From food to flowers: How to have a hotel-quality Valentine's Day at home

Experts from Ireland's hospitality industry share recipes, advice and tips for the perfect Valentine's Day at home for two
From food to flowers: How to have a hotel-quality Valentine's Day at home

Get Valentine's Day at home off to a perfect start with breakfast in bed followed by a host of hotel-quality experiences.

Surprise your Valentine with breakfast in bed

The food superstars at Ballynahinch Castle show us how to start the day off perfectly

Put the kettle on and make a pot of Ballynahinch’s own blend tea, specially created for the hotel by local independent family business, Solaris Botanicals Tea. Pour your tea into one of the two 'I’d rather be at Ballynahinch' mugs, and enjoy a bowl of the homemade Ballynahinch granola from your hamper, a staple of the excellent award-winning breakfast buffet at the hotel, followed by a slice or two of toast, thickly buttered and with a layer of splendid Ballynahinch homemade raspberry jam.

The Ballynahinch Breakfast Hamper, including a box of the hotel’s own blend tea, a jar of homemade granola, a pot of Ballynahinch raspberry jam and two 'I’d rather be at Ballynahinch' mugs, is available to order and collect or delivered countrywide and costs €40 plus postage.

Ballynahinch Castle Breakfast Muffins

Makes 12 Muffins   

Breakfast muffins from Ballynahinch
Breakfast muffins from Ballynahinch

  • 300g plain flour 
  • 2 tsp baking powder 
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon 
  • pinch of salt 
  • 4 eggs 
  • 160 ml sunflower oil 
  • 280g caster sugar 
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence 
  • 220g peeled carrots, grated 
  • 200g Bramley or Granny Smith apples, roughly chopped 
  • 100g pecan nuts, roughly chopped 
  • 100g sultanas 
  • 50g flaked coconut   

Topping Mix 

  • 50g unsalted butter 
  • 75g plain flour 
  • 25g light muscovado sugar 
  • 50g rolled oats 
  • 15g sunflower seeds 
  • 25g pumpkin seeds 
  • 15g black sesame seeds 
  • 1 tsp water 
  • 1 tsp sunflower oil 
  • 1 1/2 tbsp honey  

Preheat oven to 170°C.

Line a muffin tray with paper cases.

To make topping:

Mix flour, butter and sugar together in a food processor until it forms a crumbly texture.

Mix in oats, seeds, honey, oil & water and set aside.

To make muffins:

In one bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

In another, large bowl whisk the eggs, oil, sugar, vanilla essence with the grated carrot and apple.

Gently fold in the pecans, sultanas, coconut and then the sifted flour mixture. Do not overmix!

Spoon into paper cases and scatter the topping over each.

Bake for 25 minutes approximately, until a skewer inserted in the centre of the muffin comes out clean.

Remove the muffins from the tins when they are just warm and allow them to cool down before serving.

N.B their flavour will actually improve after a couple of hours.

TIP - The muffin mix can be done one or two days in advance kept in the fridge on a pipping bag ready to go. Same with the topping (that one is better to keep it on a container and spoon over the muffin mix once is poured.)

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, Recess, Connemara,Co. Galway. Tel: + 353 95 31006

Set the scene with The Shelbourne 

Mary O’Reilly, Head Florist at The Shelbourne, Dublin shares her tips for a romantic and intimate tablescape

Mary O’Reilly, Head Florist at The Shelbourne, Dublin
Mary O’Reilly, Head Florist at The Shelbourne, Dublin

Just because we will all be celebrating Valentine's at home this year does not mean it can’t be special. In fact, it can be even more romantic and intimate if we put in the effort. Creating your tablescape is the key.

Traditional reds are always a winner on Valentine’s Day. You can go all out with an abundance of florals and tables dressing or you can create something a little simpler like putting a lush runner of rose petals down the centre of the table with candles all the way through. You can use any candles you have or if you are investing in new holders try small cylinders and place a floating candle in each.

You don't need to go for traditional reds to create a romantic setting. A soft pastel colour scheme is also perfect for a Valentine’s table. I would advise to use baby pinks and pale peach in your table flowers, opt for rose gold or copper candle holders and swap your candles for pale grey to complete the romantic feel You are not limited to a Valentine’s theme. If you put enough thought and effort into the tablescape it will always create a romantic atmosphere. Why not match the table theme to the cuisine. For example, if you are cooking Mexican maybe dress the table with colourful flowers and succulents.

A charming rustic look is easy to do. Take any winter foliage you can find and either lie it down your table or pop it in small jars tied with pink ribbon for a Valentine's nod. Add candles in any mismatched vessels you have to complete the look.

