Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Recommended Posts

I was just wondering what peoples experiences of this are? I myself dine out on my own occasionally, because friends are busy, or I just so happen to find myself in a area where there is a local restaurant worth trying, and there is just me, so I go!! I am perfectly happy with my own company, though you do feel like a bit of a stiff sat there on your own with waiters buzzing round you. It is advisable to find somewhere good where you can people watch and see the world go by, and there is a bit of an atmosphere.

Last summer I went for lunch up to The Samling near Ambleside as they had a good offer on for lunch. It was a lovely day, and sat in the lounge which is comfy (although looking a bit tired these days!) with a cold coke and reading the papers, you can imagine yourself as lord of the manor!! I had a very nice afternoon, with tea and petit fours on the terrace afterwards, as you do!! It would have been nice to have someone to share it with, but I still had a nice time. I sound like some old spinster!! I do have friends who I go out with, though its a ballache organising them sometimes!

What are peoples rituals/advice for dining alone??

Link to post
Share on other sites

Take a paper. Always take a paper.

With a copy of The Grauniad or The Times I could sit anywhere, for hours on end, happily alone, watching the world go by.

Oh, that's another prerequisite. Get a spot with a view. Lone dining is all about people watching whilst reading/pretending to read said paper.

I actually love lone dining, and often try to fit a luxurious solo lunch in to my business trips to London. I find the zen-style solitude a vital counterbalance to a hectic work life and an equally hectic home life.

I was quite impressed that the last time I had a walk-in early evening dinner at The Ivy (solus, natch) the restaurant manager brought over a selection of papers, unprompted, as soon as I was seated.

Now there is a man who understands lone dining.

Cheers

Thom

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

Link to post
Share on other sites

In a previous life I used to travel the country a lot on business. I always found eating alone in a new town a completely lovely experience. On the other hand, almost anything would have been better than getting arsholed with the rest of the team in the hotel bar, spending the evening talking about work then morally corrupting myself with a workmate in a soulless 'executive' room.

Personally, I can't offer any advice beyond 'take a good book', but a girl I used to work with swore that a Moleskine on the table would convince any restaurant with pretensions to quality that she was reviewing them.

In the bottom of my travel bag I keep a prosthetic latex Michael Winner mask and a fat suit for the same purpose.

Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

Link to post
Share on other sites
Personally, I can't offer any advice beyond 'take a good book', but a girl I used to work with swore that a Moleskine on the table would convince any restaurant with pretensions to quality that she was reviewing them.

I too make use of the good book routine - and the Moleskine too though I've no evidence of it working. I remember once making a weekend of it in Reading on the occasion of Leicester City playing them in a 4th Round FA cup tie. I took with me a slim volume, something suitably middlebrow no doubt, and read it over dinner in the London Street brasserie. The next morning I had a coffee and pastry in John Lewis in the Oracle Centre and saw the waitress give me a rather pitying look - then I realised it was the same young woman who'd served at the restaurant and she'd recognised me and my book. Billy-no-mates or what?

Still we won the match.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Gastronomic Onanism is the way to go.

I took myself out to a new-ish curry house last night, promising 'fine Indian dining',

in my hometown ("a rotting semi-civilisation, vegetating in the teeth of time" or Blackpool as it's sometimes called.)

Well it was ass-wateringly bad. At least now that I've been there alone I won't make the mistake of spending others peoples money by suggesting it.

“Do you not find that bacon, sausage, egg, chips, black pudding, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, fried bread and a cup of tea; is a meal in itself really?” Hovis Presley.

Link to post
Share on other sites
a girl I used to work with swore that a Moleskine on the table would convince any restaurant with pretensions to quality that she was reviewing them.

What kind of reporter uses Moleskine? It'd be more convincing if she scribbled random words on the reverse of taxi reciepts with one of those half-size pencils you get in bookies.

As a socially awkward type, I'm unnerved by the prospect of sitting alone anywhere more formal than Starbucks. My concerns are as follows:

1- the waiters will hate you for leaving one chair of a two-top fallow, and for not feeling any kind of companionly pressure to avoid the cheapskate options. Couple tables must be a goldmine for restaurants, as they lend themselves to pressure sales of champagne, "two spoon" deserts and licentious forrages into the wine list. But you, with your Guardian crossword and your dog-eared copy of Julian Barnes, must be depriving the poor waiter the back end of a tenner. I honestly could not blame him for sneezing into your soup.

2- everyone else will assume you're either a social leper, or you've been stood up. And, having experienced both sensations involuntarily on regular occasions, I've no desire to invite them when it's optional.

Oh, and I can't quite deal with bar-side eating either. The person next to you always seems to think you're there for a conversation and won't be deterred from small talk, no matter how often you stab him with your fork.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I dine alone quite a bit for various reasons and have given up the paper/book routine, mostly because if I'm going to write about the place I want to see as much of the service as possible. I've mostly gotten over feeling self conscious (the Steve Martin "Lonely Guy" syndrome) and can relax into the experience quite quickly - a beer usually helps. I rarely take a notebook as I think it changes the experience a bit and I usually leave note taking for the train or back in the hotel room.

