Dining in for £20

(by peter & susie)

OK, so we know there’s only one day left before Valentine’s Day.

We’re also aware that some of you have absolutely no interest in the romantic hullabaloo associated with the 14th of February.

Either way, keep reading, because this blog by no means applies exclusively to the loved-up, the early celebrators or the simply well organised.

This weekend, in the name of research, we popped into M&S on the recommendation of a friend to check out their Valentine’s-related ‘Dine In for £20’ offer. (You can see more information on their website here.)

This offer only runs until Monday 14th Feb but, in our view, it’s well worth buying into.

Why? Because, for the princely sum of £20, you get a starter, main meal, side dish, pudding, bottle of wine and a box of chocolates. And of course this isn’t just any old food and drink… (Other retailers are doing similar things but with food and wine that isn’t as good in our opinion.)

We went for the Coquilles St Jacques (delicious, and no scrimping on the shellfish) and a beautifully tender rack of lamb with pesto and pine nut crust. Pudding was a succulent strawberry and champagne soufflé.

We couldn’t manage the box of chocolates.

On the wine front, we’d probably have chosen the consistently versatile Secano Estate Pinot Noir, which is included in the offer, but they’d run out in the shop we went to (as ever, the offer is ‘subject to availability’ – perhaps its only failing).

Instead we opted for the Petit Chablis 2009. This was pretty classic stuff, appley and creamy-textured – a little bit light and lacking complexity but, at this price, you wouldn’t argue. We then dug out a very pleasant Chianti Classico 2007 to enjoy with the lamb.

We love a good dinner at home, and this was just that. The added bonus was the lack of washing up at the end of the night.

In, the post-credit-crunch era, dining in is increasingly the new dining out. Retailers are taking ever more of our weekly spend as the British public look to economise by avoiding steep mark-ups (most notably on restaurant wine lists) and instead dine in style in the comfort of their own home.

Of course, it’s not all good news as the resultant pressure on many pubs and restaurants means many are being forced to close, meaning a loss of diversity and choice for those who do want to eat out.

But, as anyone who’s tried securing a table at a top-quality restaurant recently will tell you, the best places are still thriving despite all these challenges.

As ever, those who offer good value for money and a delicious, unique experience should prosper whatever the prevailing economic conditions.

We’ll raise a glass to that.

(As a brief post-script, our free newsletter has just gone out with our top wine recommendations for February, including suggestions for Valentine’s. If anyone would like a copy, please email us by clicking here.)