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FOOD & DRINK

Where to Eat Solo When You Just Need Some You Time

Just because you're hermitting that doesn't mean you have to eat every meal at home.
By Imogen Baker
October 04, 2017
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Where to Eat Solo When You Just Need Some You Time

Just because you're hermitting that doesn't mean you have to eat every meal at home.
By Imogen Baker
October 04, 2017
  shares

WHERE TO EAT SOLO WHEN YOU JUST NEED SOME YOU TIME

in partnership with

Just because you're hermitting that doesn't mean you have to eat every meal at home.

Now and then, we all need to take a break from being a part of society, close the doors, turn off notifications and binge watch TV shows while ignoring all texts and messages. The tricky part, though, is being in a you-time bubble when dinner rolls around. Our instincts tell us to snuggle into our couch burrito, order enough UberEats to feed the whole apartment block and when it arrives, awkwardly call back into your apartment, "Hey, large group of my friends, the food is here!".

You're not fooling anyone and you deserve better. Put on your glad rags and treat yourself to a meal out — alone. Yes, it sounds weird (food is often such a social concept, after all) but hear us out: you should be treated to fresh, delicious food and a doting waiter, even when you're retreating into your antisocial bubble. Alone but together with American Express we've uncovered Melbourne's best eateries for when you're riding solo and intend to keep it that way. Pick a spot, bring a book (and your American Express® Card) or spend the evening people watching — there's no wrong way to do it.

Got yourself in another dining situation and need some guidance? Whatever it is, we know a place. Visit The Shortlist and we'll sort you out.

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    Good things may come in small packages, but finer things come served as tasty morsels on wooden boards. The Italians call this cicchetti, and it’s one of the defining features of Lygon Street’s hippest bar, Heartattack and Vine. The venue is atmospherically European (if such a thing exists), with counter service, counter seating and low, intimate lighting. And a drawcard for solo diners is this ambience of the venue; a tight seating arrangement creates cosy nooks into which you can blend while enjoying a glass of wine and sampling the menu.

    The rotating cicchetti can cover anything from a bowl of humble olives to crostini topped with slow-braised ox tongue, smoked cod or roast peach and whipped goat’s cheese. You never know what you’ll get, but you know it’ll be good.

     

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    Embla is a small wine bar and eatery on Russell Street with soft lighting and an intimate air that’s sure to welcome you. They also don’t take reservations for dinner, which gives you a competitive edge as a solo diner. Cosy up to the bar and grab a seat at the counter. The staff really know their stuff so we recommend deferring to them when it comes to what to drink.

    The wine bar is run by the good folk behind The Town Mouse, so you know that food-wise, you’re in good hands. Snack on oysters, delicate anchovy toasts or pickled cucumber, which arrive dotted through a pool of feta and sprinkled with dill dust. Or treat yourself to something more filling like a half roast chook or Black Angus bavette.

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    The Kettle Black is a stunning little café in South Melbourne and their spatial organization makes it an excellent spot for a solo breakfast or lunch. The interior is lofty and spacious, but, on ground level, it feels cosy. There are plenty of small tables nestled into corners, perfect for a single. They also offer counter seating, if you can’t be bothered waiting for a table (it does get busy — you’ve been warned).

    For a virtuous start to the day, you can’t go past the spiced granola served with ‘textures of pumpkin’, almond and pumpkin lassi or the chilli scrambled eggs with Mooloolaba crab, crayfish oil and samphire for something punchier. The generous servings mean you might walk away with some leftovers for lunch, another added bonus of eating alone.

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    Supernormal is another of Melbourne’s must-do eateries and an ideal venue for some you time. Why? Because you won’t be distracted by idle chit-chat, so you can really focus on the food. The eatery’s owned by Andrew McConnell (Cumulus Inc, Cutler & Co.) and, trust us, his menu is worth your attention. They also have a counter where you’ll likely find a seat without too long of a wait.

    Some of the dishes are made to share, but that’s the glorious part of solo dining — no sharing required. We recommend trying something from the raw bar like the kingfish with pickled fennel, yuzu and chilli. The lobster roll is iconic, and the bao selection is great with fluffy buns and flavoursome fillings. But make sure you leave enough space for their famous peanut butter parfait, served with salted caramel and soft chocolate. It’s a recipe perfected over years and a visit to Supernormal isn’t complete without it.

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  • 5

    Wander up to Mama’s Buoi in the city for a quick, mid-week Vietnamese feed. The atmosphere is friendly and fast-paced, but not too loud — you won’t have to put headphones in to hear yourself think.

    All the standard players on the menu are represented including fresh rice paper rolls, five variations of vermicelli salad and bowls of six-hour broth pho. The servings are pretty generous, so bear that in mind before you over order and find yourself with enough food for two or more.

    For something a little outside the box, try the banh cuon. The slippery rice pancake is stuffed with pork mince and traditional pork sausage, and covered in specks of fried shallot.

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  • 4

    The warm, relaxed atmosphere at Archie’s All Day is perfect for a solo meal out. The friendly staff and chill vibe will make you feel like a regular among friends, even if you don’t want to talk to anyone. Plus, the courtyard out back and street dining is great for warm arvos when you want to bask with sunnies on (so no one interrupts your glow).

    With coffee by local roasters Proud Mary and a menu that covers all the brekkie favourites — we recommend the smashed avo — it’s served with Meredith goat’s feta, mint, parsley, lemon, sumac and pepita dukkah — you genuinely won’t want to leave Archie’s by the end of your stay.

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    Kong is one of Melbourne’s hottest restaurants right now, probably in part because they don’t take bookings (treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen very much applies to the Melbourne hospo scene). You’ll most likely have to wait to get a table but as a solo, you’ll have a distinct advantage. Their fluid counter seating means you’ll likely be able to nab a bar seat without much hassle and blend into the hustle and bustle of the busy restaurant. The staff are friendly and chatty but without being overbearing, so you can chow down in peace.

    There are plenty of small dishes to start with, or enough to mix and match into a satisfying meal. The gua bao style buns with peanut butter, salt and pepper tofu will make you wish supersized variations existed, and don’t even think about leaving without trying the roti-rolls with pulled pork, slaw and burnt chilli mayo — they’re slightly-chewy perfection.

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    Cumulus Inc. on Flinders Lane is a gem in the city’s culinary crown. It’s worth a solo trip just to give their menu your full attention and savour every bite. With a quieter and more relaxed atmosphere in the morning, Cumulus Inc.’s breakfast menu is particularly great if you’re partial to some morning me time to prepare for the day ahead. The house-made crumpets, whipped ricotta and rooftop honey are surprisingly decadent, while the house breakfast — a boiled egg, toast, preserves, yoghurt, orange juice, coffee and tea — proves that sometimes the originals are the best.

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    The Green Park Dining setup is cosy, with tables and counters designed mostly for twos – or for a solitary, hungry connoisseur of fine foods. The crew who run it, formerly of St Ali North, are a friendly lot. An evening visit will unlock the ciccheti menu, perfect for mixing and matching until you’re full. The wood-grilled king prawn served with salmoriglio and fermented chilli is to die for. And if you really want to celebrate not having to share, try the confit egg yolk and ricotta ravioli served with burnt butter, sage, pine nuts and vincotto — it’ll melt in your mouth.

     

    As you drink and dine with your American Express, reap all the sweet rewards of being a Card Member. Explore the many ways American Express has your back here.

    Top image: Brook James.

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