food: Friday night steak out

Of course you listen a lot when you eat out alone. To everything. 'Can I have my rump vaguely sun-tanned please?' What on earth is wrong with very rare? Illustration by Paul Brown

A few weeks ago, I finally finished packing almost everything I own into boxes, ready for the builders and decorators to move in, and for me to move out. It's a soul-destroying job, particularly if you are a manic hoarder of all sorts of bits and pieces - from treasured possessions to banal acquisitions. There were agonising decisions such as: "Do I really like, or did I ever want that vase?" And the sorry sound of memorable and treasured empty wine bottles - an '85 magnum of Beaune Clos des Mouches and a surprisingly good bottle of '54 Latour, among others - smashing as they disappeared into the black hole of the local bottle bank. You just have to be ruthless and hold the memory, not the vision. For Heaven's sake, it's only a few bottles with names and dates... (sob).

The outcome was that, by 9pm, I was starving. I had been going solid since 7am and needed some sort of sustenance. With extraordinary foresight, one of the few items not yet packed away was my cocktail shaker, into which I poured a none too judiciously measured slug of Tanquery and a miniature of Martini vermouth from a plane trip. This is a very useful ploy by the way: ask for two miniatures and surreptitiously stash them away, as they are ideal for Martini cocktails when you get home (a whole bottle goes off quicker than you think and you know you only need a thread). Oh, and a lemon of course and some ice. It all reminded me of James Caan in Misery.

By the way, do you know why home-made Martinis sometimes taste a bit odd? I put it down to the quality of the ice. If ice has been hanging around for some time in the freezer compartment - particularly the sort that is inside the fridge itself - and various foodstuffs have emitted their odours, the ice will pick them all up. So remember, very new and clean ice is essential for this most pure of drinks.

Having enjoyed this imperative restorative and a hot bath, I pondered as to where I might indulge in a reasonably quick but enjoyable period of refuelling. It was a Friday night, so, I thought, restaurants will be busy. Should I book? You see I was determined to go somewhere locally and, after the large drink, most certainly walk. So it was time to narrow down the possibilities. I am quite lucky in my manor: there is a Japanese inside a large local hotel (excellent for solitary meals but not what I fancied); a very traditional neighbourhood place, whose owners have been there for nearly 30 years, and which I love; a noisy and fashionable Italian that serves enormous food on enormous plates; and then there is the place around the corner. It is a small restaurant which serves very good food and is owned by a slightly frightening woman. Well, disconcerting perhaps. I hadn't been there for years so I decided just to walk round and see.

I put on my one set of clothes left unpacked and sauntered confidently into the night. She was full, but nicely so and wished, for my sake, she could have been more accommodating. Though it was suggested that I go off to the China Garden, I didn't want Chinese. Then, with a little "whoops", I remembered the small and simple-looking steak restaurant only several minutes' walk away at the top of the road. I had read quite a favourable review a while back and I had been meaning to go for some time. So, with hunger and trepidation (Friday night and steaks being a popular outing), I hurried along. And was in luck.

I was ushered to the one small table left, sandwiched between a few others but, no matter, I was glad to be inserted. On offer is a short menu comprising almost any manner of steaks, at eminently affordable prices, and a couple of salads. Big chunky chips are included. There is a small selection of home-made puddings: sticky toffee, crumble, that sort of thing. And no first courses - a very sensible notion before embarking on a steak dinner. Does one really need the almost obligatory corn on the cob or whitebait?

Now this is not meant to be a restaurant review; that's not my job after all. But I am always interested to see how restaurants on my doorstep are doing, and what my neighbours are like and I am always fascinated by the reception that greets a lone diner. Here, it was charming (from one of two young girls), though the proprietor - for I think it was he, cooking the excellent steaks in what is not much more than a kitchenette - looked a shade unapproachable. A threesome, looking to him for help on arrival, were told "You're over there". Which was next to me. I wish I had been sure of where they were sitting because I can be charm itself, and could have gestured, smilingly.

Of course you listen a lot when on your own. To everything. "Can I have my rump vaguely sun-tanned please?" (what on earth is wrong with very rare?) or "Could we have some olives?" I gave them mine, with more consideration for myself if the truth be known: I wanted another cigarette before I left and thought this act of huge generosity might pacify the unknown threat of "Do you mind if... ahem..."

The brusque delivery of "You're over there" didn't seem to upset these Brook Greeners or Shepherd's Bushers. Perhaps that is because locals who like a place are prepared to put up with a bit of surliness and warm to an enterprise just because it's only a short walk home. On the other hand, maybe these three weren't locals at all. In that case they might never bother to come back

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee