Visited: Friday, 8:30pm
Mood at time of visit: Slightly drunk and confused
Ambience: Modern, streamlined, lovely, all warm lighting and natural wood tones and pleasant hum of conversation
Clientèle: Honestly I didn’t pay any attention this time
Busy? Friday night, so yes, but some tables free
Service: Casual, still probably experiencing some teething issues, but other than that okay
Price (for one): $27
Difficulty: Pretty easy, aside from some problems getting service at the beginning. It’s a nice space to be alone in, and comfortable, and the food is great
It’s a Friday night in late autumn (on the cusp of winter, really) and I’m a little bit drunk and sad, the best kind of mood to take yourself out to the hottest new place in town.
I haven’t done this in a while because for the past couple months I’ve been in the kind of laughably cliché whirlwind romance that takes away the empty space in your head and replaces it with blushing and shortness of breath and the distinct feeling of falling, accelerating (but you’re cognisant enough of the fact that you tell yourself it’s okay). The danger is, of course, that all of a sudden you wake up and take a deep lungsful of oxygen and look around and suddenly you find it’s not summer anymore, in fact it’s almost winter and you’re struck with a very genuinely puzzled “what the fuck just happened and where is the bitter and cynical self I’ve grown used to and who is this painfully cheery person in its place, what. the. fuck.”
So I’m feeling sad and confused for no concrete reason (other than, of course, and I didn’t know it at the time, reaching a confusing point in a new relationship and struggling to reconcile new ~*~*~feelings~*~*~ with my previously held conception of self). All I know is I’m walking up Cuba Street, alone, with “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” on repeat through my headphones and feeling like I’m forgetting something important, myself, maybe, so I pull open the unmarked wooden door at the entrance to Loretta and press pause on Neutral fucking Milk Hotel and walk in: “just one, please.”
It’s packed, but also huge (when the space was Simply Paris it was a mere shopfront with a few tables but the Loretta renovations have excavated the building all the way to Swan Lane in the back), so I get a table right away, which is good. The trouble is I’m then left sitting for quite a while without a menu or acknowledgement, while tables seated after me are given menus and drink service almost immediately. Perhaps a simple case of being forgotten, yes, but it’s exacerbated by the fact I’m alone and don’t have conversation to distract me. I keep craning my head at the group of youngish waitresses standing nearby, trying to catch someone’s attention, but even after making eye contact with a couple of them, no one comes over. This is not so good: I’m slightly drunk and alone and really not in a mood to be ignored.
Eventually a manager comes over and very sincerely apologizes for the lack of service and sends someone over to look after me and bring me a menu and that’s all it takes for me to relax again. And once I look at the menu any residual ill-will I’ve started to harbour about this place dissipates because it’s like my dream come true, all grainy salads and roast chicken and vegetable-heavy entrees. Already I’m planning my next visit, which is good news.
The thing about being alone tonight is there’s none of the insecurity I had so often in the past about dining by myself. Tonight I need room to think and I need to do it alone, away from home, and I don’t really care who is around and who might be judging me, so I order a wet risotto with chargrilled broccoli and kale and cashew pesto and a housemade soda and stare idly at the book I’ve brought while I try to figure out what it means to love someone new when you were sure – so convinced!! – you never would again.
A new relationship is a weird thing. At 27 we’re young but no longer so young that we’re careless with each other. Even in letting our guard down we’re guarded, there’s still so much we don’t know, but we can somehow acutely sense the very real and very close possibility of hurting each other, ourselves.
My risotto arrives and it’s a big, beautiful, earthenware bowlful of rice and greens with an almost souplike consistency, studded with a nutty melted cheese. It’s great and healthy-tasting and, importantly, comforting enough that it’s allowing me to do some important thinking.
It occurs to me then that we’d hurtled pretty quickly towards something; we didn’t know exactly what. We were dangerously close to a precipice, teetering over the edge of some kind of whirlpool, with one foot on solid ground, and we hung there, clinging to each other, for a terrifying moment. But the momentum changed and we were back on solid ground, drifting slowly away from that irresistible pull, the danger of falling in, and so what if we were? There’s no blame on either of us. It was fucking terrifying, okay.
So I’m contemplating what next, and what does this all mean, and is this going to be a *thing* or is it going to be something beautiful that lasts until it ends and when we part and go our separate ways we’ll remember this time fondly as we nurse our broken hearts back to health, and I’m eating this comforting soupy food, right. In the midst of all that, some almost-raw celery takes me by surprise: the crunch, the piercingly fresh flavour. I don’t know if it got in there by accident or if I only just noticed the presence of celery in that dish then, but, uh. I lose my train of thought because it’s so fucking good.
And by the time I get back on track I realise my thoughts have been truly interrupted and I’m like, girl, you’re overthinking it, love *is* fucking terrifying yes and you’ll probably get hurt yes and it even hurts right now but you do it anyway because it’s fine not knowing and it’s fine living through a standard typical love story because really what’s wrong with that? and just because you’ve had a moment to stop tumbling somersaultlike down some kind of love-funnel and look around bewildered at what you’re in all of a sudden, it doesn’t mean it’s bad, right, it doesn’t mean it has to stop, you know?
And you’re probably being weird and he’s probably feeling similar, you’re so alike like that. So maybe you should stop being so fucking weird and sad and just text him, maybe, so I do,
And I fucking *hate* happy endings but as far as they go this one’s pretty great because as my wine buzz wears down I text a person I really care about over a scoop of the dreamiest coconut-lime sorbet I’ve ever had and everything’s not yet fine but it’s going to be fine and I had a fucking great time at Loretta, 7/10.*