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Love in lockdown... how to wine and dine your Valentine - Belfast Telegraph Article by Claire McNeilly

8th February 2021

Keep romance alive with a special meal at home, served up by NI's top restaurants

It will be a Valentine's Day like no other, when loved up couples will be wined and dined — at home.
This time last year it was still possible to treat your beloved to the traditional romantic dinner in a popular, hard-to-book — and packed — restaurant.

But that was then and this is now. Welcome to Valentine romance in lockdown.

What should be the date night of the year, however, can still be special.

You may not get the attentive waiter, soft lighting, fancy cutlery, posh glasses and romantic knick-knacks on the table that go with the restaurant experience.

But you can still avail of their quality food.

Several of Northern Ireland's top class eateries are pushing the boat out to help hopeless romantics have a night to remember in the middle of a time that is probably best forgotten.

Michael Deane's £95 Valentine's Box for two from Eipic, his Michelin starred Belfast restaurant, is already sold out but there are plenty of other offerings out there for those who are not quick enough off the mark.

Coppi's Valentine three course menu, priced at £25 per person, is 75% cooked at the Belfast restaurant and comes with instructions so you can do the rest at home.

There are a selection of starters to share, including Hannan's spiced pork and fennel sausages and duck ravioli fritters, as well as a choice of six mains served with salad and Ciabatta bread, and three deserts — tiramisu, panna cotta or sticky toffee pudding.

Shed Bistro on the city's Ormeau Road is offering a Valentine's 'Heat at Home' treat for two priced at £80.

Head chef and Owner Jonny Taylor said he loves providing customers with a really special dining experience.

"Our 'Heat at Home' kits are the perfect alternative and will make anyone feel like a chef,” he said.

"Once you get your kit home, the rest is simple — we've done all the cooking for you already. Simply set your oven to 200 degrees and all the tasty elements of your meal will come out in order, by following our effortless instructions.

"Nothing takes longer than 20 minutes, so just enough time to pop open the bottle of bubbles and relax.”

The deluxe deal includes a mini bottle of prosecco as well as a menu comprising chai tea smoked duck, Portavogie scallops, Peter Hannan's chateaubriand followed by apple tarte-tatin.

There is a special £85 Valentine's Menu on offer for two at Wine & Brine restaurant, which is operated by husband and wife, Chris and Davina McGowan in Moira.

"Valentine's Day is always a special time for couples to dine at Wine & Brine” said Chris, a former chef on the Great British Menu.

"Obviously this year that won't be possible but we feel we've devised a menu that has something for all the romantics out there to try and recreate that special W&B dining experience at home.

"The menu comes with simple finishing and reheating instructions to allow you to enjoy the meal at your leisure.”

The takeaway menu, available on Friday, February 12 and Saturday, February 13, comprises brioche, cultured butter; crispy tiger prawns, spiced chickpea purée, spring onion, coriander;tournedos Rossini, dauphinoise potatoes, Wiltshire truffle sauce, buttered greens;warm chocolate & salted caramel fondant, mascarpone; local cheese, homemade biscuits and chutneyandhandmade chocolates.

Over at Killinchy's Balloo House, which was recently awarded the prestigious Bib Gourmand for a second time, there will be some extra special specials for Valentine's Day.

Dishes include salt aged fillet of beef Wellington with braised red cabbage, potato and thyme terrine, red wine and port gravy (£19.50pp); salmon en croûte with leeks, wilted spinach, Pink Fir Apple potatoes and wild herb butter (£15pp) and; Overwood Special — Kopa grilled Tomahawk ribeye steak (for two) with Korean greens, grilled mushroom, beef dripping chips & Balloo House pepper sauce. (£50).

Owners Jennie and Ronan Sweeney said: "The romantic country pub setting at Balloo House has always made it a very popular dining venue for couples over Valentine's.

"It is another weekend we will sorely miss our diners who are the heart and soul of our business, however, we are delighted to be able to offer them a taste of Balloo with our Balloo at Home menu which is available all weekend for pre-order and collection.”

Hadskis in Belfast is also offering a cook and dine service, with a three course set menu for two costing £90.

Start with fresh scallops, langoustines and seaweed butter, followed by either cote de boeuf, blackened duck or turbot for two with all the trimmings and finish off with Young Buck cheese with apple chutney and crackers or choose between almond and coconut tart with sweet cream or macaroons.

What's not to love?

View the Belfast Telegraphs article by Claire McNeilly: https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/love-in-lockdown-how-to-wine-and-dine-your-valentine-40063070.html

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