- Restaurant Name: Blixen
- Total Spending: £15
- Dining Duration: 50 min (6:25 – 7:15)
- Awkward Level: 1/5
- Seating: Single table near the entrance
- Interaction with waiters/waitress: 7 times
How I got here?
After a day of work, I've decided to come to somewhere close by work. Based on the restaurant list I've created, I manage to find Blixen within walking distance. It was one of the most mentioned restaurants good for solo dining, so I was keen on finding out what's 'so good' about it. Now that I'm working at OpenTable, I managed to book the restaurant through the system, and specifically asked to be seated in the garden area, after seeing the lovely picture. I knew it was going to be a nice weather, so I thought I'd treat myself with the last bit of sunshine before the day goes dark.
Right when I stepped in side the restaurant, the host greeted me with a warm friendly smile. I told her I've made a reservation for one. 'Emily?' 'Yes." I replied. Unfortunately, when I arrived, the host told me that the garden was under construction, as they are going to move the main entrance there, to welcome their guest with better setting/atmosphere. 'Would you like to sit here?' she pointed to the seat close by the entrance. Probably because it was still early (6:30) so the entire restaurant only had two groups of people (5 businessmen, one couple), with one other man by himself. I looked around and said I'd prefer to sit further inside. I picked a corner seating with benches, where I can comfortably put my things next to me. Right after I was seated, another waitress came to greet me, and asked what I'd like to drink. Since it's a weekday, I decided just stick to water.
Upon the friendly faces at the restaurant, and the sunlight shinning through the window, the overall atmosphere of Blixen is very welcoming and comfortable. I guess also because there weren't that many people then, I felt very at ease, just relaxing after work. I looked around, there is one couple sitting in front of me, and a group of businessmen in suits sitting on the other side of the room (an elevated booth area), and further down towards the opposite corner, there's a man drinking red wine and reading a book by himself.
I looked around, and since I didn't bring a book but also can't play on the phone, I was kind of bored. Just when I was about to try my best to resist to pick up my phone, the host came and asked if I would like to read some newspaper. **BING** She was right on time and saw the needs of mine. I was really grateful for her offer. I usually don't like to read newspaper when eating, because the ink gets my fingers all dirty. Good thing I came prepared, I got hand sanitiser in my purse. So I just read, read, and waited for my food.
The eating part
The food came really quickly, I got a kale salad with beetroot, avocado, and walnuts, in addition with chips on the side. I put away the papers and eat away. The salad was really well seasoned – I've never had this combination before, I was thinking to myself, perhaps I'm gonna try to remake it again at home. So I focused on every single bite, trying to figure out what they put in there to make it taste so nicely.
I am a big salad eater, at home, most of my dinner is salad. It's easy to make, healthy, and easy to clean up. You can call me lazy, but I love my salads. However, I defintely noticed that at home, I don't mind so much when some part of the leaf is sticking out of my mouth (not very lady-like, I know), but when I'm eating out, I would cut up the leaves and try to take smaller bites, and wipe my mouth every other bites to make sure that no dressing is around my lips.
The eating was done pretty quickly, despite I took small bites. Maybe I was really focused on eating. While I was eating, there were more and more people coming in. Two more couples came in, a group of friends (look like visitors, with lots of shopping bags) and then 2 ladies sitting at the bar. I noticed that the staff numbers also increased accordingly, two more male waiters showed up, and the place finally begin to bustling more like a restaurant that I'm used to.
Before I go
For some reason, I felt that I was more connected to the host rather the waitress who ordered for me. When I asked for the bill, I told her about my research and asked if I could ask her some questions. She was really opened about it and shared with me what she knew from her first-hand experience.
Q: I've read about your restaurant being a place suitable for solo dining. Why do you think is that?
A: I think it's the seating arrangement. The seat that I offered you in the beginning is the favorite spot for people coming here by themselves. You can be on the side of the room while still feeling like you're a part of the bigger group.
Q: Do you see many diners coming here by themselves?
A: Yes, quite a few. Some people come here to eat, some just have a drink; maybe read a book or something.
Q: What do you do to accomdate those solo diners?
A: We try to be friendly and see what they need help with. Offer newspaper or something to read, like what I did to you as well :)
Q: Are there many solo diners who make reservations in advance?
A: Mmm, I'd say 1 out of 50.
I was really thankful for her cooperation, I know it's their busy hour, but she was really patient with me. I wish I could ask more, but I don't want to be rude so I thanked her and walked out.
Blixen is a place that I'd go back. Food is great, price is reasonable, and staffs are attentive. Next time, I might try going with a book, or with some friends :)
A little twist
So...the next day, which was my last day interning at OpenTable, my colleagues took me to a 'surprise lunch'...and guess where it was? Blixen (again!) I was quite happy, since then I could compare the experiences between solo dining vs group dining. The overall experience was still good, and the food was again, amazing. However, this time, we were able to sit in the garden area, which I requested to sit last evening but was told it was under construction!! Words can't describe how disappointed I was – it completely ruined my good impression of them. I understood if they didn't want to open up that area during dinner time, since I would be the only one there, but having lied to me about how that area is not accessible due to construction is just a total NO-NO.
They probably didn't know that I'd be back the next day to find out...I mean, normally people don't go to the same restaurant two days in a roll, but that's just very dishonest. Makes me wonder could that be some sort of discrimination for solo diners? I wonder if today I had a group of people going with me, would they still have told me the same 'story'?
As final thought, honesty is still the best policy. Please respect your customers, no matter group or solo – you never know how many more people they will bring back next time...
65A Brushfield Street
London E1 6AA
020 7101 0093