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Valentine's Dining

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Love is in the air, which makes a nice change from the damp and the rain that usually pervades at this time of year. They say that the best way to someone’s heart is through their stomach, and we have plenty of options here for you to encourage cupid’s arrow.

The food of love abounds in Covent Garden. I’d forgive any number of flaws for oysters at J Sheekey, ceviche at Lima or ravioli at Spring. Tredwell’s is an absolute favourite too and if you don’t fall in love with the food there you evidently don’t have a heart at all. 

Romance comes naturally at Balthazar and The Delaunay, where you can bask in your lover’s attention as well as the sheer beauty of your surroundings. Equally impressive is the Art Deco splendour of Smith & Wollensky, where you can state (and sate) your carnal lust with prime US steaks.

If, like Carrie in Sex and the City, you want ‘real love. Ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can’t-live-without-each-other love’ then you are most definitely in luck. You can make eyes at Mon Plaisir, share a pudding at Les Deux Salons or go down on one knee at Clos Maggiore. You can even suggest slipping off to the rooms upstairs at the Holborn Dining Rooms if things really go to plan. 

Slightly more informal can be just as charming and there is sweet intimacy in dishes to share. Sitting cosily at bar stools, side by side, is very old-school romantic and you can do so in style at the Opera Tavern and Cicchetti, both of which exude effortless chic.

If the path of your true love flows as smoothly as the grand old Thames, and you really want to take your paramour’s breath away, you could always consider the giddy Love Rush speed trip offered by City Cruises. The thrilling ride ends with a three-course dinner aboard the Hispaniola, London’s very own Love Boat for the night. Hot thrills of another kind can be found at the Strand Palace Hotel’s Daawat restaurant, which has an Indian feast guaranteed to spice things up.

For altogether more clandestine affairs, Joe Allen is a discreet underground joint, as is French bastion Le Garrick, a place so smoothly Gallic it is like the restaurant equivalent of Serge Gainsbourg. The candle-bathed charm of the alcoves in Gordon’s Wine Bar is always alluring and if you decide that you don’t fancy your date after all you can always ditch them for a famous cheese platter that is guaranteed to get your heart racing.

And finally - if you are flying solo there is no reason why you should not join in the festivities. I have cooed longingly at the éclairs in Balthazar and the Paris Brest in Paul, and have a positive infatuation with the cheesy fries at Shake Shack. That’s the beauty of romance - it can blossom in the most unexpected places, and to treat oneself is the greatest love of all. 

Catherine Faulkner

Getting there

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