February 14, aka Valentine's Day, is fast approaching. For some people it means stubbornly body-swerving flower and gift card shops and cursing the mixture of shallow schmaltz and commercialism-run-amok this occasion has come to represent. For everyone else, it means booking that most memorable of evenings out in Glasgow for you and your special someone, or if you’re single but striving to change that, planning a first date down to a tee. Or getting sloshed on your own at the local pub, of course. To help you on your way, here’s a handy run-down of some of the best restaurants in Glasgow for a romantic meal and some of the best bars in the city for a date, plus a few Valentine's-themed event ideas if you fancy something more elaborate.
The best romantic restaurants in Glasgow
An 11-year veteran of Michel Roux Jr’s Le Gavroche in London, Brian Maule is a master of French haute cuisine made using the best of the Scottish natural larder – and you know what they say about French food and love, don’t you? Just don’t forget your wallet, big spender.
Head cheffed way back in its days as One Devonshire Garden by Gordon Ramsay – a handy little fact to help get the conversation flowing – Hotel du Vin boasts one of the most prestigious addresses of any restaurant in the city. The oak-paneled bistro, which is too fancy to really be called a bistro, is elegant and atmospheric and does a luxurious line in modern European cuisine.
The Chip is a little more left-field and laid-back than other fine-dining restaurants in Glasgow – you’ll quite possibly be eating beside a fish pond – but make no mistake that theirs is food of the highest order. If the salsify and fennel velouté followed by hazelnut and truffle crusted Shetland cod doesn’t impress your date, rest assured the specialty oatmeal ice-cream will seal the deal.
All those places with bright white tablecloths and massive wine menus are so passé – take your date somewhere different and much more hip altogether. Contemporary Vietnamese canteen Hanoi Bike Shop is fun, colourful and intimate, and the food – which is served quick-fire in no especial order, keeping things fast and informal – is fantastic.
You’ll impress your date straight off simply by getting a table at Ox and Finch, one of the newest and most prestigiously decorated (a Bib Gourmand commendation in the latest Michelin Guide) openings in Glasgow’s fashionable Finnieston neighbourhood. They dispense with the usual formalities of starters and mains here in favour of piling your table up with lots of small plates – plenty of potential for lingering finger-touches over the courgette and feta fritters.
Like Ox and Finch, The Gannet is a new-ish opening awarded a Bib Gourmand commendation in the latest Michelin Guide – so, kudos for being bang on-trend for starters. You’re in Glasgow, but you could just as easily be in Brooklyn at this minimalist-chic standout among standouts on the Finnieston strip.
You might feel like a lobster in a creel squeezed into the tight, bright Crabbshakk on a busy Valentine's night, but it’s all part of the buzz at one of Glasgow’s most esteemed seafood restaurants, which delivers an intuitive balance of stylish and elegant dining in an informal atmosphere. And really, if you don’t want to sit that close to your date then you probably shouldn’t have asked them out in the first place.
More cosy informality at one of Glasgow’s most dependably good eateries, the Scottish-cuisine themed Stravaigin. You can choose to sit downstairs in the atmospheric, low-lit basement restaurant, or if you’re going really informal, queue up and grab a table in the café bar and tuck into hearty fish and chips or a burger. Probably avoid the haggis, neeps and tatties though – not the most dignified of date foods.
No Valentine's night restaurant round-up would be complete without the ultimate aphrodisiac – oysters. Rogano is a Glasgow institution of 80 years' vintage, kitted out in the art deco style of a 1930s passenger liner and split into oyster bar, chic café bar and formal restaurant. They’re open until midnight, but if those oysters do the trick you should be away much earlier than that.
The best bars to take a date to in Glasgow
Bars don’t come much more low-lit than the exceedingly stylish ‘mixed-drinks’ emporium – don’t call them cocktails, dammit – Kelvingrove Café, where the tables flicker by candlelight after nightfall. Be aware that you need to be seated to drink, so get there good and early to avoid having to make an embarrassing last-minute change of plans.
Drink with added bling at the soaring Tellers Bar & Brasserie on the ground level of the Corinthian Club, with its astonishing plasterwork, contemporary fixtures and luminous dome far above. Champagne starts at under a tenner a glass but extends to over six hundred pounds for premium bottles. Here’s hoping your date doesn’t have expensive tastes.
Chinaski’s next-door neighbour is similarly chic and laid-back. A smart-looking place with a Roaring Twenties feel to it, Black Sparrow boasts a gleaming bar with high mirror-backed shelves, leather booths, chandeliers and an ornate corniced ceiling. But enough ogling the bar and concentrate on your date.
Maybe you’d prefer to eschew awkward formality and just go for a pint? In which case, where better than the living-room cosy Belle, with its roaring fire and excellent selection of beers. You can be sure to get up close and personal with your date before the end of the night – and just about everybody else in the pub for that matter.
At risk of terrible puns about your date going down like the Titanic, this new opening – styled after the Glasgow-New York Atlantic cruise-liner TSS Caledonia, and decorated with much of the ship’s original paraphernalia – is a good shout for something a little different. The drinks menu is inspired by forgotten pre and post prohibition cocktails, brought into the 21st century with a signature twist.
Because cocktails, again. The Blythswood’s really are about the best in town, and their elegant Salon Lounge cocktail bar – with views over Blythswood Square – is about one of the nicest places in town to drink. If you’re still looking for a Valentine's date you can take us here if you like.
The best Valentine's Day events in Glasgow
Alternatively you could go for this much more traditional (in some senses) romantic dramedy about a gay couple who, finding themselves forced to relocate following some homophobic employment practises, have to move into seperate abodes. Alfred Molina and John Lithgow deliver career-best performances as the central couple.