Pictured: Jonny Jeffrey at The Great Barn
Sophie Roberts, freelance writer and Financial Times columnist on travel and culture
My perfect Valentine … would be Jonny Jeffrey at The Great Barn in Branscombe. His at-home pop-up restaurant in this seaside village in East Devon comprises two nights of gourmet hedonism. You gather a group of friends, and stay in his three double bedrooms, arriving on a Friday evening and heading off Sunday afternoon. I met him first at Brindisa, then at Hix in Lyme and the Groucho. Jonny, who decamped to the country, is your own private chef and bartender for the weekend – and his lemon tart nothing less than DIVINITY ON A PLATE. A weekend at The Great Barn costs £1500 based on six guests, which includes supper and cocktails when you arrive, breakfast and a five course dinner the following day, followed by a Bloody Mary brunch to recover. Drinks are BYO. http://www.disappearingdiningclub.co.uk/index.php?id=18#
Laura Campbell, Stylist, Writer and DJ
As someone who isn’t big on “occasions”, I would prefer to lie low rather than celebrate Valentine’s Day. My idea of hell is to sit in a restaurant surrounded by mooning (or brooding) couples where all the tables are inches apart and laid for two, equipped with one sad rose and a warbling backdrop of Johnny Mathis. My idea of heaven would be to stock up on chocolate, delicious and easy snacky food such as smoked salmon blinis, quails’ eggs, dips and halloumi to grill, an extensive supply of DVDs and head to one of the cottages at Botelet in Cornwall - botelet.com. I’d suggest a wild morning ride at the local stables poltmartinfarm.com followed by brunch or tea out at Pinky Murphy’s Café in Fowey where you get to sit on beanbags, then a gentle amble to check out some of Daphne du Maurier’s hotspots, in particular Menabilly the place that inspired Manderley. Back at Botelet, we would light a fire and organise a massage or reflexology session through bodhi-works.co.uk and chill out watching an old black & white classic such as Breakfast At Tiffany’s or Casablanca. Bliss.
The only valentine’s present I would really love to receive is a night at Claridges….About a year ago my wife was given this really special treat by her brother for her birthday and as the attached other half I was forced to go along, quel domage! Having travelled the world staying in expensive hotels in my Mulberry days, I have become rather cynical about the polished, sleek (but often lacking in warmth and care) attitude of those monuments to capitalism. So I was pretty ambivalent about this present (I know, I hear you say in outrage, it was her present not yours!) I prefer the intimacy and surprise that you get from a really good boutique hotel, I will paw over the internet for ages to get just that special one. However on this occasion I was blown away…Some of you might have seen the BBC documentary series on Claridges about a year ago, which gave you a fascinating fly on the wall account of the day to day happenings in this extraordinary hotel. So let’s imagine on…. On arrival we will be welcomed by a line up of the key staff: Thomas Kochs, who is the charming German GM, who must have nerves of steel dealing with the demands of the uber rich; Martyn Nail, the brilliant head chef, (who by the way loves cooking with Sharpham Park spelt!) with Front of House manager, Head receptionist and assorted team. We are then swept away to our room by a charming and efficient young lady, we josh happily with the lift boy who has just the right amount of cheeky chappy to him, but you know he will know everything there is to know…We are met by our personal butler who fusses around us like a clucking hen, until he is sure we are settled. The suite is just perfect, every detail is covered, a valentine’s card to my wife (I mean me!), a bottle of champagne, the most exquisite gateau from Martyn and team….A leisurely bathe, in the gigantic tub, bet this has stories to tell! We know one as we employed an ex Claridges staff member years ago…for another day. Then down to have the most memorable dinner, which was surprisingly good value, you can eat far more expensively in many of London’s top restaurants. Back to snuggle down for the night in our cocoon of a room… Breakfast the next day is a true English of course, everybody remembers our names everywhere and you watch in fascination as they care for every single guest in the same way. Then it is out of those famous doors for a walk to our favourite store Liberty’s, ‘Time of the day’ from the top hatted doorman, who welcomes us back an hour later like a long lost friend. I resolve this will be a once a year treat, forget reality and disappear into this fairy tale world. Now that is a true Valentine’s present.
Steven Lamb, River Cottage
I struggle with getting my head around Valentines – it’s not that I am against love and romance and the odd show of secret anonymous rhymes. I just don’t like to be told how to feel on any particular day especially when there is little or no hint of a pagan ritual to pretend that it’s not all constructed around a commercial monster. I don’t like roses and I’m not a fan of chocolates – neither is my other half. On any other day, I’d be on the lookout for a nice weekend break in a boutique hotel with a lovely meal for two and some spa treatment thrown in – but just not on the 14th February. So I’m going to go slightly off piste but in the hope that it isn’t too obtuse – I would thoroughly recommend to anyone the amazing osteopath Tim Williams who applies the Perrin technique across a whole host of ailments or conditions. He has fixed my neck, turned our unborn baby daughter from breach position in the last week of pregnancy as well as magically giving energy and pain relief to colleagues, friends and family. He does all this with an unassuming air and gentle persona. I particularly like the way he occasionally can be heard ‘tum-te-tuming’ to himself as he goes about the treatment. It’s very reassuring. I bet he could even mend a few broken hearts so maybe give him a call on the 15th of Feb….. Timwilliamsosteopaths