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FEBRUARY 14 IS one of the busiest days on the restaurant calendar, as loved-up, starry-eyed couples celebrate Valentine’s Day over plates of seafood, heart-shaped desserts and mood-enhancing glasses of something fizzy and, quite possibly, pink. Most restaurants worth their Maldon

offer a special Valentine’s menu, and it’s often an excuse for chefs to create enticing dishes from top-end ingredients they wouldn’t normally spend much time with the other 364 days of the year. Yes, yes, there might even be an aphrodisiac or two in the mix, which is why so many oysters, avocados, figs and chocolate items dominate swoonsome Feb 14 menus. For chef Ron Faulkner of Ronnie’s

Eat me

It doesn’t matter what spin

restaurant in Thornbury, Valentine’s Day is a time to look to the sea for inspiration. His five-course menu (£55pp) kicks off with a ‘mood setter’ of blini with crab and avocado and includes scallops, mackerel and turbot alongside the meat and vegetarian choices. He says: “Valentine’s falls at a fairly barren time in a period when

you put on it, washing up just isn’t romantic. So make this Valentine’s a special one at one of Bath or Bristol’s top restaurants. MARK TAYLOR finds out what’s on the menu…

very little has had a chance to flourish, so I tend to look to the sea as the final winter months offer an array of shelled, oily and flat fish. It’s also a great time to use things which have been smoked or preserved during the winter, so chefs can be excused for looking further afield than usual for special ingredients to help construct their dishes of love. As a chef, 14 February is a great chance to show off your skills and to take the loving couples on a little culinary journey together before sending them off into the night.” For some restaurants, creating the right atmosphere for Cupid is just as important as the food served, and Italians wrote the book

when it comes to warm welcomes and seductive settings. Family-run Italian restaurant Nonna’s

on Bath’s Gay Street is running a three- course set menu (£29.95pp), which includes pan-seared scallops, succulent rib-eye steaks and homemade desserts such as creamy panna cotta and rich dark chocolate and Cointreau mousse. To make diners feel extra special, they will be treated to little surprises, such as roses for ladies. Those Italian charmers… Owner Laura Tallo says: “We had a

fantastic Valentine’s Day last year and are keen to repeat the success this year. The atmosphere was wonderful, very calming, relaxing and, of course, very romantic. I laid out little gifts on each table, such as fresh flowers and chocolates, plus games to make things that little bit extra special. It was lovely to see the smiles on people’s faces as they enjoyed them.” This year is the first Valentine’s Day for Bristol’s newly opened River Cottage

Canteen and, to celebrate, the restaurant is running a chocolate demo course on 5 February, giving guests a week to perfect their chocolate-making skills ahead of the big day. The cookery demo will focus on how to make ganache, infusing cream with different flavours, and the chefs will also demonstrate tempering chocolate and how to make petit fours and chocolate mendiants, a traditional French confection. Of course, those who would rather leave the hard work to the

River Cottage gang can book a table for head chef Mark Stavrakakis’s seasonal Valentine’s Day supper (£40pp), which includes haunch of West Country venison steak and tantalising desserts such as dark



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