The city is full of great restaurants to enjoy a relaxing dîner pour un. Here are some tips that will allow you to enjoy the experience to the full
Dining alone, a table for one, flying solo, on your Pat Malone - whatever you wish to call it - there are those who indulge in solo dining with relish and those who simply won't consider doing it in public.
For many, a table with just ourselves as company, with no obligatory conversation except ordering and the odd chat with staff, no sharing bites or discussing anything, is a glorious state of being. But what makes some places better than others to eat alone in?
Solo diners are often judged for the very fact they are alone. It must mean they have no friends, no social skills, no life. Rubbish, of course. Dining alone is for those who enjoy their own company or who want to eat out whether their friends and partners do or not.
Where a solo diner chooses to dine depends on a personal list of likes and dislikes considering comfort, noise level, interaction with the staff and menu offerings. Somewhere with some noise and a constant buzz may appeal after a solid day in front of a computer, communicating only via email and messaging. Chin Chin on Flinders Lane in Melbourne fits the bill. It's a bustling cavern of a room and usually full, but there's often a solo seat at the bar that doesn't demand any waiting time. Jump the infamous queue and sidle up to kingfish sashimi while watching the swift service skills of the hip, vintage-clad staff.
Cumulus Up just up the road has banquette seating if a quiet corner is desired. At night time the brooding, dark lighting lets you slip on your cloak of invisibility but still offers decent views for people watching. You see, dining alone is a wonderful time for contemplation and observation, if you don't want to read or catch up on work. Seeing how staff interact with customers and each other, watching the kitchen rhythm, taking in the noises, the clutter and clang and tinkling of glasses are often missed when deep in conversation, but when alone they can be theatre.
A suitable venue is one that welcomes the lone diner. If seated at the bar, check that the full restaurant menu is available, not just the bar menu of smaller bites. Finding this style of eating isn't difficult in Melbourne: the dining landscape is a terrain of share plates, small bites and main dishes to satisfy the depth of the solo diner's appetite.
Most menus have a few dishes of tastes to start and one or two may be enough for one person. A Cape Grim steak tartare in Collingwood's Gorski and Jones, a plate of whiskey-cured salmon with soda bread at West Melbourne pub The Last Jar, a dish of grilled octopus with kimchi in Fitzroy's Hammer and Tong or a basket of steamed pork dumplings on a communal table in the chaos that is Shanghai Street in the city.
But the key to any solo dining experience is the service, intelligent and sensitive staff who gauge almost immediately if you're open to chatting or are dining alone to be alone. Thanks to their knowledge and sensitivity to the dining experience, the staff at Cafe Di Stasio in St Kilda are brilliant at this.
Dining alone can be a break from a madding crowd, some peace from a busy day or just a way to get fed. Pay no mind to the perceptions of others - it's a wonderful luxury. Just know what to look for, get the mood right, let the staff know what you need and you and Pat Malone will get on just fine.
Photo: Sensitive staff will gauge almost immediately if you're open to chatting or are dining alone to be alone. Photograph: Jochen Sand/Getty Images