of place and this is just taking things a bit further," said Mr Carter, who runs the Elbow Room chain of bars in London. "You can find out a lot about a person from the way they operate around a pool table."
In agreement was Estelle Ricoux, a 28-year-old French graphic designer living in east London. "It's a myth that only boys can play pool," she giggled, as interested eyes homed in on her from across the bar. "Girls can be good at it too. And if they're not, it may work in their favour, depending in the kind of man they're looking for."
The kind of man looking for her was Gerald O'Reilly, a sort of mop-haired Hugh Grant lookalike who by day is a derivatives broker. He explained that silverspooning fitted in perfectly with his lifestyle.
"I go rollerblading and skiing and it's a brilliant way of meeting people," he said. In the past, he said, he felt as if he had to change gear to go on a date. He had to slow down and that could make for a nervous night out.
"It can be really stressful sitting in a restaurant with someone you don't know making polite conversation. An activity breaks the ice every time."
It certainly seemed to do the trick for Steven Gray. "He's not bad, quite handsome," whispered Kat Shakespeare as she racked up for one last frame. Perhaps, just perhaps, it was finally his lucky night.
'Life's so short ... I want to play hard'
In the dating game, 18 months is a long time. And that's how long City lawyer Steven Gray, 29, has been without a girlfriend. Silverspooning, though, could be about to change that.
"It's far more relaxing playing pool as opposed to going out on a proper date. Taking part in an activity together is a much better way of getting to know someone. I much prefer it to getting drunk and dancing badly and generally making a fool of yourself.
"The whole idea of meeting over a pool table sounds quite comic but I think it's a great idea. I'd definitely do something like this again."
Kat Shakespeare, 30, is a telecoms executive from London. She has no inerest in one-to-one dates, despite having been single for six months. She split up with her fiancé while on holiday in Ibiza earlier this year.
"I work really hard and travel a lot for work so when I'm not working I want to play hard and have fun. I love doing group things like surfing. It's much more fun than just going out with the same group of friends all the time, particularly somewhere like London where it's quite cliquey.
"Life is too short to do the same thing every night and not get out there and meet new people."Reuse content