Valentine's Day is a funny old celebration, isn't it, and surely one of the least popular on the social calendar. It's not one of those that merit a day off, nor one that specifies the consumption of a prescribed list of food...consider how it shapes up against the following and you'll see what I mean:
Christmas Day - day off, presents, licence to wear pyjamas till noon, permission to eat until button pops off trousers (which could actually be entirely avoided if the pyjama rule was extended by a few short hours), two hours of Downton or similar
Boxing Day - day off PURELY for the purpose of eating leftovers, preferably with jacket potatoes
Easter period - TWO days off, and a variety of chocolate items that contain virtually NO calories due to the high chocolate-to-air ratio
Pancake Day - no day off (why not?) but an annual occasion where everyone wonders aloud why they only eat pancakes once a year, promises to have them more often, then forget all about it till the following year, when the above cycle will begin again
Assorted May/August Bank Holidays - seemingly devised entirely for the purpose of drinking Prosecco in a beer garden wearing a nice strappy top
Valentine's Day - no day off. Shops full of tat - wistful-looking bears clutching satin hearts, shiny silver balloons fated to drop from the ceiling to the floor within 24 hours. Single people everywhere made to feel like lepers, or any other kind of non-functioning member of society. Newish couples panicking over what size and level of schmultz is required for first Valentine's gift. Established couples forced either to hide at home, or brave a restaurant full of silent, stony-faced patrons where they will be offered a three course meal with a glass of Asti on arrival and a sad rose in cellophane for the laydee (what do same-sex couples receive in these situations? Two roses? No roses?) before being charged £100 for the privilege.
Although, to be fair, a lot of restaurants seem to be offering better deals this year - maybe it reflects the current financial situation, or perhaps just a desire to rise up in revolt against the wistful-looking bears, but here are some of the best; I am on the lookout for a few more husbands so that I may attend them all...
I love the idea of going for a big fat curry on Valentine's Day, so I will start with Khandoker's offering of three courses from £15.95. This is one of my very favourite places, and I can think of no more romantic situation that sitting at a quiet table overlooking Kingsway and trying to eat a poppadom in a seductive and alluring manner. Call 0161 434 3596 to book.
A more traditionally romantic night can be found at independent Italian restaurant Azzurro, which costs £35 per head but seems good value for a glass of Prosecco and three courses from a menu that includes sea bass and sirloin steak. And you can always save money on taxi fares by telling your other half they can prove their love for you by driving, thereby allowing you to have both glasses of Prosecco as well *money-saving expert face*
Harvey Nichols is offering a range of options at different prices, with three courses and a Bellini available all week in the Brasserie for £25, and a five course gourmet tasting menu in the restaurant at £55 a head. As in previous years, there is also the rather exciting-sounding option of going for a ride (I use the word in its purest sense) on the Manchester Wheel with a glass of champagne before or after your meal for an extra £17.50; presumably you get your own capsule, as I can only think the romantic mood would be more than a little spoiled were you forced to share the ride with a snuffly man in an anorak (unless he is your love object of choice, obviously).
I still haven't been to the newish Twisted Med restaurant in Castlefield, but have heard generally good things and am intrigued by a Valentine's offer of three courses from a set menu, live entertainment and a gift for both him and her at £39.95 a head. In my head, the live entertainment is an earnest Spanish man with a guitar, who will croon at each table in a lounge-lizard type manner despite having a rose firmly clamped between his teeth, although the more logical part of my brain does accept that - sadly - this is probably not the case.
And finally, my own kitchen will be serving up fillet steak with Nigella's Date Steak sauce, followed by the salted caramel and chocolate pots I've noted in one of this month's foodie magazines. Although, ONLY if Mr Liz gets himself to the garage and procures a gaudy card and a wistful-looking bear, obviously...