I find it much easier to concentrate on the food if I'm dining alone, which sounds a bit nerdy and sad in black and white, but I think you get a different appreciation of what your eating when its just you at the table. That certainly doesn't mean that I prefer to dine alone, but I do count it as one of life's great pleasures.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, and I can't quite deal with bar-side eating either. The person next to you always seems to think you're there for a conversation and won't be deterred from small talk, no matter how often you stab him with your fork.

I find 'THis is great...I've been looking forward to eating like this for twenty years. Course it would have been ten but for that unfortunate incident with another con' keeps the neighbours quiet.

It no longer exists, but it was lovely.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I too make use of the good book routine - and the Moleskine too though I've no evidence of it working.

I agree. I think the choice of reading material is absolutely critical to the solo-dining experince. For me there is only one right answer here: an unpublished screenplay with manuscript amendments. Almost guarantees service so good the waiters will want to tip you. At least it does in the States. Brits can get a little more pretentious about these things so any sort of theatrical project that looks like it might have Nicholas Hytner attached will probably do the trick.

Gareth

Link to post
Share on other sites

1- the waiters will hate you for leaving one chair of a two-top fallow, and for not feeling any kind of companionly pressure to avoid the cheapskate options. Couple tables must be a goldmine for restaurants, as they lend themselves to pressure sales of champagne, "two spoon" deserts and licentious forrages into the wine list. But you, with your Guardian crossword and your dog-eared copy of Julian Barnes, must be depriving the poor waiter the back end of a tenner. I honestly could not blame him for sneezing into your soup.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I find it much easier to concentrate on the food if I'm dining alone, which sounds a bit nerdy and sad in black and white, but I think you get a different appreciation of what your eating when its just you at the table. That certainly doesn't mean that I prefer to dine alone, but I do count it as one of life's great pleasures.

I agree, the best way to appreciate your meal is alone, or with at most one discerning partner who is willing to focus on food (as happens to me with Woman). Any more at the table, even discerning, and the experience changes to one which, while also possibly pleasant, is not deep food appreciation: too many other factors creep in even in the company of food lovers.

In London, the bar at Arbutus and the 'single' benches at Rules are places where I feel totally comfortable. In Italy, I feel like a real nerd everywhere when alone.

Man

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't have a problem with eating alone at all. I do a fair bit of business travel and see it as an opportunity to try out some decent places in London/Manchester/wherever, which I otherwise wouldn't get to. Faced with the alternative that colleagues tend to go for when on their own (room service - they can't even face dining alone in the hotel restaurant), I'm straight out the door to a decent restaurant.

I usually take a book or a newspaper (I once had a magazine, but that seemed to make the whole experience a little low brow) and have had a fine old time at the likes of Magdalen, Anchor & Hope, St John, Arbutus...

I've found the staff to be friendly, perhaps even friendlier, when I'm on my own. That may be down to me noticing them a bit more without the distraction of conversation with a dining companion, or perhaps they just took pity on me as some kind of friendless loser...

PS

Edinburgh

Link to post
Share on other sites

A friend of my parents, who would spend extended periods in London alone for her historical research, described how to get respect as a woman dining alone:

She went to the local Italian restaurant in Hampsted where she had a flat and with her meal, ordered a very good bottle of wine that she consumed in its entirety. The next time the staff fell all over themselves to take care of her. As she explained, "It's not just knowing a good wine, but showing you know how to appreciate it."

It's almost never bad to feed someone.

Link to post
Share on other sites

A friend of my parents, who would spend extended periods in London alone for her historical research, described how to get respect as a woman dining alone:

She went to the local Italian restaurant in Hampsted where she had a flat and with her meal, ordered a very good bottle of wine that she consumed in its entirety.

end quote......

That's a tactic I employ often in the states especially L.A. where more than a glass of wine with an entire meal is considered good reason to call the A.A. I was at lunch with a woman there recently and ordered a glass of something white with my starter salad. When my pasta arrived I asked for a glass of chianti. Appalled, she remarked "I've never seen anyone change wines before!". Yes, she needs to get out more.

As far as reading matter goes, the script option can work for or against. In L.A. you're likely to be offered sexual favours under the table from the waiter if you can get him a part. In New York, a polite enquiry as to the nature of the project followed by little more attention than is normal, which in New York can be very little for the solo diner. In London, utter disdain and the nagging worry that on leaving you might be dragged down an alley off Wardour Street and get your head kicked in for being a pretentious twat. Stick to the Sun.

I love solo counter dining. I had a great lunch recently in Borough Market at that oyster place Mr Something's sitting at the counter, eating various cooked and raw oysters with a pint of Guinness and a chance to watch the kitchen in action. No reading material required.

Link to post
Share on other sites
A friend of my parents, who would spend extended periods in London alone for her historical research, described how to get respect as a woman dining alone:

She went to the local Italian restaurant in Hampsted where she had a flat and with her meal, ordered a very good bottle of wine that she consumed in its entirety.  The next time the staff fell all over themselves to take care of her.  As she explained, "It's not just knowing a good wine, but showing you know how to appreciate it."

