Old favourites are all very cosy and familiar but when it comes to Valentine’s Day, it’s time to up the ante a little.
Whether you’re hoping to impress, seduce or simply romance your special partner, there’s the perfect place for you, just waiting to be discovered.
We’ve scoured the country for our favourite restaurants for lovers – and thrown in a few top tips to win you extra brownie points when they’re most needed.
There aren’t many opportunities to dine al fresco in February but Boundary brings the scent and warmth of an Italian spring to the vibrant but chilly rooftops of Shoreditch.
The heated orangery is filled with citrus trees including lemon, clementine and calamondin trees, as well as other evocative Mediterranean shrubbery.
The food continues the theme, with sun-soaked flavours carried into an excellent ratatouille and Mediterranean tapas-style dishes.
Don’t miss: A warming hot cocktail and snuggle around the open-pit fireplace in the winter garden. Book a room in the hotel and you’ll get priority access not available to mere mortals.
Image: The Crab Shed
Smart Salcome’s The Crab Shed is the kind of idyllic waterside shack that you dream of finding but rarely do. Its chefs buy fish fresh from the boats that pull up alongside and process it in the restaurant’s own factory next door. Everything from simple crab sandwiches to extravagant lobster thermidor grace the menu and it’s all as fresh as the sea air swirling bracingly outside.
Don’t miss: Delicious but messy crisp-fried salt & pepper prawns. Fried in batter and seasoned with sea salt and four fragrant peppers, one reviewer described it as “the best prawns I’ve had in quite some time”.
Image: Restaurant Sat Bains
It is the area’s headline-grabber, with its two Michelin stars, but Restaurant Sat Bains is just too good to ignore here.
Expect near-perfection in everything at this Nottingham institution – from the website to the actual food.
Eight rooms ooze equal gown-up tasteful luxury but it’s the menu that wows. No top tips as it changes so often but he’s a genius with scallops.
Don’t miss: The Nucleus experience. Up to six diners per service have the chance to sit in the exclusive development kitchen and try out experimental dishes that Sat and head chef John Freeman are putting through their paces before they make it to the main menu – or are discarded altogether. You be the judge – literally.
Image: Alma de Cuba
If intimate dinners a deux leave you feeling a little queasy, head instead to the extravagant drama that is Liverpool’s Alma de Cuba.
Housed in a converted church, known for two centuries as St Peters, the dramatic space has now been reimagined into a restaurant, bar, show venue and general extravaganza. Fusing Cuban, Hispanic and Latin American influences, Alma de Cuba is a cultural foodie melting pot. And of course, there’s that sprinkling of Scouser spirit on top, for good measure.
Don’t miss: The special Valentine’s menu features a freshly-baked hot chocolate fondant with salted caramel ice cream. Be sure to leave room…
Image: The Barn at Beal
The Barn at Beal may be just off the A1 but it offers incredible views of one of England’s few remaining wildernesses: Holy Island and the beaches, mudflats and castles of the north Northumberland coast.
Local produce is the key to the Barn’s success, with smoked haddock and salmon fishcakes and roast topside of Northumbrian beef providing a gourmet’s insight into the local foodie heritage.
Don’t miss: Book a window seat to watch the sun go down, casting magical shadows across Lindisfarne.
Image: The Witchery by the Castle
The Guardian called it:
“The ultimate romantic bolthole”
Which would seem to give a pretty strong thumbs up to a Valentine’s night at the Witchery by the Castle, in Edinburgh.
A no-holds-barred gothic fantasy in a 16th century merchant’s house, dinner at the Witchery is a genuinely memorable experience. Food is as seasonal and Scottish as you could wish for – the fruit de mer platter is an indulgent treat.
Don’t miss: You’ll have to plan ahead for this one but the ideal Witchery experience involves a stay in one of the nine, eye-stretchingly amazing suites. Breakfast is served in the dining room – by candlelight.
Image: Great British Chefs
Freshly refurbished, The Walnut Tree in Abergavenny eschews smart cool in favour of pretty, cosy and unashamedly friendly. Chef Shaun Hill holds a Michelin star for The Walnut Tree and the joy of his cooking is that he’s too much of an experienced hand to be influenced by food fads and fashions.
Instead, expect an eclectic, rock solid menu drawn from global influences, all whipped up in a traditional Welsh inn.
Don’t miss: A night in one of the cottages, just a stroll through the garden from the main restaurant. You can’t get room service but they’ll stock you up with all the quality produce you need for a luxurious breakfast the following morning.
Image: The Taste
Cool and contemporary, Belfast’s Shu is among the finest of Northern Ireland’s forward-thinking restaurants.
A special Valentine’s menu shows off chef Brian McCann’s flair for flavours with dishes such as truffle gnocchi with roast beetroot, kale, sprout flowers, celeriac and wild mushroom butter. Even though favourites such as roast corn-fed chicken and a good steak feature, expect the Shu flair to permeate throughout.
Don’t miss: You might only have eyes for each other but grab a window seat if you can and cosily people-watch the antics on the trendy Lisburn Road outside. Then descend into the darkly romantic basement cocktail bar and forget about the rest of the world.