VALENTINE’S DAY is on the way with the food and drink industry straining at the leash to fill that heart-shaped hole in your life. Not always romantically. Already this week ToM has rejected a home delivery of a heart-shaped, high in fibre, plant-based burger based on beetroot and mushrooms and resisted the ‘guilt-free’ gifting that is a £5.99 jar of protein spread – a low in sugar ‘twist on the classic Valentine’s Chocolates’.
Still come February 14 our restaurants will again be oversubscribed, embracing everything from love’s first spark to some desperate rekindling.
Forgive us if we can’t spare the resources to record every special deal. Forgive us too for launching our romantic round-up with a recommendation for Hounds of Love at Hatch.
After all the UK boasts an estimated dog population of 10 million with a recent survey suggesting two thirds of us are happy to share our beds with our pets. More than a quarter of those polled said lying next to their cat or dog helped them feel less alone and 37 per cent like the warmth from their pets’ bodies. That puts Tinder in the shade.
The free Hatch Event, running from 6pm on Friday, February 14, is for both dog-owning couples and singles with the presence of a cute pooch always an ice-breaker. Labelling it a doggy speed dating event is perhaps a bit twee. But who knows if love might blossom at the Oxford Road food and drink hub as the pets tuck into their own treats and pawsecco?
A SOPHISTICATED TAST OF ROMANCE Much as we like the ToM pet roster to socialise, fine dining probably tops our Valentine list. So we’d recommend the £52 a head special ‘small bites, lots of joy’ menu from Tast Catala on King Street. For an extra £18 each they throw in a bottle of Giró Del Gorner Brut Nature Reserva NV. This being a Catalan restaurant, expect this Cava to be top notch. The menu? Scallops, codium and spinach cream, parmesan cheese; mushroom and chicken creamy rice; lamb shoulder, pickles, black gnocchi and nasturtium; and a Sant Valentí Dolç for sweet. They’ve also created a special Valentine’s Day cocktail to remind us how good their bar is too – a combo of rhubarb shrub, rhubarb juice, Cointreau and Tequila.
STRAIGHT FROM THE HART! A homegrown head chef with real élan is Mike Shaw at The White Hart, Lydgate. A real plus to booking his exclusive tasting menu on the big day is that afterwards you can collapse into one of the 16 boutique bedrooms at this cosy hilltop inn. Available across all three dining spaces, the five course menu features beef, onion and citrus; cod, cauliflower, goats’ cheese and herbs; pork belly, fillet, quince and broccoli; passionfruit hot soufflé with bitter chocolate; cheese, apple jelly and mustard. It costs £65 per person. To reserve a table, or book a room call 01457 872 566 or email email@example.com
THE LOWRY – YOU LOOK A PICTURE, DARLING Or maybe you’d prefer to stay in the city and make use of some five star facilities at The Lowry Hotel after sampling head chef Dave Ashton’s tempting food. The booking pressure’s off, too – their Valentine offers extend until the end of February. Their Romantic Package includes an overnight stay for two with a full English breakfast, a Valentine's cocktail 'Eternal Love’ each in The Lowry Lounge & Bar followed by three courses from the Chef’s Choice menu. The pre-pay price is from £175. Book here. Taking it one step further there are also spa packages and a £55 a head Valentine’s Menu, available on the 14th and the 15th in the River Restaurant. If it’s available look out for Chef Ashton’s dessert homage to a whole lemon. It is in fact various layerings of lemon and Lowry Gin mousse, tonic gel and candied lemon peel, the whole encased in white chocolate sprayed with gold powder (for just £9 a shot).
COLOUR IT INDIGO An attractive rival deal (featuring some of the city centre’s best cooking (from ex-Lowry head chef Andrew Green) is Hotel Indigo’s Ultimate Valentine’s Day Weekend, offering a one-night stay (ask for a view of Cathedral Gardens), a specially curated five course tasting menu at the in-house Mamucium Restaurant & Bar, and a champagne breakfast in bed the next morning. The overnight package (14th-15th) costs from £200. The dinner menu, after glass of prosecco, offers jerusalem artichoke velouté, black truffle crostini; barbecued asparagus with hazelnut hollandaise and Burford brown egg; roast Scottish cod loin, spiced cauliflower, pickled raisins and mussels; pistachio crusted lamb loin, Blacksticks dauphinoise, cavolo nero; Manchester tart choux, banana custard, raspberry crackle, coconut crème anglaise. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0161 359 7499.
