Everything you need to create a romantic (lockdown-friendly) date-night on the town this Valentine’s dayLet’s face it. The pandemic has made it pretty difficult to keep the romance alive. Sure, you started the first lockdown with good intentions; you planned fun ‘couples-craft’ sessions, tried your hand at baking Sourdough together, and even got dressed up that one time to sit in your own kitchen. But you’re all out of ideas now, and as we stumble into the New Year, and the second (or is it third?) lockdown 2021 has brought along with it, it’s fair to say that you and your partner wouldn’t be blamed for having fallen into a bit of a routine. And let’s be fair, it’s easier to slump in front of the TV in your joggers and tap open the Deliveroo app after a long day at the (home) office than it is to trawl through that Nigella cookbook you ambitiously bought last April or dig out that dusty old mascara from the bottom of your makeup bag again. You both burned through The Tiger King in April; followed by all six seasons of Lost which took you well into Autumn — and it’s probably best not to mention that Emily in Paris phase the pair of you found yourselves in before Christmas. Now you’re slumped on the sofa, a half empty dominoes box beside you. Your S.O is scrambling for the remote, which seems to have fallen down the back of one of the couch cushions. In your periphery, you can just about make out Netflix’s prompt: “Are you still watching ‘Couples’ Come Dine With Me?’ it asks you, judgmentally. As the 14th February fast approaches, you might be getting ready to commit yourself to another night in front of the TV (maybe it’s time to finally jump on board that Bridgerton train). Well, before you do, we want you to have a look at this. Because we’ve got something we think you might like. And that’s not one, not two, but three fool-proof (at home) date-night schedules to get you back out on the town (theoretically speaking) this Valentine’s Day. That’s right, we’ve got you covered, with everything from printable menus to playlists, and restaurant decor ideas to virtual nights at the theatre.
How to build your date-nightEach part of the date-night schedule is divided into sections, and each section contains three different options. You can let each option follow one other, or mix-and-match different options to create a unique schedule that you and your other half prefer. We’ve also colour-coded each option so you know how much effort you’ll need to put into each part of the plan, including in advance and on the night itself. Depending on how much work you want to put in, we’ve split the three date-night options into Green (don’t worry, you don’t need to be a Michelin starred chef, just happy to follow a few recipes and mix a few drinks), Orange (you don’t mind throwing a few things in the oven and popping your own cava) and Red (you’re an out-and-out princess and you’re wondering why there are even any other options available; it’s Valentine’s Day after all). Select an option from each section of the schedule to build your night and then head down to the ‘Preparations’ section to find out what you’ll need to buy, make and get set up ready for your big night. Look out for the Atmosphere (A) and Decor (D) recommendations for each option too for recommendations on how to make your night on the town feel even more authentic!
Green – More effort
Orange – Some effort
Red – Minimal effort
A – recommendations to improve the atmosphere (including playlists for music and background noise and extra touches)
D – tips on how to decorate your space so you really feel like you’re in a restaurant/bar/gig/theatre with your S.O.
Before the night
Get your shopping doneOnce you’ve created the perfect date-night using our schedule, make a list of everything you need. Depending on how much effort you’re choosing to put in, you’ll need to buy food and drink ingredients, and prepare them in advance or on the night itself. Whether you’re ordering everything to be delivered to your door, or you’re heading out to your local Tesco, having all your shopping and prep done early means that you can relax even more when it comes Valentine’s Day.
Download your menuDownload a free menu template and, when you’ve chosen your drink and food options from the plan, fill the template out in advance and print it out for the night. You can even print out a separate drinks menu for the first and last parts of your evening for an extra bit of realism. Get your space ready We recommend creating 2-3 separate spaces for the evening. The first for your restaurant and the second for your entertainment venue. If you’re able to create a third, we recommend doing so for your bar/pub, where you’ll have your pre-dinner cocktails and late-night drinks. If you live in a home with different rooms you can do this by using different rooms for the different spaces (e.g the dining room/area could be your restaurant, the living room could be your entertainment venue and the kitchen counter could be your bar). If you live in a smaller accommodation, like an apartment or even a studio, you can separate your spaces using different decor and lighting. We’ve included recommendations for creating a good atmosphere (A) and decorating (D) your space to help give you some ideas on how to make you feel like you’re moving between different places on your date-night, so look out for these.
