How to enjoy a perfect date night in 14 cities across the globe
If you are planning to travel with your loved one, this is a definitive guide for you. Spanning 14 cities across the globe, we tell you where and what to eat, as well as the best places to visit on a weekday/weekend.travel Updated: Mar 06, 2018 09:20 IST
Whether or not you celebrate Valentine’s Day, it’s always advisable to have a great date-night idea in your back pocket. Check out this global guide featuring plugged-in recommendations in 14 cities. Don’t see your hometown? We have 26 more date night ideas in Dubai, Cape Town, Budapest, Mexico City, São Paulo, Mumbai, Paris, Singapore, San Francisco, Kuala Lumpur, Vancouver, Chicago, and Sydney. Plus ten more cities from a year prior. Just be sure call ahead for bookings, as some reporting may have become outdated — the inspiration, though, is still completely legit.
* Nairobi, Kenya
If you’re going out on a weekday … Head to Nairobi National Park, the rare wildlife reserve you can visit by taxi, to see some of the more than 100 mammal species that reside there, including the rare black rhinoceros. After catching a legendary African sunset surrounded by Mother Nature’s riches, have dinner at Talisman, where the service is excellent and the menu blends European, Asian, and African influences. It includes vegetable samosas, grilled fish, spicy Indian “bhajia”-style potatoes, and roasted vegetables blended with spicy mustard sauce.
If it’s the weekend …
Spend a night at Giraffe Manor, a luxurious, English-style country house built in 1932 that’s home to a herd of Rothschild giraffes. Its 12 luxury suites have sunny terraces and in-room fireplaces, but the real draw is the famous breakfast room, where the giraffes poke their heads through the windows each morning to beg for a bite of your eggs benedict. The property provides a car and driver for your stay, so cap off a day of horseback riding and hiking at the lounge-y Casablanca, famous for its shisha pipes, cocktails, and cold, local beer.
* Toronto, Canada
If you’re going out on a weekday …Grab a pre-dinner drink at Drake One Fifty, where cold weather tonics include the Brown Butter Maple Old Fashioned (a classic that’s spiffed-up with maple cigar tincture and mole bitters). Then, make your way down the street to Ripley’s Aquarium, which is hosting a one-night-only, three-course dinner under the sea on Valentine’s Day. That’s not literal, of course: Tables are set within the aquarium’s galleries, and the menu is catered by local culinary outfit Daniel et Daniel. It includes such sustainable seafood options as branzino with hazelnuts and pickled cauliflower, plus a dramatic-looking raspberry white chocolate Baked Alaska for dessert.
If it’s the weekend … Start your day with a group project: learning to make macarons with the pastry chef at Le Dolci, a rustic bake shop known for its dainty French cookies and stunning unicorn cakes. Keep the sweet theme going at the Ritz-Carlton’s internationally acclaimed spa. It’s most famous for high-tech diagnostic facials, but the chocolate body wrap treatment may be more apt for a romantic celebration. (Go the whole nine yards and opt for the hot stone massage add-on.) Snap out of your bliss for just long enough to get to Canoe, the longstanding destination restaurant atop the TD Bank Tower. Most restaurants with skyscraper views are tourist traps, but this one is a real winner, with a menu that’s fiercely Canadian. Case in point: an indigenous-inspired Haida Gwaii halibut with preserved lemon, and s’mores foie gras with toasted marshmallow cream.
* New Delhi, India
If you’re going out on a weeknight …The most renowned restaurant in India, Indian Accent, has recently moved to a new location in the serene Lodhi Hotel. Use this as an excuse to book a table — and to work up an appetite in nearby Lodi Park. The tasting menu is as zany as ever: Think pork spare ribs with sun-dried mango and pickled kohlrabi. Afterward, take a car to the colorful, brick-walled Ek Bar, where bartenders will stir cocktails with fresh fruits and homemade syrups. Our favourite is the City of Nizams, a gin concoction flavored with turmeric.
If it’s the weekend …The Taj Mahal, about as grand a testimony to love as you’ll find in the world, is just two hours away — and when romance is the order of the day, there’s no better place to go. (The monument was commissioned in 1632 by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his favourite wife.) Spend the night at the opulent Oberoi Amarvilas in Agra, which is mere steps away; most of its rooms have stunning views of the historic wonder. Raid the minibar and watch the sun set over the iconic white dome, then head downstairs for dinner at Esphahan. The menu highlights historical Mughal recipes once served to emperors, including slow-cooked kebabs, Mughal curries, and soft tandoori breads.
* Jakarta, Indonesia
If you’re going out on a weekday …Wake up early and take a meditative morning stroll among the mangroves in North Jakarta. If you can get into work a bit late, hire a boat to spot some unique birds and stoke some romance. For dinner, book Henshin, which set the city abuzz when it opened last summer. Located on the top three floors of the Westin Hotel — 69 stories above the city — you can enjoy stunning sunset views while sipping cocktails and dining on authentic Nikkei cuisine, which blends Japanese and Peruvian flavours.
If it’s the weekend … Explore Jakarta from above on a Whitesky Aviation heli-tour. Thrilling 30-minute joy flights fly low and weave among the skyscrapers, revealing sides of the Big Durian you may have never seen. (If you’d rather see nature, island and volcano itineraries are available, too.) After landing, take the adrenaline down a few notches. Feast your eyes on the artistic works and colours presented at the new contemporary Museum Macan, whose current exhibition showcases works by 70 artists, both local and international. Then it’s off to a relaxed meal of traditional Indonesian dishes at Tugu Kuntskring Paleis, set in a historic Dutch building.
* Tel Aviv, Israel
If you’re going out on a weekday …There’s no faster way to flip the switch from work to play than taking a walk on the beach, so head to the Jaffa boardwalk and watch the city light up from a distance. Then visit historic-yet-buzzy Neve Tzedek — home to Tel Aviv’s billionaire’s row — where you’ll find Dallal, a bakery that serves a full menu by night. Sit on the leafy terrace if the weather’s nice, and pick a smattering of Mediterranean dishes to share. (There’s never a bad choice). The kitchen is especially adept at dessert, so save room for the pistachio mille-feuille. Still have energy? Jajo, also in Neve Tzedek, is a wine bar tucked into a stone-walled, historic building that was once Israel’s first winery. Slide up to the bar and order glasses of French Crémant for one, last toast.
If it’s the weekend … Tel Aviv offers no shortage of culinary delights, but less than two hours north, in Acre, a whole other food scene awaits discovery. A day trip is doable, but book a night at the ancient-feeling Efendi Hotel to maximize your time. It’s a stunning preservation of two Ottoman homes, with original arched windows that face the Mediterranean Sea. Then head out on a market tour with chef Uri Jeremias, who runs the famous Uri Buri restaurant nearby and can explain how Arabic, Islamic, and Jewish flavors inform his most famous dishes. Cap it off with homemade cardamom or Halva ice cream at Endomela—then return to privacy with a session at the Efendi’s stunning Turkish hammam. Luckily for you, Jeremias will get to work on your ingredients while you pamper yourself, so dinner will be waiting by the time you’re hungry again.
* Houston, USA
If you’re going out on a weekday … Take a sunset hot air balloon ride with Air Texas Balloon Adventures and you’ll get beautiful overhead views of the plains and the Gulf of Mexico — or charter your own journey by asking the pilot (who has over 40 years of aeronautical experience) to show you his favourite views. Back at sea level, a Champagne toast will await you and the crew. Cap it off with a meal at Beaver’s, the award-winning barbeque spot known for its excellent brisket, hot-fried chicken, and panko-crusted, deep-fried brownie balls.
If it’s the weekend … Have a spa day at the Four Seasons, where a recent multimillion-dollar renovation has provided steam rooms, a nail salon, multiple treatment rooms, a relaxation area, and a couples’ suite, all with state-of-the-art amenities. After a peaceful treatment — our pick is the chakra-balancing massage with eucalyptus oil — lounge on the outdoor pool deck and sip a fresh Ginger-Melon Fizz. Come sundown, you’ll be ready for a different kind of indulgence: a meal of sophisticated Creole comforts at the iconic Brennan’s of Houston, starting with West Indies crab claws and Louisiana oysters from the raw bar and culminating with andouille mac and cheese.
* Santiago, Chile
If you’re going out on a weeknight …Skip out of work a bit early for couples’ massages at the Singular Hotel in buzzy Lastarria. You can book a few hours of pampering or a whole evening affair: The resort’s Honey Lovely Moon package includes an overnight stay, plus dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, chocolates, a bottle of sparkling wine for your room, and late checkout the next day. For a nightcap that’s sure to impress, ask the concierge to book you at Room 09 — one of the hardest bars to get into. It’s on a rooftop above one of Santiago’s top restaurants, 040, and requires a one-day “membership fee” of $17. Need a Plan B? Azotea Matilde, in the bohemian quarter of Bellavista, has great drinks — and views to match.