COLOUR IT VERMILION For over a decade this Indian/Thai fusion restaurant on the way to The Etihad hs been a serious contender for the city’s sexiest dining space - with an exotic second floor bar to match. They always do Valentine’s proud at Vermilion. This year for £55 per person you can feast on EVERY dish below… Treasures from the sea starters - king ccallops, king prawns, langoustines and fresh Scottish salmon in a cream cheese marinade with Indian spices charcoal grilled in a traditional clay oven; mains of Chicken Massaman from Thailand, spiced roast lamb mughlai - in a saffron and almond based fragrant curry, accompanied with seasonal veg, steamed jasmine rice and basil naan; cinnamon and blackberry pavlova, tropical delice and banoffee cheesecake. To book ring 0161 202 0055. There is an alternative vegetarian menu and note the a la carte menu is also available.
SNUGGLE UP AT A SUPPER CLUB Or maybe you’d fancy a more intimate experience on that loved up Friday? Investigate Claire Woodier’s 30-cover A Seriously Sexy Supper with an added bonus that you can bring your own wine, so no excuse to stint on the Rosé Champagne. The five course (for £47.48, book your tickets here). We like the passion that’s gone into the starters and puds that sandwich the beef cheek main. Kick off with hot cab and ginger Pierogi, piquant tomato Bloody Mary sauce, lovage oil and finish with a trio of dark chocolate delice with raspberry and pistachio, Pornstar Martini cheesecake with pineapple, passionfruit and an oreo biscuit base, warm sticky toffee pudding with mascarpone cream. It’s at Moregeous Mansions, Manchester, M14 6UJ (7.30-11pm).
MORE TEMPTATION AT CARLUCCIO’S Italians claim San Valentino’s Day originated with them, so Carluccio’s are encouraging us to celebrate La Festa Degli Innamorati (feast of lovers) at either of their two city centre venues, Spinningfields or Piccadilly Station. Highlights of the special menu include lobster and prawn linguine with samphire, served in a crab, white wine and chilli sauce or classic stewed veal shin dish on a saffron risotto Ossobuco Alla Milanese, so rich it has to be aphrodisiac. Enjoy such delights from From February 12-16, where your candlelit three-course dinner with a glass of sparkling rosé will cost you £24.95 a head.
CELEBRATE “ONE LOVE” AT TURTLE BAY It’s not just about gazing into your dinner partner’s eyes at Turtle Bay (NQ and Oxford Street). Guets on February 14 can expect a laid-back Caribbean dinner served with bottomless drinks and non-stop reggae beats… and definitely no candles. Guests can choose any main dish from the menu and enjoy unlimited drinks from it tropical rum cocktail collection throughout dinner for £35 per person. Jerk chicken, goat curry, the Vegan MotherClucker as the food of love? Maybe, washed down with the signature cocktail of the evening, ‘One Love’ (dark rum, passionfruit and coconut).
SAN VALENTINO, PATRON SAINT OF PERU? The Peruvian pop-up at the Cotton Factory inside Whitworth Locke part Hotel offers a lively Valentine line-up. Kick off with a a complimentary RUDE cocktail at the atrium bar – a tequila-fuelled twist on the classic Cosmopolitan, then it’s into the oysters and Champagne and chateaubriand and ceviche sharers. For those looking only to dine, the Valentine’s Day Menu is exclusively available on the February 14 and 15 for £49, served 5pm-10.30pm. Book here?
