Top Valentine’s Day dining destinations food journalists have earmarked…
“My ideal Valentine’s Day treat would be afternoon tea at the Celtic Manor Resort. However, if my husband is really looking to spoil me I’d include an overnight stay at the resort which would involve the works: luxury accommodation with breakfast in the Resort Hotel, followed by a three-course evening buffet in the Olive Tree restaurant and use of the facilities on offer in the Forum Health Club – dreamy!” Jan Baker
“If, like me, you’re a little past your sell-by date, putting on a sleeveless dress and high heels before heading out into an icy cold February night for dinner may no longer be your favourite way to spend the most romantic day of the year.
Personally, I’d rather wrap up in my warmest woollies and cuddle up to my loved one as we stroll along a windswept beach. Chilled yet cheerful, we’d head for our favourite coastal café/eatery, The Paddle, where the friendly owner would tempt us with her homemade, freshly prepared dishes such as soup, wood-fired pizza, gluten and dairy-free cakes and freshly ground coffee.
In the evening, I’d slip on my cosiest onesie, snuggle down with my man and enjoy a special bottle of wine while watching our (my) favourite rom-com – well, it is Valentine’s Day!” Helen Summer
“Although I’m dining out the weekend before Valentine’s Day, my restaurant of choice is Merchant’s Tavern in Shoreditch. There we’ll kick things off with some of the best (and punchiest) cocktails in London – like the appropriately-named Just What The Doctor Ordered! The atmosphere at Merchant’s Tavern is buzzing without being intrusive and the food is sublime; the sharing dishes are perfect for a Valentine’s meal, washed down with Champagne, of course…” Martin Moore
“I would choose to spend the most romantic day of the year at The Rancho Steak House in Bournemouth. I value great service and at The Rancho Steak House the service cannot be faulted. The fact that the waiting staff are so friendly and consistently attentive to customers’ needs would make a Valentine’s meal there with someone special just perfect. They are happy to guide you through the menu or to leave you to make your own choices. Of course, the steak is second to none – the meat tender and flavoursome and cooked exactly to your specific requirements. Even if steak isn’t your top choice there really is something to suit everyone from the extensive menu. Three fabulous courses with a bottle of my favourite wine would make Valentine’s night at the Rancho Steak House a romantic night to remember.” Pam Fudge
“There’s only one choice for me. The Tickled Pig in Wimborne, owned and run by husband-and-wife team Jeremy, offer everything I want from a dining experience: friendly and professional service, great food (everything served is either grown or reared themselves, or from organic Dorset suppliers) and a fantastic atmosphere.
I love that they have an open kitchen so you can see what happens ‘back-stage’– you can even fire questions through the serving hatch to Jeremy and try wheedle out of him his secret for super-crispy pork crackling.
Last I checked, they were fully booked for February 14th – not a surprise – but there will be a surprise in store for all who dine. Jeremy and and Niki are offering a free bottle of Prosecco for groups of four dining on Valentines’ day and I know the menu will be thoughtfully constructed on the day, according to what’s in season.
The piece de resistance? I know that Jeremy, like me, is a coffee connoisseur. The one thing for me that really completes a perfect meal is a fabulous flat white. As I inhale the wonderful aroma and lift the rich coffee to my lips, I will wonder just how long it will be before I return. Valentine’s Day may be special, but gems like this are few and far between.” Alix King
“Our very favourite restaurant for a Valentine’s Day meal (and also where we dined on our Wedding Anniversary) is the award-winning Shampan at the Spinning Wheel Indian restaurant in Westerham. There’s one simple reason: the food is out of this world. We reviewed it for the Kent Food & Drink 2014, and would recommend it to any curry-lovers in the area.” Colleen Watson
“For an extra-special Valentine’s, as me and my wife approach our 35th wedding anniversary, I would book a return visit to Gliffaes Country House Hotel. Eighteen months ago, I reviewed the restaurant for the Cardiff Food and Drink Guide. We enjoyed the whole experience so much, that I booked a room for my wife’s birthday three months later. Once again, we had a marvellous time, eating well and staying in a sumptuous room.
Gliffaes is a characterful Italianate country house, situated high on a wooded hillside with stunning views over the Usk Valley. I advise arriving in good time to take a walk in the grounds, followed by the signature afternoon tea (booked in advance to avoid disappointment). After freshening up, you can look forward to a delicious, romantic, dinner, taken in one of two oak-panelled dining rooms. The rest is up to you, but you couldn’t ask for a more romantic atmosphere than that provided by Gliffaes.” Ron Powell
Need more restaurant reviews? All the journalists above have visited restaurants and written reviews for Food & Drink Guides. Take a look at your latest regional eating out guide online, or download the free app.