Valentine’s Day done right: How to top the romance scales without breaking the bank

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I read this article a couple of days ago about how much restaurateurs can't stand Valentine's Day and it got me thinking.  I agree wholeheartedly with “Anonymous Restaurateur”; I have almost never had a pleasant Valentine’s Day dinner experience at a restaurant.  

ALSO READ: Living and loving Valentine's Day in 2018: Where to eat out for the modern couple

A couple of years ago, my hubby took me to one of Cape Town’s top restaurants for V-day.  It is situated in a hotel, and we booked and prepaid for a set menu. On the night the service was appalling, they didn’t have a table for us (because they still had to service the hotel guests that hadn’t booked), the food was stone cold and terrible. I won’t be going back, even though I am sure on an ordinary night they do amazing food.

So here are my top tips for topping the romance scale AND not breaking the bank doing it!

1. Get up early and watch the sunrise
Before you go to bed on the 13th, chill a bottle of bubbly and some orange juice and have a couple of croissants ready to go.  Get your partner up early and surprise them with an early morning picnic in the garden or on the balcony. What could be a more romantic start to the day? I promise you that NOTHING takes the romance to a new level like spending a full day flirting!

Suggestion: don’t drink ALL the bubbly if you still must go to work.  

Top tip: Sunrise in Durban will be 5:36 AM, Joburg 5:52 AM and Cape Town 6:20 AM (lazy blighters)

2. Give a real gift
Many flower vendors hold back their roses around this time of year so that they have enough on the actual day, so often roses that look like buds are in fact almost dead and have just had their outer petals plucked. And the only person that feels loved by dead roses is Morticia Addams (maybe).  So, ditch the roses and give a real, lasting and meaningful gift. It can be a living rose bush or something that you know your partner really wants. These gifts will be far more memorable and meaningful.

3. Cook a special meal
Make the evening special by making a meal that your partner will remember. A friend of mine swears by the 5 P’s (pesto, prawns, Parmesan, pasta and pine nuts) as the food of love, but I am sure you can find your own special combo. 

4. Include the whole family 
If you have small children going out is “really hard” (finding and paying for a babysitter being the chief obstacle). Why not turn it into a family affair? Make some fun heart-shaped foods - we have a full list of cute heart shaped treats HERE.  Plan a fun family game and then, most importantly, pack them off for an early bedtime, so you can enjoy some time with your S.O. If you really want to get romantic, order a date night box to kick things off.

5. Pretend to be single
If you are hell bent on going out, find a place offering a singles night. I have heard that is where the real fun is (far less expectation and a lot less taking-ourselves-so-seriously going on). Check out your local pool hall, or wine bar and see if they are offering any fun parties. Find a Happy Hour and enjoy good service, a relaxed vibe and no one needs to know you aren’t single (ssssh, it will be our little secret!).

ALSO READ: 12 Aphrodisiac foods to heat up your Valentine's Day