It’s nearly the most marmite day of the year: Valentine’s Day. Everyone knows the key to a good date is good food – whether you’re spending it with a special someone, or celebrating Palentine’s with your friends, here’s our top things to eat and drink this year on the 14th of February.
Quod, High Street
If you’re really splashing the cash this Valentine’s Day, then head to Quod on the High Street. It’s definitely pricier than your standard Oxford restaurant, but it is delicious, and the atmosphere is very fancy (think pretty lights, proper tablecloths, arched windows…). If you sit near the window, it’s perfect for people-watching too, as it looks straight onto the busiest crossing on the High Street. You’ll feel definitively wined and dined: it’s a place that will make you almost (almost) want to go into investment banking purely so you can afford to eat there more often.
Kazbar, Cowley Road
An absolute gem on the Cowley Road. It’s well worth the walk even if you live the other side of Oxford; this charming tapas bar is a glimpse of sun in the midst of cold, rainy Hilary. Whether you eat inside in the ambient candlelit indoor seating, or al fresco on their piazza shared with neighbouring Cafe Coco, you are sure to have a good evening. Tapas is always a good idea for a date, dispelling any opportunity for food envy, plus it’s always romantic to share your meal. It can be easier on the bank account too as you can decide how much or how little you want to get, and if you underbuy, you can always buy more dishes later. It’s perfect for Palentine’s celebrators too: the more friends you bring, the more dishes you will get to try! Don’t leave without sampling their port sangria – it’s my second favourite drink in Oxford.
The House, Wheatsheaf Yard
My favourite drink in Oxford is only available in a little cocktail bar just off the High Street – The House. Named after its neighbouring college, Christ Church, this bar is the whole package: atmosphere, drinks quality, and price, if you go at the right time. A ceiling full of fairy lights greets you as you enter, creating that ideal romantic ambience for your date. But what’s great about this place is their happy hour – on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 5pm-9pm, Friday from 5pm-8pm and Saturday 4pm-8pm, you can enjoy their cocktails for half price, coming in at about £6 each. I know creamy cocktails aren’t for everyone, but try the Mint Chocolate Martini – an enticing mixture of crème de cacao and crème de menthe shaken with milk and cream creates a cocktail that tastes like alcoholic mint choc chip ice cream.
But Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be about spending lots of money. Spending time with people you love is the whole point, so there’s no need to go out anywhere fancy if you don’t want to. Here are some good options for food and drink if you’re planning to spend the night at home with your loved ones.
Cook For Each Other
Cooking for each other can be even more romantic than a meal out, with the added bonus of including an activity you can do together followed by getting to eat the delicious food you’ve created! This is a great activity to do with friends, too – why not all contribute a starter, main or dessert to make up a full meal?
Tesco Finest Meal Deals
You still want something a little fancy with the benefits of cooking together but without the drawback of being high-effort – enter the humble Tesco Finest meal deal. This absolute steal offers you a main, a side, a dessert and a bottle of wine for two all for £12: their steak is remarkably good! If you’re feeling a little bougie, you could even upgrade to the M&S version – although I haven’t yet tried that, so can’t vouch for its quality. Don’t blame me if it’s not worth the extra cost.
But wait, my student budget won’t stretch to a meal out, and I don’t have a kitchen to cook in, you say! Never fear, this is where the charcuterie board comes in. It’s essentially a ‘picky bits’ meal but disguised as something fancier because it’s got a fancy French name. Pick up some cheese, crackers, salami, olives, grapes, whatever catches your eye. Grab the 3 for £5.50 canned cocktails in Tesco if you both want something alcoholic to drink as well, or smoothies or bougie fruit juice if you don’t. Now’s the real clincher: the presentation. Put on your fairy lights/lamps/anything that’s not the overhead light, to set the mood. Add a Spotify playlist of romantic love songs on your Bluetooth speaker. Blankets on the floor, pillows, whatever you have. And then lay out the food. You have yourself a romantic, thoughtful, indoor picnic, without the need for cooking (or washing up) and at a price you can decide yourself – you can buy as much or as little as you want.
Go forth and romance – happy Valentine’s/Palentine’s-ing!
Image Description: A romantic date night set-up. There is a table with a tablecloth, four wine glasses (two smaller than the others), folded napkins and cutlery, with a lit candle in the middle. Behind are half-drawn curtains with a dark sky outside.