Flowers, cards and chocolates may be the staples of the Valentine’s lovefest, but if the way to a loved one’s heart really is through their stomach, then you can’t go wrong cooking them dinner.
Except you can – the less romantic more cynical side of me wonders how many evenings are thrown off kilter by non-chefs dusting off a recipe book and wondering why the Masterchef creation from scratch has translated to a bit of a dog’s dinner on the plate.
But if ordering a takeaway isn’t quite an alternative effort enough, then the growing number of foodhalls and supermarkets offering ‘Dine In’ options has got you covered.
The M&S £25 deal includes a starter: think king prawn and lobster thermidor gratin, tempura prawns, breaded camembert or leek and cheddar souffle; main courses like rump steak, beef Wellington or mushroom stroganoff pie; plus side dishes, dessert (white chocolate and raspberry mousse hearts included); and a bottle of Prosecco, wine or two non-alcoholic drinks. There are gluten-free options, vegan and vegetarian dishes.
We began with tempura prawns, which while not the most exotic, were crisp on the outside, juicy inside and ready within ten minutes. We followed this with lamb shanks and crushed potatoes. This was something of a second choice as the Princes Street M&S didn’t have the beef Wellington we would have chosen, but actually it was excellent. The slow-cooked meat was succulent and fell off the bone, the red wine and rosemary sauce just right. And the portions were huge. The potatoes were fluffy and crunchy in the right places.
For dessert we chose the salted caramel profiteroles, and these were generously-sized, full of cream and drizzled with a lovely caramel-toffee sauce. We gave the Prosecco a miss and instead had two bottles of a suitably sparkly pink raspberry lemonade.
Our menu wasn’t the most exotic or the most romantic but it was tasty, balanced and felt like a bit of a treat. The cooking was minimal – mostly removing packaging and putting in an oven – and the pay-off far more than expected. Looking at the individual pricing, it’s also a reasonable deal at £12.50 per head for three generous courses and drinks.
Criticisms? I could be the Valentine’s equivalent of a Christmas humbug and say the pink packaging was a bit, well, pink but on the other hand, it meant I wasn’t wandering round a shop wondering what exactly was included: if it’s pink, it’s in.
M&S Valentine Dine-In offer is available now until the 14th February.