Want to do something special without buying into all the flowers and other mind-meltingly mushy nonsense? Skip the chocolates and teddies and treat your beloved to something different, with our guide to non-naff romantic things to do in London.
Non-naff romantic things to do in London
Don't buy blooms from the petrol station
Do learn how to whip up a terrarium
Giving flowers can be dangerous; how can you know which flowers to send when you don’t know how you feel? Red roses mean ‘love’ and yellow ‘friendship’, but we don’t think there’s an official flower for ‘you’ll do until I find someone better’. Happily, lovely London florist Grace & Thorn hosts regular terrarium-making classes. And there’s not a lot you can read into something that’s transparent.
First Tuesday of every month. £65. Grace & Thorn, E2 7AX.
Don't make a baby
Do build a Lego robot
Multi-tasking spot Drink, Shop & Do host regular evenings of Lego robots. It’s the perfect activity for creative commitment-phobes; a weirdly bonding activity, it requires teamwork and a shared vision, but then at the end of the night you can just dismantle your ‘bot and go your separate ways.
Free when you buy a drink. Check website for future dates. Drink, Shop & Do, N1 9DX.
Don't share a plate of spaghetti
Do share a plate of heart
Sharing spaghetti is old hat and, more to the point, incredibly messy; what are you, a cartoon dog? Instead, head down to Jidori (we gave it a five-star review) on Kingsland High Street and share some chicken heart skewers. Romance tastes delicious.
Jidori, E8 2PB.
Don't send a mindless card full of soppy verse
Do polish-up on your punning
On selected Mondays, The Book Club in Shoreditch hosts Pundemonium!, a night of competitive wordplay. Comedians, poets and a guest dad battle it out in game shows, to be crowned the ultimate pundit. It's billed as an event for 'compulsive punners and their carers' and quickly shapes up into a perfect night of punnilingus.
Selected Mondays, check website for details. £5. The Book Club, EC2A 4RH.
Don't drink champagne
Do go whisky tasting
Once a wedding dress boutique, Cadenhead’s on Chiltern Street is one of London’s oldest whisky shops. And there’s nothing pretentious about its dinky basement – which, fact fans, is the room in which Princess Diana first saw her wedding dress. Head down there and join other Scotch nerds as your tastebuds go on a whisky tour of Scotland.
Monday–Saturday, check website for start times. £25-£35. Cadenhead’s, W1U 7QF.
Don't cosy up with a film
Do live out your 'Grease' fantasies at a boozy bowling alley
It’s widely believed to be one of the worst films ever made, so don’t watch it; become it instead. With a score that includes the numbers ‘Reproduction’ and ‘Do It for Our Country’, ‘Grease 2’ is the ultimate aphrodisiac. Seize the opportunity to pull on your gold lamé pants and dance down the lanes singing about how you’re going to ‘Score Tonight’. But where to do such a thing? At Rowans, of course – Finsbury Park’s haven of bowling, karaoke and slush puppy cocktails.
Rowans, N4 2DF.
Don't go for a cocktail
Do go on a gin odyssey at Mr Fogg's
The upstairs salon of Mr Fogg’s Tavern houses London’s largest gin collection, and it’s here that you can sample and learn about six of the most interesting, concluding with two G&Ts made with your favourite Gs. The Gin Safari is for 10–12 people, so round up your most emotionally supportive pals and get sipping.
£40. Mr Fogg’s Tavern, WC2N 4EA.
Or try some romantic movies with a twist
The Tale Bar
There can only be a few work-related things that have you beaming from ear to ear and rubbing your hands with glee. The prospect of two weeks’ annual leave on the horizon, possibly. An unexpected pay rise, certainly. A call to review the new cocktail bar at the Playboy Club? Definitely. All teal, black and gold with curtained walls, smoked mirrors, and leather and velvet vying for attention, it’s a homage to the club’s past – and exactly how you would imagine a swinging ’70s cocktail lounge to have been in Hugh Heffner’s heyday. And yes, there are still Bunny Girls fitting the traditional brief: long-legged, thin-waisted, ample-bosomed and stuffed into tight-fitting costumes, all topped off with that bunny-ear headband. The cocktails, you say? Yes, nearly forgot. All brand-new creations made well, with emphasis on flavour rather than strength. Collars and Cuffs (£13) washed the roof of the mouth with lime, moved to chocolate and finished with rose syrup, while 14 Old Park Lane (£11) was a refreshing passionfruit and apple drink that dissolved into a hint of Disaronno. Both came with inexhaustible bar snacks and a service charge. All worth it to finally work out where my headband fetish comes from, though.