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9 Out-of-the-Box Valentine's Day Date Ideas

A guide on how to spend quality time together without the stress, the clichés or the extravagance

The day of reckoning is fast approaching. A day in which all hell may break loose, when men’s strength, love and devotion will be put to the test, a day that can make or break the entire year ahead. It’s Valentine’s Day, people.


Love it or hate it, you simply can’t avoid this saccharine holiday. Over the years, Valentine’s has transformed from being just another day for giving cutesy handmade paper heart-shaped cards to the ones you admire, into a daunting, high stakes scenario that puts so much pressure on both men and women alike. You feel the need to gift and receive the most voluminous bouquets of roses, or the most gargantuan of stuffed animals and, of course, to plan the most lavish of dinner dates. Fancy shmancy restaurants get ready to be filled to the brim on this day. Fail to make a reservation days or even weeks in advance and you’re done for.


But this is 2020, and with a new decade must come new mindsets. Celebrating Valentine's Day should be just that: a celebration! Showing someone your love shouldn’t come at a costly dime, nor should it be a cliché. If you and your sweetheart are looking for great places to cozy up in and spend some quality V-Day time together without breaking the bank, we've got these great out-of-the-box ideas for you.



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For the early risers


A Valentine’s Day date doesn’t have to be dinner! On the contrary, if you and your love prefer coffee to wine, or eggs to foie gras, these places are sure to make your morning.



Rockwell Glasshouse by Harlan + Holden




The soft light filtering through this chic and modern space, with its sleek, plush furnishing, indoor trees and greenery makes it a perfect spot for an early morning rendezvous. Order their stellar coffee along with entrées like the Homemade Corned Beef Rice Bowl. They serve up a mean breakfast menu on the weekends, that includes Buckwheat Lemon Pancakes with Blueberries and Ricotta Cream, and French Toast with Country Sausage and Whipped Butter. Since V-Day falls on a Friday this year, you can choose to skip Friday night carmaggedon in favor of taking your special someone to a delightful breakfast — a great way to start the Day of Hearts right. The menu even offers great vegan and vegetarian options for those who want to keep the cals down.





Rockwell Glasshouse by Harlan + Holden, Rockwell Center, Hidalgo Drive, Rockwell, Makati City, (0917) 109-2156




Bungalow Café + Bakery






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If you’re from the south, Bungalow Café + Bakery in Alabang is the perfect spot for a Valentine brunch date. With its high ceilings, wicker chairs and rustic accents, the café will make you want to linger. Peruse the mouthwatering display of baked goods and choose from the array of cakes, donuts (these are so good they’re almost always sold out as soon as they're brought out), loaves and cookies. Try the Eggs Benedict or the Verde Smoothie Bowl, and wash it all down with their fresh pressed juices and vegan smoothies. The coffee here is pretty dang good too.  




Bungalow Café + Bakery, Molito Lifestyle Center, Alabang, Muntinlupa, (02) 282 4546, or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.




Apero





This is one of my go-to places for a surefire satisfying breakfast or brunch. I've been coming here with my family for years. Located along White Plains, Apero provides almost an inconspicuous meeting place so you and your honey can get some much-needed privacy. Everything we’ve tried here has been up to par but our favorites have to be the Porridge Waffles that come with a variety of toppings, from Ricotta to Bacon to Homemade Corned Beef Au Poivre. We love the Duck Fat Pandesal (you read that right) with butter made in-house, and their decadent Morning Buns that taste like the love child of a kouign aman and a sticky bun. The café boasts of their Intelligentsia Coffee, a perfect morning perk-me-up. Need I say more?




Apero, Corinthian Hills, Temple Drive, Quezon City, (02) 532 8064, or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.




For the adventurous type


If you’re looking for unconventional, more exotic flavors for your Valentine tryst, this list is for you. 



Noor





My husband and I started going to this place a few years back, and I still crave  its dishes on a regular basis. Noor is a first-rate modern Mediterranean restaurant in the heart of Forbeswood Bonifacio. I do love dining here during the day as the natural light filters through its glass panel windows so nicely, but in the evenings it is transformed by its soft amber lighting. The restaurant has a small seating capacity, creating an intimate atmosphere. For starters, the Hummus is a must, as is Noor’s Cauliflower. For mains, any of their skewer choices are yummy, and don’t miss out on the Shrimps Provençal Homemade Pasta. The Knafe is an absolute knockout dessert, an amalgamation of shredded phyllo pastry and ricotta drizzled with rosewater syrup and crowned with yogurt ice cream. 





Noor, f133 Forbestown Road, Taguig, 0956 156 3426, or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.