Your Valentine’s Night Schedule
6.45pm – pick-up and pre-dinner cocktailsOPTION 1: Let’s be-Gin. If you’re a pair of gin lovers, whip up a range of easy, gin-based cocktails to wet your palettes and catch up over before you get to the restaurant. Go classic with a gin martini (G) or try this chef-created cucumber gin fizz (G, O). If you’d rather stick to the basics, invest in some good-quality gin and tonic water and make G&Ts (G,O,R). Try adding cucumber slices, whole black peppercorns, basil, cinnamon sticks or dried fruit for an extra special Valentine’s Day tipple. OPTION 2: Rum-lovers’ paradise. If rum is your go-to, try whipping up a strawberry daiquiri with this simplified recipe (G, O). If that’s a bit too sweet, you could always go for a cooling Mojito instead and, for those who don’t want to deal with the fuss, a no-hassle cuba-libre (G,O,R) (rum, coke and a squeeze of lime juice) will just as easily hit the spot. OPTION 3: Pimp-your-prosecco. If you’re a fizz fan through-and-through (and you don’t want to deal with the faff of mixing cocktails when you’d rather relax and look longingly across the table at your beau) then trusty old prosecco is what you need (G,O,R). Try making your fizz even more exciting this 14th February with some special additions to your usual glass. Fresh or frozen fruit, like strawberries, raspberries and peach cubes work well, or you could really treat yourself by investing in some prosecco glitter (we all know that glitter makes everything better.) R: Don’t fancy mixing your own cocktails? There are plenty of cocktail delivery services available that can deliver pre-mixed cocktails to your door; an ideal option if you’d rather spend your time getting ready than muddling fruit.
7.15pm – Arrive at the restaurantA – If you don’t want to spend the time creating/looking for a playlist to suit the occasion, try this blues and soul Spotify playlist or this lively pub playlist for those looking for more of a burger-joint-esque dining experience. For those wanting a more intimate, fine-dining experience, score the meal with this album filled with classical piano pieces. For an extra touch, try recreating the atmosphere of a chattering restaurant by playing this Youtube loop alongside your background music. D – If there was any time to crack out the nice wine glasses and tableware, it’s now! Lay the table in advance, so everything is ready for your arrival. Aside from the obvious candles and flowers, we suggest using a table cloth, wrapping your napkins and filling a jug with lemons and iced water to make the experience feel more authentic. If you own a special cooler for champagne/prosecco/cava/appletiser use that too (or fill a deep pan full of ice instead). We also recommend stringing fairy lights around your table and scattering it with flower petals for an extra romantic touch. Appetizers OPTION 1 (G): “Canope, darling?” If you’re feeling fancy, push the boat out and make these canopes ahead of the evening to serve before your main meal. We recommend these prawn and chorizo skewers, tomato and mozzarella bites, and mini cream-cheese roasted potatoes. OPTION 2 (G,O): Loaded nachos. If you and your other half are more into the casual dining scene, we’ve got you well and truly covered. Is there anything more intimate than sharing a plate of loaded nachos and wiping melted cheese from each other’s chins? We think not. Load salted tortilla chips with plenty of cheese and anything else you fancy — salsa, guacamole, beans, sweetcorn, jalapenos, bacon…the list really does go on. Try this super straightforward recipe if you need inspo but don’t forget you’ve got a main coming! OPTION 3 (G,O,R): Italian nibbles. For the ultimate easy appetizer, grab an antipasti selection from your local supermarket, some crusty bread and some decent-quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Serve the antipasti — you could have olives, cold meats, sun dried tomatoes, artichokes and anything else you fancy nibbling on — alongside long, sliced pieces of the loaf with a small bowl of the olive oil and balsamic (equal parts of each works well). Use toothpicks to eat the antipasti and dip the bread in the dressing. Main course OPTION 1 (G): British fine dining at home. Cook steak or chicken breasts according to the packet instructions, or grill a thick cut piece of oiled and seasoned aubergine for 15 minutes, and serve with this creamy garlic mash, tender stem broccoli and red wine sauce for a sophisticated dinner for two. OPTION 2 (G,O): Build your own loaded burgers. Cook beef, chicken or veggie burgers and serve them with a selection of extras. Examples include monterey jack cheese, gouda, halloumi, grilled peppers, bacon, jalapenos and, of course, all the sauce you can imagine. Those missing the likes of Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Almost Famous may be pleased to hear that Heinz have started selling its own version of Baconnaise. This blue cheese sauce and super easy cajun mayo recipe may also be of interest… OPTION 3 (G,O,R): Super Simple Italian Tapas – buy 2-3 different ‘posh’ oven-ready pastas (we recommend Charlie Bingham’s Lasagne or Mac & Cheese, but choose anything you and your partner prefer) and whip up this super Italian simple side salad recipe to serve alongside it. Mix and match and compare the pastas without worrying about having to prep ingredients or clean-up pans afterwards! Dessert OPTION 1: Warm caramel brownies with madagascan vanilla ice cream. Make these simple caramel heart brownies ahead of the day and then serve warmed through with some good quality vanilla ice cream on the night. You can even make them in advance and freeze in time for Valentine’s day — just remember to take them out the freezer on the morning of the 14th! OPTION 2: Chocolate fondue sharing platter. Is there anything more romantic than a chocolate covered strawberry? We don’t think so. Melt good quality chocolate (half dark, half milk) with cream and a little sea-salt to make this indulgent chocolate fondue. Then serve with a two sets of skewers and a selection of bitesize things to dip. We recommend fruit, marshmallows, pretzel pieces and sponge-cake. OPTION 3: Cheat’s Tiramisu. This easy tiramisu recipe is already scaled down to serve 2, and all you need is condensed milk, mascarpone and instant coffee to recreate this Italian classic. This is the perfect choice if you and your SO are missing your favourite Italian restaurants, and can be prepped ahead for minimal fuss!
