An entire restaurant dedicated to tables for one? This is what Marina Van Goor of Eenmaal has been offering in Amsterdam. Her solo dining concept is rolling out to major cities around the world and arrives in Covent Garden courtesy of a partnership with Glaceau Smart Water. Is this dining for severe introverts or for those who just want a bit of peace and quiet?
I know someone who recoils in horror if you suggest that she dine out alone. Personally I never understood why solo dining seems to be such a taboo. Maybe it’s because I once had a job with a lot of international travel. Any business traveller knows this means lots of meals for one, out of necessity rather than choice. Go to any business hotel in the evening and you’ll find plenty of men (and women) who are the embodiment of the film “Up In The Air”. Go there next week and you’ll probably find the same people again.
However, I think I have misunderstood the concept as Eenmaal calls itself “an attractive place for temporary disconnection”. That suggests that the solo dining experience should be a place or meditation or reflection and makes a lot of sense when the staff tell me that Eenmaal has a link to the Buddhist practice of Mindfulness.
The two day popup venue is decorated in pure white with a blue accents provided by LED lamps. The same colour scheme as Superman’s hideaway at the North Pole, without the oversized film set crystals. The tables are square islands arranged at random so everyone around me was facing either left right or forward (but sensibly not backwards, which would’ve been awkward for Marina’s two short speeches to the diners). The small card menus gave a choice of two starters, three mains and two desserts and were were told we could choose any two. (Yes – dessert fans, you can choose two desserts).
What do I think? Well, ‘no screaming kids’ is an excellent bonus (especially given the recent spate of entitled parents writing negative Tripadvisor reviews with gems such as “the staff refused to look after the baby” while they pop outside for a cigarette. On the either end of the age scale, there will be no large parties nearby disrupting everyone.
The food offering was a good, well presented and a neccessarily small menu. The service was attentive, especially considering this was a popup. My starter of “fresh homemade ricotta served with rye bread caramelised whey and beetroot” was served at a decent temperature, refreshingly not ‘straight out of a very cold fridge’. The main course of “gravlax served with dill pickled radishes and matcha salt” was interesting. The salmon wasn’t heavily smoked but nicely seared and topped with some course salt. The radishes were excellent as was the beetroot from the starter. Not convinced about the matcha salt, but it was visually appealing and an interesting flavour combo. However the texture of the fine powder was a bit odd.
Those seeking a more monastic or library environment may be a little disappointed. During my visit there were twenty guests and I saw two conversations spontaneously ignite… that’s a librarian angering talking rate of 10%!
Perhaps the perceived public desire to retreat and be alone isn’t as strong as they believe. Come to think of it… Eenmaal seems to be the anthesis of PipsDish where I dined at a kitchen table with strangers who actually wanted to speak to each other, unlike my journey home on The Tube.