Drink, nerves, expense. . . how romantic
From ordering dessert wines with steak to full-blown entrapment, Niamh Horan asked some top restaurateurs to share their funniest and most embarrassing stories from the most romantic night of the year
Published 16/02/2014 | 02:30
LOVE, pressure, bills and alcohol – all squeezed into one night of passion. What could possibly go wrong?
Everything, according to Dublin's high-profile restaurateurs.
From questionable date attire to full-blown entrapment, they've seen it all and can offer some sage advice to avoid the pitfalls, at least for this time next year.
Far from enamoured couples staring blissfully into each others eyes, the gregarious Richard Corrigan says Valentine's diners often spend more time sharpening their steak knives than whispering sweet nothings.
"It is the most dangerous night of the year," he told the Sunday Independent.
"I have seen more break-ups in my restaurants over the years on Valentine's night than any other night of the year. I have seen more rows and tears. It can be a disaster for some couples.
"I remember one particular incident about three years ago. A husband and wife were having a heated discussion about his dalliances. He was explaining how they happened and where things went wrong and every so often she would fidget at something by her side.
"When she got up to go to the bathroom the sommelier noticed a recording device and realised she had been taping their entire conversation.
"We had a chat about it and of course we had to do the honourable thing and tell the husband.
"It can be an absolute car crash at times," says the owner of Bentley's and Corrigan's Mayfair.
"I think more break-ups happen on that night because it brings a focus on a relationship – whether it is going well or whether they are happy or not.
"It's also that heady mix of expectations and alcohol and the fact that the guy is getting creamed as a customer on flowers, chocolates and dinner. It's no longer a night, it has become a whole weekend.
He's usually eating beans on toast for the rest of the month."
Gill Ronan, owner of Town Bar and Grill on Dublin's Kildare Street, said she likes to keep it traditional by handing "chocolates to the ladies and the bills to the men".
She has also had to step in on some awkward situations.
"We once had to take care of the young lady whose boyfriend was running 30 minutes late while the restaurant was packed with loved-up couples around her. But it's all part of the plan to make sure the night runs smoothly. If helping a poor guy out so he'll avoid an earful is part of that, then we're happy to help.
"She was in great form by the time he arrived. If we hadn't noticed, you can imagine how differently it would have ended.
"On another occasion, a man tried to order a dessert wine for his date and the waiter kept trying to politely put him off it, but he wasn't having any of it. We could see the lady was trying her best to enjoy it but it wasn't going down well. Eventually we had to give him another wine, complimentary, to save his blushes."
She has also seen the odd couple who spend most of their time updating their social media pages on how romantic their evening is going, rather than actually engaging in each other's company.
"It's a new phenomenon. It works if they're both doing it – it just gives them something else to talk about."
Harry Crosbie, whose wife Rita owns the H Bar on Grand Canal Square, had a romantic gesture for their diners this week before the storms scuppered his plans.
"We have a beautiful big gondola from Venice in our yard and we had planned to take it out on the lake so one of the staff could propose to his girlfriend in it. It was all going to plan until the storm set in.
"Still, I'm all for romance and love, so if anyone else wants to take it on the water we will set the scene and treat them to a lovely dinner and champagne at the restaurant afterwards! Just let us know and we will arrange it."
But it's his wife Rita who saves the biggest laugh of all for the time she spotted a gentleman diner dressed in a T-shirt that would test even the most patient woman's nerves on the most romantic night of the year.
It read: "Just roll me in chocolate and feed me to the lesbians."
Some customers just want to have their cake and eat it too.