With a growing number of celebrity chefs setting up home in the county, Dorset is making an increasingly significant mark on the culinary map.
Famed for fantastic produce including Portland oysters, the area has attracted such names as Mark Hix, Masterchef winner Mat Follas and TV chef Lesley Waters in recent years.
And with a wealth of award-winning restaurants already dotted all over the county, the only problem you face this Valentine’s Day is which one to choose.
From Michelin-starred fine-dining to beachfront cafes and country pubs, you will find something to fit every taste and pocket.
Jessica Thornton, tourism marketing officer at West Dorset District Council, said: “Dorset is the perfect destination for a Valentine’s break away. Couples can enjoy a candlelit dinner by the coast watching the sun set over our spectacular Jurassic Coastline or choose a intimate rural gastro pub in the heart of the Dorset countryside, surrounded by rolling hills and trickling streams.
“For a real indulgence, treat your partner to dinner at one of our restaurants owned by a celebrity or book a whole Valentine’s package at one of our luxury spa hotels.”
And it’s not just the food that will get hearts racing during a romantic break in Dorset. From a walk along a windswept beach to a day spent pottering around one of the county’s idyllic towns there is plenty to do.
Jessica said: “Dorset offers an array of possibilities to woo that special someone. Take your partner on a romantic woodland walk by Thomas Hardy’s Cottage at Puddletown, or crash though the waves on horseback along Studland Beach.
"Charter a boat along the winding river at Wareham or take your love to new heights on a champagne balloon ride.”
So to give you a helping hand in making sure love is in the air this February 14, here is our guide to 10 of the best Valentine’s restaurants in Dorset.
1) Summer Lodge Country House Hotel. Located in the heart of the Dorset countryside, this lavishly decorated boutique country house hotel and spa offers an idyllic location for a luxurious Valentine’s break.
And with its award-winning food and a wine list ranked alongside the top establishments in the world, the restaurant at Summer Lodge has become a destination in its own rite.
For February 14, chef Steven Titman has created a spectacular eight course menu guaranteed to send hearts and tastebuds aflutter.
From the starter of ballottine of foie gras with hazelnut puree, ‘ice cider’ and brioche, through to the main fish dish of local turbot with cucumber, crème fraîche and Osetra caviar, this is food every bit as opulent as its surroundings.
Summer Lodge, Summer Lodge Country House Hotel, Evershot, DT2 0JR, 01935 482000.
Style: Modern French.
Food Served: 12pm-1.45pm and 7pm-9.30pm daily.
Valentine’s Day: Eight-course tasting menu £78 per person.
Try: Medallion of English beef with celeriac puree, fondant potato, baby bok choi and winter truffle.
2) The Langton Arms. Blending fine-dining and the best of the British country pub, the Langton Arms offers a charming and characterful Valentine’s experience.
With starters to share and a passion for local produce running throughout, the restaurant has cooked up a menu designed to bring people together.
For carnivores there are entrees like chicken liver and fois gras pate and a venison and wild boar Scotch egg, while vegetarians are also catered for with a mouthwatering meze platter.
Mains include a range of dishes sourced straight from both the sea and the pasture including a seafood medlee with black bean linguine and a rack of local lamb.
The Langton Arms, Tarrant Monkton, Blandford Forum, DT11 8RX, 01258 830225.
Style: Traditional British.
Food Served: All day.
Valentine’s Day: Special Valentine’s menu, starters from £7.95/£8.95 to share, mains from £12.95.
Try: Breast of pheasant, stuffed with leeks and thyme, served with a Madeira sauce.
3) The Riverside Restaurant. It may not offer the picture perfect views of some of Dorset’s other fish restaurants but if fantastic seafood floats your boat, this is well worth a Valentine’s visit.
Kicking off with canapés and cocktails the menu boasts a treasure chest of locally-caught oceanic delights from Portland oysters to Lyme Bay lemon sole.
