I have a confession: I quite enjoy going to bars alone. My job description at Time Out includes reviewing new eateries and drinkeries every week, and inevitably, thanks to flaky friends and scheduling clashes, some of these visits must be made on one’s own. Luckily, I don’t really mind.
Yet it seems as though I’m in the minority. Mention you’re off to a bar solo and you’re usually met with one of two reactions. Some give you a pitying look before uttering a hurried ‘Yeah, I do that sometimes’, in a tone that suggests they do anything but. Then there are the rest, the right-barrel-of-laughers, who give you a stunned look of disgust and disbelief. ‘You’re doing what?’ they often stammer. ‘On your… own?’
I just don’t get it – I quite enjoy my own company. At the end of a hard day in the office, what could be better than a quiet drink alone with my thoughts? It beats going home to last night’s washing up and my flatmate’s noisy exercise routine.
The only problem with my favourite pastime is that one often encounters the same scepticism when you arrive at a bar or restaurant. There are staff who condescendingly lean over my table, asking, ‘Will anyone be joining you, sir?’ No – and I don’t pay for this kind of spiky reception, thank you very much.
Then there are the quizzical fellow patrons who seem to think that just because you’re drinking or dining alone, it’s acceptable to stare uncomprehendingly at you, as if you’re some kind of circus freak.
The key to enjoying these solo soirées, I’ve learned, is to look busy. Sports bars are a revelation: a lone gent is camouflaged in the hop-supping crowd, while the transfixed masses are too distracted by the glare of the game to notice – or care. But one can’t (or rather shouldn’t) live on burgers alone, so when I visit other venues I always carry an industrial-strength shield: a novel to wield in the world’s face. I’ve wasted hours of my life trotting up and down The Walk looking for a bar with enough light to read by (tip: high corner tables by the door in Rosso). I’ve also perfected the writing-a-very-long-text act, and the ponderous working-on-my-screenplay poise (don’t worry, I’m not).
You may be silently sniggering at the great efforts I make simply to enjoy a drink alone. Call me a lonely old man if you like; I call myself self-sufficient. It’s not me who’s the eccentric oddball, it’s clearly the vast mass of everyone else who is out of touch with the world.
Rob Garratt is our Music & Nightlife editor. He does occasionally go out with other people as well. Honest…