Cafe TPT (London, UK) – Table for 1

Y’know… I don’t think I’ve ever watched a movie in a theater alone.
On the introvert/extrovert spectrum, I’d probably be here:
[introvert]—-ed——————-[extrovert]

So it’s not that I dislike doing things on my own; there are just certain things that I feel are much more enjoyable in the company of others (preferably good friends & family).  Going out for movies is one.  Eating out is another.  Nearly all of my pasts blog posts, and Dan’s too, have been about meals we’ve enjoyed in the company of friends.  That’s just how we roll.

Cafe TPT (London Chinatown)

I’ve been working abroad for the last month (London’s Chinatown pictured above) and have eaten most of my dinners alone.  I’m fairly used to it now, but meals simply don’t tastes as good when you’re dining out alone.  That’s my opinion. I’m interested in yours – especially if you disagree! Do you mind eating out alone? I’m not talking about getting take-out (or “take-away” as they call it here), cooking a meal at home, or eating fast-food: those are easy.  I’m talking about a normal dining experience at a proper restaurant*

Cafe TPT (London Chinatown)

One of the best ways to combat homesickness is by eating something familiar.  I did just that the other day when I went to Chinatown for some simple wonton noodles.  Chinatown is in Soho and is in the heart of London’s West End; it’s a total tourist magnet.  As such, Chinatown is home to a bunch of horrible restaurants cashing in on unsuspecting tourists.  Thankfully, there are also some fairly good places.  Cafe TPT, a run-of-the-mill Hong Kong-style cafe, is one of them.

But this post is less about the food (the noodles were very nice and came with some tasty freshly-sliced BBQ pork – £8.60 with a drink), and more about reflecting on the whole dining-out-alone-experience.  The food can be awesome, but the meal will still feel unsatisfying to me.  I’m not entirely sure why.

Lack of dinnertime conversation? Doesn’t normally bother me.
Lack of sharing options? I like sharing food, but it’s not essential.
Am I too clingy?
Maybe, but I don’t think so.
The correct answer is usually the simplest one so it’s probably just “because I’m not accustomed to eating out alone“, but I’d like to think that it’s something more compelling.

Cafe TPT (London Chinatown)

Note the book in this picture.  I’ve discovered that dining out alone is a lot easier when you have a book to read.  Not only is it less boring, but you also look a lot less creepy when you’re the only person in the entire restaurant eating alone**

One of the reasons I like going to a movie with a bunch of people is because, after the movie, we can talk about what we thought of it.  For, example:

Friend: “Wow, District 9 was amazing. What’d you think of it Eddie?
Me: “Yea, that was intense. I loved it.

And then I feel great because not only did I see a kickass movie, I have assurance (via my peers) that it was indeed a kickass movie.

I bet, subconsciously, the same thing is happening when I go out to eat.  It’s only a great meal if I think it’s a great meal and my friends agree with me that it was a great meal.  My Cafe TPT wonton noodles were great, but since I didn’t have any friends to bounce my satisfaction off of***, I left less than 100% satisfied.

Agree? Disagree? Am I over-analyzing?

Cafe TPT (London Chinatown)

PS: Aww… my green onions looked like hearts <3!

*I realize that HK Cafes are slightly fast-food-ish. I cheated.
**Tho the creepiness returns once you pull out a camera and start taking pictures of your food.
***this sounds a little kinky.

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  1. Odd, I would have pegged you ESR fellows as more towards the extrovert edge of that scale. :)

    Responding to your thought that “meals simply don’t tastes as good when you’re dining out alone” and your question of “Do you mind eating out alone?”, I thought I’d chime in with some simple thoughts.

    For me, I suppose I’m much like you in that I’d prefer to be with others but can handle being alone to eat in a proper restaurant. But this totally depends on the situation: if I’m in the city where I predominantly live or if I’m on the road for work, or on the road for vacation. The actual circumstance totally changes things for me…

    For instance, as I often travel with colleagues or clients for business, there are many times when I’d actually prefer to be eating alone at the end of a busy day and “switch off” so to speak, and not have to keep my work hat on. I’m not sure what your current extended stay in London is like, but guessing you are there on your own? If so, I can totally feel your pain as dining alone for that stretch of time could be very lonely and boring. Not sure if’ you’ve considered your “situation” and how it relates to how you’re feeling right now…

    Also, when I eat alone, I don’t feel I need to verify my thoughts on things with others right away or who had happened to be there with me. As depending on their tastes and interests in food overall, you could run into a huge range of feedback. In those cases when I know I’m with others who aren’t really into food as much as I am, I can temper my discussions and not have to feel my impressions of the meal need to be “justified” by others immediately, and I’m generally quite comfortable in my own skin and my own belief in how the meal was, the service was handled, etc.

  2. It is said that 80% of extroverts are introverts. Just that he/she does not know it…

    Brought Chinese, I always had dinners with my parents and, when she was at home, my sister. It was that one moment of the day we could sit together, be silent and disassociate everything else we had around us. I could never eat later because I was doing homework; likewise, my sister couldn’t skip dinner just because the soap opera was on. In more than one way also it was the fact we were paying respect to my mother who spend a lot of time of the day buying groceries and then doing prep work during the day. That was, at least, until I moved out…

    When I started living on my own, at first, it was mostly take out. Just go to the closest fast food chain (people from a nearby Subway really got to know me…) take it home and eat it on the dark while watching some TV. And, after that, play some computer games. Did I miss home cooking and eating with others? Yes and no. I really missed my mom’s cooking (hey, who doesn’t?) but I did not necessarily missed the interaction with other. I blame it to the fact I was brought up to be independent.

    So, unlike most of you, my baseline is that of eating alone, rather with others but, still, as I have expressed a lot of times, by having others around, you add that one spice, that one ingredient, that one condiment that can’t be bought or is list in any recipe and makes the meal a lot better. However, at the same time, when you go with others for a meal, it is not necessarily for the food but the company – the food is just a reason to bring people together. As a result, I usually only briefly mention how the food was but try not to over-emphasize it.

    Having said all that, at least I have one bragging right: unlike most other food bloggers (or, at least, those of us in Vancouver), I usually go for my meals by myself and that “shame” of being the single person in the restaurant eating and, “worst of all”, taking pictures of the food has long gone away, hehehehehe.

    Shokutsu, similar to you, once in a while, I also have meals with colleagues and customers. However, in those cases, I try to stay away from anything work related and talk about other things. It is quite interesting how you can relate to them and learn things that otherwise you don’t know about them under the normal course of a business day. Still, I try to avoid these like plague as it is possible you can end up “slipping” out things that you might afterwards regret…

  3. Thanks for the thoughtful comments guys!
    I can relate with both of you.

    shokutsu: I know what you mean about needing time to “switch off”. Spending a lot of time with colleagues and especially clients can be mentally draining. I’m not saying it can’t be fun, but it is tiring because you always have to be “on” to avoid those awkward silences. With good friends and family, those awkward silences are usually either accustomed (and thus aren’t awkward) or they’re filled naturally; it doesn’t feel as much of a “chore”.

    I don’t have problems with eating alone in general. I especially love to cook meals even if it’s just for 1. However, I’m still not accustomed to eating out alone. What’s your secret KimHo? :)

    On that note, I don’t think I could ever be a professional food critic (nor do I want to be). Don’t those guys/girls have to eat alone? 100% focused on the food and surroundings, no? :P

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