And with a sharing plate of puddings, petit fours and a ‘gift for the lady’ to follow, the Riverside Restaurant is really pushing the boat out this Valentine’s Day.
The Riverside Restaurant, West Bay, Bridport, DT6 4EZ, 01308 422011.
Food Served: Seasonal, ring to check, but usually 12pm-2.15pm and 6.30pm-9pm.
Valentine’s Day: Three course menu, canapés and Valentine’s cocktail or Kir Royale, £39.95 per person. Available Feb 11-14.
Try: Riverside Seafood Salad - local lobster, prawns, crab, langoustine and mussels with homemade mayonnaise.
4) Les Bouviers. With a deserved reputation as one of Dorset’s top fine dining destinations, Les Bouviers is pulling out all the stops for Valentine’s Day.
The restaurant with rooms is offering a five course menu guaranteed to send pulses racing as well as romantic overnight breaks that include champagne and chocolate dipped strawberries.
But whether you are there for a dinner date or a weekend away you won’t be disappointed.
From the starter of tomato soup with warm poached oyster, to a dessert menu that includes a duo of pears poached in red and white wine this is food engineered to ensure love is in the air.
Les Bouviers, Arrowsmith Road Wimborne, Poole, BH21 3BD, 01202 889555.
Style: Modern French.
Food Served: Lunch, 12pm-2pm daily and dinner 7.30pm-9pm, Monday to Saturday.
Valentine’s Day: Five course menu £55 per person (Feb 14 evening) or £29.95/£37.50 (Feb 13 evening and Feb 14 lunch).
Try: Fillet of wild Poole sea bass with roasted carrot tatin enriched with vegetable nagé infusion.
5) The New Inn. Housed inside an idyllic 17th Century thatched village inn surrounded by the Dorset countryside, the New Inn offers a traditional yet exciting dining experience.
Using local ingredients, including vegetables and herbs from the pub's own garden, chef George Marsh has cooked up a Valentine’s menu guaranteed to impress the most discerning date.
It includes an array of seafood delicacies like oysters or salmon three ways as well as meaty alternatives like loin of lamb or sirloin steak. And with a selection of homemade desserts to finish, this is taste of Dorset you won’t forget in a hurry.
The New Inn, Stoke Abbott, Beaminster, DT8 3JW, 01308 868333.
Style: Modern British.
Food Served: Lunch: Tuesday to Saturday 12pm-2pm and Sunday 12pm-2.30pm. Dinner: Tuesday to Thursday 7pm-9pm and Friday-Saturday 6.30pm-9pm.
Valentine’s Day: Three course menu £29.95 per person.
Try: Roast loin of Dorset lamb stuffed with black pudding and Parma ham, with a rich red wine and rosemary jus.
6) The Green. For a deliciously indulgent Valentine’s menu guaranteed to raise the romance levels look no further than The Green.
With a menu designed for sharing and a wide range of dishes to get to grips with, even the hardest of hearts will get caught up in the February 14 fervour.
The starting plate features five dishes ranging from the vibrant tuna carpaccio with avocado, chilli and pickled ginger, to the luxurious goats cheese crostini with pickled plum and pesto.
The mains menu may have you scratching your head over whether to choose gurnard, beef or duck but the dessert selection is a much simpler affair.
Instead of opting for just one pudding you can work your way through all five. The sharing platter includes something for every palate including dark chocolate and hazelnut praline mousse and a stem ginger brulee.
The Green, 3 The Green, Sherborne, DT9 3HY, 01935 813821.
Style: Modern British.
Food Served: Tuesday to Saturday, 12pm-2pm and 6.30pm-9pm.
Valentine’s Day: Three course menu and a glass of champagne £100 for two.
Try: Pink roasted breast of Devon duck with blood oranges, redcurrants, dauphinoise potatoes, broccoli and salsify.
7) Crab House Cafe. Situated in a breathtaking part of Dorset overlooking Chesil Beach, the Crab House Cafe is a seafood lover’s paradise.