Ah... now, you see... this, I like.

When a large bald man, walks into your restaurant, sits down alone, whips out slim volume of critical essays, downs two bottles of excellent red and a couple of martinis and then reels toward the door, leering at the waitresses and threatening to vomit on fellow diners in a loud, slurring baritone... how can you have anything but respect for him?

This has been my theory of dining alone for many years now. If I can't frighten them with a Moleskine or fascinate them with a script personally annotated by Brecht, I merely drink through the uneasiness - mine and theirs - and as there may be quite a lot of unease involved, I usually find the need to drink in some quantity. This makes me feel much more relaxed. So relaxed, indeed, that sometimes I have to have a little lie-down on the pavement outside.

Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

Link to post
Share on other sites
In L.A. you're likely to be offered sexual favours under the table from the waiter if you can get him a part. In New York, a polite enquiry as to the nature of the project followed by little more attention than is normal, which in New York can be very little for the solo diner. In London, utter disdain and the nagging worry that on leaving you might be dragged down an alley off Wardour Street and get your head kicked in for being a pretentious twat.

As it happens, I was on my own in Las Vegas last month, and was editing a novel during the daylight hours. I received none of the "extra service" you refer to, but someone did steal sixty pages of corrected manuscript from my jacket pocket while I was in the can.

Link to post
Share on other sites
... but someone did steal sixty pages of corrected manuscript from my jacket pocket while I was in the can.

I know their own writers are on strike, but really... :rolleyes:

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

Link to post
Share on other sites
I could never make up my mind if reading at the table was the done thing. I'll remember to take my copy of the Daily Sport with me next time.

Same here--While I have no qualms about taking a piece of fiction or my notebook (or hell, even my chainmaille projects a few times) to my favorite bar or pizza joint and lingering while i drink and nibble, but I'd never quite figured if it got you on some kind of "table camping ninny" blacklist at a "real" restaurant...

Being able to relax with a good drink and the likes of a smoked salmon & cheese platter or similar and do serious page turning is a heavenly evening to me, but I don't know many places (yet) that are agreeable to that sort of system

(Let's be fair, by "real" in this context i mean any place where you're actually seated by the staff :biggrin::rolleyes: )

As for the original topic--I often dine alone, and enjoy it very much. My personality is very focused around "me" time--couple that with just plain flat out having few friends means I cant just call someone up and say "hey, let's head to [Waldhorns|the Saucer|Pho Real|etc]" so my dining tends to be spontaneous, and solitary. That said, I take every chance to make eating out a truly comprehensive sensory experience (whether by enjoying a book along side the food, the beer or wine pairing, bringing a cigar for afters or any combination of those) so I tend not to really notice that i'm actually by myself that much.

Edited by Malkavian (log)
Link to post
Share on other sites

I always think of the restaurant scene from The Lonely Guy.

Edit: Not sure what that book it linked to at Amazon is about, I was talking about the Steve Martin movie from around '84 or '85. :biggrin:

Edited by Tri2Cook (log)

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Since I traveled quite a bit as well, I occasionally frequented spots that offered service at the bar. In Nashville it was an architect with a wife about town involved in the arts , they knew everyone who came in, and took the time to introduce me. In Seattle it was the Nordstrom lawyer w/caterer wife, good company that enjoyed a bloody mary at 11:00am. Pheonix at pizzaeria bianco with the Italian food service salesman at the bar who ended up being a hoot. So many people out there have lots to enrich our lives and just need an opportunity to do so. Then again if it's a table for 1, out comes the book.

"I drink to make other people interesting".

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've dined solo throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe. I always dine at the bar when possible...

the only place I've been made to feel uncomfortable was Italy, especially Rome, at dinner....(with the exception of Gusto).

Link to post
Share on other sites

I never think about dining alone I love to be with people but also adore eating by myself ..I like to choose a seat where I can see everything ..I dont read at the table ..(my dad used to yell at us not to while he read the paper during dinner so it is kind of one of those things from your childhood)

the only time I ever felt strange ..was one time I was seated..in a lovely place.... handed the menu and asked "are you alone tonight" when I said "yes thank you" the response was "I am so sorry I will be right with you"

all I could think was "wtf are they sorry for?"

it offended me so much I just had coffee ..thanked them and left ...

"sorry" I was eating alone? how strange to me!!!

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

Link to post
Share on other sites
the only time I ever felt strange ..was one time I was seated..in a lovely place.... handed the menu and asked "are you alone tonight" when I said "yes thank you" the response was "I am so sorry I will be right with you"

all I could think was "wtf are they sorry for?"

... they probably just figured you had been stood up! :smile: I sometimes wind up at conferences where I don't know anyone, and that never stops me from eating out. I think I wind up ordering a way more expensive meal than I otherwise would have to assuage my sense of guilt at taking up the extra seat. Give me a seat at the bar any day...

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...