“Don’t worry, we are so happy to have you here, Miss Stephanie.”
This is how I was greeted by the manager of the Gay Hussar when I strolled in- and I don’t want a any pity after this next comment- alone. (I couldn’t muster up much excitement over Hungarian food, a couple friends canceled, and Pete came down with the man flu.) Frankly, I think it’s a good trait to have to be able to dine alone and I quite enjoy it. But this was the last day of a 50% off special, and I also appreciate a good deal.
I thought the reason the manager was so kind to me was because I had emailed asking if I could have an entree from the main menu even though it wasn’t on the reduced menu, because a Hungarian colleague of mine had recommended it. To be more persuasive, I said it was for a blog. He clearly didn’t click my link or he would have realized I have like 3 posts, 2 subscribers, and that he shouldn’t waste his time honoring my request. I soon noticed he treated everyone in the restaurant with this same enthusiasm.
Turns out, you notice much more while you’re eating alone. The Gay Hussar is a London establishment, famous for the notable English politicians and journalists for over 50 years, whose faces are immortalized in caricatures that line the walls.
What was funnier than the caricatures was the fact that the diners at two of the three tables facing that wall were seated on the same side of the table, despite there only being two of them, as if to stare and enjoy the caricatures during the whole meal. I really should fine-tune my knowledge and appreciation of UK political figures. I think I seriously lowered the average age in the room. And income.
For the 50% offer, there was a reduced menu, though the selection was still good. Unfortunately though, the blogger in me impulsively chose “chilled cherry soup” since the point of this, I think, is to try new, unfamiliar things. I can’t say I was a big fan of the yogurt based, cherry soup. There was a slight medicinal taste to it, but I think I just associate cherries with medicine for some reason. The portion was ample, and I managed half of it before the manager came over to ask if I wanted to try anything else (presumably, on the house.) I told him it was lovely, to which he confusedly replied, “But…you’re finished?” and took it away.
As I was waiting for my entree, the dining room filled up. A group of four were turned away. Then, another lone diner like me entered. He too was turned away, when the couple next to me invited him to join them. The manager didn’t allow this, to which the woman next to me- approximately 18 inches to the right of me on the same booth- said, “Oh, but I just haaaaaate to see people alone.”
Soon, my hortobagyi palacsinta (pancakes, filled with chicken, but I probably should have ordered them filled with the veal) arrived. Hearty and served with perfectly sauteed spinach and rice, I couldn’t finish them all, though I tried. As I photographed my pancakes (with my iPhone because I’m an idiot and forgot my camera), my neighbor struck up a conversation with me:
her: “Good, I won’t be the only one who takes pictures of my food.”
me, mumbling: “Oh…I have a blog.” WHY did I play the blog card…again!? I let her alone comment get to me!
her: “I DO TOO.” Then she asked me for my blog’s business card.
Here I learned everything was a contest (and that I have inherited a very serious eavesdropping problem from my mother.) I should have known from when she took a long pause to confirm her (not-fizzy) wine choice, declaring it “effervescent on the tongue…it just tastes like…happy.” Or when she kept referring to the “goose and pork pate” as foie gras.
I should have sat silently and enjoyed my solo-dinner, but I played her game and found it necessary to prove that I, too, am informed. She told me about her favorite, insider Japanese place; I told her I’m shopping at my favorite, insider Japanese fishmonger for homemade sushi on Saturday. She usually likes to go to Billingsgate, the 5am fish market; I already have plans to go next weekend. She thinks I should eat Swedish for ‘S’; I live around the corner from a place with a crayfish party. But she lost her credibility when she complained about lukewarm white wine at a Jamaican restaurant. Are Jamaican’s know for their vineyards?
However, her pate looked far more delicious than my cherry soup.
The Gay Hussar
2 Greek Street, W1D 4ND (nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road.)
two course meal for one, without promotion or drinks: around £25