If it’s the weekend … Take a 2.5-hour drive south, to Vik Vineyard near Santa Cruz. The winery, an architectural marvel built by local designer Smiljan Radic, has an excellent hotel and restaurant. For comparison, travel 30 minutes farther to Vina Montes, which makes some of Chile’s greatest wines. Last year, it partnered with international celebrity chef Francis Mallman to open the Fuegos de Apalta restaurant, which serves beef from specially raised local cattle and fish from the Colchagua coast. The food is memorable on its own, but you won’t forget the restaurant’s dramatic focal point: a three-meter-high fire pit that’s used to roast and smoke a majority of the dishes.
* Melbourne, Australia
If you’re going out on a weeknight … Pack a picnic rug, your favourite snacks, and a nice bottle of wine (we recommend Shiraz) to the outdoor Moonlight Cinema in Melbourne’s beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens; this Wednesday, you’ll catch a screening of Australia’s favourite son, Hugh Jackman, in The Greatest Showman. After that, wander back across the Yarra River, through the Gehry-esque Federation Square, to chef Frank Camorra’s famed Spanish restaurant Movida for fried zucchini flowers stuffed with crab or milk-fed beer tartare on potato paper. Bonus: It’s located in Hosier Lane, known for incredible street murals.
If it’s the weekend …Spend the morning at the National Gallery of Victoria’s triennial exhibition, featuring 100 artists from 32 countries. Stroll or take a tram to St Kilda Beach, get your toes wet, and then wander through the edgy boutiques and the street market on the esplanade. Stop for a bowl of pasta and an aperitif at Cicciolina, followed by dessert at Monarch Cakes, a Melbourne institution. Then walk to the 105-year-old Luna Park, complete with a classic called the Scenic Railway—it’s the world’s oldest continually operating roller coaster. (On Valentine’s Day, everyone will be a winner at the carnival games, and tickets to the park will come with a fairy floss (cotton candy) to share.) If you’re still game, the iconic Stokehouse restaurant is just across the road, and although the dining room has just been renovated, the sea views and market fish are as great as ever.
* London, UK
If you’re going out on a weeknight …Book a bed at Electric Cinema in Notting Hill — the Soho House-owned theater has just a handful of two-person beds and sofas for each showing — from which you can watch one of the season’s Oscar-nominated love stories, The Shape of Water or Phantom Thread. Follow it up with a different kind of spice: London’s Indian food is some of the best in the world, and Trishna is just across Hyde Park, in Marylebone. The dining room is charming and intimate, and the six-course tasting menu features such knockouts as lobster balchao (seasoned with palm vinegar, mace, and red chili) and tandoori pineapple for dessert.
If it’s the weekend … A delightful London weekend experience starts at Mr. Fogg’s Residence, a cute Mayfair bar with eclectic decor and massive cocktail menu. The tipsy tea is best — it involves Earl Grey — or Lapsang souchong-infused cocktails served from teapots, as well as a traditional array of sandwiches and cakes, plus live music and (on Sundays) tricks by the resident magician. Then cross the Thames for a visit with Modigliani’s artful nudes at the Tate Modern, making sure to snap some Instagram-worthy boomerangs on the swings outside. For dinner, head to Elystan Street in Chelsea, where chef Philip Howard (previously of the two-Michelin-star spot Square) serves up his take on pure, seasonal cuisine.
* New York, USA
If you’re going out on a weeknight … Head to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a rare uptown performance by Tony winner Alan Cummings, who will appear for one night in Many Fathoms Deep, a snappy cabaret-style homage (7 p.m., tickets from $75). Then shoot over to La Goulue — a New York institution that’s recently been reborn. The dining room will transport you to Paris, and you won’t be forced into a tired, prix fixe meal; instead order the steak au poivre verte with frites and the iconic, served-at-dinner only chocolate soufflé. Cap it all off at another renowned spot, Bemelman’s Bar at the Carlyle, where the best-selling Passion Royale cocktail is made with passion fruit-infused vodka, lime juice, and a splash of Champagne.
If it’s the weekend …Hire a car for the day. Your first stop is the Cloisters, the castle-like museum in the upper reaches of Manhattan with views of the Hudson River and a magnificent collection of tapestries. From there, head to Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. You can take a winter farm tour or simply settle in at the Grain Café for a seasonal salad and house made charcuterie sandwiches from the James Beard award-winning kitchen. Then it’s down to the Bronx—specifically, to Dominick’s on Arthur Avenue for baked clams, linguine with meatballs, and as much Chianti as your hearts desire.
* Bogota, Columbia
If you’re going out on a weekday …Have the local travel specialists at Galavanta set up a private cooking class with Nicolas Rengifo, chef at of-the-moment Krone Bistro. He’ll take you to Plaza de Mercado del Norte to shop for farm-fresh ingredients, then drive you back to the restaurant for a hands-on demo. You’ll learn to make dishes like fish empanadas and chocolate-avocado panna cotta with Rengifo and his partner Ana Maria—who’ll offer up a soundtrack from their sprawling record collection and serve you home-brewed beer as you chop, stir, and sauté.