LOVE COULDN’T BE SWEETER AT THE IVY The glam Spinningfields venue has create a series of Valentine, cocktails, available from Friday, February 7 to Friday, February 21 Our tip: When in Rhone (£10.50, Sipsmith Chocolate Orange, Bramble Liqueur, Lemon Juice, Monin Sugar, Egg White and Chocolate Bitters). Sip it with a Roses are Red, and Berries are too (£16.95) a white chocolate cheesecake to share with raspberries and strawberries, finished with a decoration of rose petals. That’s on the menu from Thursday, February 13 to Sunday, February 16. is the perfect sharing dessert. Or, alternatively ion the big day itelf check our oriental sharing plates at Ivy Asia on the second floor. For further information or to book a table call 0161 503 3222 or visit the website.
THREE LITTLE WORDS ‘I LOVE YOU’ NEVER SPOKE TRUER The cocktail bar and restaurant in the Watson Street arches was created from Manchester Gin owners’ Jennie Wiggins and Seb Heeley’s own love story. So if that spirit moves you book head chef Jimmy Carr’s special three course £28 a head menu. It follows the template of dishes are inspired by the botanicals used, The menu also includes decadent dishes which are ideal for sharing – a chateaubriand or chocolate platter. The drinks menu features cocktails named after the stages of love itself; lust, rapture, devotion, eternity and ultimatum. Would it be tempting Valentine fate to order Grounds for Divorce (£11, above), which mixes Overboard gin, orange-aged rum, Tonka syrup and black liqueur? There are also various gin tasting experiences available – this is a working distillery. Book here.
CRAZY LOVE IN SONG AT BOWDON’S CINAMMON CLUB Under the title L’Amour Fou (Crazy Love) Lucy Hope, aka the Chanteuse, and her band will be performing Jacques Brel, Georges Brassens, Edith Piaf, Barbara and Serge Gainsbourg songs alongside her own compositions at the Cinnamon Club on Friday, February 14, 7.30pm start. The £39 ticket price includes bubbly on arrival, two courses and chocolates. Buy ticket, with booking fee, here.
SHARE CHOCOHOLIC DESIRE AT THE COUNTER HOUSE Mark the most romantic day of the year at the cosy Cutting Room Square, Ancoats venue by sharing a luscious white chocolate fondue sharing plate with your love.This sweet treat, exclusive to Valentine’ Day and Saturday 15th, is finished off with a raspberry dusting and served with fluffy marshmallows, peanut butter brownie, strawberries and honeycomb. It costs £11.50. Book a table here.
SLOPPY RAMEN-CE WITH NOODLE MASTERS SHORYU It’s not the most obvious Valentine destination.Tackle a Tonkotsu with your date and there’s always the chance of some passion-killing broth splashes. Still, if you make it through to dessert we do recommend the matcha cheesecake heart. For just £27, from February 10-16, diners can indulge in three courses of Japanese delights plus a cocktail or mocktail and for an addiitional fiver there’ a glass of fizz. Book here.
LOVE ON THE BEACH AT SUNSET BAR Mothership Australasia is celebrating February 14 with a special £16 bento box but for some appropriate pampering step out into its Sunset Bar, where the Charlotte Tilbury team will be leading an hour-long make-up masterclass from 6pm. It costs £10 per person, including a welcome cocktail and a make-over voucher for Charlotte Tilbury Selfridges. There’s a whole fortnight of self-indulgence (Feb 8-23) at this ‘beach bar’ with a new array of pastries and mini desserts added to its Asian-influenced afternoon tea.
LOVELY BUBBLY TO TOAST TRUE LOVE Elsewhere, look out for some fine fizz to accompany various Valentine dining offers – notably the NV Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve Champagne (£10 /£59) at Gary Usher bistros Kala on King Street and Hispi in Didsbury, while Gaucho on St Mary’s Street has partnered with Laurent-Perrier and Godiva to offer a complimentary glass of Cuvée Rosé ach and chocolates for every couple dining with them on Valentine’s Day. Pre-booking only here. We’d make it quick!
Finally, to all you bars, restaurants and PRs out there, sorry to be passionate party poopers, but ToM refuses to recognise the existence of variants Galentine, Palentine and (this was from a London venue) Granentine.