The way to a woman’s heart…

…is of course as the saying goes, through her stomach.  Or at least it is if you’re borderline obsessed with food like me.  Luckily, my boyfriend knows this and on February 14th this year he treated me to a slap-up meal.

Valentine’s Day is that cliché of dates which is a bit like Marmite – you either love it or hate it.  Previous years have passed me by as the latter but this time it was different.  I was given only the brief tantalizing details: Five courses including a Champagne cocktail to be enjoyed at a mystery location.  The only thing I had to do was be ready for the taxi to pick me up at 6:15pm for a pre-dinner drink before heading to the restaurant.  What’s not to love about that?

It was all very cloak and dagger which just added to the fun for me.  When we reached the secret venue – Oliva Restaurant in Topsham – I knew it was going to be good. But it wasn’t until we were seated, sipping our cocktails and reading the menu that I realised quite how good.

The mouth-watering menu at Oliva Restaurant

The mouth-watering menu at Oliva Restaurant

Our appetiser was a green olive shot with black olive biscuit and it certainly did its job.  Although it felt slightly strange to be drinking something without a ridiculously high alcohol content out of a shot glass, this went down a treat and teased our taste buds enough to want more.  More came in the form of confit organic salmon with cucumber.  I am a lover of salmon anyway so this perfectly cooked fish course was always going to win me over, but what I was most surprised about was the accompaniment.  Who knew cucumber could be so interesting?  The edge of the plate was framed by alternate rounds of pickled and sorbet cucumber with pretty little pea shoots on dots of pea puree.  These colourful and zesty additions complimented the salmon so well that I struggled to believe the next course could possibly beat it for taste.

I was wrong.  The crowning glory to this exquisite meal was fillet steak served with oyster ravioli and smoked pomme puree.  Our medium steaks had a wonderfully chargrilled flavour and my knife sank through the meat like butter.  Not being a huge fan of oysters served the traditional way, the ravioli was a welcome treat and I found the texture and taste very enjoyable.  We were both still dribbling at the thought of this dish after we’d finished it, although I was certainly reaching full capacity by this point (good job I’d worn trousers with room for expansion).

These days my tooth is much more savoury than sweet, but on this indulgent occasion it seemed only right to finish with a luxurious dessert.  If I do ever opt for pudding when eating out, it simply has to be chocolate.  I mean, if it’s supposed to be a pleasure, what’s the point in bothering with anything else?  Go straight for the serotonin hit I say.  So for me, the warm chocolate fondant which oozed with a gooey sweet chocolate sauce was the perfect end to a truly special meal.

As we left the restaurant, pleasantly full and slightly tipsy, I realised that my romantic faith had been restored in a day which can sometimes be spoiled by commercialism.  Well done Oliva Restaurant and thank you to St Valentine.  Oh, and of course, my lovely boyfriend.

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