I am not entirely anti-Valentine’s Day, I don’t go off on rants about it or anything like that and I appreciate that some people like to go all out but I never particularly like it. However, having said that, it’s as good a reason as any to spend some quality time with your other half. So, here’s how to celebrate Valentine’s Day when you don’t like Valentine’s Day.
1. Avoid falling into cliches
Is your relationship more valid because someone has spent a small fortune on a dozen red roses? No. Are you less loved and awesome because you don’t have a box full of champagne truffles nestled in a slippery silk box? No.
If you like that, great. But honestly, flowers make me sad when they die and the last thing I need is a box of chocolates to accidentally inhale when binge watching old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. If it’s not your thing either, agree between you on something. For me a card is enough. Instgrammability? Low, but sometimes a few meaningful words are worth a thousand Instagrams.
Our cards to each other might not be the soppiest, but they mean something to us. A dinosaur in space (for reasons that will become clear) and a mouse for the little cute mouse that visits our kitchen every now and again (the perils of living in a flat in London) and which we’ve affectionately and imaginatively named Mousey and have adopted in a way that only two people that live in a one bedroom second floor flat in Zone 2 and who both have full-time jobs can claim to have a pet.
2. Pick somewhere to go that won’t be full of loved-up couples
If you want to eschew Valentine’s Day without spending the day inside trying avoid social media, the key is to go somewhere that won’t be full of love hearts, balloons and strolling couples. Which is exactly what we did this year.
Ok so maybe in my decision to avoid loved-up smug couples the Natural History Museum on the first Saturday of half term wasn’t the ideal place to pick. However, I love the Natural History Museum and we got up and got there just as the doors were opening so we still managed to walk around without having to fight through hordes of people or kids (I’ve been seriously spoilt by having been able to have the museum practically to myself at Dinosnores).
We spent a while wandering through the various halls and I paid my first visit to Sophie the Stegosaurus, yes it has seriously been that long since I’ve visited. She’s amazing.
And of course I also popped by to see my favourite Dippy too. No whale can compete with him.
I might have also come away with a dinosaur t-shirt. I couldn’t resist, their gift shops may as well take all of my money.
3. Do something special that you want to do with your other half but have been putting off
For months now we’ve been saying that we should go and see the Cosmonauts exhibition at the Science Museum and as it’s now in its final weeks (it closes on 13 March) we decided that we were definitely going to go, especially as we hardly have any free weekends from now until the end of May.
It was a really interesting exhibition and for once, focused on the role of the Russians in the space race, rather than the Americans and NASA that we hear so much about normally. From satellites to dogs to humans in space, the exhibition covers the whole story. It also features some fantastic artwork in the form of posters and propaganda. I really enjoyed it and vowed to make it along to more exhibitions as I often promise myself I’ll go and see something but never do. Next on my list is the Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse exhibition at the Royal Academy, something that will be really interesting after having visited Monet’s Garden in Giverny last summer.
4. Don’t eat anywhere with a Valentine’s Day menu
You want me to pay more for a set menu giving me less choice just so I get to have a glass of cheap fizz and the usual chocolate mousse shaped like a heart? Umm, no thanks.
Instead we headed to a firm favourite for lunch, DF Mexico, where there was no Valentine’s nonsense, just a buttermilk torta, nachos, cheesy beano fries and bottomless agua frescas. For dessert we popped over the road to Old Spitalfields Market to find Flavourtown Bakery‘s stall (I’ve written about them before here) where we picked up brownies and a heart-topped red velvet cupcake to enjoy with a cup of tea at home. Perfect.
5. Postpone ‘traditional’ Valentine’s Day activities for later (or do them the weekend before)
We love going out to eat and although we don’t go out specifically because of Valentine’s Day, the Hallmark day does provide us with a great excuse to spoil ourselves, albeit not on Valentine’s Day itself. It’s much easier to book things or get tables if you aren’t fixated on that one date when the whole world will also be wanting to go out and do things too.
This weekend we paid a post-Valentine’s Day return visit to Benedicts in Norwich, a fantastic restaurant that had just opened when we visited last summer and which was turning out great food even five weeks after opening, so we knew that our day trip would be completely worth it. The first time we went we’d gone with the a la carte menu but this time we knew what to expect and went for the full tasting menu with wine flight (the regular tasting menu for me and the pescetarian one for my boyfriend). I wrote about Benedicts before but this time we went in the day so had decent light for photos, plus I cannot shout enough about this place, we will be watching out for them when stars are dished out later this year.
Surprise pre-starters were salt cod croquettes and rice crackers with smoked cod roe and a sherry mousse that we were ready to scoop up with our hands once our crackers were gone, luckily one of the waiters arrived with sourdough bread just in time to stop us.
Following a peated whiskey consomme with artichoke and sea purslane our first courses were roasted gnocchi with butternut, pomelo, parsley and brown butter for him and Aberdeen Angus beef for me with wasabi, avocado and cucumber granita for me.
Our next course was one in common to both of us – North Sea plaice with kale, crispy potato and vinegar powder – a very fancy fish and chips.
The pescetarian main was North Sea cod with cracked wheat, kohlrabi, hazelnut and a beer butter sauce.
Whereas my main was pine tree smoked Gunton Park venison with purple sprouting broccoli, juniper and gin sauce.
The next course, our pre-dessert, was simply listed on the menu as ‘rhubarb’. What was delivered to our table was a vintage cool box which played an ice cream van jingle.
Following the optional cheese course, dessert was British pear with chocolate, hazelnut and meadowsweet.
It’s rare I’ll consider leaving London to travel somewhere just to eat, but Benedicts keeps luring me back (I went with my family before Christmas). Seriously, just go! It’s all so so good.
Are you a fan of Valentine’s Day? If not, do you do anything for it? I’d love to hear what other couples get up to!