11 of the most romantic restaurants in Warwickshire
Quite a few of the restaurants in this list have a French leaning hence the nod to one of my favourite 90s romantic films – Betty Blue (I know the ending’s sad) – starring Beatrice Dalle and Jean-Hugues Anglade.
Café Vin Cinq restaurant & Bar Twentyfive, Rugby
A three-storey elegant Parisian inspired boutique restaurant with stunning antique chandeliers and wrought iron spiral staircase, overlooking historic Rugby School. Café Vin Cinq won Best restaurant in the Coventry and Warwickshire Tourism and Culture Awards 2016. I recently came here for my birthday with some friends and it has a lovely, intimate atmosphere, the staff were extremely helpful and the food was delicious. Afterwards we enjoyed a cocktail or two in one of Bartwentyfive’s plush red velvet booths – conveniently upstairs in the ‘penthouse suite’. A perfect romantic setting.
Tartine Bistro and Wine Bar, Leamington Spa
Tartine, Leamington’s newest Parisian-style wine bar and bistro only opened four months ago but has already created a buzz with its monthly wine and gin-tasting evenings (£20-a-head with a Tapas, Cheese & Charcuterie platter thrown in). It’s perfect for a more informal, affordable Valentine’s Day date – Moules Mariniere, Stone-baked camembert or a cheese board. It’s compact and bijou but has a laid-back, friendly vibe, for lunch or even for just a quick coffee.
Oscar’s French Bistro, Leamington Spa
Transport yourself into this small, elegant Parisian style café, off an unassuming Leamington Spa side street. Oscar’s is a popular haunt for couples on a romantic night out. Think crisp white tablecloths and Edith Piaf on the playlist. Owned by top Midlands’ butchers Aubrey Allen, winner of the Chef’s Choice Awards 2016, there’s two main dining rooms on the ground and first floor, an excellent value lunch menu and beautifully cooked food.
The Cross Restaurant, Kenilworth
A smart restaurant in a refurbished 19th Century inn that’s retained its Michelin star. The Cross has always had a relaxed atmosphere with lots of quirky little nooks and crannies. I haven’t eaten here for a couple of years but head chef Adam Bennett, who previously worked at Simpsons, the long-standing Michelin-starred restaurant in Edgbaston, Birmingham, has since won his food awards so it’s a safe bet. Expect exquisite taste and beautiful presentation. Call 01926 to book as they’re not accepting online booking for Feb 14.
The Drawing Board, Leamington Spa
This hip, eclectic independent free-house with mismatched dining furniture was recommended to me by a cool mum at school. It’s perfect for couples who like their eateries a little more eccentric and casual. The Drawing Board is set over two-levels of a beautiful white Georgian building with squishy leather sofas, log burners, framed vintage comic books and games consoles. Head chef Saleem Ahmed has worked for Marco Pierre White, Richard Turner and in Michelin stars. The food’s a mix of appetising Tapas, Small Plates and Mains with Middle Eastern, Asian and French influences. There’s a Goodfellas: Film & Food Pairing on Feb 20.
Fusca Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurant, Smith Street, Warwick
There are a few vegetarian/vegan cafes dotted around Warwickshire but this relatively new restaurant is the first I’ve come across. The setting is romantic – a candle-lit underground cavern with abstract art of the wall, fresh flowers on each table and chilled music. If after dry January you’re still into clean living the food will awaken your palate with a zing.
Fusca’s run by well-travelled Birmingham chef Andrew ‘Brooksie’, who previously ran Fresh Rootz vegan café at nearby Ryton Organic Gardens – a finalist in the British Street Food awards in 2014, and winners of the BBC Good Food Show Award for Best Midland Street Food.
Slightly off the beaten track, it’s at the top of a narrow alley behind Smith Street or you can approach via Priory Road car park. It’s well signposted. Try the World Fusion 7-course Valentine’s taster menu.
One Elm, Stratford-upon-Avon
Go sailing down the River Avon then pop into the One Elm, a lively laid back gastro pub just seconds away from Shakespeare’s Birthplace. It’s usually buzzing whenever I’ve been to this friendly neighbourhood Victorian pub and eatery.
They’ll be getting the Valentine’s Day party started early on Feb 11, then on Feb 14 they’re putting some super sharing specials: think Camembert, Chateaubriand and chocolate (washed down with a glass of champagne). It has three great sister pubs in Warwickshire too (I’ve checked them all out)…The Almanack, Kenilworth; The Rose & Crown, Warwick and The Star & Garter, Leamington.
Queans, Leamington Spa
If you’re a couple up with all the latest food trends for 2017, then you’ll love this inventive fine dining restaurant in the basement of a Georgian townhouse. Not only has Queans made it into The Times’ top 20 Secret Restaurants that Foodies Love list, but Telegraph food critic Matthew Norman was blown away by his meal there and awarded it an unprecedented 5 stars.
Chef and owner Laura Hamilton is undoubtedly the queen of ice-creams – she has 16 home-made flavours from Irish Cream & Caramel Swirl to Peanut Butter and Chocolate Ripple. She also forages for food on the menu and edible flowers.
The Fuzzy Duck, Armcote, near Shipston-on-Stour
A revamped 18th Century coaching inn deep in the rolling Warwickshire countryside with sleek boutique bedrooms and great food. Enjoy a romantic supper in stylish surroundings. There’s a surprisingly comprehensive cocktail menu too. The Fuzzy Duck it’s owned by siblings Adrian and Tania Slater, who also own the Baylis and Harding toiletries company.
You can even borrow wellies in your size to go on the ‘Fuzzy Duck Waddle’ – a two-mile ramble taking in neighbouring Newbold-on-Stour. Armscote is close to lots of charming villages, as well as Stratford-upAon-Avon and the Cotswolds. A Valentine’s Day ‘Sharers’ Menu is available on Feb 14, 17 &18.
I’ve yet to dine out at this stylish town centre independent restaurant but it’s proved a hit with foodies after opening without fuss last April. I popped in for a quick chat with its rising young chef/director Johnny Mills from Leamington. He previously worked as sous chef at The Cross in Kenilworth, and was head chef at The Ebrington Arms, Chipping Campden. Tasteful décor, inventive fine dining and an enthusiastic team. The Tame Hare also do a good value 3-course set lunch for £20.
Cheal’s of Henley, Henley-in-Arden
Cheal’s won the Judges’ choice Award in the Birmingham food drink and Hospitality awards 2016. Matt Cheal, former head chef of Michelin starred Simpsons in Birmingham, opened his fine dining restaurant in October 2015.
If you are a fan of characterful beamed architecture, Cheal’s is inside an historic cottage in a conservation area on the pretty mile-long High Street,. The small market town of Henley-in-Arden is 9m from Warwick and Stratford-upon-Avon.
If there’s somewhere really special you think I should know about do tell me – I’d love to hear from you!