How to Date Someone on Valentine’s Day: The Do’s and Don’ts of Experts


What makes a successful Valentine’s Day date? Some prefer it simple, with freebie rules and clean blueprints, while others go all-in with heart-shaped balloons and lavish displays of affection.

But there’s one unifying feature that sits at the intersection of the Venn diagram of Valentine’s Day: food, and most often, a drink or two.

February 14 is one of the most important working days of the year for restaurant and bar owners. so much so that some hospitality hotspots in Auckland – like K’ Road’s cozy Bar Celeste and Mt Eden haunt Pasta & Cuore – open specially for the day, though they’re usually closed on Mondays.

Expectations are high after the long lockdown drought. It’s also a chance to play around with decor and menu, which can make even the most unromantic and cynical chefs smile.

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“We will be offering a special menu to mark this day,” says The Grove restaurateur, Michael Dearth.

“It will be a five-course tasting, including, of course, chocolate, as well as champagne, seafood and other luxury ingredients.”

Grove restaurateur Michael Dearth.

Abigail Dougherty / Stuff

Grove restaurateur Michael Dearth.

Fabulous aphrodisiacs will be on offer in abundance, but there’s no shame in sticking with what works – Bar Celeste’s Emma Ogilvie thinks if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s why she, alongside partner Nick Landsman, will be serving up classic oysters, raw fish bars and seafood spins.

“There’s just something about this kind of food, something quite fun and romantic about having something you can eat with your hands and just sink into,” she says.

“It’s light, fresh and simple, and rustic. It’s just different from a typical meal.

Nick Landsman and Emma Ogilivie of Bar Celeste will open especially for Valentine's Day.  (file photo)


Nick Landsman and Emma Ogilivie of Bar Celeste will open especially for Valentine’s Day. (file photo)

Sammy Akuthota, owner of Satya Restaurants, says saffron is one ingredient he finds particularly romantic – “it’s such a beautiful spice” – but argues that the most notable component of Valentine’s Day is usually liquid.

He says a good bottle of wine “can’t hurt”; a sentiment supported by almost all restaurateurs. But how integral should a drink be to the big day? And how do diners make sure they don’t walk the line between drunken ties and being so drunk that the night fades?

Relationship therapist Steven Dromgool, of Relate Counseling in Auckland, answers the age-old question, poetically, with a quote he heard somewhere along the way: “Alcohol heightens expectation, but undermines the ability to deliver. “, he recites, before adding there are other, much more foolproof ways to ensure that a date is successful.

Relationship therapist Steven Dromgool, of Relate Counseling in Auckland.


Relationship therapist Steven Dromgool, of Relate Counseling in Auckland.

Essentially, he says, dates should be inspired by the five languages ​​of love — acts of service, words of affirmation, receiving gifts, quality time and physical contact.

Take words of affirmation, for example.

Dromgool says a handwritten card or note given before the big event ensures the gift has something to look forward to.

It builds anticipation and excitement, which actually means your partner is already having a good time before they’ve set foot in the restaurant or gotten stuck in their seafood tower.

Quality time is just as important, says Dromgool, adding that getting quality time right comes down to “knowing your partner well enough” to be able to tailor the date to their preferences.

So your partner is introverted?

It’s probably not the best idea to take them to the local bar for a pub meal, then – a place to shout about the local band’s cringe-worthy rendition of Mustang Sally is the only way to be heard.

The Grove in Auckland CBD will be open for Valentine's Day.

Abigail Dougherty / Stuff

The Grove in Auckland CBD will be open for Valentine’s Day.

Maybe they have dietary requirements like not eating meat? A steak house will get you into the niche, but a flexitarian-focused restaurant will show you put their wants first and, perhaps most importantly, listen.

There are other things to consider too: don’t overdo the garlic unless you’re both overdoing the garlic, and don’t order the ribs unless you have none qualms about having leftover dinner smeared on your face.

For those in the hospitality industry who have witnessed countless disastrous dinner parties, they have learned that it is about what not to do, rather than what to do.

Valentine's Day is more about what not to do than what to do, according to some in the hospitality industry.


Valentine’s Day is more about what not to do than what to do, according to some in the hospitality industry.

“I think if it’s Valentine’s Day, you really need to put your phone away and just connect with the person you’re with,” says Dearth, whose pet peeve is people scrolling their phones while they are at the table or taking snapshots. of their dishes before starting conservation.

“It’s about being in the moment,” adds Ogilvie.

“It’s really nice to spend this time talking about each other and allowing ourselves to dig a little deeper. That’s what makes it different from a typical night out, where it’s usually good to get distracted or get carried away chatting with other people.

When asked if they remember witnessing any particularly successful Valentine’s Day dates, most restaurateurs are quick to offer an anecdote or two.

Pasta & Cuore restaurant owner Stefania Ugolini recalls working on Valentine’s Day in Italy, where winter was in full swing and snow was falling heavily during dinner service.

“It was snowing heavily and none of my clients were able to drive home,” she says.

Stefania Ugolini, owner of Pasta & Cuore restaurant.


Stefania Ugolini, owner of Pasta & Cuore restaurant.

“We had to call the rangers to clear six kilometers of streets, and while waiting for them, my clients and I ended up forming friendships – we were stuck with each other for so long.

“We all had so much fun that night, people didn’t come home until after 3am and it will be a Valentine’s Day that none of us will ever forget.”

Ogilvie says some of her favorite Valentine’s Day moments are the nights when groups of women get together and celebrate as friends.

It’s a reminder that the big day doesn’t have to be all romantic and emotional about linguine, as long as there’s quality food and a good place to eat it. Sometimes that’s more than enough.


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