If it’s the weekend …Start your day with a molecular coffee tasting, or “coffee baptism,” at the San Alberto coffee shop in the Usaquén neighborhood—the former offers your daily dose of caffeine served up with dry ice or distilled into caviar-like pearls, while the latter feels more like a lesson in wine tasting. Then head to Castanyoles at the Four Seasons Casa Medina, where brunch includes homemade Colombian breads and pastries in a verdant solarium. Between that and dinner at Bistro El Bandido (whose ambiance is ratcheted up by live jazz), check out the cutting-edge Espacio El Dorado art gallery in La Macarena and then jump on the teleférico to Monserrate for sunset views over the entire metropolis.
* Frankfurt, Germany
If you’re going out on a weeknight … Book a table at either Holbein’s Restaurant (next to the famous Städel Museum) or Gusto restaurant, set within the beautiful Villa Kennedy. Both places offer excellent food and easy access to the Main riverfront—perfect for a romantic, post-dinner walk along the water, with postcard views of the city’s skyline.
If it’s the weekend …Build your day around a reservation at Maintower restaurant and lounge — which serves upscale, international dishes from a 53rd-floor space that offers breathtaking views of Germany’s financial capital. Beforehand, take in some natural beauty at nearby Rothschild park—or stop by Italian Opera night at the Old Opera building. Go further upbeat after your meal: by then, you’re likely to find one of the world’s top DJs spinning at the centrally located Gibson Club, where the Champagne drinks flow freely until the early morning hours.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
If you’re going out on a weeknight …The posh thing to do is take high tea a block from the Royal Palace at the Duchess, a Belle Epoque space with soaring ceilings, where Wednesday’s “Valen-tea” includes your pick of Mariage Frères blends, a glass of Champagne, and a full menu of “sweets for your sweet.” Then head to the Concertgebouw, the royal concert hall: The orchestra is scheduled to perform a selection of romantic classics that night, such as Ravel’s Bolero and Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. Nearby, the Conservatorium Hotel is a sumptuous place to spend the night—its signature restaurant, Taiko, has a set Valentine’s Day dinner menu that includes oysters and personalized fortune cookies, but you might be happier with a fancy gin and tonic at the Tunes bar and an indulgent room service dinner. (Bonus points if you choose to enjoy it in your plush bathrobes.)
If it’s the weekend …Take a 30-minute drive outside the city to Muiderslot, a 13th century castle that’s been exquisitely renovated and converted into an art museum; the current exhibition, “Eroticism in the Golden Age,” provides an intimate look at the bedroom secrets of the Dutch during the 17th century. Back in the scenic Jordaan neighborhood along the city’s famed canals, head to the beloved Italian red-sauce joint, Toscanini. The immediate area is perfect for a romantic stroll: Book fiends can stop at Mendo, or you can spice things up at the shop of lingerie designer Marlies Dekkers, a Dutch staple for 25 years. Nightcap it at Tales & Spirits, where you can order the Mo-Jo, a “libido enhancing mix” of Ketel One vodka, Goji and lemon juice, honey syrup, and Bob’s vanilla bitters.
* Taipei, Taiwan
If you’re going out on a weeknight ...Taipei is a city in which you can eat incredibly well for incredibly little, but for a special night, Raw is worth the splurge. Chef Andre Chiang’s dimly lit restaurant has swooping wooden architecture and Instagram-friendly dishes—the eight-course menu includes such refined Taiwanese classics as crispy masala chicken skin. (Call for a last-minute table and hope that somebody’s canceled their coveted two-top.) Follow it up with a drink at Self, which started out as a set for a television series called The Bar and eventually became a real-life watering hole. Order the Amare, made with Bacardi 8, Amaretto, Aperol, Vermouth, and chocolate bitters, and try to guess which of the patrons is angling for a big break in show business.
If it’s the weekend … If there’s one thing Taipei does better than any international peers, it’s hot springs, and one in particular stands out. On the lower slopes of Taipei’s resident, dormant volcano, you’ll find Villa 32, a Relais and Chateaux hotel that was originally designed as a private club. Today, it’s open to the general public, assuming you can reserve one of its five, Japanese-inspired rooms. Soak in your private plunge pool—filled with tension-melting mineral water—and flip through the property’s deep list of vintage wines to find your perfect bottle. (The 1945 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild is the sommelier’s proudest offering.) A trip to the aromatherapy-focused spa is the only other activity you should even bother to consider.
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First Published: Mar 06, 2018 09:20 IST