The shortest month of the year is upon us, and that can only mean one thing: cupid is logging some serious overtime hours. In a city like Toronto, there is a myriad of ways to get creative with this holiday of love and overpriced roses. But the classics, like a romantic dinner, are classics for a reason. So in the name of mood lighting, clinking wine glasses, and gazing lovingly into the eyes of a decadent piece of cheesecake (or your loved one—whichever), we’ve taken some of the pressure off of everyone’s favourite diapered matchmaker and rounded up five date night ideas for a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner.
Maison Selby is a charming French bistro inside the historic Gooderham House at Sherbourne and Bloor. There is a room for every mood in the century-old building, from the dimly-lit bar to the intimate, wallpapered Rose Room and Parlour. If you want a little more privacy, a quick walk downstairs and a push of a nondescript white-tiled wall will transport you into Sous Sol, a clandestine little speakeasy offering $10 cocktails and light snacks. For Valentine’s Day, Maison Selby’s prixe fix menu offers four to five courses for $78 a person and includes a venison tartare, lamb en croûte, chocolante fondant cake and more.
The Gladstone Hotel is going all out this year with live music, a four-course prix fixe dinner ($95) and a complimentary glass of bubbly. Executive chef Akshay Shastry has curated a Valentine’s Day meal that might make your heart skip a beat. Where the likes of braised rabbit and butternut squash risotto are just the opening act before mains of shrimp, beef tenderloin, and a finale of mousse tartes steal the show. There’s also more to do with your date here than eat. Try arriving earlier than your reservation to explore four floors of art exhibits, like the hotel’s limited time Love (Actually) photography exhibit.
Baro’s intimate King West space is, of course, celebrating this day of love in style. The main floor dining room will host a four-course menu of Latin-inspired eats, and they’ll also be featuring some special themed cocktails. To celebrate both of the high holidays that call February 14 home, Baro’s throwing an entirely different party for Galentine’s Day upstairs, complete with gift bags, DJs, and a five-course menu. Reservations are a must, as this is bound to fill up.
Annabelle Pasta and Negroni Bar is a beautiful and intimate two-storey spot for perfect handmade pasta. In addition to their regular menu, Annabelle cooks up three handmade pasta dishes each night for just $12 a plate. This is all based on their founding philosophy that incredible pasta shouldn’t break the bank. The ambiance of Annabelle is perfect for romance and the staff are passionate about the space, treating everyone like a VIP. Reservations are usually a no-go at this Davenport gem, but they’re making an exception to help your date night run smoothly.
Xango opened on King West last fall, and in addition to being a beautiful space, the food and staff make it a must-visit. Celebrity chef Claudio Aprile (MasterChef Canada) is but one of the heavy hitters behind this spot, so you know the dishes will be artful and delicious. There are several chic areas to cosy up in and the food aims to impress. The whole fried branzino is a must ($36), and a few of the dishes even come with a side of spectacle in the form of dry ice accompaniment. Be sure to end the date with the gorgeous, towering, smoking chajá: an Uruguayan cake filled with dulce de leche and peaches.