Ten Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s in London Without Really Trying
For me, romance isn't dead. It's just sleeping.
Like the Norwegian Blue.
If you are lucky in love, or just burdened by the expectations of your partner, you may be seeking ideas for how to celebrate Valentine's Day. Here are 10 to get you started. (Plus one option for my fellow sad singles.)
Bid for Charity Chocolates
Jamie Oliver and other star chefs have created chocolate boxes for Galvin's Chance, a charity that helps disadvantaged young children. Michel Roux Jr. has contributed a dark rum truffle, while Tom Kerridge offers a selection that includes Malibu and coconut truffle, and malt and peanut. Food writers are involved, too. My box is a mix of champagne and rhubarb in white chocolate, and gin spices in milk chocolate.
Dine at London's Most Romantic Restaurant
Clos Maggiore—one of Covent Garden's best restaurants— regularly wins plaudits as London's most romantic restaurant, and rightly so. The dining room is elegant and the well-spaced tables sit beside an open fire in a room filled with candles. There's a three-course pre-theater menu for 49.50 pounds on Valentine's Day. But the food and service are so good at Clos Maggiore, it's worth splashing out and going a la carte. The wine list is superb.
Go Bonkers With Bompas & Parr
It's difficult to describe Bompas & Parr if you've never come across them. They create sexy events that often mix performance art with food and drink. For Valentine's Day, they present the Anatomical Whisky Tasting, where the spirit is drunk from the natural contours of a performer's body, each born the same year the liquid was put in a cask. No, I have no idea how it works either.
Take the Easy Way Out
Harvey Nicols, one of London's most fashionable stores, is suggesting a range of gifts at a click, from a Marc Jacobs salmon leather cross-body bag to Ace of Spades Rose Champagne.
Try a Sexy Afternoon Tea
Afternoon tea at Sketch is always a treat. This beautiful and quirky establishment in Mayfair belongs to French chef Pierre Gagnaire and London restaurateur Mourad Mazouz. It fizzes with personality and is known for its Champagne and pastries. Alternatively, there's a Valentine's lunch, featuring Gagnaire's Love Dessert. Sketch is so sexy, it would be illegal in many states.
Travel to Paris for Lunch
These days it is so easy to go direct by train to Paris, it's easy to forget what a special city it is. I can't think of anything much more romantic than a meal at Le Jules Verne, in the Eiffel Tower. If you can't get in there, other options include La Tour d'Argent and La Dame de Pic.
Take Part in a Champagne Workshop
One of London's best wine bars, 28-50, is holding a series of four Champagne workshops, including a lunchtime session featuring oysters. Sommeliers and chefs will talk you through what's on offer. Book for all four and it's 45 pounds, including tasting nine wines, three Champagnes, and four types of food. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0)203 542 4227.
Drink Cocktails at the Ritz
Chef John Williams of the Ritz has partnered with the hotel's Paris counterpart to create a five-course menu with matching cocktails. The combinations include Langoustine, spring vegetables, and morels with Junmai Daiginjo Nihonshu Sake and Champagne. The dining room at the Ritz is one of the most beautiful in London, and your loved one certainly should be impressed. The menu will be served from Feb. 4 to 14 and costs 160 pounds per person.
Send Posh Flowers
Selfridges has created four special bouquets for Feb. 14. I am enjoying just looking at all the fancy flowers on the website. Moyses Stevens is another option for luxury bouquets, including Hot Stuff and Fairy Tale.
Get Beautiful at Harrods
Urban Retreat is like a beauty workshop and is one of the biggest salons in the world. There are 32 beauty rooms and 45 styling stations. They can fix up bits of your body you probably thought didn't need special attention. Even men are cared for. I reckon gift vouchers for Urban Retreat might be a more welcome gift than roses or chocolates. But what do I know? I celebrate Valentine's Day at home, drinking Champagne. Alone.
Attend a Singles' Banquet
Le Pain Quotidien, that ubiquitous Belgian bakery, is hosting a Valentine's Day Banquet at its Westfield, Covent Garden, and Borough branches. Guests will sit at communal tables where they will be encouraged to mingle. As the meal costs only 20 pounds, you may find yourself rubbing shoulders with a cheapskate—but a cheapskate in love. This isn't one for gold diggers. E-mail email@example.com.
Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Bloomberg. Follow him on Twitter @richardvines.