Candles and lighting are always key. Keep the lights low and the candles in abundance, not just on the table but around the dining room. This can completely change the space and you might forget for a moment you are in your own dining room.

The small details can really make your loved one feel you have gone the extra mile. Why not print out the menu, add a spring of greenery to the place setting and tie your cutlery in a velvet bow to really finish off your look.

Traditional red roses
Traditional red roses

If you have received a dozen roses from your Valentine and wish to display them for your dinner, do not feel you need to place the large arrangement in the middle of the table blocking you from gazing into one another's eyes. Take it apart and cut the roses into a few small vases and mix with candles for a much more romantic look.

Roses are always the go-to flower for Valentine’s but don't be stuck to just red. adding in some purple or some pale pink can make the look more modern.

If you aren't a fan of roses choose a loose and wild romantic bouquet with veronica, lisianthus and waxflower and plenty of seasonal greenery.

The Shelbourne has all kinds of gorgeous goodies to impress this Valentine’s from takeaway Afternoon Tea, to the hotel’s signature aroma captured in The Shelbourne Exotic Woods candle, created for the hotel by Cloon Keen, the multi-award-winning fragrance atelier in Galway, to the fabulous flowers in delicate pastel gift bouquets for Mother’s Day or the classic roses for your Valentine from The Florist at The Shelbourne. The Exotic Woods Shelbourne Candle by Cloon Keen is available from the hotel for €35, with classic Valentine’s rose bouquets from €50.

And if you really want to impress someone for a special occasion, a voucher for a luxurious overnight at a future date would be something wonderful to look forward to — an overnight in a Heritage Park View room, with Laurent-Perrier Champagne on arrival, a three-course dinner in the glamorous Saddle Room, a sweet rose petal turndown in your room and lavish breakfast the following day. Valentine’s vouchers are available for €990.

Valentine's Playlist 

Joe Ballance, Vibe Manager at the Hard Rock Hotel Dublin shares some romantic tunes for you to enjoy

Joe Ballance, Vibe Manager at the Hard Rock Hotel Dublin
Joe Ballance, Vibe Manager at the Hard Rock Hotel Dublin


All I Want Is You – U2 

Adore You – Harry Styles 

I'm Ready - MTV Unplugged Version – Bryan Adams 

The Way It Is – Bruce Hornsby, The Range 

(I've Had) The Time Of My Life - From "Dirty Dancing" Soundtrack – Bill Medley, Jennifer Warnes 

You Can't Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want) – Joe Jackson 

Broken Wings – Mr. Mister 

Romeo And Juliet – Dire Straits 

Mr. Brightside – The Killers 

Only the Lonely – Roy Orbison 

Let's Stay Together – Al Green 

What a Fool Believes – The Doobie Brothers 

Ain't No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell 

Crazy In Love (feat. Jay-Z) – Beyoncé, JAY-Z 

Check out the Hard Rock Hotel Dublin's full Valentine's playlist on Spotify here

The perfect meal for Valentine’s Day for two

Sean Smith, The Mill at Cliff at Lyons dishes up a tasty two-course meal for two

Chef Sean Smith from The Mill restaurant at Cliff at Lyons
Chef Sean Smith from The Mill restaurant at Cliff at Lyons

“We all know that food is the way to anyone’s heart but there’s nothing romantic about spending all night in the kitchen stressing over a complicated meal! If you’re cooking for someone special on Valentine’s Day, the two best bits of advice I can give are, keep it simple and preparation is key. To me, fresh fish and seafood from our little country’s coast make the best ingredients at any time of year and these two recipes are sure to impress, they taste delicious, look great but are simple and easy to prepare.” 

The heart of Cliff at Lyons, The Mill Restaurant is a handsome, dramatic room with huge double-height ceilings, a generous open fire and windows that open out to a terrace beside the fast-flowing mill race and waterfall. The menus, simple and elegant, with some classics, and a little something different along with Sean’s lightness of hand in cooking and seasoning and his sophisticated palate makes for a relaxed and luxurious style of dining in this airy and spacious room.

The picturesque Cliff at Lyons is set in the leafy, lush countryside of Kildare, just 30 minutes from Dublin city centre. The historical grounds and beautiful rose-clad buildings at Cliff at Lyons make it the ideal location for a spring or summer get-away. Enjoy the longer evenings and warmer weather as you stroll through the beautiful lawned gardens, paddleboard along the Grand Canal, taking in the green backdrop and the idyllic rural setting.