With its own Portland Oyster beds just a stone’s throw away from the restaurant the journey from sea to plate could not be quicker, guaranteeing the freshest oysters available anywhere.
Served in a range of styles, they are only rivalled by the crab which is also caught locally. Available whole or in half they are freshly boiled and stir fried in garlic chilli and herbs before being served on a wooden boards with a bib and various crab-cracking implements.
If you and your partner share a passion for seafood you are in for a meal to remember.
Crab House Cafe, Ferrymans Way, Portland Road, Wyke Regis, Weymouth, DT4 9YU, 01305 788 867.
Food Served: Lunch: Wednesday and Thursday 12pm-2pm, Friday and Saturday 12pm-2.30pm and Sunday 12pm-3pm. Dinner: Wednesday and Thursday 6pm-8pm, Friday 6pm-8.30pm and Saturday 6pm-9pm.
Valentine’s Day: Usual menu, mains from £14.95.
Try: Oysters Italiano with pesto and parmesan.
8) The George Inn. With its wooden beams and log fires the George Inn provides the perfect atmosphere for a relaxed and fuss-free Valentine’s evening.
Whether in a cosy corner of the bar or in the restaurant, you are guaranteed a warm welcome and some of the best seasonal food anywhere in Dorset.
The Valentine’s menu features a mix of classic British crowd-pleasers and more modern cuisine from beef Wellington to local sea bass with buttered samphire and cockles.
There are also a delectable range of deserts including Bailey’s crème brulee with vanilla shortbread and Bakewell tart with brandy and Morello cherries.
The George Inn, Main Street, Chideock, DT6 6JD, 01297 489419.
Style: Modern British.
Food Served: Daily, 12pm-2.30pm and 6pm-9.30pm.
Valentine’s Day: Three course menu with coffee and petit fours £24.95 per person, three courses with coffee and petit fours £19.95.
Try: Beef Wellington with shallot and port sauce.
9) Sienna Restaurant. Small but perfectly formed Sienna is one of the jewels in Dorset’s culinary crown.
Boasting a coveted Michelin star among its numerous awards this Dorchester restaurant leads the way when it comes to inventive, beautifully-presented dishes featuring the very best of the county’s produce.
Although there isn’t a special menu for February 14, a visit here is a special enough on its own and a sure fire way to impress your Valentine.
Dishes to set the sparks flying include, roast loin of Dorset lamb with lamb sausage roll, Jerusalem artichoke velouté and thyme jus, and a chocolate tasting plate made up of a bitter chocolate brownie, white chocolate bavarois, milk chocolate ice cream and dark hot chocolate.
Sienna Restuarant, 36 High West Street, Dorchester, DT1 1UP, 01305 250022.
Style: Modern British.
Food Served: Wednesday to Saturday 12.30pm-2pm and 6pm-9.30pm and Tuesday to Saturday 7pm-9pm (reservations required).
Valentine’s Day: Usual menu, lunch £25.50/£28.50 (2/3 courses), dinner £36.50/£43 (2/3 courses).
Try: Truffle butter poached monkfish with braised veal shin, celeriac, girolles and red wine reduction.
10) The Old Granary. Arguably the most beautiful pub-restaurant in Dorset, a visit to the Old Granary feels like a special occasion before you even step through the door.
Situated on the banks of the River Frome in the picturesque town of Wareham, it has built up a fine reputation for fresh, unpretentious food and superb real ales.
For Valentine’s Day the pub is laying on a three course menu showcasing what it does best. From starters like smoked salmon with wholemeal bread, through to mains like sea bass with mash and basil pesto the Granary does the simple things exceedingly well.
The Old Granary, The Quay, Wareham, BH20 4LP, 01929 552010.
Style: Modern British.
Food Served: Daily from 12pm.
Valentine’s Day: Three course set menu and glass of bubbly £30 per person.
Try: Pressed pork belly with garlic mash potato, pancetta cabbage and “our champion” ale sauce.