EXTRAS: coffees, chocolates & cheeseLooking for even more ways to make you and your other half feel like you’re in a real restaurant again? Serve coffees after dinner: espressos or americanos are traditional, but if you don’t own a percolator, cafetiere or coffee machine don’t worry, you can either whip up a good strong instant coffee and serve it in a fancy cup (we recommend the ‘Intenso’ or ‘Espresso’ ‘barista style’ coffee from Nescafe) or buy a pre-made coffee from the shop! If you don’t like coffee, try a fruit or green tea! For an added touch, serve with mints, biscoff or truffles or, if you and your partner are more of a savoury tooth, get together a small cheese board for after-dinner nibbles!
8.45pm – After dinner entertainmentOPTION 1 (G,O,R): A night at the theatre. Theatres may have been closed for what feels like an eternity, but there are plenty of options for those who want to recreate a romantic night at the theatre. The National Theatre have been live-streaming full-length productions since the beginning of the first lockdown. Though their live-stream sessions ended in the Summer, a few of their productions, including Hamlet, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Frantic Assembly’s popular interpretation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time have been saved so you can pre-watch them freely on YouTube. New theatre subscription services have also been launched by the National Theatre, and Digital Theatre that include a range of productions from the Royal Opera, National Ballet, Broadway and Royal Shakespeare Company if you want more options to choose from. (D) – Nothing says theatre like a teeny tiny carton of ice-cream that costs £7.50. Try buying some little tubs of Hargendaaz and plastic scoops and grab them in the interval! They’ll taste even better knowing you paid a normal price for them. OPTION 2 (G,O,R): Go to a gig. If you and your partner love and miss watching live music and bands, why not carry on your evening and head to a gig or concert. NPR Music’s Youtube channel has hundreds of videos of musicians playing their ‘TinyDesk’ concerts. These are intimate gigs, with plenty of talented artists to choose from — the channel even recently launched an online festival called globalFEST that’s already gained millions of views around the world. (A) – Fill an ice-filled bucket or deep pan full of ice and personal-sized beer bottles or craft beer cans — nothing says ‘gig in a pub’ like spilling cold lager down your top in the middle of a mosh-pit. OPTION 3 (G,O,R): Have a laugh. Why not continue the fun once you’ve finished your meal by heading into your very own virtual comedy club. Netflix, Amazon Prime and Youtube all have plenty of full-length comedy shows to choose from, from roadshows that host different stand-ups to comedian’s personal tours. Choose a comedian you both like or take your chances and make a random selection — cringing brings people together too, you know. (D) – Light a candle or put fairy lights in a glass jar and put them in the very middle of a small table. Grab two glasses, a bottle of red (or whatever you fancy) and position your chairs either side of the table so you feel like you’re sitting in a real comedy club .
10:30pm – Head into the nightCarry on the night by heading out to a bar or, if you’re not too full to dance, a club. OPTION 1 (G,O,R): Red wine at a low-lit jazz-bar. Listen to a jazz playlist on Spotify or put on an old video of your favourite jazz or blues artist performing live on Youtube while you gaze into each other’s eyes. OPTION 2 (G,O,R): Banger-for-banger. Have some fun and take turns queuing your favourite bangers with your S.O. You may have similar music tastes, or they might be completely different — either scenario is likely to spark a lot of fun. Remember, the only rule is you’re not allowed to skip the queue! OPTION 3 (G,O,R): Crank up the volume. If you and your partner are the clubbing type, we imagine it’s an understatement to say that you’re missing the club scene. Turn down the lights and stick on a house, dance, (or whatever you’re into!) playlist on Spotify, and dance the night away.
Preparing for the night
AtmosphereMany say the best part of any night out is the atmosphere. And no doubt that’s probably what you miss the most now you can’t go out, right? The sound of glasses tinkling, groups of friends laughing…even the jostling of a busy bar. Though we’re not suggesting you and your other half stand and elbow each other all night, we’ve worked hard at Dawton Properties to come up with some things you can add into the evening to help improve the atmosphere, and make you feel like you could actually be out of the house. If you’re using one of these playlists, or creating your own, make sure they’re all set up ready for the evening, so you can have them playing when your date-night begins. Make sure they’re also long-enough to avoid having to get up and switch half-way through your meals — nothing will ruin the magic like having to try and having to scroll through Spotify halfway through dessert!
DecorAlong with your menus, there are several other little touches to add in time for the big night. In times like these, it’s the little things that make all the difference. Ideas for home restaurant decor: A folded menu on the table (see our section at the top of the schedule for some free templates you can fill in and print out before the big night!)
- Fairy lights
- Rose petals
- Wrapped serviettes
- Table cloths
- Water jugs
- Wine glasses and champagne flutes
- Small vases and flowers