Earlier this week I was working away from home for a couple of days which gave me an excellent opportunity to sit around looking like Billy No Mates whenever I wanted to eat something. The experience of dining out alone can vary from crap to middling, so here are my reviews of some of my eating experiences.
Hotel Bar Thing at the Hotel
This was full of lonely people on business sitting at their own tables and trying to find ways of passing the time. I had a beer and a burger, which was delivered mercifully quickly. I was reading a book, but from a quick survey around the rest of the room, I was in a minority. The bloke in a suit had a copy of the Telegraph, two people were doing something on their phones, and one man (presumably a first-timer) had nothing and was just staring out of the window. He’ll learn.
The burger was served on a piece of slate which is never acceptable. Payment was in advance, at the time of ordering the food, which made a quick getaway possible afterwards. 3/5 marks.
Everyone likes a Nando’s except when you get shown to a table on your own in the midst of a load of big tables where massive groups of friends are all having a brilliant time. You just look like a lonely sad act without any friends of your own. You can’t order without first being shown to a table so you have to either leave all your belongings unattended or carry them all up to the till with you.
Interestingly, in the time I was there the big groups of people all left, and gradually the place was populated almost entirely by men conspicuously eating on their own and staring into space. The one who ended up sitting at the table next to mine was chewing really loudly so possibly he wasn’t on business and really did have no friends because he was repellent.
Again, paying in advance made for a very rapid getaway from this strange and unpleasant business, and I got some points on my loyalty card to save up for delicious free chicken. 3/5.
Somehow everyone who showed up for breakfast at 7:15 was in a couple or a whole group of people and the breakfast buffet – normally the preserve of the solo diner who can rely on not looking like a complete social outcast for at least this one meal of the day – did an exceptional job of making me look like a friendless loner. The bacon was plentiful and and the coffee was good, and of course it was all free, so I consoled myself with a pile of greasy fried things and ate with a speed that only comes when you want to pack in up to four courses of free food but can only spare 20 minutes to eat.
There were no good tables left when I arrived so I ended up being seated at a table for four right next to the door, making me as conspicuous as possible. I found myself sliding down in my chair in an effort to blend in with my surroundings.
I also failed to find time for a course of pancakes. 2/5.