Feel the love
Is there any night more loaded with hope, and fraught with potential disaster than Valentine’s Day dinner? If you’re in a new relationship it’s the signaler for what is to come. If you’ve been together for years, it’s a reflection of how much you know and love that person now. The whole thing can be so much goddamn pressure. But fear not, for I’ve just put on my fairy godmother costume, I have my wand at the ready, and am set to tell you the most romantic restaurants in Oxon/Bucks. No gastropubs here, I’ll do a separate selection of those for you later this week.
OK, you ready? Brrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiing!
The Nut Tree, Murcot
A Michelin star restaurant within a thatched country pub setting, The Nut Tree offers incredible food in a relaxed atmosphere – the ideal combination. Decor is tasteful without blowing the doors off Elle Deco – you can choose between the more traditional setting in the ‘old’ bit, or a more modern restaurant extension in the next door room.
Shaun Dickens at the Boat House (Henley)
The setting is perfect here, right on the river in Henley, so perfect for arm-in-arm strolls after dinner or, if it’s not gone so well, wondering if anyone will notice if you just shove your date in there quickly. I haven’t eaten here since its launch in 2013 so I’m basing it on my experience then, but Shaun has won awards for his food over the last two years so it’s a safe bet. The modern decor probably looks better under candlelight too.
Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons (Great Milton)
The place for grown-ups. Probably the most formal of all the restaurants here, the prices alone will silence you to reverance and awe. But then it does have two Michelin stars, and you may be lucky enough to catch Raymond Blanc dispensing gallic charm from time to time.
Riverlight (Bourne End)
Right on the border of Bucks and Berkshire, we’ll include it because it’s just such a lovely location and I’m partial to a cool interior! A good option if you’re looking for the atmosphere without a massive price tag. Bring a warm coat so you can go out on the verandah and look at the stars (or have a cheeky ciggie).
The Sir Charles Napier (Chinnor)
A fabulous restaurant in lovely elevated position in the Chiltern Hills that’s retained its Michelin star. There’s a lovely garden – not that it’s much use on a damp February night – and the food and service is impeccable. I prefer the ‘older’ more pubby side of the restaurant to the larger more modern room, and be prepared to be amongst the grown-ups here.
Humphry’s, Stoke Park (Stoke Poges)
I’m a massive fan of Humphry’s, the restaurant at Stoke Park hotel. Very stylish and grand but also intimate and the food from chef Chris Wheeler is phenomenal and brilliant value. You don’t need to stay at the hotel to eat either. A credible, more relaxed alternative to Le Manoir.
Wild Thyme (Chipping Norton)
A tiny restaurant in the heart of Chippy, with excellent food and slick service, its size makes it well suited to romantic diners. There are rooms too if you want to swing from the chandeliers or, um, watch Newsnight, upstairs.
I love it here, and often come with girlfriends as well as Mr Muddy. A really gorgeous looking restaurant, all glass, banquette seating, pretty Victorian floor tiles and wooden tables. It’s casual but classy, and looks all twinkly on an evening.
The Chef’s Dozen (Chipping Campden)
Just across into Gloucestershire, I ate at The Chef’s Dozen a few months back and loved it. A small, intimate restaurant with great service and first class food.
A no-brainer for a special dinner, Artichoke is a favourite restaurant of Raymond Blanc and it’s easy to see why. Proper fine dining with white tablecloths, phenomenal service and the brilliant Laurie Gear cooking in an open kitchen. Smallish too, so you have that feeling of intimacy.
Is there a gorgeously romantic restaurant that I’ve omitted from the list? Let me know at email@example.com, I always love to hear your tips.