After being royally screwed over by someone they’ve been dating for a couple of months, some people may choose to reassert their independence by going out on a rebound mission. I, on the other hand, decided to reassert my independence in the most foodie way possible and finally going solo-dining. I’m not entirely sure why I haven’t got around to doing it before, but I figured now was as good a time as any and so took myself on a date to Stevie Parle’s latest brainchild Pastaio on Soho’s Ganton Street.
I rocked up at 12.30pm to the no-reservations restaurant and was warmly greeted by the Maître D’ and shown to the solo-diner-friendly window counter. I pondered over the drinks menu, albeit pointlessly since I had already decided that I needed to try the prosecco slushy I’d spotted on Instagram. An adult-child hybrid that didn’t taste all that alcoholic, this glass of deliciousness lulled me into a false sense of sobriety that would have led to ordering a second, had I not had a flashback to my eighteenth birthday at Ocean Club Marbella. Visions of myself so smashed off my tits on a jug of electric blue alcoholic slushy that I consequently had to be lifted out of the swimming pool by two security guards who promptly kicked me out, led me to decide against ordering a second prosecco slushy. Keep it classy, Fern.
When solo-dining (or ‘taking yourself on a date’ as I have decided to re-brand it), there is no pressure to appear sexy or appealing, and so obviously one must opt for the messy, unattractive-to-scoff option. On this occasion, two slices of toasted sourdough played home to gooey mozzarella, a healthy portion of nduja sausage whose heat gently tickled the back of my throat in the most warming of ways, and rays of honey that shone through and rounded the flavour profile up nicely. A good starter, but being a cheese addict, I was slightly disappointed that a stronger cheese wasn’t used.
A serious concern of mine about taking myself on a date was that I wouldn’t have the luxury of trying a real date’s food as well as my own. Well ‘screw it’ I thought. Why not just order for two anyway since I’m probably saving a lot of money not being out with he-who-must-not-be-named all the time. Cue me sat in front of a window with passers by giving me disapproving looks that I had two giant plates of pasta and no one to share them with. Cue me also not giving a shit and shovelling mountains of endorphin-inducing carbs down my neck.
At only £7 a pop, the ‘cacio e pepe’ was not only a bloody good portion but also a knockout dish in its own right. The definition of al dente in the form of bucatini (thick spaghetti to you and me) swam in a silky pool of cheesy, creamy goodness which was offset both in flavour and texture by the crunches of black peppercorns scattered liberally throughout the dish. I’m an incredibly slow eater, but my leisurely eating habits were soon rewarded by the clusters of parmesan that were forming as the sauce cooled and subsequently solidified. Who needs a boyfriend when you can get this much comfort and satisfaction from a plate of pasta anyway? Pasta will never break your heart.
My second main course (I could get used to saying that) was 5 bundles of joy in the form of grouse, rabbit and pork agnoli (kind of like a ravioli-tortellini lovechild). Once again, the pasta was as al dente as it comes, although the filling left me lusting after something a little richer. A sage and butter sauce lovingly caressed the delicate parcels and to be fair, the ‘cacio e pepe’ had set the bar pretty high in terms of powerful flavours; perhaps I should have eaten these in the reverse order.
Had I been on a real date, I would have absolutely insisted on sharing the ricotta, orange and saffron cannoli for dessert, but unfortunately after tackling 2 large plates of pasta and one vamped up cheese toastie all on my own, I had to finally admit defeat.
Pastaio was the perfect location to pop my solo-dining cherry and I’ll definitely be going back for a second sesh. I was hoping to end up sat next to a fellow solo-diner and strike up some interesting conversation but alas, ‘twas not the case. I do think it could happen though (shout out to Ashvir who I met in an Uber pool and ended up having dinner with) and so I intend to take myself on some more dates to some of London’s solo-dining friendly restaurants. Perhaps I’ll find my real Prince Charming wining and dining himself in Frenchie, Barrafina or Sheekey’s Atlantic Bar…
19 GANTON ST