I don’t trust people who say they hate Valentine’s Day. They’ve got too much in common with those infuriating types who think that they’re really cool for saying they don’t like Christmas. I bet that given half a chance these same folk would merrily roast the Easter Bunny whilst humming a little ditty about squashing the Tooth Fairy. [Yup, I would indeed. Ed.]
I mean really, what’s not to love about Valentine’s? A day devoted to presents, Champagne, fancy meals and declarations of love. It’s not sounding too dreadful so far. The key to making a success of Valentine’s Day is to embrace the cliché of it. This is not a time for subtlety. This is the moment to dig out those red plastic straws that have been skulking at the back of the kitchen drawer. You know, the ones that make your Martini swirl round in a big heart. This is the day when we should all be glad to say alongside Kate Winslet in ‘The Holiday’ (rom-com classic and a deadcert Valentine’s-cosy-night-in winner), “I like corny. I’m looking for corny in my life”.
Before anyone starts to panic, I do of course mean corny in a perfectly executed, classy and elegant way. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with sticking to tried and trusted gift classics, just make them the best they can possibly be.
Damian Allsop is a modern day chocolate hero, single-handedly battling against the elements to deliver scrummy chocolates to fair maidens across the land. Ok, there might be fewer death-defying feats involved than Milk Tray Man had to put up with, but his achievements are no less impressive. Damian Allsop is changing the face of luxury chocolates by using a water base rather then the cream or butter you’d usually get. The result is the most amazingly light and downright delicious chocolate imaginable. After much sucking-up on my part, The Arb’s esteemed editor brought me some back from a tasting and now I’m hooked. Available from Liberty where I may well be standing next you in the queue, Fortnum & Mason, a handful of specialist shops and online. You could always give them to your love by swinging through the bedroom window on a rope whilst wearing a balaclava. Or perhaps not…
The rules of my pre-Christmas lingerie gift guide still apply here and I assume that those of you who read that committed its wisdom to memory. (A girl can dream.) The basic thing to remember is that just because it’s Valentine’s Day that is no reason to let your guard down and buy her some hideously tacky lingerie. But then again, this is the national holiday for lurve so you don’t want to go too unromantic either. Bordello (at their boutique in Shoreditch or online) is ideal for helping you hit just the right level of saucy. Take for example the Piaf range by Damaris – so divine that it makes me feel a little light-headed. The black silk ‘Twist Bra’ and ‘High Waist Peekaboo Knickers’ could be the best £306 you’ll ever spend. Bordello also have an excellent maternity range, making them one of the few lingerie specialists to realise that pregnant ladies are allowed to feel glamorous too.
What could be more Valentinesy than a dozen red roses? Can’t go wrong with this one, surely? Hmm, I’m afraid it’s not so straightforward. Unless you get these absolutely bang-on-the-button perfect then this is the Valentine’s gift with the highest potential to go wrong. You really don’t want to be known as the chap who gives bad flowers. It’s tricky to come back from that. So please, if you’re going to give her flowers then get the best you can possibly afford. If that still leaves you flummoxed then go to Neill Strain Floral Couture where you’ll be in safe hands. His new boutique has just opened in Belgravia’s Motcomb Street but thanks to the joys of technology you can order online or over the phone for Valentine’s delivery anywhere. Interflora schminterflora.
For around £165 you could give a dozen long stemmed velvety roses each with a seemingly impossible number of petals, hand tied with mixed foliages and berries and presented in their signature luxurious black box. The anti-Valentine’s faction can usually be heard grumbling about the insincerity of giving flowers this one day of the year if society’s expectations have strong-armed you into it. That’s poppycock, in my view. But one way around it is to arrange for Neill Strain to deliver to your love a sumptuous arrangement of flowers every week of the year (£5,000). She’ll never be able to forget how much you love her.
Women love shoes. Ergo, if you buy your lady exquisite shoes then she will love you exquisitely. It’s obvious logic if you think about it. Aruna Seth creates the pinnacle of shoe aphrodisiacs. These are works of extreme beauty, carefully crafted with intricate details of design and embellishments. They may not be the kind of shoes she’s going to wear every day but that’s the exact reason why they make the perfect Valentine’s gift. These shoes show that you want to spoil her rotten. That you see her as sexy, beautiful and confident. Take a look at the butterfly heels range and you’ll see what I mean. Incredible worn with pearls and that favourite little black dress. Or ditch the dress.
While we’re on the subject of dresses – are you brave enough to buy her clothes? Quite probably a bit of a minefield, but the answer lies in giving her a bespoke tailored dress by Nooshin. It’s not just a dress, you see. It’s an entire experience which results in her owning something that has been created just for her and fits like a calf-leather glove. Nooshin is based on Savile Row and uses all the skills of that street’s heritage to ensure that everything about the design and fit is just right – from the fabric to the length of the sleeve. Talk about being made to feel and look a million dollars. Which makes the £500 it costs for her ‘white’ gift service an absolute steal.
Just a puff of perfume from a Penhaligon’s lead crystal bottle that’s held at a jaunty distance from her neck and your Valentine will feel like she’s Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief. So what if she’s only nipping out for a pint of milk?
Pearls are known to be uniquely flattering to a woman’s skin tone. In my experience the particular hue of a Tiffany box can also do wonders for a lady’s complexion, which surely makes a gift of pearls from Tiffany a double triumph. These are both such classics that I think if you’re going down this road you should really choose a similarly timeless piece that your Valentine will treasure for years to come. Think about their 18” Signature cultured pearl necklace with white gold clasp (£5,700) or the diamond and cultured pearl Aria drop earrings (£2,175). Understated, elegant, lovely.
A final thought about the day itself. Think long and hard before joining the regiments of couples who parade through restaurants on February 14th. You can see them looking around shiftily, nervously gauging the levels of love and fun emanating from the surrounding tables. If you don’t feel like cooking up a storm yourself at home, you could bring in a private chef to create a feast for you with a menu that’s crammed with all your (by which I mean mainly ‘her’) favourites. Or book yourselves into a fabulous hotel suite and have dinner a deux in there.
The soundtrack to your day of love? How about a bit of ‘Wonderful Tonight’ (Eric Clapton), ‘I Got You Babe’ (Sonny and Cher), ‘You’re the First, the Last, My Everything’ (Barry White) or ‘Just The Way You Are’ (Billy Joel). Or – personal favourite this one – the iconic ‘Up Where We Belong’ by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes. You could be her officer and a gentleman. Remember what I said about corny….