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solo diner looking for a long and intellectualized dinner experience with good wine pairing

I will be in London for a few days, and have a few things on my list. I am going to the Anchor and Hope with old friends, and perhaps one night will be at Barrafina. Lunches will be Ottolenghi and probably lots of conference catering (eek). But for my night alone, I am looking for something a little bit out of the ordinary. One of my most memorable dinners a year back was at Alinea, with a very very good book and occasional charming conversations with the servers. This is once a year thing for me, so I don't mind splurging (in case Alinea reference wasn't convincing). But I will be dining alone, don't want meatmarkets, places that are bustling, or noisy. I am looking for a 6+ course dinner with a carefully selected wine pairing.

I hate to give my money to Gordon Ramsay for personal reasons (reasons that will probably will result in the deletion of this post) and I would rather not eat French since I come from a Francophone city and feel like I can branch out. So what would be that place for me? Merci!

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  1. nuno mendes' food is definitely challenging/interesting - there is a post on my bog about my experience at his loft. i've not been to viajante, his newly opened restaurant, so can't comment on atmosphere etc but that might be a starting point. it's been extensively reviewed, there is no menu - you eat what nuno chooses.

    hibiscus also has interesting food. i wasn't captured by it (i posted on here about the meal) but others have loved it. the room is a touch corporate for my taste but would definitely not be too noisy for you.

    4 Replies
    1. re: abby d

      I'd second both of these - I loved Hibiscus when I was there but it does seem to polarise opinions. There were a couple of solo diners at lunch service and the waiters and sommeliers were more than happy to engage in conversation with them.

      1. re: abby d

        re:Viajante - might also depend if the OP is looking exclusively for wine pairings or open to other beverages -- I've heard that Nuno doesn't pair all courses with wine (other beverages such as tea, cocktails etc are used as well), but that will need to be confirmed.

        1. re: abby d

          My wife and I dined at Viajante on Saturday and came away really impressed. It certainly fits what the OP says they're looking for - very interesting dishes, lots of contact with chef and servers (it's an open kitchen and the chef personally presents many of the courses) and interesting wine pairings - all wines in the case of the particular 12 course menu we tried on Saturday, though I also understand that there are some non-wine options in play from time to time.

          It's certainly the most intricate, bold, Alineaesque (drawing on the cookbook, not personal experience) food I've had in London, though I haven't really eaten all that much at the very top end.

          1. re: lacemaker

            I loved Viajante when I was there a few weeks ago for lunch. I saw two contended lone diners so it certainly fits the bill in that respect. You also get to see an edgier end of London you'd not normally see as a tourist.

        2. Booo, I was sooo excited about Viajante; but they are booked for all the four nights I am there. I can probably take a rez at the bar, but not sure if it is the same food. Trying Hibiscus too, will keep the board posted about the experience.

          7 Replies
          1. re: garmonbozia

            I think The Ledbury is great. It's a great menu and the service is fabulous.

            1. re: garmonbozia

              check out the loft as well - nuno is not cooking there any more but there are usually some interesting people lined up. http://theloftproject.co.uk/home/

              1. re: garmonbozia

                I could be wrong, but the Hibiscus menu looks rather French to me.

                Are you looking for a molecular gastronomy type restaurant, or just for something unusual to you? Perhaps hounds on the board could come up with additional ideas if you can help clarify "intellectualised" further.

                As you're looking for something different from French, one thing that crossed my mind was that 1997 chianti are around a very drinkable age now (if a bottle that I've had last year were any indication) -- having a meal constructed around an exceptional bottle of wine may suit your criteria for out of the ordinary (i.e. food pairing, rather than wine pairing), but would require advanced planning/organisation.

                1. re: limster

                  I guess I am trying to find somewhere where I can actually experience the food myself without any bruhaha and trendiness or even better be around people that I can talk about food. In that regard, Loft sounds perfect; I made a reservation inquiry already. But foremost, I am looking for exceptional food or wine, and could care about surroundings as long as I can experience the food without being rushed or disturbed. If I am alone, I don't mind reading my book while slowly ingesting yummies. Also, I want this experience to change my perceptions about food or wine (hence the Alinea experience).

                  My reservation with French is that I live in Montreal and it is the standard MO here. But when it comes to... no problem with eating some more of that.

                  1. re: garmonbozia

                    It sounds like the Loft would suit you well, although you're likely to be seated at a communal table, so you may not have much time to your book.

                    If that doesn't pan out, for something off the beaten path and perhaps offbeat, I'd recommend Chez Liline -- it's more lusty and elemental, rather than cerebral and rarified, but the underlying technique is impeccable in their Mauritian-inspired seafood (I think it's all seafood, and they're certainly happy to chat about the food). You'd need to call ahead to arrange a tasting menu with wine, but I hear that regulars there do that often.

                    Other backups: A bit more maintream, but different, would be Maharastrian food at Indian Zing, or Keralan at Quilon. Kikuchi for very refined izkaya food, but you'd be drinking sake instead of wine.

                    1. re: limster

                      Wohooo seat available at the Loft. I hope I can find the place as a London rookie! This is already too exciting. I don't mind skipping my book since I will be around people that actually love food. Thanks for the fantastic suggestion again everyone.

                      1. re: garmonbozia

                        i've always liked l'atelier joel robuchon for solo dining. that concept of sitting around the kitchen really works when you're on your own. although it's french based it has a wide selection of global inspired dishes and does quite a few wines by the glass. brilliant food, but not the cheapest gaff in london.