The Eat In, Reserve Milton, Acland St Cantina, Smoult's Continental Deli

Photography: Pat Nourse

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this Valentine's Day including The Eat In, Reserve Milton, Acland St Cantina, and Smoult's Continental Deli.

The Eat In
This place is kind of a secret, so you didn't hear this from us, but some of the former players from a well-credentialled Sydney Italian restaurant have set up an eatery in a Chippendale studio that will succumb in a matter of months or weeks to the maw of development. Our advice is to text 0406 525 123 for a booking as soon as possible, partly because the set menus are small wonders of freshness and elegant simplicity (not least the rice with salt cod and preserved lemon or the brown sugar semifreddo with plums and rhubarb [pictured]) and excellent value, but mostly because the DIY vibe is unbeatable. Go as a couple. Go with your whole orgy troupe. Go on your own. Just go. (And just don't tell anyone else about it, okay?) PAT NOURSE

Reserve Milton
A grand passion deserves a sumptuous backdrop and Reserve Milton doesn't do meagre. Pop upstairs to the Champagne bar for oysters and twilight river views or plump for the historic dining room below and bask in the glow of the bling-tastic chandeliers. Chef/co-owner Kieran Reekie glories in the classics: comely boned quail or sleek tortellini in an intensely layered seafood bisque. Seal the deal with a dessert assiette and clash spoons over panna cotta, airy cinnamon beignets and more. Reserve Milton, cnr Coronation Dr & Park Rd, Milton, Qld, (07) 3368 1314. FIONA DONNELLY

Acland St Cantina
The latest offering from the Melbourne Pub Group is this basement Mexican taverna/cantina, and for loving couples who like surfing the culinary wave, it's just the ticket. Best place for romance is in the excellent, moodily lit restaurant at the back with its deconstructed plasterwork and Day of the Dead detailing (give the bar and taqueria at the front a miss, though; with its eye-sizzling, lollipop-bright colour scheme, it's probably best left to hopeful singles). The menu - a litany of Mexico's greatest hits that includes everything from a kick-arse guacamole to fried fish tacos, a short list of moles and wonderfully short empanadas - is all about sharing, much like the big day itself. Add a pretty fine Margarita or two and a hip hop-leaning soundtrack and you'll soon be feeling the love. Acland St Cantina, 2 Acland St, St Kilda, Vic, (03) 9536 1122. MICHAEL HARDEN

Smoult's Continental Deli
While we're not convinced an evening at Smoult's necessarily screams romance, we're still confident any picnic starring one of the deli's Valentine's hampers ($75) is going to do well. From baguette to desserts and charcuterie to cheese, each hamper provides couples with everything necessary for an intimate dinner for two, right down to the tealight candle (although if you really want to set the mood, the extra $75 outlay for a bottle of Champagne is probably a good investment). Orders are being taken until close of business tonight (Wednesday 6pm, Perth time). Smoult's Continental Deli, 186 Whatley Cres, Maylands, WA, (08) 9371 9778. MAX VEENHUYZEN

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