Table for 1 sir ?

Posted on 22 Sep 2014, by Barry Verber

There are evenings when I enjoy eating out on my own, and there are evenings when circumstances dictate that I eat out on my own. The question, in either case, is, where do I go ? If I decide on one of my regular haunts where I am well known to the staff, I am invariably greeted warmly and then, once seated at a table for two, I start to receive sympathy…” On your own this evening sir ? “, ” Is your wife ( sic ) not joining you ? ” and, worst of all ” would you like a newspaper ? “, as though it is inconceivable that I might simply want to eat well and enjoy my own albeit solitary company.

If, on the other hand, I decide on a restaurant which I want to try the situation only gets worse. The maitre d waits a few moments in the hope that others may be following me in and eventually, realising that it’s just me, and with an air of resignation, shows me to the worst table in the room, either next to the swinging kitchen doors or, worse still, the toilets. In most cases, faced with this dismal prospect, I just leave, but, if it happens to be 9pm on a wet Tuesday evening, feeling hungry with few options remaining, I accept the seat with as much grace as an angry man can muster, and soldier on. All I need then, to compound the depression, is a mediocre meal followed by a large bill and, believe me, there are many places in central London which offer this dismal combination.

On the brighter side, there are restaurants where one can sit alone, or indeed in company, at a counter, the stand-out ones being Scotts and J Sheekey. At both one can eat well and have a little banter with the barman, although it is rare that I engage in conversation with neighbouring diners…not the done thing here to be that sociable ! Whereas in New York, for example, dining at a counter is commonplace and talking to neighbours is obligatory. There is also a nice counter for dining alone at Cafe Murano and, if you are in the mood for Italian food, and good Italian food at that, with a combination of small tapas style portions, then Boca di Lupo is a good choice, in fact one of the few places I know where it is better to sit at the bar than at a table…the main room being cramped and noisy.

In a week or so I shall be eating out on my own most of the week and shall use the opportunity to explore further possibilities of a solitary meal without coming home either miserable or, worse still, depressed.

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