Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day will soon be rearing it’s loved up head and London is getting ready to celebrate – or mope into an extra large tub of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie.
It always baffles me how certain people choose to shun this glorious day of love. I’ve never been one to moan about any day where celebrations and frivolity take place. Commitment-phobic boyfriend complaining that the day is “too materialistic”? Tell him to sod off and find someone who finds you worthy enough to lavish you with all kinds of materialistic, loved-up pomp – or just lots of fine food.
For any Londoners slightly perplexed as to where to treat the apple of their eye on this amorous day, I have helpfully compiled a list of my top 5 London restaurants for Valentine’s Day culinary shenanigans.
The quintessentially English cafe found in Regent Street’s lavish Burberry store is the perfect place to visit for an extravagant yet effortlessly elegant Valentine’s Day lunch or an early dinner. The understated chic interiors and views of London’s most famous shopping streets give you that “proud to be a Londoner” feeling, and the food is extremely good.
Think classic British dishes with a refreshing modern twist and pristine white tablecloths. When I visited recently with my beloved we felt in love with the aged Comte and truffle toast and the obscenely fresh oysters, which arrived at the table magnetically perched on ice with a variety of dressings including a piquant wasabi and horseradish variety.
If dozens of fine oysters doesn’t scream Valentine’s Day loud enough, you can always indulge your beloved with Champagne and caviar on dainty buckwheat blinis or order the lobster which is served delicately dressed with butter and fresh British herbs. You can order it on its merry lonesome with lashing of homemade chips or in a “Benedict” style, complete with soft English muffin, spinach and creamy sauce.
Thomas’s is known for its pleasing to the eye (and tastebuds) selection of cakes, which wink at you invitingly from an elaborately adorned table as you enter. The banana bread deserves its own Instagram feed and the dark chocolate salted caramel tart is more than just the food of love, its verging on scandalous.
If you or your loved one is a fan of small sharing plate shenanigans, the Italian/Spanish fusion restaurant at the May Fair Hotel will be your new happy place. This Valentines’ Day, May Fair Kitchen will be plying stylish couples with pear and hibiscus champagne cocktails before feeding them with dashing dishes hailing from the Mediterranean.
Picture-perfect plates serving seared tuna with caponata, smoked lamb carpacio and calamari with chilli lemon mayo will ensure tantalise even the fussiest tastebuds, whilst gnocchi and spinach gorgonzola and a four cheese pizza will keep vegetarians and cheesy carb lovers smiling.
Lobster lovers won’t be disappointed for the May Fair Kitchen’s Lobster risotto with juicy cherry tomatoes and seared scallop is a true delight for all the senses – and perfectly complimented by the accompanying Italian-inspired cocktail.
The dining space itself is all, glitz and glam, with a cheeky glimpse of the kitchen visible so diners can get a peek of the behind-the-scenes kitchen action. The special Valentine’s Day pudding of Amalfi lemon curd tartlet with raspberry sorbet and meringue will immediately transport you to the Italian Riviera – what better place to celebrate romance in all its shameless glory?
This Michelin starred restaurant is renowned for the flavoursome and artistically designed dishes by it’s talented head chef Asimakis Chaniotis. A proud Greek who started his culinary journey in Athens at the age of 17, Asimakis effortlessly creates the kind of food you just want to keep on eating.
The Valentine’s tasting menu is a hedonistic dream concocted of numerous flavours from across the world. Starting with canapés and Champagne (pink of course), lovers will be served pleasing-to-the-palate dishes such as creamy feta infused with wild Greek oregano (served in egg shells), smoked quail with perigord truffle, and a gloriously tender Gressingham Duck with stuffed Roscoff onions and adorned with tangy blackberry sauce.
Vegetarian dinners also get to partake in the foodie fun with plates of coconut and curry veloute and onion Lyonaisse with Chanterelle mushrooms making their regal way to the table.
Anyone with a sweet tooth will be sated by the matcha tea custard with blood orange foam and a joyously light rhubarb parfait served seductively with scented geranium ice cream and candied hazelnuts.
Wine connosoirs will be kept elated with the exquisite varieties available – each meticulously chosen to compliment each course. Trust me when I say leave your car at home – you’ll definitely be needing that Uber…
Just when you thought Notting Hill couldn’t conjure up any more quirky-chic dining establishments, along comes UKAI – an arty Japanese restaurant set in the edgy interiors of a gastro pub.
Lining the walls are contemporary artworks of equally edgy celebrities – we had an elongated Amy Winehouse gaze at us mesmerisingly throughout our dinner. And what a dinner it was….
As a self confessed sushi snob, you’ll usually fine me mincing about the likes of Nobu or Zuma due to my extreme fear of trying bad sushi and subsequently being put off the raw fishy goodness for life. But, all I can say after sampling the inimitable dishes at this hidden gem is wow. Forget the slinky words. Wow says it all. The tuna and avocado tartare served with a dashing drizzle of raspberry sauce was so good, we had to order it again – whilst the original dish remained unfinished on the table.
This Valentine’s Day, sushi fans with a love of zany style will feel very much at home in this sultry dining space. The restaurant’s charming head chef Alessandro Verros is set to create a far eastern feast including platters of colourful nigiri, sizzling plates of beef tenderloin, avocado-topped dragon rolls and desserts so sinful, you’ll be back to sin again, and again….
Established in 1828, this British fine dining institution is famed for its hearty roasts, classic cocktails, elaborate British cheeseboards and impeccable service.
If your other half’s idea of gastronomic heaven involves classic English cooking in a glamorous, historical setting, Simpson’s is the restaurant to book for your most romantic meal of the year.
Start with cocktails reminiscent of an English country garden in Knight’s Bar – the Evergreen is a delightful dalliance of gin, pine, rosemary, birch and lime muddled with a crisp English sparkling wine. Next, make your way with the apple of your eye to the iconic dining room – a classically-designed space adorned with red leather chairs and glistening chandeliers.
Opt for the buttery sea trout or submit to tradition by going for the roast beef – delivered extravagantly to your table in an original silver domed carving trolley. As it will be Valentine’s Day, Oysters are a must so order a dozen and dress them copiously with tangy shallot vinaigrette as you whisper sweet nothings to each other.
After gorging graciously on one of the traditional British puddings (the sticky toffee pudding is obscenely good), you’ll be planning your next visit and will be certain that the way to your heard is indeed through your (slightly protruding) stomach.
After all, love is blind, right?