When at the end of last century I found myself in Paris, the thing that I remember to particularly delight me was the women lunching, drinking their vers de vins and dining alone. They were everywhere. And of all ages, from young to mature to mature mature.
And it suffice. With the things that you like. To just see them once.
So I joined the army of women dining alone the moment I saw the army of women dining alone.
And at my first woman alone, mind you not lonely, luncheon I called my so far luncheon companion in Sofia to tell her : That's it. I've changed camps now, I am lunching alone and I love it.
And I am still doing it. And I am still loving it. It is my ME time. Away from family, friends and conversations. A time for myself, my glass of wine, my food served to me. The time when I can read my book, write my article on my phone, message my friends or just stare at passers.
I love it so much that I am now doing it everywhere. Even in Sofia, where my days in recent years are always counted and usually insufficient to see all the people I want to see. But I still do it, steal time from family and friends and give it to myself and strangers.
All restaurant, brasseries and bars in Paris seem to me equally women friendly. In London too for the matter. Yet, some restaurants appear to attract more female crowds than others. And I can't really put my finger on the why. Sometimes the reason seems evident, others not so.
Say lunch time at Crouch End, just by the tower. Two restaurants next to each other. One Thai and one Italian. I have been to 'Florians 2 London' Italian before. It was full of couples, families and pasta. Hence, this time I decide to try the Thai.
Main reason I like experimenting. Never repeat if possible. Second reason, I would rather be around no children in my ME time. Third, I am on a bread and past free diet already a year. (That is except for the Saturdays. My sort of Gorgeoncarb Shabbat. Living in the vicinity of Raabs the Backer and not eating their croissants, Mediterranean sourdough with olives, foccacias and multiseed breads come Saturday morning would be a pure crime. And absolutely unnecessary self-agrandissement)
So I choose the O's Thai. Which, for my surprise, at this timespace point was chosen by no less than eight other women. And strangely no man. (Not sure about the gender of the baby accompanying the boozy vegetarian lunch of its mother + friend). Why were only women there? All carbs-free like me? With all the noodles in in the platrs around? I doubt. All of them having a children-free ME-time? Obviously not. There. We don't know the answer. Probably they have all been to the Italian next door and don't want to repeat. Or, they know that the food at O's Thai is delicious and cheap. Which it is and do want to repeat.
Next women attractive restaurant is Côte, Islington Green. Not other Côte. This particular one. Why? I have no idea. Contrary to my principle, I repeat going there. This despite the permanently rotten green salad. (Not, sure what is Côre, Islington Green's case with the green salad, but say one of the times I've eaten there, somebody has covered a reasonably good maigre d'canard with a handful of rotten rocket. No, not as some may imagine a rotten maigre d'canard covered with fresh rocket. Quite the other way round. Rather mysterious technique I would say).
I like this particular Côte. For its location. For its view of the Green. For the sofa table facing the front door and the trees and the newspapers stocked on it. I genuinely like it. And so apparently do plenty of women. Of course there are men, couples and companies. But there are also many women lunching at one, two and three.
And while I am never certain what makes one restaurant more women attractive than another; and find myself using meaningless expressions like "Good feng shui" (brrrrr, the horor); I can certainly say what makes a restaurant women unattractive.
Take for example Comptoire Libanais, Exhibition Road where I go after a visit to the V&A. (Seeing art makes me very hungry. I always have nuts in my bag to chew on during an exhibition, after which I need something more solid). Lately this particular Comptoire has introduced Egyptian waiters. And as there were two of them working at the terrace I was able to witness and experience a known, rather unpleasant behaviour, familiar to me from my visits to Egypt, Israel and Iran. Else to say an attitude familiar to me from countries wherever religion is practised without moderation. The two Comptoire waiters had the particular reluctance to wait to women. I mean if the women had a man with them at the table - no problem, the typical swift and smooth Middle Eastern waiting was in place. Were the women without a man - bon chance! Or else to speak no chance to get anything before fainting.
Eventually, the two women next to me and I were served. But only after no pretext of further delaying and postponing has remained. (Mind you my eye observing the situation is also an eye that has seen the situation from the other way too. I have worked as both barmaid and waitress). It was curious to listen to the waiters chat while attempting to pass one another the undignifying "you serve the women" patate.
The same attitude I witnessed and experienced at Frieze Masters of all places. And more precisely from the art fair's security. And even more precisely, by a couple of Egyptian members of the security team.
In the light of the current events in Egypt and the increasing oppression of the military junta in Cairo, I completely support Egyptians, Muslim Brothers included, in their right to live somewhere normal, UK for example. In the same time I do appeal to those who manage them to provide to all male newly arrived Egyptians (and other new arrivals from countries were religion overpowers civility) employees/contractors/etc a special women friendly training, knowing that some cultural habits are unconscious, spontaneous and stubborn.
Women hostile attitude, just like racism, could be easily covered by all sorts of pretexts.
And as LAAF is all but exclusive. It will expand the appeal so that women friendly trainings are delivered to everybody through the whole hospitality sector.
No patronising. No neglect. No exclusion.
And more good feng shui for all restaurants in London. Thank you.
29 October 2019