Eating alone in a restaurant takes guts, I’ll admit. I’m reasonably used to it by now, although there are still situations that throw me, such as waiters who treat me with disbelief or overt pity.
But here’s a happy story about eating alone. While I was on my solo road trip, I stayed down the road from a winery that has an up-market restaurant. A friend had recommended it, so one day, feeling brave and in the mood for indulging, off I trotted.
I walked there, a distance of a couple of kilometres, which turned out to be a good thing because it meant I had to walk home. And I needed that walk. It was an astonishingly good meal, amazing flavours, beautifully served and presented. It was expensive and worth every cent.
The other memorable thing about it was the experience. I fronted up to the woman on the reception desk and asked if they had a table for one. Absolutely, she replied, and successfully avoided looking me over to see what was wrong with me that I was dining alone.
And then … Miracle 1: she led me into the dining room and sat me at a prime table next to the window looking out over the pond and deck to the vines. No dark corner table by the staff toilet for solo diners here.
Then, the waiter brought the menu, water etc and I embarked on my food journey. And this was Miracle 2: I was not rushed, not even slightly. The pacing of the meal was leisurely and, unlike almost every other time I’ve eaten alone in a restaurant, I didn’t feel like I was being hurried out.
So I decided to really indulge, and ordered a spectacular dessert which had everyone else in the restaurant turning round and craning their necks to see it. The dessert is why I needed the walk home.
Dessert was followed by coffee, brought after I’d finished the dessert. How civilised. No rush, no pressure to hurry up and finish.
I was completely smitten. I think it’s the first time I’ve eaten out in a “proper” restaurant on my own and felt like I was just another valued guest. Not a freak, not an object of pity or slightly condescending friendliness, not a single diner to be hurried through and replaced with the economically-superior unit of two. No, I got treated as if dining alone was completely normal. And that, let me tell you, is a rare and beautiful thing.
Elephant Hill Winery, you are the bestest.
Prawns, whitefish, squid ink sauce of some kind, a totally mysterious Heston Blumenthal-type explosion of lighter-than-air deliciousness; and a glass of Pinot Gris. *swoon*