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The Valentine’s Day Gift Guide for Men

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Our columnist, International rugby player James Haskell, provides some shopping inspiration for the perfect Valentine’s Day treats to buy your man…

I have a mixed opinion about Valentine’s Day. It seems to be just a very overtly commercial occasion, which puts loads of pressure on men to deliver for their partners. It’s hard enough being creative for birthdays and Christmas, let alone another day where you have to raise the bar.

However, God forbid you should forget it, as all hell breaks loose! I knew a fellow Wasps player who shared the same view as me, and decided to impart this to his partner. He suggested to her that buying presents was a waste of money, and it was an industry created day that didn’t really reflect their love for each other. She apparently nodded at the time in agreement and he thought it was all good in the hood. Or so he thought…

James Haskell: From bespoke tailoring to simple ideas, our columnist has lots of suggestions for our readers

James Haskell: From bespoke tailoring to simple ideas, our columnist has lots of suggestions for our readers

However, come Valentine’s Day he had planned nothing and didn’t even have a card. Now, of course she had a card as women on the whole are amazing at doing this sort of stuff and men fall short, sometimes. That’s an understatement on this occasion. Let’s put it this way, when she realised that he had done nothing for the big day, my teammate was in the doghouse for a long, long time. When he came into training the next day he looked pretty shell-shocked and lacking in sleep after spending the night on the sofa.

He came to me incredulous as to how it had gone so wrong but I had to laugh. I explained, “It is one thing to think it and debate it with her, but it is another thing not to do anything at all. I can’t believe you actually didn’t get her something; not even a card! What were you thinking?!”

In all honesty, I felt a little bad at being so harsh as men always try to impress in front of other men about their relationships, but often go running home with their tails between their legs. In fairness, he had made a moral stand. However, it doesn’t matter what women say, you always have to do something for special occasions and show you care.

There are certain popular gift ideas for women that you can rely on, flowers, chocolates, jewelry, spa days etc. However, men normally get the raw end of the stick. I have had a real mixed bag of presents over the years from teddies, digger racing, cushions for my bed (cushions for your bed? I have no idea why you want to buy something you never use and take off every night to put back on again in the morning!) and I have at times been given nothing.

So, with it all being a bit hit and miss, I have decided to put together my list of key Valentine’s Day gift ideas for men. Some are on the expensive side, others less so. Although I am currently single and won’t be receiving anything, I thought I would put my time into helping those of you looking to impress the man in your life.

The Sloaney's Valentine's Day Gift Guide for Men, by James Haskell

The Sloaney’s Valentine’s Day Gift Guide for Men, by James Haskell

Experiences

 

Spa Days

‘Spa days are for women!’ I hear you cry. Well, you couldn’t be more wrong. There is nothing quite like being treated like a piece of Wagyu Beef…massaged, pampered, fed and watered (hopefully not culled at the end though). Who doesn’t like a really good full body massage in nice surroundings, where once you have been scrapped of the massage bed, you can go and relax in a spa, or Jacuzzi and let the world melt away around you? Life is stressful at the best of times and we are not great at looking after our bodies and minds. London is full of fantastic spas, some well known, others yet to be discovered. A majority of the major hotels in the capital have great spas built in, so start there for ideas.

The ideal scenario for a spa present is that you get to go along with someone. Why? You are more likely to attend this way and enjoying the experience with a mate, having a chat and chilling is always much nicer. In fact, this is a good tip for men too; if you are buying this present for your female partner, book a treatment for yourself and her. Not everyone likes their own company and Valentine’s Day should be about you, as a couple, enjoying each other’s company and having fun together.

Read about my visit to the 5* Mandara Spa at the Park Plaza Hotel for The Sloaney

A Spa Day

A Spa Day

Wine Tasting 

Talking of things you could be doing together as a couple, a company called The Perfect Cellar offer a range of wine tasting packages. Wine tasting is always a great activity for couples. How can you go wrong with learning about the mysteries of wine, while sampling some delights and probably getting a little merry in the process? I have done this with another company when I was living in Paris  and it was a great experience – you learn a lot very quickly!

