Restaurant review: Vanilla in Cheltenham
What have you got planned for Valentine's Day? Are you taking your other half for a picnic by a beauty spot, surprising them with a romantic weekend away or hoping that M&S are doing their dine in deal again this year?
It all depends, I imagine, on how long you have been together. A few months and you'll be pulling out all the stops, a few years, still making an effort, and a few decades, trying not to be cynical about the whole thing.
We fall into the middle category – together for 12 years, married for four, parents for nearly two, and the days of getting croissants, roses and scattered confetti in bed are definitely on the wane . . .
As we're so time-pressed these days, for a treat I booked a table at Vanilla in Cheltenham – a haunt we visited pre-baby which I was thrilled to discover recently is also open at lunchtimes.
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The stylish basement bistro is a sophisticated hang out for couples and is offering a special Valentine's Menu on Thursday. For those of us who can't get a babysitter on February 14 but don't want to miss out, its lunch menu is not to be sniffed at.
You can get the same quality dishes presented with finesse as you would in the evening, without the crowds. Even better, its early bird menu which is served between noon and 2pm and 6-7.15pm offers great value with two courses for £10.75 and three for £13.50.
I ordered the pitta bread, olives, houmous and tzatziki dips to start followed by vegetable moussaka and baby leaf salad.
All elements of the starter were perfect – the moreish mixed olives were combined with slivers of hot peppers, the thick homemade houmous tasted like it had just come out of a blender and the tzatziki was dreamy. My moussaka was even better and is one of the two vegetarian options on the Valentine's menu along with other main courses such as breast of chicken with sautéed garlic potatoes and medallion of lamb fillet.
The immaculately presented square portion was delicious drizzled with olive oil and scattered with green leaves.
My husband meanwhile went for the brightly-coloured, penne pasta with roasted vegetables and pesto and we enjoyed equally exquisite desserts of vanilla crème brûlée and a chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream.
With lunches like this, you don't have to save a romantic meal for a special occasion.
The Vanilla Valentine's evening menu costs £37.50 per person and includes three courses and a glass of Prosecco.