I am, the majority of the time painfully aware of how pathetic I am. It’s a hard pill to swallow realising it is yourself who laughs the hardest at your own jokes; who, more often than not finds remnants of lunch on their cheek 4 hours after consumption; I often feel inspired to change my personality based solely on the fact that I forget other people can hear me when I rap out loud on the tram.
Nevertheless, I am 29 and more than likely, stuck with who I am.
Dining out alone however, is a completely different compartment to my persona. When I dine out alone, I’m really quite fabulous.
I was in London for the weekend, a last minute “you do boujee you” work trip extension I had booked after one too many glasses of non-alcoholic wine, (both my credit card and I will be glad to see the back of dry January and the forceful measures required to make it more fun).
Draining the third pint of lime and soda I had guzzled with my work pals whilst they drank golden glasses of chardonnay, I glanced at the time and exclaimed; “Right well, this has been fun but…I really want pasta…ciao!”
I’m not sure how sobriety managed to turn me into a BTEC, socially-awkward Sophia Loren, alas – here we are. I took my full bladder, my wheely case and made a break for the tube, travelling at the speed of whatever accidentally causes a man to swallow an ice cube when you push past him in Soho House.
Clinging ferociously to any significant bar of WiFi, I summoned the blue lines on Maps to Padella, and anticipated a queue round the block.
Arriving 3 minutes after 6, I arrived in front of the bouncer, along with what felt like the rest of those in the London Bridge vicinity – also keen to get over the threshold.
“Hello! How are you?” I exclaimed with what I hoped was my most wide-eyed, earnest expression.
“Did you book?” He responded.
“Yes! Francesca…Bianchi”. (I localise my surname with the theory that I will get better treatment / portions based on my bloodline).
He flips over the paper of the clipboard.
“You aren’t on here…how many for?”
“Oh! Really?” (Eyes get wider, brows furrow). “Oh..it’s just me…”
He leaves me on the street to exchange words inside.
“They can fit you in, go”.
I thank him too many times and scuffle in, suitcase under table, tush in seat.
Padella, is a tiny, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kinda place. Located right by Borough Market, it’s a charismatic character, bursting with flavoursome aromas, smiling faces and inaudible chatter from the many who are just as excited as I am to be there.
Getting in can be troublesome, and you should be prepared to queue – but I give you my word – it is absolutely worth it.
The menu is short and simple. Their sourdough is a family secret so I recommend plumping for this, alongside a serving of burrata whilst you peruse the menu.
It’ll arrive smothered in olive oil and bursting with creamy, rich goodness. Take the moment, and savour it – I insist you smell the bread (you’re on your own and people are staring after your ordeal at the door anyway – what’s a few more weird points?) Cut through the burrata and smother a hearty portion to your slice of sourdough…there’s a no-doubt-house-made clay dish of rock salt for the table (of course there is); sprinkle it generously, bring to your lips and bite.
That right there? That’s happiness (well gluttony, but who needs specifics?)
Repeat until you have exhausted the resources, adjust your waistband.
I have a rule when dining alone- always order enough for two. Ergo, two main courses for me.
Pappardelle with 8 hours Dexter beef shin ragu.
Thick, slippery, and piping hot. Pappare, means “to gobble up”, which you absolutely should. It tastes like home; comforting and warm.
Pure poetry on a plate.
My clean plate was taken and immediately replaced…by pici cacio and pepe.
A classic, kind of looks like brains, you’ll get over it.
Pepper, parmesan, garlic – simple but bloody effective.
I polished off the lot, bid-adieu to my new friend (the lady who kept me fed all evening and recommended everything I consumed), grabbed my little case and wandered off into the night.
There’s something quite glorious about taking yourself out to dinner; I’ve met many who recoil at the thought, or when I admit that I often like to take myself out on a date (and why not? I told you earlier, I’m hilarious company*). But time enjoyed spent alone is a gift as much as time spent with someone you love – the only difference, is you don’t have to share.
Sometimes the noise of life gets a little bit too much, and diving into a bowl of pasta gives me as much therapy as sliding into a hot bubble bath, I’d also argue it makes me a better person, taking the time to reflect, ponder thoughts…did I also mention I don’t have to share?
Regardless, live your best life (and forgive mine for uttering those hideous words), order the two mains; and don’t let the good times pasta-you* by.