Sean’s Poached Langoustine Cocktail 

2 persons 

Sean’s Poached Langoustine Cocktail
Sean’s Poached Langoustine Cocktail


  • 500g Langoustine or Dublin Bay Prawns 
  • 1.5 heads of Little Gem lettuce, leaves washed & separated 
  • 1 tbsp of French dressing 
  • 1 tbsp of mustard cress 
  • Pinch of Cayenne Pepper 
  • 1 lemon 


Bring a large pot of water to the boil and season with salt The water should taste like the sea Toss the Langoustine/Prawns into the boiling water Let the water return to the boil Langoustine will take 3-4 minutes/Dublin Bay Prawns take less time – 2/3 minutes depending on size. They turn pink when just cooked through.

De-shell/peel the Langoustine/Prawns 

Cocktail Sauce:


  • 150ml mayonnaise 
  • 2 dashes of Tabasco Sauce 
  • 1/2 tsp of Worcestershire sauce 
  • 25ml Brandy 
  • Dash of Tomato Ketchup 
  • Salt & Black Pepper
  • ½ tsp Dijon mustard 
  • ½ lemon 


Mix all of the ingredients well together to form a creamy sauce.

To Serve:

Toss Gem leaves with French dressing.

Layer the dressed leaves in the bottom of cocktail glasses.

Lay the Langoustine or prawns over the top.

Spoon the Cocktail Sauce over.

Scatter with mustard cress, a pinch of cayenne pepper and serve with a wedge of lemon and Guinness bread.

Sea Trout with Peas á la Francaise 

Sea Trout with Peas á la Francaise
Sea Trout with Peas á la Francaise


  • 2 trout fillets approximately 160g per person 
  • 200g fresh or frozen peas 
  • Vegetable or chicken stock 
  • 10 pearl onions, peeled 
  • ¾ head baby gem, leaves separated 
  • 70g bacon lardons 
  • Knob of butter 
  • Fresh thyme 
  • Salt & Pepper 
  • Lemon juice 
  • Chopped chives 


Blanch the onions in 250ml vegetable or chicken stock, butter, thyme, salt and pepper, by simmering for five minutes until cooked. Drain and place to the side.

Fry the bacon lardons for five minutes until crispy and drain on kitchen paper 

Blanch the peas by bringing the peas to a boiling point in water and Immediately drain and run under cold water.

Heat some oil in a large heavy frying pan, sprinkle salt on the fish and place skin side down on the pan. Slowly cook on a medium heat. Trout tastes best when medium in the middle which should take approximately 3 minutes but cook to your taste. When almost cooked, flip onto flesh side for 30 seconds.

While the trout is cooking, bring 100ml of chicken or vegetable stock to a gentle boil. Place onions, bacon and peas into the pan and continue to boil for one minute until it is reduced to an emulsion. Add salt & pepper and pour onto a plate. Serve the fish on top with a squeeze of lemon juice and chopped chives.

The romantic cocktail 

Head mixologist at Adare Manor, Ariel Sanecki mixes up a love potion

Love Is In The Air


  • 40ml Star of Bombay Gin 
  • 25ml Lychee Liqueur 
  • 20ml Fresh Lemon Juice 
  • 20ml Rose and Raspberry Cordial 
  • 5cl Wonderfoam (or whipped egg whites) 


Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Shake with ice for 15 seconds. Pour into a chilled Champagne Coupe glass. Garnish with printed sugar paper or a rose petal.

Perfect wine suggestions for a romantic meal for two 

Philip Dunne, head sommelier for The Doyle Collection shares his expert wine selections, many of which can be tasted at The River Club, Cork. 

Tipples to toast your relationship with.
Tipples to toast your relationship with.

Lanson Champagne Organic Green Label – Available in O’Briens Wine Stores Nationwide - €73.79 

‘Comprised mostly of Pinot Noir, this organic and vegan-friendly Champagne from the house of Lanson has mouth-watering minerality, abundant freshness, and energetic acidity. Aging for a total of 4 years before it is released, this Champagne is the perfect decadent splurge that will impress the object of your affection on Valentine’s Day!

Chateau Musar - Available in Independent wine shops nationwide €35-€40 

Perhaps the best value-for-money red wine available in Ireland today, tomorrow and well into the future – Chateau Musar from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon (vegan-friendly and organic) is an extraordinarily sublime red wine that sits with the most elite wines on a global stage. A perfect accompaniment to a steak dinner or a cheese & charcuterie board on Valentine’s day, this is a wine that you and your loved one can cherish - and I’m sure will buy again and again.

Le Petit Béret Sauvignon Blanc Alcohol-Free – Available in O’Briens Wine Shops Nationwide - €6 

Now more than ever, we are spoiled for choice on alcohol-free wine and spirit alternatives throughout Ireland. Where once quality was questionable, wines like the organic and vegan-friendly Le Petit Beret 0.0 Sauvignon Blanc from France display true quality and finesse. Clean and fresh, with bundles of lemon and apple flavours make this alcohol-free wine an attractive choice for Valentine’s Day.

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