Valentine's Day

Lavish ways Hong Kong marks Valentine’s Day: with 99 roses, helicopter rides … and fried chicken

In a wealthy city like Hong Kong you can guarantee restaurants will be full of couples oozing romance tonight. These are some of the most lavish (and low key) ways people will be spending the day – if they mark it at all

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 February, 2018, 1:15pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 February, 2018, 2:48pm

Romance doesn’t always comes naturally to a city like Hong Kong, where overblown displays of wealth and gaudy gifting are often favoured over meaningful, spontaneous gestures. For the cash-rich and time-poor, dropping dollars is an all too easy way to woo your lover.

Tonight, dining tables throughout the city will be filled with the sound of clinking champagne flutes, and decked with heart-shaped pizzas, rose-tinted cocktails, complimentary confectionery and chocolate desserts. It’s a time for restaurants to roll out their most decadent menus, and some go the extra mile to catch lovers’ eyes with packages that grow more lavish with each passing year.

This Valentine’s Day, steakhouse Morton’s has teamed up with a jeweller to offer an engagement package like no other. For nearly HK$30,000 (US$3,835) you get a champagne dinner for eight people, a room filled with rose petals, a bunch of flowers, a balloon that reads “Will you marry me?” and a sparkling engagement ring to seal the deal.

How could anyone say no with six of their friends and family members watching on? Just make sure there’s no steak chunks stuck in your teeth when posing for that all-important engagement selfie.

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Meanwhile, The Ritz-Carlton is encouraging lovebirds to go all out on an “ultimate romance dining experience”, which includes a meal in a private dining room with free-flowing champagne. If nine courses doesn’t have you loosening your bow-tie (or slipping into a food coma), take things up an extravagant notch by presenting your lover with 99 roses and 99 chocolates – all for the sum of HK$20,999.

Fortune favours the squire who overloads their sweetheart with numerology.

Be intoxicated … by chlorine vapours when taking advantage of The Peninsula’s quirky Valentine’s package. For HK$3,588 you get a one-night-only chance to gaze into your sweetheart’s eyes at a table next to the swimming pool while wolfing down a five-course dinner. Opportunities for skinny-dipping not included.

Oysters are a mainstay on menus at this time of year, but Wan Chai restaurant Fishsteria Seafood Place is raising the game by rolling out an “aphrodisiac set menu” for HK$688 per person. It features 14 species of seafood in its six-course menu, including prawn, scallops, tuna and sea bass.

There’s nothing like shucking a single oyster to get you into a lusty mood, or hoovering up a fisherman’s entire daily catch to hedge your bets in the bedroom … if you even make it there before falling amorously into each other’s arms.

If you’re the type who enjoys shouting your love from the rooftops, you now have the option of emblazoning your sweet nothings on a building for all to see thanks to Sino Malls. Racking up HK$6,000 on your credit card at a handful of selected malls in January would have won you a love note displayed on giant LED screens looming large over Victoria Harbour outside Tsim Sha Tsui Centre and Empire Centre.

We got married on Valentine’s Day many years ago, so we’ve done everything from flying in a helicopter to Macau to going to Las Vegas for two weeks

You’ll need to be quick, though: your personalised smoosh will only be displayed for 30 seconds before the next one comes along.

But where are all these lotharios? The Hongkongers we spoke to had far more down-to-earth plans for celebrating the feast of love.

Canvassing friends, colleagues, and, that never-ending font of common sense, Hong Kong Moms (where someone pointed out that the 14th was the date of the far more important English Schools Foundation acceptance letters), we found plenty of couples choose to mark the day in a way that feels special to them, while many of those who ignore it find other ways to show their love throughout the year.

The doers

Angela: “We definitely do not do the costly dinner out with classic chocolates and flowers. We value creative gifts: we would rather create than consume. I have definitely girl-cotted Valentine’s days in the past and spent it watching The Vagina Monologues (celebrating Eve Ensler’s version of “V-Day” instead).

