Moonlight and roses? Nuh-uh, not this month. Here are six ideas that put the old “dinner and a movie” date to shame.
Idea #1: Sky’s the Limit
If you’re a romantic high-flyer, take your inspiration from la belle France. Dazzle your date with a 45-minute helicopter ride from Seletar Airport, with spectacular views of Singapore’s shimmering skyline, Sentosa and offshore islands, then splash out on the French fine-dining restaurant voted Singapore’s Best Dining Experience for 2012 and 2013. Finally, you could win all your money back at the RWS Casino. After all, it was French engineer Paul Cornu in 1907 who designed the world’s first manned rotary aircraft, centuries of French chefs who perfected the world’s most aphrodisiacal cuisine, and French monks who invented the roulette wheel.
Bon appétit at: Joël Robuchon Restaurant
This restaurant has exquisite French fare of the highest order. Menus change daily, but as you’d expect from the guy voted Chef of the Century in 1989, every item on our 14-course degustation menu ($450) is perfection. Highlights include: Le Caviar Impériale, caviar served three ways – “on a shivering cauliflower velouté”, with king crab and fennel and with salmon tartare and shiso sprouts; Le Brocoli, broccoli with foie gras carpaccio and truffle; and La Truffe Noire, a crispy soft-boiled egg with black truffle, Comté cheese mousseline and jamón ibérico de bellota. Bread-lovers could opt for fewer courses so as to have room for the unbelievable bread spread, and the sweet of tooth must save space for the trolley of superb petits fours. A world-class sommelier helps you navigate an amazing wine list of 1,300 labels, and the service is attentive, charming and relaxed. You’ll be a winner even before you hit the casino.
Make it happen:
High Flying Heli-Tour
High Dining at Joël Robuchon Restaurant: Resorts World Sentosa, 8 Sentosa Gateway, 6577 6688
High Rolling at RWS Casino: Singapore residents need to show their NRIC or passport with re-entry permit and pay a $100 day levy
Idea #2: Colonial Crusade
Enter Singapore’s grand colonial past by retracing the footsteps of Sir Raffles himself. Explore the 150-year-old Saint Andrew’s Cathedral, the former convent that is now Chijmes and the architecture of historic Coleman Street before a stop at Raffles Hotel for aperitifs and dinner. Later take a stroll down the Queen Elizabeth Walk (the riverside stretch linking the Asian Civilisations Museum and the Esplanade), just as couples did in colonial times, while trying to imagine the area around Marina Bay being little more than a few white-pillared buildings and rolling fields.
Go back in time at: Raffles Grill
Just as 19th-century Brits didn’t exactly do casual chic, you’ll need to don attire befitting high society to dine at Raffles Grill. Though fine-dining food is trending more casual, Raffles Grill isn’t jumping on the bandwagon. It has everything that one expects of such a place – impeccable service, fine bone china and food that is plated as carefully as it is prepared (see the poached lobster salad – $48).
The scampi ravioli ($38), a single piece of pasta encasing fava beans, mousseron mushrooms, diced vegetables and a tender slice of shrimp, is deeply comforting, while the pan-seared foie gras ($48) comes with a set of surprises: matcha crumbs, carrot leaf sauce and a rau am reduction. The wine pairing adds a pleasant fillip to the dish – not the expected Sauternes but a sweet white wine from France’s Jurançon wine region.
At the risk of hyperbole, the award for one of the best steaks we’ve ever sliced into goes to the prime Omaha beef tenderloin ($78) – a dish as close to perfection as beef can possibly be. It comes with tam ky pepper and a ginger cherry teriyaki sauce, though it needs neither.
Pre-dessert is a rose jelly and raspberry sorbet; the main dessert an apple, slow poached in dried orange, lemon, wild cherries and hibiscus, served with almond kaffir lime crumble and rhubarb ice cream ($18).
Idea #3: Fantastically Frugal
Being with your beloved does not need to involve sitting down for hours or shelling out big bucks. After all, it’s about being together, right?
In the relative cool of February, the great outdoors is looking very attractive as a venue for togetherness, but without too much fuss or pre-planning. All you need is comfy clothes and shoes and some cash in your pocket. You may get hot and sweaty if you set a cracking pace on this 2.5km trail, but you’re done with impressing each other by now, aren’t you?
Start out on the hill atop Marina Barrage (pub.gov.sg/Marina) around 6.30pm for a spectacular view of the city as it lights up at twilight. Hint: bring your own bubbly and cups if you want to toast togetherness. Next, head to Satay by the Bay, a few hundred metres down the river path, for your entrees.
Walk on, following the pathway past Gardens by the Bay and under the ECP. Here, there are choices. Make for the glittering lights of Marina Bay Sands or continue hard right over the Helix Bridge and along the river path to eat dinner at Makansutra, which is right near the Esplanade complex. By now it’s about 8pm and the laser light show at the MBS should be starting; there’s a great view from here.
After you’ve eaten, continue along the river past the Asian Civilisations Museum to catch live music at Timbre and the twinkling lights of Boat Quay.
Save your pennies at: Satay by the Bay and Makansutra
No reservations required, and no fancy dressing is necessary either at these popular spots for local food.
Satay By The Bay is a hawker centre specialising in satay but there are lots of other choices.
Makansutra offers the crème de la crème of Singapore hawker food. Depending on the timing and day of the week, a little patience is sometimes required to snare a table.
