Inside the restaurant, a group of women and one man were downing fruit punch attended by sympathetic waiters, each wearing a pair of large woollen balls around his neck. As more guests arrived, club organisers Ellie and Yvonne neatly defused the embarrassment caused by Sicilian national costume by helping us to talk to each other.
'Pandora, this is Roberto. Roberto, Pandora is a journalist.'
Roberto went white with horror, but we shook hands and began a halting conversation about the naming of English toyshops.
As more guests arrived, I followed Yvonne into the cloakroom to ask how members were chosen.
'The law allows only so much vetting, so we just use first names and don't give out members' telephone numbers. If people want to meet again outside the club, that is up to them.'
Back in the restaurant, we were directed to four large tables. The distraction of ordering food and knocking over each other's wine glasses dispelled the last of the tension, and by pudding time we had relaxed and were enjoying ourselves. If we wished, we need never meet again. Soon we had a real liking for each other.
At the end of the dinner the restaurant's enormous owner brought me a cake and a book of photographs. He had discovered that I was to write about the experience and wished to show me the ranks of the famous who ate there. My companions crowded round to see Pope John Paul giving absolution to a trifle, and Barbara Cartland and Barbra Streisand in mid-pasta.
The majority of guests were interesting and amusing human beings: lonely through solitary working conditions, relocation or divorce; courageous enough to do something about it, and well worth knowing.
Dinners are held twice weekly in London. Details: 0727 823392Reuse content