The Ultimate Date Night
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With Valentine's Day on the horizon, LOVE is most definitely in the air.
And whether you'll be celebrating February 14th with your other half or your best friend (#Galentines), there's no better time than this to plan the ultimate date night.
Or even a date weekend. There's no need to scrimp.
While I truly believe it's important to celebrate love all year round, there's no harm in a little reminder to make quality time for your favourite person/s.
Each year, to save on the V-Day price hike, David and I tend to plan an early or a late date.
But this year, we went the whole hog and planned a weekend jam-packed with activities.
And actually, it was our the best year yet.
And so, in case you fancy doing the same - I thought I'd put together my guide for the ULTIMATE date night.
This is a sponsored collaboration with Create Victoria
Find Your Base
Every 'date weekend' needs a base and a starting point within close reach of all of your preferred activities.
And so, we opted for Victoria in London.
Not only was it pretty close to home (we didn't want to waste precious dinner funds on travel now did we?!) but it's also had a little re-vamp in the last ten years and is now a bustling hive of activity.
Property developer Landsec have regenerated the entire area into a vibrant hub of restaurants, hotels, bars and theatres - so it's a pretty cool place to live, work and play.
Or as date night is concerned, even just the latter!
There are so many activity options on your doorstep that SW1 is a fabulous destination for a city date night.
You can throw on your heels and not have to worry about tubes, trains and planes - because everything is a stones throw away.
Plus, there are plenty of Instagram hotspots, renowned bars, world class restaurants and incredible productions within the immediate proximity.
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"True love, is breakfast in bed."
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Nestled within the heart of Victoria is St. James Court A Taj Hotel, which has a rather discreet entrance but once you step through the revolving glass doors, you are greeted by a fusion of modern elegance and Victorian British charm.
Irridescent gold furnishings are complimented by navy blue accents and dark wood panels.
It's luxurious without any pretence, as staff warmly breeze you through check in and show you up to your immaculate room.
There, you can envelope yourself in the crisp white sheets and run through your date night itinerary.
Run yourself a bubble bath, indulge in a class of mini-bar champagne and get ready for dinner at leisure.
You could pop on the TV in the bedroom, like I did for David, which buys you a bit of extra time perfecting your winged liner without too many grunts of 'are you ready yet?'.
If you feel like it, you needn't leave the hotel at all - as it has four restaurants (one with a Michelin star, fancy!) and across the courtyard, you can indulge in a St Valentine's special afternoon tea (more on that later).
But there's oh so much to see, that I do recommend popping on your gladrags and heading out and about.
Breakfast is also an indulgent affair, which can either be enjoyed in their gorgeous white wash panelled bistro - or from the comfort of your bed.
Can you guess which we opted for?
David and I are big on food - in fact our day tends to revolve around when our next meal is going to be - and so it's also very high priority when it comes to planning a date night.
Luckily, Victoria doesn't disappoint when it comes to eateries as there's a whole host of incredible spots to choose from.
In fact, they even have the brand new Nova Food area, which brings together 17 new restaurants and three pop-up kiosks to the area, creating London's new dining destination.
There's a mix of fine dining, fast-food and bars, so whatever your tastebuds are calling for, it's catered for.
But as a little starting point, here are my recommendations of spots to get all dressed up for or simply just to refuel at:
Perfect for a romantic, candle-lit dinner date. The beautiful blushed velvet bar furnishings and sofas are complimented by rose gold hardware, making for a luxurious setting where you can make yourself cosy.
David and I had the most magical three-course meal here, sipping on prosecco and enjoying one another's company, minus any social media distractions. It's been SO long since we did this and it made for such a special, in-the-moment evening.
The menu here is incredible and it caters for everyone, with vegan options, fish dishes and indulgent puddings.
I'd highly recommend the pickled squash dish even if you're not vegan, as it was the most delicious main I've ever tasted, accompanied by unique flavoursome red rice. David had the cod, which I snuck a bite of - and it practically melted into your mouth.
