Every solo traveller knows the tone. It’s often one of pure shock, mixed with concern and a pinch of sadness thrown in for good measure.
“A table for one?!” the maître d’ asks, face puzzled. If you somehow make it past the gatekeeper and, shock horror, to a table of your own, too often you’re treated not just to your meal but also an array of sympathetic looks from fellow diners who constantly glance over, thinking your companion must be stuck in one hell of a traffic jam.
But there’s no shame in getting your grub on alone according to Dutch initiative EENMAAL, which has created the world’s first one-person restaurant.
“Most people do not like [eating alone], sometimes they feel embarrassed or other diners are staring at you”, says EENMAAL founder Marina van Goor.
“And restaurants are not fond of it – mostly they put you next to the toilet. A lot of business people who are travelling alone prefer to stay in their hotel room and have dinner there to avoid the uncomfortable situation.
“I chose to set up a restaurant because eating alone is the most extreme form of feeling disconnected in our culture. It is socially not accepted since ‘dinner’ usually is one of the most extreme forms of togetherness,” she says.
“I want to show that a moment of disconnection, by eating out alone, sitting alone, can be attractive, especially in our hyper-connected society. I am convinced that by breaking the taboo of eating out alone it’ll be easier to go out alone.”
Initially created as a two-day pop up restaurant, EENMAAL, set in a 17th-century canal house on the banks of Amsterdam, has had full tables for 18 months and its success seems far from waning. The simple, industrial-chic design with just 20 single-person tables doesn’t just host those travelling on their own, but locals wanting to escape the hassle of sharing meals, splitting bills or the incessant chatter from nearby diners that can so easily ruin a fine meal.
Plus, with the only option of a luscious four-course meal, there’s no chance for food envy to creep in. And with a new line of champagne, chocolates and tea – all created in single servings – EENMAAL has mastered the moment of disconnection and the unapologetic joy of eating alone.