As I embarked on a special drive, I could see the sky slowly pushing the dark clouds away to reveal the milky way. It was 8pm. Romance was the theme on 14th February, and like every year with fidelity, consistency and supreme pride, our city got ready for that fantastic twilight. The beauty of this love-lit evening announced the arrival of the New Year season for restaurants after a very unpredictable post-Christmas austerity. The feast of Saint Valentine, the traditional festivity, is taken very seriously by every retail business in town.
It’s very hard to envisage a time when the entire restaurant community looks forward to one event. While there’s history to rationalise superfluous preparations and make-up to impress lovebirds, sometimes you wonder the authenticity of sentiments expressed. Roses rise above its normal place and prices, gifts and cards are shared, it’s true reflection of the midas touch of businessmen with shrewd marketing skills.
There are plenty more ideas available online, illuminating how to make your night exceptional and teaching you how to be more romantic! In spite of all these activities, an evening out for a meal attracts many every year.Thus much of the action takes place in gorgeously decorated restaurants and safe hands of cheerful staff. A special menu and equally special price make every eatery look forward to this evening, sometimes the only time you find a new dish in curry houses.
Twenty years ago when I first started realising the magnitude of Valentines Day, honestly it was much more fun and enriching. Maybe going for a meal was the most popular and to some extent the only option for people. We offered a touch different to our customers in 1995, “why not let us take your photograph and send it over?” Almost 35 smiling couples agreed and we had fun watching them pose for our student photographer. Funny enough we have never tried that idea again but offering a red rose at the end of the meal to the lady has become a ritual.
I must tell you, a visit to our restaurants on the day has been a pleasure, among many things sampling new dishes and their distinctive effects make you feel different. Unlike in the past, our young crew have new ideas and they look cool in colourful T-shirts. Though we exchange smiles and chitchat with patrons, some people appear puzzled too.
In contrast to the usual rumbling air of a kitchen you can see a coherent beauty as chefs look out at happily dining couples to gauge the feedback to new dishes and hope to be crowned winner over competitors.
After the last stop and the final frontier I got back behind the wheels, a song just popped out as I switched on the car. It was Marry you on Radio 2 by Bruno Mars. “It’s a beautiful night, we’re looking for something dumb to do, hey baby, I think I wanna marry you…” That was such a coincidence after watching the corner table and this young man lovingly feeding his lady a piece of heart -shaped beetroot cutlet, followed by unwrapping a little box and offered a platinum ring with a pearl on top to the stunned girl.
I overheard her say, “wait a sec, let me wear my specs to see this ring properly,” and he said, “You look most beautiful now” as he put it on her finger. Whilst this continued, raspberry sorbet started to melt on warm carrot halwa. What a perfect evening with the full moon looking down with a bright smile surrounded by shining stars.
I was on a high already and relished the overflowing warmth jetting out of every restaurant. On the way through upper street, I saw a flashing rainbow form out of flying bubbles from streaming emotions on the windscreen. Couldn’t believe how fast I reached Baker Street; wish we had Valentine’s Day every month!
The author is a London-based restaurateur who owns the Rasa chain.