Et cela sera pour combien de personnes?
Qu’une personne s’il vous plaît.
Many of us city dwellers lead rather chaotic, fast & furious lives (by furious here I mean full of energy, as opposed to anger). Those of us in the wine trade have the advantage of leading a life where work and pleasure somehow become inextricably intertwined; a blessing, but also one that means we can end up burning the candle at both ends.
I discovered the joys of solo dining by necessity when I packed my bags and moved to Beaune six years ago as a bright eyed and bushy tailed 21-year-old. My budget was much smaller then than it is now (saying that it’s still not huge - hello wine trade) but I had almost no friends in Burgundy at that time (save for my dear friend Edouard Maurisset-Latour who pretty much saved me from an existence of intense loneliness), so when Edouard wasn’t around I would occasionally traipse down the 16th century steps of my apartment and explore the gastronomic streets of Beaune by night.
I quickly realised that solo dining wasn’t scary at all; in fact, it was deeply soothing. I sat in many restaurants and watched the world go by - watching fellow diners and coming and going, conversations full of laughter, joy, and sometimes neither. At the same time, I would be taking in everything about that restaurant all alone. Of course, dining with companions is equally as enjoyable - I’m not a total loner - but the companion in question will take at least 75% of your attention. Alone, the restaurant is allowed 100% of your attention, and in return, it gifts you much needed time to your own thoughts.
This weekend I was in Champagne for the first time, alone, to visit Adrien Dhont and Timothée Stroebel. I headed to Le Bocal on Friday night, the most adorable miniscule fish restaurant behind the fish market, which I found via an article by Peter Liem. I ate homard bleu and drank biodynamic Les Meuniers de Clémence by Lelarge Pugeot. A pairing from another universe where lobsters and Champagne bottles roam hand in hand. Bliss. The service was impeccable and the butter was something divine - no idea what was in it but I think some kind of fish roe. If you are a fan of fish and Champagne, this place won’t let you down.
The second night, Adrien told me “go to The Glue Pot. It’s like an English pub, but not, with an epic wine list.” Weird, I thought, but sure, I’ll go with it.
I had some work to do, so went back to my Airbnb and headed out at 21:15, without a reservation.
I walked in and wondered whether someone had slipped some acid into my coffee earlier. RED. So much red. Red carpets, red leather chairs, red walls. Errrrthing red. Based on a (shit) English pub - it looks even more like a (shit) English pub from the outside, with a DJ bashing out pretty good electronic music, but with acoustics that are so good that nothing seemed too loud or blare-y. TVs showing what I can only assume to be some very strange talent show with people riding penny farthings and doing intense acrobatics on hover boards. Handstands and splits galore. Fucking fascinating watching, I’m not going to lie. I was glued, no pun intended.
The service - some of the best service I’ve ever had, brilliant and caring staff and Stephan, the owner, is such a character and knows his wine inside out.
Now, the most important part: THE WINE LIST. Not going to spoil it for you but go and you shall not be disappointed. Some of the most interesting cuvées and best prices I’ve ever seen in a restaurant.
The food. Exactly what I needed after a long day of tasting. The most delicious camembert deep fried snacks - it’s actually really hard to get deep frying right without being greasy. These were perfect - crisp and so fresh. Next, the most tender, mouth-melting veal I’ve had, with glorious nutty comte cheese which was the pairing from the heavens with Clos Rougeard’s Brézé Blanc 2011 - not exactly a wine you get to drink every day.
I try to dine alone at least once a month. It almost verges on therapy for me. It is one of my favourite activities in the world. I have many friends who find the idea weird or even scary; I just hope by writing this perhaps some of the solo dining doubters out there might give it a go. I’m sure it’s not for everyone, but go on - have a try. You might be surprised and you might even start joining me in making some of those “Reservation for one, please.”