Valentine’s Day can be make-or-break stuff. Book yourselves into the wrong kind of hotel on 14 February and you could end up in the doghouse. Reserve a restaurant table next to the loos and the whiff of suspicion that you were disorganised will taint your candlelit tryst. Here in the first of a romantic two-parter, Seasonal Cities brings you five amorous ideas from our winter guides to Barcelona, Istanbul, London, Moscow and New York. And the really good news? Listing the best hotel rooms and tables in restaurants comes as standard with our reviews. You can thank us with flowers another time.
BARCELONA – the Mercer hotel
For a little hotel the Mercer punches above its weight. Revamped by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, it still retains chunks of Roman Wall and historic details like the pillars in the orange tree courtyard. The lively tapas bar has garnered a following for bistro-style lunches and there is a more formal fine dining restaurant. By contrast, the bedrooms are all sleek, Scandinavian-inspired minimalism, but it works. Favourite room: deluxe rooms with sturdy stone walls, thick wood beams and deep designer tubs are a no-brainer for romantic winter getaways. www.mercerbarcelona.com. ££.
ISTANBUL – the Georges hotel (pictured)
A faultless presentation of contemporary Turkish cuisine, hospitality and style. Since 2012 the Parisian/Istanbullu duo behind Georges have pampered their 40 guests with everything from L’Occitane products to Anatolian shoeshines. For guestrooms read herringbone parquet and walk-in glass cube showers, plus a Poirot-meets-Wallpaper décor. Le Fumoir restaurant pairs Franco-Turkish delights from chef Clarisse Özden. Work off those calories with rooftop yoga. Favourite room: trade down from the ritzy terrace suite to the ample deluxe sea view doubles. Expect 30 square metres of Parisian Style and 10 square metres of Bosphorus balcony. www.georges.com. ££.
LONDON – Hibiscus restaurant
Valentine’s Day can be disappointing for gourmands, unless you go all out and book a table somewhere truly top-notch. Hibiscus is a gastronomic destination where standards are sky-high every day of the year (chef-patron Claude Bosi is hands-on) and service makes you feel like a million dollars. Bosi’s six-course Valentine’s Day tasting menu will feature his trademark creative flavour pairings and luxury ingredients; wines are biodynamic and/or natural. Favourite table: number 11 is the most romantic, like a mini booth. www.hibiscusrestaurant.co.uk. £££.
MOSCOW – GUM ice skating rink
Ice skating right on Red Square, opposite Lenin’s Mausoleum, in front of Soviet Russia’s once notorious Generalniy Universalny Magazin – does winter get more surreal? Here it does, with late-night sessions for the romantically minded, who naturally warm up afterwards at nearby hostelries Propaganda or The Most. Skate hire is available – take about £30 for a deposit. Until 10 March. http://gum.ru/projects/rink/. Prices vary.
NEW YORK – Black Mountain Winehouse
As the name suggests, the emphasis here is on the grape. There’s also a fireplace, sexy sepia low-level lighting, candles and antique knick-knacks. Food includes cheese, charcuterie, mac ‘n’ cheese with seasonal truffle and fondue on Tuesday nights. The whole enterprise is romantic and moreish. Come for a glass of something from California and hunker down for the evening. There’s also a great list of local ales. Favourite drink: the bright, easy drinking, medium-bodied Nebbiolo from Lombardia. www.blackmountainwinehouse.com. £.