Even to a committed Valentine’s Day cynic, February 14 can prove anxiety inducing. You may feel a twang of pressure from your significant other to up the romance stakes, even with just an ironic nod to the day’s Hallmark significance. Regardless of your relationship situation, the sight of restaurants overflowing with couples dining by candlelight may not set your heart a-flutter.

So instead of rehashing the squeamish archetypes, we’ve uncovered a bouquet of alternate ideas, sans set menus and without a single long-stemmed rose in sight.

To Market, To Market
Any day is a great day to stock up on fresh organic fruit and vegetables, artisan bread, pastries and innumerable other treats, all the while supporting local producers. Farmers’ markets are also an excellent place to find fresh and inexpensive flowers. Head to the EQ Village Markets on Wednesday to stock up before Thursday.
EQ Village Markets
122 Lang Road, Moore Park

An Un-romantic Comedy
Forget Sleepless in Seattle. Film society and independent screening project Kinema is screening Shallow Grave on Valentine’s Day. In Danny Boyle’s brilliant directorial debut, three friends discover both the dead body of their new flatmate and a suitcase full of cash. Moral strife ensues.
365 Parramatta Road, Leichhardt

A Table for 2(0)
The antithesis to the ‘table for two’ cliché is a group dinner. Celebrate the day with friends – or encroach on uncomfortable solitude-seeking couples – by choosing a Table for 20.
Table for 20
182 Campbell Street, Surry Hills
0416 096 916

Alternatively, you can take dinner with friends to a new level, by learning how to make paella together at the Sydney Seafood School on February 14.
Sydney Seafood School
Bank Street, Pyrmont
(02) 9004 1111

Sex and Fashion
Over 50 works by two iconic fashion photographers, Helmut Newton and Bettina Rheims, are being presented at the Art Gallery of NSW. Both were instrumental in transforming the way men and women were represented in fashion. Newton’s women are powerful, dominant and erotic (the selected photographs are from his most important period, the 1970s and 80s), while Rheims’ work (taken from her Modern Lovers series) concentrates on capturing an androgynous image of youth.
Art Gallery of NSW
Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney
1800 679 278

Nerdy Love
Surry Hills Library, which is both handsome and conveniently adjacent to Messina, is open until 10.30pm on Thursdays, so you can peruse long into the night like a true tortured wordsmith.
Surry Hills Library
405 Crown Street, Surry Hills
(02) 8374 6230

Shared Experiences
Find some friends and partake in a shared cocktail at Eau De Vie. Choose from their four wild creations, designed for sharing – including the MLB Nitro Punch (Ketel One Citroen Vodka, fresh lemon juice, grapefruit bitters, raspberry Oolong and Russian Caravan tea, served in a crystal cut punch bowl and cooled with nitro).

Pause and Observe
A universally more exciting alternative to lying atop the hood of a car and gazing at the stars is a visit to the Sydney Observatory, so book in a night session.
Sydney Observatory
Watson Road, The Rocks
(02) 9921 3485

A Secret Garden
Brett Whiteley’s wife, lover, critic, muse and driving force, Wendy, transformed a dilapidated patch of land, strewn with overgrown weeds and rotting mattresses, into a breathtaking piece of natural art. Escape to Wendy’s Secret Garden, find a bench and be inspired by the true love of this brilliant couple.
Wendy’s Secret Garden
Lavender Bay