Most singles I know find going to bars and restaurants on their own intimidating. Is it the being alone bit or the being alone with your thoughts bit that is terrifying? Well, I’m about to find out on my first night out as newly single.
How exciting, and lonely, and scary! I couldn’t stand going to one of my old favourites – I needed a night out without any memories. I chose Viajante – London’s latest hot-spot-in-waiting in Bethnal Green. Head Chef Nuno Mendes grew up in Portugal and went on to build himself a successful career spanning Jean Georges, El Bulli and Bacchus. This is his new baby.
The bar and restaurant are part of a new boutique hotel housed in the old Town Hall. I walk into Viajante at 6.30pm on a Friday night. Viajante means traveller in Portuguese – a perfect start to my journey of Tables for ONE through bars and restaurants. The Viajante bar is designed in safe neutrals, wood and nude upholstery. It’s bland and disappears into itself; absolutely PERFECT for a hesitant night out on my own. I found myself a stool around the island bar and hide myself behind a menu. What the bar lacks in personality is more than made up by the bartenders’ colourful disposition. Warren and John make me feel very welcome, and with just the right amount of flirting help me arrive at a cocktail to start my evening.
The Skye Julep (Talisker, mint, peach, lime ginger beer) at £8 is definitely worth the trip to Bethnal Green. I don’t brave dinner on my first evening out on my own, so I turn to my friendly neighbourhood bartenders for bar snack suggestions. After much discussion they settled on Mini Bocadillo de Jamon (£3, and delicious) and Beetroot Tartare with Mozzaarella Bubbles (£4.50, and minus points for … well, for just being beetroot).
I finally look around. I imagine everyone in the bar is staring at me, making up a sad story about the single woman on the lonely bar stool. To my relief nobody’s looking! A few groups of girls, two couples and a gay man – we’re just a happy bunch going through Viajante’s cocktail list. I try their New York Sour but send it back – their version has egg whites. Yuck! John now makes me the Viajante Manhattan (£8, sweet vermouth, bourbon whiskey, Angostura bitters, maraschino cherry and orange, and then some more cherry). It’s bittersweet and gorgeously heart-warming. And then Nuno Mendes walked in! He’s adorable, shy and exhausted! Chef Mendes tells me that he hasn’t taken a day off since the restaurant opened nearly a month ago. Poor guy!
I’ve managed close to 3 hours on my first night out alone. This is less scary than I thought it would be. It’s still lonely though. I want to not miss the Ex but all the Skye Juleps in the world won’t do that tonight. On my way out I sneak a look at the dining room – intimate and electric, with chefs at work in the immaculate open kitchen. Now this is more like it… soon I’ll be brave enough to actually ask for a Table for ONE.