The perfect cellar offers the following packages: The Perfect Afternoon- £50 pp.; The Perfect Introduction To Fine Wine- £65 pp.; Le Tour de France- £75 pp.; The Organic and Biodynamic Perfection- £100 pp.; Revisiting the Old World- £125 pp.; The Prestige Wine Experience- £175 pp Details here

WineTasting by The Perfect Cellar

Wine Tasting by The Perfect Cellar

Cookery Masterclass

On the theme of partner related activities, why not give him a gift that will also be a present for you in the long term. See it as an investment; what person doesn’t like having a sumptuous meal prepared for them? Book your partner in for a cooking lesson at the Madame Gautier Cooking School. I was talking to some friends about writing this article and one of the ladies listening complained about how hard it is to buy for men. I have to disagree; most men I know always want to up their game to some degree, whether that is cooking, learning a new skill or having and out-of-ordinary experience. A cooking lesson is certainly one of these. I am very jealous of a friend of mine who did a set of cooking lessons and can now produce awesome food. He always shows me up by producing perfect cuisine.

On the Madame Gautier course your man can learn to create Guinea Fowl à la Gasconne, accompanied by Purée de Pommes de Terre, followed by Steamed Lemon Sponge with Orange Custard. Or Galantine of Duck & Sauce Bigarade followed by Celeriac, Spinach & Potato Galette followed by Blackcurrant Soufflé with Berry Compote. Madame Gautier cookery classes are suitable for all levels, from total beginners to a budding chef that is already confident in the kitchen. Classes are small and intimate, with a hands-on approach to give everyone the opportunity to experience all the techniques first hand. At the end of the class you leave with all your creations, together with extra ingredients to recreate the dishes again.

A range of daytime and evening classes are on offer from Wednesday – Sundays at Madame Gautier’s state of the art cooking school in West London. See online here or call 0208 964 5511 for more information or to book classes. Classes start at £45.

Madame Gautier cookery school

Madame Gautier Cookery School

Gifts

 

If experiences and lessons aren’t your thing, I have some perfect gift ideas for you. I would say that most of these are pitched at the slightly more senior gentleman, but they will work for any budding Wolf of Wall Street.

Hamper

The first item up is a luxury gift hamper filled with exquisite products from The Clerkenwell Collection. This is something that he will use straightaway, with the Cufflinks and tie coming in very useful for day-to-day usage. A glass of Medoc and fine Cuban cigar is also not bad for a bit of self-indulgence.

This fantastic gift is worth over £230.00, and includes the following: Chateau Beauvillage, Medoc 2009; Bespoke HQ Tie; Tubed Cuban Habano; Bespoke HQ Socks; Jonathan Ward Candle; Elvis and Kresse Torpedo Cufflinks; Le Creuset Corkscrew Details available here

The Premium Hamper for Men

The Premium Hamper for Men

Aftershave

You can’t really go wrong with aftershave; it’s an obvious gift for any man! There are so many great fragrances out there at the moment that you are spoilt for choice. I have reviewed a couple for The Sloaney that you can read about in my past features. It may appear a bit of minefield for the uninitiated, but buy what you would like your man to wear and don’t try to think what he would like to buy himself. Most men will like it anyway because you like it, and that’s what counts. I am a massive fan of the following options and I challenge your man not to like them.

Recommendations: Creed – Aventus; Tom Ford – Oud Wood; Armani – Aqua de Gio; Channel – Bleu

Bleu by Chanel

Bleu by Chanel

The Man Box Collection

If food is more your thing than luxury items, the award winning fine food company, Ross & Ross have just launched The Man Box Collection. Ross & Ross are a Cotswolds based company; they specialise in delicious British Pate and Terrines that are handmade using British ingredients.

Each box has a combination of top English Craft Beer, British Charcuterie, Chutney and Great British Pork Crackling to form the ultimate snack box. The products are either made in house or from local artisan producers.