“Celebrate love of all kinds [and] have lots of tantric sex – it’s free! That might be the most revolutionary act, as Hong Kong isn’t having nearly enough sex. Enjoy each other’s company and melt into a cuddle puddle, generate a bucketload of oxytocin, and become happier people fortified by love. Learn each other’s love language.”

Raymond: “I moved to Hong Kong a couple of months ago. When I lived in the US, my wife and I always celebrated Valentine’s Day by eating fried chicken from Popeye’s. If it was a weekday, we got together after work. If it was a weekend, we would bring our daughter.

Unfortunately, there’s only one Popeye’s in Hong Kong and it’s inside the airport and, even if we did go, the fried chicken sucks. Instead, we’ll be trying Jollibee’s fried chicken this Wednesday.”

This one calls for a ‘bah humbug’. There are enough special days to celebrate in our lives than to give in to overpriced flowers, exorbitantly priced restaurants and sickeningly pink hearts all over

Katie: “My boyfriend and I ordered two 24-inch pizzas – pigs! – and stayed in a five-star hotel drinking beer and whisky while watching movies in our bathrobes (we did it last week as he lives in Beijing and we won’t see each other on real Valentine’s Day). Probably still cheaper than going out for dinner.”

Tanya: “We make up a new rule every year. Sometimes we buy ourselves something. Sometimes the kids make glittery cards. Sometimes we ignore the whole commercial bag of BS. We pretty much never go out for an extortionate dinner. There’s a kind of (slightly edgy) joy in not doing what advertising is instructing us to do.”

Elise: “We write each other a heartfelt letter and open a bottle of wine with dinner (at home). It’s a nice reminder to tell each other the things that make us happy.”

Nancy: “On Valentine’s Day we always take the kids to dinner with us. There are no flowers, no bling … My husband is usually busy and forgets about Valentine’s. But I’m happy with that as I wouldn’t want him to spend HK$2,000 just on flowers. We’re quite happy being together with the kids around us.”

Chris: “We got married on Valentine’s Day many years ago, so we’ve done everything from flying in a helicopter to Macau to going to Las Vegas for two weeks … This year, I plan to capture my husband and take him to watch two movies back-to-back. We’ll eat popcorn, hold hands, and talk movie plots together. Hopefully it won’t be all romantic slush at the cinema.”

Olga: “We are making an effort by staying up in the evening and having a quiet dinner in. Maybe a movie or a chat.I normally get flowers but it’s been a while [because] we do not buypresents for each other. Everyone is happy.”

The “don’ters”

Gia: “We ignore it completely, as it’s such a manufactured waste of time and money. Call me cynical, but why would you go out and pay for an overpriced Valentine’s dinner? You should celebrate how much you love someone all the time! And enjoy dinner at your own convenience without the inflated price tags and set menus.

Shweta: “I’ve personally never celebrated Valentine’s Day or any such day, apart from birthdays and anniversaries, which are special and private. Love needs no special date or day to celebrate – it should come naturally.

Days like this only add pressure and expectations to do something different which you can do every day in some way or another if you live together. Plus, the cost of buying the same rose which we buy on a normal day is not worth it – it’s very cosmetic and expensive.”

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Cindy: “I hate Valentine’s Day! It’s like the one day many people decide to take their significant other out because they have to. I find the restaurants overpriced and some only offer packages. My opinion is that any night you go out should be special, not just on one day.”

Deanna: “I don’t celebrate it at all – never have. I just don’t see the point of it. I’d much rather have flowers or a night out for no other reason than he wanted to … not because it’s a certain day and somehow expected. I don’t want it to feel like an obligation, which is what Valentine’s Day feels like to me.”

Aparna: “This one calls for a ‘bah humbug’. There are enough special days to celebrate in our lives than to give in to overpriced flowers, exorbitantly priced restaurants and sickeningly pink hearts all over. [We] used to celebrate it as teens, but don’t feel a need to now.”

Sonya: “We do not celebrate Valentine’s Day, and have never celebrated with expensive dinners or gifts. In saying that, I think having the day in the calendar reminds us both that after many years together, married and three kids later it’s important to prioritise us two and our love for each other. We try to get a meal in together, somewhere around the day.”