Fellow foodies reveal their top recommendations

Words by Flora Macdonald Johnston

Just like Marmite, Valentine's Day divides the masses, but regardless of whether you’re in a relationship or single, who doesn’t love a good restaurant recommendation? I spoke to a few fellow foodies to talk a little on love, their top eateries and menu suggestions.

Valentine’s day - love it or loathe it?

Honestly I loathe Valentine’s Day. I was the ugly girl in my class. Lanky, tiny head, eyes too big for my body, big lips, big bum and tits. I was called ostrich! My dad used to tell me I was going to be like the “ugly duckling”, as if that was some kind of good exchange. All I heard was ugly. On Valentine’s Day school was a competition as to how many Valentine’s card you won. I never got any. Well, that’s not true. I got one, one year which I’m entirely sure was from my mum, who to this day denies with with a smirk. 

As I got older and got asked out on my first valentines date in a restaurant I remember being pained with how much pressure there was to be romantic and how stiff that in fact made the whole place. I’ve not eaten in a restaurant since then. 

So, do you believe in love?  

I'm a die hard romantic. It’s almost definitely why I’m single at 42. No one touches on my ideal and I spend a lot of time believing that one day I’m going to get what I deserve. I’m not sure anyone ever does forever. I’ve had some incredible relationships though and while I still squirm at the idea of Valentine’s Day, I have pulled out all the stops before. 

Home cooked meals then seem to be your go-to, in which case how best to impress your date?

Chameleon, layers, tonal.I have always gone down the aphrodisiac route. In the same way that food can heal you, foods and how you eat them can make you want to fuck, and let’s be honest. That’s the main objective here; closeness and connection. Shell fish plays a big part in this. It’s full of groin burning iodine. Start with raw oysters and go onto hot shellfish. Then for any red blooded person eat steak. East steak in the most animalistic way possible. Bloody and shared. 

Finish with chocolate rich and intense. Share red wine. Sit too close. Kiss. Be sexy. Honestly, we’re such weird creatures in that we hold back in public like this. And as for what to do after. I’d rather you booked me a hotel room than a restaurant. I don’t think I need to expand on that. Happy Valentine’s

Where is your ultimate dinner date location?

On a cobbled street off Columbia Road, Campania is east London’s answer to Ida in Queen's Park. Family run, a little cramped and very chaotic, it’s nothing short of perfect. 

What’s the inside scoop, I’ve heard the pasta is the ONE!

The gnudi and sage butter balls are sensational, as is the ragu and the fact that despite booking a table, you will be made to wait outside in the freezing cold.

As someone who often writes on the topic of love, where’s your go-to for a date night?

Whenever I tell people my favourite restaurant is Pizza Express, the common reaction seems to be one of laughter, laced with confusion. Surely you can pick something better than that? The truth is, no dining place on earth has held as many memories as this one. From childhood birthday parties avec mini margheritas (still my favourite, minus the mini). Toasting the last day of university. Tearful breakdowns over Tiramisu. Like a perfectly overworn jumper I refuse to throw out, it has great sentimental value. It is also, undeniably, a good test for any potential romantic suitor.

I have to admit, I am surprised!

If they exude even an ounce of snobbery over this destination it says something. Also let's be honest - what is not to love about it? The pizza is always delicious; the waiters are friendly but not in a stalkerish, checks in on you every five minutes, kind of way; the lighting un-garish; the bill reasonable; you’re never too close to strangers so you can hear their conversation. And, really, that’s all a good date is in the end. Good conversation. Someone who makes you genuinely laugh. And, hopefully, shares your appreciation for carbohydrates. 

What do you like to order?

Always the margherita pizza and a glass of red wine.

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