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Let’s show some foodie love this Valentine’s

PUBLISHED: 07:14 02 February 2018

A local Greggs store: Andy Newman is not tempted by its Valentine's Day special offer in some of its outlets. Picture: George Ryan

A local Greggs store: Andy Newman is not tempted by its Valentine's Day special offer in some of its outlets. Picture: George Ryan

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Andy Newman is not tempted by Greggs’ £15 a head Valentine’s dinner...

After the financially barren month of January, February is the month when restaurants hope to come alive again – mainly because of St Valentine’s Day, when through a flush of romance, social pressure or simply guilt, many people feel take their loved ones out for that once-a-year romantic dinner.

Now I have some sympathy with those who decry Valentine’s Day as an artificial and contrived construct designed to persuade us to part with our hard-earnt cash on cards, roses and candlelit dinners. The argument that true lovers show their affection right through the year, not just on one day, is compelling.

But I’m not so unromantic as to dismiss Valentine’s day altogether. After the misery of January, it’s nice to have an opportunity to do something special. But I’m not sure that ‘special’ is the right word to describe the latest date-night opportunity to be offered to star-crossed lovers.

Forget going to that cosy, romantic little bistro or splashing out on that seven course tasting menu at your local fine dining establishment. Because this year you can spend the evening whispering sweet nothings to your lover… at Greggs the Bakers.

Yes the High Street chain best known for its pasties is opening up selected stores (although sadly for Norfolk romantics, none in our county) on February 14 and offering a four-course romantic candlelit dinner, all for £15.

I’m not sure that their menu is designed to put couples in the mood for love, though. The menu includes pork and puff pastry sliders, steak and blue cheese en croute (in other words, pastry), béchamel toasted honey cured ham square (pastry once again), your choice of Greggs puff pastry parcel, a brochette of miniature doughnuts, a dark chocolate brownie and caramel shortbread.

After all that, just getting up from the table will require a mammoth effort, let alone anything else.

In other news, it was announced this week that the UK’s consumption of ‘ultra-processed’ junk foods is the highest in Europe. We scoff nearly four times as much of this junk as France, Greece or Italy. Unsurprisingly, the same study found that Britain is the most obese of the 19 nations examined.

These other nations understand that one of the greatest ways of showing love is feeding someone. So if you really want to prove your devotion to your other half, why not make a bit of effort, get in the kitchen and cook them a special meal?

It may not have the fine dining cachet of a top restaurant (nor, we must hope, quite the amount of pastry included in the Greggs Valentine’s special), but - and this is especially true if you are the one in your household who seldom steps into the kitchen – the most romantic meal of all is one lovingly cooked for you by your partner.

And congratulations to Norwich’s Benedict’s Restaurant, which was last week awarded a prestigious third AA Rosette, joining a very exclusive club indeed.

In the city there is only one other establishment which has that accolade – Roger Hickman’s Restaurant, which has achieved the honour for six consecutive years. Elsewhere in the county, only The Neptune at Hunstanton and Titchwell Manor have three Rosettes; Morston Hall earned its fourth last year.

Have you noticed a common theme in this list? All are independent, owned and run by local chefs who are passionate about what they do. There is not a chain among them; in general, corporations run by accountants don’t win culinary awards.

Independent restaurants are under more pressure than ever before. If we really care about our county’s reputation for offering top-quality food, supporting our locally-owned establishments is vital. If we let the faceless and soulless chains take over, not only will we lose the diversity of eateries we currently enjoy, but we will lose the quality too.

So if you are going to take your loved one out on Valentine’s Day, I urge you to show your love for Norfolk’s finest and make sure it is a locally-owned restaurant which gets your custom. They will love you for it.

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