Chino




Not your typical Mexican joint, Chino is more than a place for tacos and burritos. What it does is elevate these dishes to a whole new level — dare I say, V-Day level? The interiors are sleek, minimalist and modern, the perfect foil for their colorful and flavorful food. The Market Fish Ceviche/ Citrus Dayap/ Cashews (yes, the menu is really written this way) is fruity, vibrant and fresh. The Mushroom/ Mizuna/ Burnt Jalapeños is earthy and unctuous with a subtle kick. Not to be missed are the tostadas, ordered per piece. My faves are the Avocado/ Corn Salsa, and the playfully delicious Chicken & Egg.




Chino, Ground Floor, One Bonifacio High, BGC, Taguig, 0917 142 0588, visit Chino's website, or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.




Ikomai





Ikomai has so much versatility that a date here can feel different every time. This gorgeous Japanese restaurant has a lot to offer. The impressive lunch (the Lunch Sets are so filling, delicious and budget-friendly) and dinner menus feature items you won’t find in other Japanese places, like the kushikatsu or deep-fried skewers, and entrées like the Gomoku Kamo Soba, Japanese rice cooked in dashi and served with hot soba, grilled duck and tuna sashimi. Doesn’t that sound amazing? They also take pride in the bar, and their mixologists can mix up a pretty dang good cocktail or nightcap for you. High Tea is served on weekend afternoons, giving the charming ritual a Nihon-kaku spin. To end your meal, check out Tochi Dessert's melt-in-your-mouth cookies and intricately-made pastries. Plenty reason to book a visit, don’t you think?





Ikomai, ACI Group Building, 147 HV. Dela Costa Street, Salcedo Village, Makati, (02) 816 4588, visit Ikomai's website, or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.




Ricksha Streetside Tandoor





Talk about hole in the wall, this cute little space in Kapitolyo is small, but believe me, the flavors and aromas they offer are nothing but. You can’t miss their vibrant storefront and once you enter, you're greeted by whiffs of masala and turmeric, curries and tandoor. Taking your date here does require a bit of fearlessness, but trust me, Ricksha’s cuisine will win anyone over. I love their Gunpowder Egg Dosa, an Indian pancake that’s wrapped almost like a burrito, stuffed with egg and fragrant spices, and served with dipping sauces. Share a Dum Biryani to warm your souls, puncturing the thin layer of bread on top to reveal a steam cloud of goodness, with the basmati rice, meat, raisins and spices. This is making me drool, excuse me for a moment.





Ricksha Streetside Tandoor, 23 East Capitol Drive, Brgy. Kapitolyo, Pasig, 0917 637 2113, or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.



For those who want to skip right to dessert (like me)


I have a huge sweet tooth and deeply empathize with people who have the overwhelming urge to stuff themselves silly with bonbons and candy on Valentine’s. No judgement here, and this is the list for you.



St. Louis





It won’t truly be V-Day without a significant amount of confections, and St. Louis will make sure you have your fill. This café in the heart of Bonifacio High Street is a haven for anything dessert. Their decadent and crave-worthy creations will have you ending your date on a very sweet note. I still remember the day I had Archie’s Cookie Crunch, a tall glass filled to the brim with layers of shortbread crumbs, strawberries, bananas, Nutella and their homemade Cookies and Cream ice cream. The only bad thing about it was the fact that I had to share it (with my husband, and I still feel sour about it). St. Louis will have you and your true love go crazy agonizing about whether to go with the Ferrero Waffle or the Eton Mess. The best thing about Valentine’s Day is giving yourself the freedom to go all out and order them all, then blame Cupid for the extra inches on your waistline later.




St. Louis House of Fine Ice Cream & Dessert, Unit C3-104 High Street Central, Taguig, (02) 625-4121, visit St. Louis's website, or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.



 

Carousel Creamery





Boasting 101 flavors, Carousel Creamery is one of my family’s favorite dessert places. The first thing you’ll see as you enter are the multiple display freezers containing oodles and oodles of ice cream tubs, and the best part is, you can sample whatever flavor you like so you can make an educated choice. With playful flavor names like Dark Side Chocolate, Game of Turons, Sticky Minaj and SWAG, you and your date will have a ball going through each and every flavor. Their Espresso Shakes are also amazing and a must-try if you like a little caffeine kick. I once had a Frostbite — a scoop of ice cream sandwiched between two glazed donuts. Carousel is serious about their desserts, people. 





Carousel Creamery, 8 Missouri Street, Greenhills, San Juan, Manila, 0977 899 1010, visit Carousel Creamery's website, or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.



And there you have it. We hope this list takes the load off your shoulders by helping you decide where to dine this coming Valentine’s Day. The secret to a memorable date is really about taking the time to know what your partner likes and making the effort to make him or her feel extra special. Happy Love Day to all!



Lead photo courtesy of Rockwell Glasshouse by Harlan + Holden, @rickshastreetsidetandoor, @stlouisph, @bungalowcafe,