Illustration by Marcelina Jagielka
I took myself out to dinner the other day. I walked along Broad Street, amongst the hustle and bustle and the throngs of people. I had a leisurely browse in Blackwell’s and wandered over to the restaurant I had marked out for my evening.
I had been meaning to try Ramen Kulture for a while now, but had always been put off by the extended queues outside that seemed a permanent fixture of the place. I went early, and only had one group in front of me. I waited for around ten minutes, then was led to my table. I shared a bench with the couple who had been in front of me in the queue. Happily for me, this meant that I could continue to listen to their conversation. This is the first joy of eating alone: listening to other people.
Let’s all just admit it. Overhearing other people’s conversations, eavesdropping on relationships, is very entertaining. It’s why we watch reality TV, and gossip about people in college or on our course. Other people, and their lives, are interesting. Sat on my own in Ramen Kulture, pretending to peruse the menu (there was only one vegan ramen, so I knew what I was having), I was privy to other people’s evenings, which enlivened my own.
I ordered my vegan ramen and a seaweed salad—a favourite of mine. Another benefit of eating alone is that I can unashamedly watch the kitchen. The work of chefs has always fascinated me. Be it in Pizza Express, with that enormous pizza oven; or Yo! Sushi, where the knife skills on display are mesmerising. The work of professional chefs in kitchens is a highlight of going to any restaurant, and going on my own meant that I could unabashedly appreciate it.
The only mistake I made on this particular trip was my choice of restaurant. Ramen Kulture is always busy, and admittedly I did go on a Saturday night. I was nevertheless determined to make the most out of my trip, and so I ate my ramen at a considered and careful pace, making my seaweed salad last. The service staff were alive to my intention to stay in the restaurant for a reasonable amount of time: I was not going to be pressured into leaving just to seat the next group. So, I enjoyed my meal, my book, and my neighbours’ conversation, leisurely asked for the bill, and left. I wasn’t selfish, nor excessive. Only next time, I will make sure to go to a more relaxed restaurant at an off-peak time.
I do recommend you try dining solo. Take yourself out for a meal. It’s a real treat, enjoying your own company alone in a crowded room. To find some perspective, take some time out and find solace in yourself. It is truly incomparable.