A place that doesn't need a whole lot of explanation, but one that shouldn't be overlooked.
If you're looking for a place to refuel after a busy morning of shopping, this fast-food place is it.
You won't want to miss their crinkle cut chips but even better is the cheesy option, where incredibly delicious warm cheese is poured over the top.
OR, step it up a notch and add bacon. It IS date night, after all!
The burgers are pretty good and the milkshakes are a sweet treat like no other too!
Just make sure you leave room for dinner later on!
We reserved a table here, expecting nothing more than a swanky wine bar in store for us.
However what greeted us totally surpassed our expectations.
Vagabond offers a unique concept that is perfect for both date nights and sociable get-togethers with friends.
When you arrive, you top up your Vagabond card at the front desk, before making yourself at home in a cosy corner of the bar.
Once settled, you can get up and browse a selection of over 140 wines from all over the world, each housed in a rather fanciful display dispenser cabinet and categorised by flavour, depth and crisp-ness.
When you've settled on your wine of choice, you simply insert your card, grab yourself a glass and dispense your size of choice, a mouthful (perfect if you can't decide), a medium glass or a large glass.
You find yourself busying around each station, ear-wigging on other guests reviews of each wine, before selecting one based purely on the bottle design and then slinking back to your table to share with your date.
It's a perfect place to round off an evening of activity - and they also do a fabulous sharing platter of steak and spicy fries if you fancy something to accompany your wine.
Just steps away from St James Court hotel (literally, a few steps across the courtyard is all you'll need to take), is Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Suites and Residences - another A Taj property which offers accommodation and dining options.
As a St Valentine's Day special, they are offering a limited edition Enchanted Rose Afternoon tea at their Kona restaurant - featuring a beautiful rose sprinkled spread of delectable delights.
Once you've chosen your tea (or prosecco), the cakes, sandwiches and scones soon start flowing. Nothing out of the ordinary from your average afternoon tea, right? Well actually, you'll soon see that everything is a pastel shade of pink.
Indulge in passion fruit meringue tart; strawberry delice chocolate and hazelnut mille feuille; pink champagne jelly with minted foam, lavender macarons, red velvet pastry hearts and love me do scones, with clotted cream and jam.
Everything is just as delicious as it looks - and there's even vegan options (usually 24 hours notice is needed) so us dairy-free eaters don't have to miss out on all the treats!
Victoria is now a place to shop and stop at, rather than just travel through and so there's an abundance of things to see and do in store for your date night.
Eugenius @ The Other Palace - Andrew Lloyd Webber once referred to this theatre as a place for theatre makers and performers to work free from pressure and refine their skills. It's a place where creatives are encouraged to break the rules and try something new. And so often, you can come across many hidden gem productions and enjoy incredible performances here, without the HUGE price tag usually associated with the West End. We booked the brand new show Eugenius for our date night, which has been crafted by Warwick Davis. It has a strictly limited run (until March) and is totally original, with catchy songs and a sassy script that will have you laughing all the way through. It's pretty much sold out through word of mouth alone - so grab your tickets while you can. I'm STILL singing 'Go Eugenius, Go Eugene!".
Cardinal Place - this buzzing area of Victoria is home to one of London's most exciting food markets, featuring a multitude of traders from across the globe. Taking place every Thursday lunchtime, the market offers a huge range of quality hot and cold food, including traditional fish and chips, empanadas, paella, crêpes and much more.
Peggy Porschen - Most of us have heard about this SW1 Instagram famous cake shop by now - and if you haven't, well where have you been? Located in Victoria, the photogenic pink facade has recently had a romantic makeover, so it's definitely a must-see stop-off on your date night agenda. Boyfriends/dates may be a tad grumpy initially at having to take approximately 20853 zillion pictures of you and waiting in a long queue in the drizzle. However there is promise of cake and coffee at the end of it. So all is usually resolved. Don't miss out on the strawberry and champagne cupcake!
Do you have your date weekend planned?
Or have you been to Victoria recently and seen all the gorgeous new development?