What do you get when you fall in love? Well, aside from cooties, and less space to starfish in bed, you also get a cast iron date for Valentine’s day. The lack of which I can’t say has ever caused me too much in the way of hair-tearing trauma. Until this year, when Shells Cafe (MY Shells Cafe, MINE) decided to throw a special Valentines Supper-club with all the romance and aphrodisiacs and bubbles and frills, but in a classy, slightly kitsch way which promises to make you feel all growed-up and superior to the average couple on the street opting for their boring steak and wine dinner, just to tick the box.
I had to find a date, fast, because I wanted a piece of the Shells Valentine’s pie and I wanted to eat it too. Luckily, I’m a lady of wiley ways so I managed to convince a charming, interesting and articulate man to come along and share in the delights of Jane and Myles’ romantic rendezvous with me.
And it was wonderful, from start to finish. Everything about this V-Day (which in my jaded mind, always mutates into D-Day) experience is different. From the moment you enter, no matter how set on gazing intently into your other half’s eyes you are, you find yourself drawn into a welcoming chat with owners, staff and several other customers. Friendly (albeit vaguely embarrassed to be caught being smooshy) faces abound. Wine bottles pop. Seats are taken, two by two, and the curse of the average dining room floor on D-Day/V-Day, the very, VERY low hum of people trying to make awkward lovey-dovey small-talk whilst not being overheard by their (very close) neighbours, threatens to engulf the room.
Except it doesn’t get a chance, because Myles takes to the floor and introduces the menu for the evening with enough innuendo to crack even the most pious pout, and soon everybody is laughing at the ridiculousness of the whole idea of this Hallmark holiday, while still wholeheartedly buying in to the fine food and wine part of it all…
And a long string of pasta lands on the table, which we are instructed firmly to share. It’s title? “Can I Shift Ya? Lady & The Tramp Romantic Spaghetti Kiss”.
There is something more intrinsically romantic in a self-aware event like this, which pokes fun at itself in the most witty way, while catering utterly to the secret conspirator in all of us who still waits for a mystery card to drop on the mat on Valentines morning, than in a bouquet of roses, white linen and silverware.
There is something intrinsically more loving to be found sitting amidst a clamour of noisy, happy chatter, facilitated by a highly skilled duo of foodie-lovers, and giving your partner/date your full attention, than sitting to attention in a stiff, faux-romantic setting begotten of a Milk Tray advert, with awkward mirror-image couples echoing eternally across the vast floor of a greedy restaurateur.
“Hot N Spicy Noodle Soup”, “Prawn Stars”, “Kiss Me On The Beef Cheek”, “Honey I’m Home”. Nothing I ate tonight lacked imagination, from creation to naming to plate. Nothing I talked about tonight with my charming date was lacking in relaxed, entertaining camaraderie, which says a lot for the ambiance and unobtrusive service.
And nothing about tonight turned me off the idea of falling in love. Which is saying a lot, given my aversion to the day that’s in it.
Thanks Jane and Miles. Shells is a class act, and you two are directors divine.