Despite old stereotypes, dining solo can yield all kinds of rewards. And our finest restaurants are primed and ready to deliver.
Google the phrase “dining alone” and some pretty pointed questions appear:
Is it OK to eat alone in a restaurant?
Is it weird to go for a meal alone?
How can you dine alone without feeling awkward?
They speak to a discomfort at the thought of a solitary meal and a high level of anxiety about how others perceive us. Sarah Atkinson, sommelier and co-owner of Le Rebelle in Mount Lawley, however, takes a different view.
“I see it as a freedom to feel comfortable enough to go out on your own and have some time to yourself,” she says. “I consider indulging in the things you love on your own liberating and, at the end of the day, no one is judging you.”
Given society’s increasing focus on “me time” and self-care, it’s little wonder the stigma surrounding solo dining is fading. Long considered the realm of the lonely, the table for one now serves as an invitation to spend time catching up on reading, work, scrolling through socials or simply enjoying whatever is in front of you.
For Atkinson, the perks don’t stop there. “If more people headed out on their own, they’d get to visit places they’ve been dying to try rather than waiting months to organise a meal with friends or family,” she says. “For us, it’s also a little easier to slide in a single diner on a busy night.”
Consider, too, those painful parts of an otherwise pleasant evening – conceding to dietary restrictions, compromising on what to order, bickering over the bill – that all but disappear in the absence of company. Then there’s the matter of cooking for one, and the sobering realisation that the dishes don’t do themselves.
According to online reservation platform TheFork, single diners are mostly walk-ins, so account for only one per cent of bookings in WA. Yet, at the bumper crop of venues across the state like Le Rebelle – smaller, more intimate smart-casual spots – they represent a fiercely loyal faction of the patronage.
Connie Ainscough, assistant venue manager at Madalena’s, sees it service after service. “We have quite a few solo regulars who come in every week, on the same day, at the same time, for either their weekly glass of wine or routine dinner at the bar,” she says.
The mix of outdoor seats, bar stools and small tables goes a long way to making unaccompanied guests feel welcome at the natural wine and seafood specialist. Ditto the kitchen’s offer to make the menu more accessible by serving half portions. But Ainscough insists it’s the sense of hospitality that makes the biggest impact.
“On my days off, I am typically one of those solo diners that frequents venues they enjoy – not just for the food and wine, but for the staff, too,” she says. “It’s generally a nice reminder that patrons are just like us, and we are just like them.”
Flying solo? Pull up a pew at these five venues, and let the good times roll.
Lulu La Delizia
Each and every one of the handmade pastas at Joel Valvasori’s Subiaco trattoria is a head-turner, from the timeless tagliatelle al ragù to saffron spaghettini vongole. Don’t question whether you’ve got room for Ortiz anchovies in cabernet vinegar and tiramisù – just order it all. 5/97 Rokeby Road (Forrest Walk), Subiaco.
New head chef Justin Wong has given the most talked-about roast chicken in town a Malaysian makeover, serving it with creamy, coconutty kapitan sauce, spinach rice and mixed leaves. It’s great to share between two as part of a larger meal, but it’s even better all to yourself. QV1, 250 St Georges Terrace, Perth.
Sunday afternoon might just be the best time to pop into WAGFG’s 2019 Best Bar winner. Start with a spritzy, fruit-forward cocktail and a crumpet topped with crab meat and horseradish labne, then kick back, relax, soak in the live music and see where the night takes you. 5 Nairn Street, Fremantle.
Tania Nicolo estimates that solo diners make up more than two per cent of the crowd at this Wembley hotspot she co-owns with husband Ryan Bookless. Factor in the 48-hour dough, San Marzano tomato sauce and the option to BYO, and it’s surprising that number isn’t higher. 46 Grantham St, Wembley.
The Heritage Wine Bar
If the 100-strong list of wines by the glass isn’t enough to lure you into one of Perth’s finest establishments, then maybe the promise of first-rate house bread, pristine oysters with Geraldton wax and roasted duck breast will do the trick. 131 St Georges Terrace, Perth.
For the essential guide to eating and drinking in WA visit wagoodfoodguide.com