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8 Feb 2018
I'm not a huge fan of all the kerfuffle that comes with Valentine's Day. However, what I am a huge, HUGE fan of is finding an excuse to get way too dressed up and go out for dinner. Whether you're making your own special occasions for this or relying on good old February 14th as a fallback, woo your honey or just treat your mum/sister/best mate/flatmate to a date night with a few fave local spots for wining and dining:
Tucked away down a side street in Newtown, Cicio Cacio is one of those 'worst kept secrets' spots that everyone thinks they were the first to discover. This place is ultra romantic in its rustic, funny charm – step inside and you feel like you're in an Austrian ski lodge mixed with an Italian osteria. The staff are all Italian AF, they scrawl the menu on your paper tablecloth, the coupes of prosecco are incredibly cheap and the food so, so yum. From the refined pasta and risottos to the rustic meats made for sharing, you will love every morsel of this meal.
A cosy wee cottage in Thorndon is home to one of Wellington's most exciting dining experiences. If you're one of those 'I won't order anything at a restaurant that I can make at home' people, Hillside's food is right up your alley. The nighttime menu is mysterious in its brevity, listing only a handful of ingredients with little information about preparation or presentation – an example of a main course is 'cauliflower, herbs, almond'.
Choose from three or four courses, add wine matches or go non-alcoholic, which I strongly recommend for the interesting house-made sodas, kombuchas and kefirs. Everything you eat at Hillside is unusual and eye-opening, and the intimacy of the restaurant makes for a lovely evening out with someone you love.
Combining two of my great loves - drinking and books - The Library provides an excellent escape from the madness of Courtenay Place at night. Hidden up an unremarkable staircase, this bar's plush velvet booth seats, dim lighting and literature-lined walls scream romance. Order a cheeseboard and some cocktails and see where the night takes you.
Logan Brown has been around since 1996, and over these 22 years, it's gained a reputation as a super baller spot for the fanciest of dinners. However, Logan Brown is not prohibitively expensive for a fine dining restaurant that's this good, and every dollar is worth it. On Saturday evenings, you can opt for a five or seven course degustation, which generally includes the famous paua ravioli.
The atmosphere in the old bank vault makes it feel like a very special occasion indeed. If you have a particularly nice suit or dress you've been waiting for the right time to break out, this could be it.
Oh Shepherd, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. From the raucous dinner with my flatmates to reminding my Christchurch-dwelling parents exactly why we call Wellington the 'culinary capital', Shepherd ticks the box. For a fancy evening out, this spot strikes the perfect balance between posh (the food is flawless and the staff know their shit) and accessible (it's fun as hell and there's taxidermied animals everywhere). Order some natural wine and oysters – if that's not romance, I don't know what is.