Make it Happen:
Gardens By The Bay and Satay By The Bay – both open until 10pm daily
Makansutra at Gluttons Bay – Raffles Avenue, open daily until late
Timbre @ The Arts House (check schedule for gigs) – 1 Old Parliament Lane, #01-04
Idea #4: The Road to Italy
Gay Paree may wear the romance capital crown, but few have passion pegged like the Italians. And we’re not just talking about carnal pleasures – Italy pours raw emotion into its food, cars, culture and everyday conversation. Dedicate a day to your id Italian-style by renting a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, a Ferrari F430 Spider or another icon of the Italian sports car scene and making pit stops for the best all-Italian brunch in town, a Venetian gondola-esque sampan ride at MBS and two hours of Italy’s most star-crossed of lovers, Romeo and Juliet.
Fuel up at: Basilico
Basilico’s Sunday brunch is a lavish spread that is all Italian, all the time; a spread created by not one but four true-blue Italian chefs. Most of the food is straight from Italy, too.
Create your own antipasto platter with cured meats like salame Milano and freshly shaved prosciutto, pestos, salads, and a variety of fresh cheeses including smoked mozzarella, treccia and burrata. (The vast assortment of aged cheeses gets its own room off to the side.) Filling up on lobster, scallops and other seafood-on-ice is a popular way to get value for your money, but anyone who’s ever shopped for San Marzano tomatoes in Singapore will make a beeline for the tomato station. There are homemade pastas, of course, plus foie gras, carved meats and grilled fish. Two you’ll-kick-yourself-if-you-miss-them dishes are the homemade squid ink bread and the focaccia mascarpone – the latter a pizza-like flat sandwich that is the sleeper hit of the entire buffet.
The brunch comes with free-flow wine and G.H. Mumm Brut Champagne, but if you’re in the driver’s seat, substitute with a sugar fix from the desserts. For a take-home treat, grab a bottle of Bottega Pink Prosecco and a few heart-shaped passionfruit macarons from Dolcetto, the Regent’s Italian pastry shop.
Make it happen:
Sports car rental – Motorway Luxe Rentals. You’ll need to be 30 years old and have half a month’s rent to burn
Brunch at Basilico – Regent Singapore,1 Cuscaden Road. Sunday brunch is from noon to 3pm. $148 with alcohol, $92 without. Book at: 6725 3232
Romeo and Juliet – Drama Centre Theatre. Shows are at 3.30pm and 8pm (most days) from 13 to 23 February
Idea #5: Fools in love
If you and your other half don’t take life too seriously and prefer to put romance aside in favour of having a laugh, this relaxed date is for you. Start out at Gallop Stable, one of few joints in Singapore where you can ride a horse without an expensive membership. There are trail rides through the countryside for all levels, and while bouncing around in an oversized hat and tight trousers might not be romantic, it’s pretty funny.
Recover at: Porterhouse Restaurant and Bar
This cool dining spot in Somerset. with a touch of cowboy style, is a great place to chill out over hearty meat dishes. Offering a unique grilling technique, Porterhouse’s menu is a carnivore’s dream.
Start with the delightfully chunky jumbo lump crabmeat cocktail ($22), and the fresh ocean prawns ($20), which have a wicked kick. The wild mushroom soup ($12) is a calming interlude before moving on to the grill. We’re talking serious meat portions here, the only danger that your other half will love his Porterhouse 600g ($78) more than he loves you. Which would be fine if you were developing tender feelings for your Colorado rack of lamb ($48). You’ll need to unbutton your jeans for dessert (sneakily, if you’re attempting to preserve some form of romance), but the chocolate brownie ($15) and New York cheesecake ($15) are so worth it.
If you get to Porterhouse for Happy Hour (4pm to 8pm), you could load up on $5 beer and $7 wine, then roll yourselves down to karaoke-and-live-music spot Actors on Orchard Link for a sing-along. It doesn’t get more romantic than belting out Sonny and Cher at 1am, filled with meat and smelling faintly of horse manure.
Make it happen
Porterhouse Restaurant & Bar – 111/113 Killiney Road, 6732 5113
Gallop Stable – Trail rides from $85 per person, other riding options available. Three locations: 100 Turf Club Road, 61 Pasir Ris Green, and 900 Punggol Road. Call 6690 0900.
Actors The Jam Bar – *Scape Mall, 2 Orchard Link
Idea #6: Get Down and Dirty
Rendezvous on Sentosa before dusk in the mud pool at Spa Botanica for a little pre-treatment treatment for this month’s Spa by Night Valentine package. Then be whisked off for a 60-minute body massage, followed by an evening of doing exactly as you please: no bedtime stories to read, no work emails to reply to, nada. Nab some loungers beside the cascading waterfall (best seat in the spa gardens), order a few of those feel-good cocktails made of pineapple, cucumber, green apple and the like, and clink to evenings off à deux.
Clean up at: The Garden
Detoxed and ready to retox? Tuck into wholesome contemporary cuisine and a bottle of Champagne (Veuve Cliquot or Duval Leroy, if you must know) at The Garden Restaurant next to Spa Botanica. Housed in a gorgeous conservation building, with a big ol’ tree growing right in the middle of it, it’s got the balance between healthy and hearty just right.
The seared scallops with asparagus, truffle and mushroom vinaigrette starter is heavenly, as is the cucumber gazpacho. For mains, tuck into tender braised lamb shoulder served with creamy polenta cake, merlot jus and a dollop of Dijon mustard, and, for dessert, caramel-chocolate gateau with lemon-pear sorbet. Romance tip: If it’s a clear night, ask for an outdoor table and dine alfresco under the stars.
Make it Happen:
Spa Botanica – to book: 6371 1288. The Spa by Night Valentine package includes a four-course set dinner at The Garden restaurant, complimentary use of the spa garden facilities and a 60-minute body massage for two. Available from 13 to 15 February at $556 per couple.
The Garden Restaurant – The Sentosa, a Beaufort Hotel