Only the lonely, Catriona Thomson gives solo dining a go and gets blown away by the food on offer at plant-based specialists Mono.

Perhaps I’ve bitten off more than I can chew? This is not something that I’ve ever done before.

What was I thinking? Volunteering to go out for dinner alone? I’m fine with grabbing a hasty lunch solo however, being on my Jack Jones for the main meal is another matter.

Restaurants are social places where you can celebrate friendship or spend time with loved ones. It is not the norm to ask for a table ‘just for one’.

This is changing, with a recent report from OpenTable, the booking site highlighting a growing trend with a 160 per cent growth in solitary dining between 2014 and 2018 across the UK.

This makes perfect sense, for all the many and varied reasons people find themselves wanting to go out, hungry but alone.

In a vintage episode of Sex in the City, Carrie noted: “when did being alone become the modern-day equivalent of being a leper?”

Paranoia is preventing people from enjoying great food, simply because they have no one to eat with. Instead, we should view this as an opportunity for self-care and mindfulness, savouring every morsel of beautifully prepared food.

The worst anyone can think is that you’ve been stood up, and honestly most people are so self-absorbed they probably haven’t even noticed you.

So pass me my Manolos, I am a strong independent woman, my mission is simple, dine and…(shades of SATC’s Samantha here) enjoy a pleasurable experience by myself.

Doubts soon set in as I enter Mono, South Bridge in Edinburgh. I sit at the far side of the restaurant, back towards the wall so I can survey the elegant room.

Perusing the menu, I have a feeling of dread, like Samantha in season two, who fails dramatically, vulnerably off guard without any of her “dining-out-alone-armour.”

At least I have remembered my phone, reassuring to know that I can at least photograph my dishes if fear won’t allow me to swallow. However the maitre d’ kindly asks whether I would like a culinary book for ‘company’. Thanks, Roberto.

Dining tonight are three couples and a table of four. Then a fellow lone diner arrives, however luckily for him I have relaxed and am now enjoying single life so much I don’t need to rush over to join him.

To avoid stress I have taken the precaution, of checking the menu online in advance, so know to order the vegetarian tasting experience at £45. I am in the mood to celebrate, so the accompaniment is a glass of Italian prosecco, £6.

Three refined appetisers arrive, an eggy matured Parmesan sensation, savoury mini cornetto filled with sprigs of sea herbs, and a pannacotta dusted with spices in a basil pesto.

Next, a selection of stuzzichini bread, with dipping olive oil. The waiter warns that the decorative bed of dried chickpeas are not for eating.

A swift succession of Instagram-worthy plates follow with not one dud among them.

Spinach gnudi roundels, filled with melted pecorino cheese, are disguised beneath a glorious tumble of fresh peas and beans.

Mono Restaurant Edinburgh

The Spinach gnudi roundels

Decorative mint and cucumber slices, wild garlic flowers and the addition of flavoursome pea jus, provide perfection on a plate.

As taste combinations go, chocolate and broccoli is a new one on me and proof that your tastebuds can be rewarded for leaving their comfort zone.

Robust but rich bitter cocoa bottoni pasta pockets, filled with intense creamy Gorgonzola, almost pop on the tongue.

Mono Restaurant Edinburgh

Cocoa Bottoni pasta with brocolli

There are textures galore on the top, with pine nuts, broccoli florets, crumbled cocoa dust, and tiny herbs, including the oceanic salted oyster leaf.

All is covered by lashings of Kermit-coloured, emerald smooth sauce.

Risotto follows with moreish mushrooms, asparagus, peas and broad beans with an intense morel funghi miso sauce.

Scatterings of nasturtium leaves, lime, and chunks of aged Parmesan decorate a breathtaking dish, but it’s too salty for me if I’m being picky.

Risotto

The cheese course arrives, which is more regal pudding than simple biscuits and cheddar.

Cheesemaker Katy Rodgers’ crowdie steals the crown, baked into a sponge base and again in a rich tangy pannacotta with a spoonful of ice cool sea truffle gelato, balsamic chicory, and gems of tangy jus with the perfect addition of pine nuts and honeycomb which contributes crunch.

X marks the spot on the final dish, a chocolate Cointreau laced dessert, with Mexique chocolate crumbs, buttermilk miso, caramel dots and two dark chocolate sticks, which criss-cross on the summit.

This dessert certainly gets my vote.

X marks the spot on the final dish

 

 

 

 

I’d happily go mono dining again, particularly if the food on offer is as fine as it is here.

Hopefully, this review gives you a much-needed push, to give eating solo a whirl. Go on, channel your inner Carrie ‘ take that fear to lunch’ ‘ a glass of wine…alone. No books, no man, no friends, no armour, no faking.

Mono Restaurant Edinburgh

(85 South Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1HN)
Tel: 0131-466 4726, monorestaurant.co.uk

Mono, Edinburgh, restaurant review
90%Overall Score
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About The Author

Catriona Thomson

Catriona is Deputy Picture Editor at the Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday.

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