views

Take yourself out for a lovely dinner alone

IT&rsquo;S not just about where you eat, but who you eat with. Nothing says quiet confidence like dining alone. Indeed, Suzanne Pirret, the pin-up chef, wrote a whole book called The Pleasure&rsquo;s All Mine, about the joys of dining alone.<br /><br />If the thought of sitting at a table for two on your own puts you off your breadsticks, try the bar. It&rsquo;s an ideal place to relax with your food, thinking your own thoughts without other diners&rsquo; eyes on you or the awkward solicitations of waiters. If you get lonely, you can chat to the barman &ndash; and you&rsquo;ll never have to wait long for a drink.<br /><br />We may be shyer than the Americans, but London has a wealth of welcoming bars where you can sit and sup in style. Here are our favourite spots for a touch of solo fine dining.<br /><br /><strong>L&rsquo;ATELIER DE JOEL ROBUCHON</strong><br />The London outpost of the Michelin-starred Robuchon empire is a lacquered den with a Japanese-inspired colour scheme of black and red. It&rsquo;s got a hush to it, with its dark colours and low ceilings, but also an intensity due to the kitchen being in full view and yet strangely quiet. Expect fascinating views of talented chefs turning out everything from foie gras-stuffed quail to martini glasses of cauliflower jelly.<br /><br /><strong>What to eat: </strong>L&rsquo;Atelier is famous for its small dishes. Go for ravioli of langoustine in Savoy cabbage; hot foie gras with rhubarb and pomegranite or pig&rsquo;s trotter on toast with parmesan &ndash; enough to keep you occupied, surely. 13-15 West Street, WC2H 9NE, tel: 0207 010 8600<br /><br /><strong>HIX OYSTER AND CHOP HOUSE</strong><br />A former sausage factory, this is just the place to come on your own &ndash; it&rsquo;s cosy and intimate, with original dark wood flooring and panelling. The original long marble and wooden bar takes centre stage in the dining room and provides an absorbing view of the seafood dishes being prepared. The clatter of shucking makes conversation seem unnecessary.<br /><br /><strong>What to eat:</strong> Oysters to start &ndash; they&rsquo;re all first-rate and range from &pound;1.95 to &pound;3.20 a piece. Go on to pick at the Ling fish fingers with mushy peas (nobody&rsquo;s going to mind you eating finger food as messily as you like) &ndash; or, in that vein, spoil yourself with grilled Orkney lobster with chips (&pound;42.00). Beef flank and oyster pie and whole John Dory with marsh samphire also play to Hix&rsquo;s strengths. 35-37 Greenhill's Rents, EC1M 6BN, tel: 020 70171930<br /><br /><strong>EAST SIDE INN</strong><br />Smithfield&rsquo;s new foodie gem from ex La Noisette chef Bjorn Van der Horst. There&rsquo;s a superb fine dining area here, but for the solo nosher, the bistro is a must, with its long, neatly-laid bar and kitchen view. The food is French-inspired, so you can have anything from laid-back country basics to more gourmet dishes.<br /><strong><br />What to eat: </strong>Onion soup and cassoulet on one hand; magret of duck with mashed potatoes and peppercorn sauce on the other. You needn&rsquo;t break the bank either: dishes start from &pound;6.95 for starters and &pound;12.95 for mains. Wines are thoughtfully available by the &ldquo;pichet&rdquo; (pitcher) if you fancy more than a glass but less than a bottle. 40 St. John Street, EC1M 4AY, tel: 020 7490 9240<br /><br /><strong>SALT YARD</strong><br />There&rsquo;s a lot of competition in London when it comes to tapas restaurants, but this one has the best bar for lone dining. It&rsquo;s dark, atmospheric and crowded, so you feel in good company even on your own. Watch the jamon being carved and chat to the friendly bar staff, who are happy enough for you to fill up on marcona almonds and sherry alone. The food&rsquo;s too good to pass up, though.<br /><br /><strong>What to eat: </strong>Chargrilled chorizo with marinated peppers, jamon croquetas with manchego; Cornish crab salad with quails eggs and gazpacho sorbet. If you fancy something simple, stick to the charcuterie and cheese plates. The wine list is exclusively Spanish and Italian so it&rsquo;s a great chance to try something new &ndash; wine, brandy or sherry. 54 Goodge Street,W1T 4NA, tel: 020 7637 0657<br /><br /><strong>ROKA</strong><br />The centrepiece of this blazing Japanese restaurant is the robata (open-charcoal) grill, responsible for the perfectly cooked, super juicy meat that makes this place so popular. Around the grill is a chunky wooden bar, full of people eating alone and in twos, watching the food being sizzled.<br /><br /><strong>What to eat: </strong>Since you&rsquo;re sitting in the robata hot seat, you might as well eat off the robata menu: black cod marinated in yuzu miso, glazed baby back ribs with cashews or aubergine in mirin, ginger and soy are all super choices. 37 Charlotte Street, W1T 1RR. Tel: 020 7580 6464<br /><br /><strong>MAZE</strong><br />Thanks to the ingenuity of Ramsay protege Jason Atherton, this outpost of sleek modern luxury has delighted the starriest of diners since it opened shop. The rosewood bar is big and commanding, with a special tasting menu that goes beautifully with a cocktail or three and will ensure you look the pinnacle of elegance whether you&rsquo;re on your own or with a friend.<br /><br /><strong>What to eat: </strong>Aged English beef with foie gras, parsley, snail and garlic; wild trout with confit lime, fresh peas, caper and raisin puree, and apple and caramel trifle with cider granite and cinnamon doughnut. 10-13 Grosvenor Square, W1K 6JP, tel: 020 7107 0000<br /><strong><br />WILD HONEY</strong><br />Anthony Demetre&rsquo;s charming Mayfair restaurant serves brilliantly executed French bistro food. The marble and wood bar is tranquil and friendly, and a reassuring place to eat the restaurant&rsquo;s Michelin-starred cuisine. Be sure to start with the cocktail of the week &ndash; that&rsquo;s prosecco with fresh pear puree just now.<br /><br /><strong>What to eat: </strong>The slow cooked pork belly with Herefordshire snails and carrot puree is so good I once ordered two helpings; the plat du jour is a good bet; bouillabaisse &ldquo;traditional Marseille style&rdquo; is intense and the best dessert here is wild honey ice cream with crushed honeycomb. 12 St. George Street, W1S 2FB, tel: 020 7758 9160