Available in Original, Spicy and XL. Prices start from £20; The Man Box is available online 

The Man Box

The Man Box

 

Bespoke Tailoring 

If you want to go all out and blow your man away, my next gift idea could be for you. Like 90% of my suggestions, there are some benefits for you. It doesn’t matter how your partner normally dresses because with this next suggestion, they are guaranteed to  look the part. More importantly, you will want them on your arm. Bespoke HQ is a British menswear tailoring brand with Creative Director, Stephen Williams at the helm. The brand champions a classic British tailored aesthetic juxtaposed against their eccentric flare for laser-print linings and bold button, lapel and stitch details.

They have a recent collaboration with British furniture designer/maker Tree Couture to create the ultimate gift for the guy that needs to smarten up his act; the suit in a box. The lucky man receives a hand-delivered key at a London address  – by chauffeur – and is greeted by a beautiful hand-crafted valet box when they get into the car.

Inside is a vast array of fabric swatches and buttons that your can peruse. He is then driven to Bespoke HQ’s tailoring suite for a one-on-one meeting with Stephen Williams and measured for his suit whilst enjoying champagne and canapés. You can choose every element with Stephen and, once finished, the suit will be created and hand delivered alongside the beautifully crafted wooden box, which can then be used to store watches, cufflinks, tie clips and other keepsakes.

Prices start from £5,000 and more information can be found here

Bespoke HQ

Bespoke HQ

Engraved Gifts

They say taking a picture lasts longer, but with my next gift you will have something much better that will always remind your partner of you. I talked earlier about the importance of putting some thought into what you give as your gift. So, why not try something crafted from marble, slate and wood, which can be personalised with a message of your choice, using traditional engraving methods.

I am quite minimalist in my tastes for my home and I am not a fan of unnecessary clutter. However a personalised ‘Marble Pestle and Mortar’ and ‘Marble Wine Cooler’ would look great in most kitchens and they are also very practical. The pestle and mortar will be especially useful for those embracing healthy cooking, which I advocate  in previous features for The Sloaney.

More information can be found at Marble Tree here 

Engraved Gifts

Engraved Gifts

 

My Top Pick

 

Michelin Star Valentine’s Day Menu

There is nothing better than the female taking the initiative and arranging the course of events for Valentine’s Day. I am a big believer in equality for women; however, it does always surprise me that when it comes to romance, the man has to make the first move, plan everything and so on.

I like traditional values but, ladies, you can’t have it all your own way. You can’t be Mrs. Independent 99% of the time and then go all backward when it comes to love. I would always take the lead as a rule, but I find it so nice when my partner decides to plan things for us to do. So what better way to spend Valentine’s Day than enjoying a bespoke Valentine’s Day menu at the Michelin starred restaurant Launceston Place.

Head chef, Tim Allen from Launceston Place, will be creating a special menu for one couple this Valentine’s Day. Upon booking, the couple will have the exclusive opportunity to have their ultimate menu created, which will feature the pair’s most desired dishes and favorite foods.

The luxurious meal will be served in the privacy of Allen’s office at Launceston Place with each course presented personally by the chef. In addition, Launceston Place’s head sommelier will help the couple choose the perfect accompanying aperitif and wines to accompany the bespoke menu. With a minimum spend of £500, this unique experience is one of London’s most lavish ways to spoil your other half.

For more information or to book this bespoke experience contact 020 7937 6912 or email Ruth (ruthb@danddlondon.com) or book online

A special menu by Tim Allen at Launceston Place

A special menu by Tim Allen at Launceston Place

I hope you enjoy all my suggestions. I welcome your feedback, so please feel free to email me at mensfeatures@thesloaney.com. Enjoy your special day – I am off to plan my Valentine’s Day microwave meal for one and to cry over Love Actually. Well that’s a lie, but it’s a good image to leave you with…

 

Deciding what to buy the special lady in your life? Read our suggestions 🙂