Loretta

VenueLoretta
Visited: Friday, 8:30pm
Mood at time of visit: Slightly drunk and confused
Type: Restaurant
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.*

*points off are for that awkward ignorey service right at the beginning but if it hadn’t been for that it would’ve been about a 9, everything else was lovely. 20140625-155441-57281215.jpg

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Neko Case

Artist: Neko Case

Visited
: Wednesday, 8:30pm 

Mood at time of visit: buoyed by an unusually inflated sense of self-worth following some successes at work
Type: Live music
Ambience: Big, dark, crowded, music venue. It’s actually a lot more spacious in there than I expected.
Clientèle: Mid-twenties to middle-aged, alt-indie types
Busy? Yes
Service: N/A
Price (for one): $48.50
Difficulty: easy as: it’s dark, crowded, everyone’s there for the music, there’s likely plenty of other people there alone. 

Wednesday afternoon I’m sitting at work tossing up whether to go see Neko Case. She’s playing two nights in Wellington and I can’t make the Thursday show that everyone I know is going to. I can’t really be bothered asking someone else to come with me at such late notice, I’ve never been to a gig on my own unless you count the time at Camp a Low Hum when all my friends peeled off one by one on the last night and I ended up watching the last few shows of the night by myself and unexpectedly having a fucking awesome time.

Because I’m feeling more boss-like than usual following some really productive days at work I decide that I’ll probably regret it if I don’t go, so I pull out my credit card and before I can change my mind I’ve bought myself a ticket.

I have this vague idea that I’ll take myself out to the Hop Garden beforehand for a beer because it’s on the way and in my neighbourhood and I’ve spent enough solo time there waiting for friends that I don’t think it’d be that much more awkward to actually go there without the intention of meeting up with anyone, right?

What I didn’t really factor into my plans: it’s the only bar near the James Cabaret so of course it’s heaving with, like, the late-twenties-plus cool kid crowd. I get wide-eyed a bit, scanning the room for empty spaces or familiar faces. None of the former, and for the latter: there’s a group of acquaintances I could probably say hi to but don’t really know well enough to just bowl into their conversation, so I back away quickly (hopefully before any of them spot me, awkward.) Just as I’m about to walk out and head to, I dunno, KFC or something, another couple of friends catch my eye, I catch theirs. Snapped.

Suddenly I’m faced with the possibility that’s mortified me ever since I started this blog: bumping into someone I know and having to explain why I’m such a friendless loser that I’m out by myself at a restaurant/bar/music venue. My mind starts racing, trying to think of an explanation that won’t make me sound sad or uncool or creepy, trying not to blurt out something awkward.

Then the mortification passes. I tell the truth: I wanted to see Neko Case, my friends are going tomorrow, I’m busy tomorrow, here I am.

And none of it feels awkward, or uncool, or creepy or sad. Because it’s all actually true, I’m no longer prepared to miss out on something I want to see just because my schedule doesn’t align with my friends’. No big deal. I don’t need to justify my alone-ness or apologise for not perfectly fitting into whatever social conventions might be applicable here. Whatever, I’m here for the music.

Which was, in the end, exactly the music I needed to hear. Neko Case played with the natural ease of someone who’s been doing this for years; her band knew exactly what they were doing, she cycled fluidly between acoustic guitar, electric guitar, tambourine, no instrument, the banter between Neko and her back-up singer Kelly Hogan was genuine and natural.

Despite this, the performance wasn’t perfect: she started off one song a capella in the wrong key (then later made a joke about modulation), another song (I think it was “Night Still Comes”)* started on shaky ground before emerging, triumphant, into a really tight second half.But somehow the way she acknowledged her vulnerability and just shrugged it off – as if saying: no need to apologise, it’s a part of life – made the whole thing feel so much more real, and awesome.

Oh also: once you’re in a dark, crowded music venue and the band starts playing, no one cares that you’re by yourself. 10/10.

Charley Noble

Venue: Charley Noble
Visited: Friday, 7:30pm
Mood at time of visit: #whocares 
Type: Restaurant
Ambience: Classy but casual, buzzing, good decor: I want to be here all the time.
ClientèleWell, it’s Valentine’s Day, so mostly couples, but mostly couples who are forty-plus and smokin’ hot. 
Busy? It’s Valentine’s Day.
Service: Casual, super helpful, non-intrusive
Price (for one): $44.50
Difficulty: #whocares (honestly I was beyond caring by that point so it was easy as fuck but if you’re intimidated by well-dressed fortysomethings and a bustling, sophisticated ambience then this may be slightly on the challenging side)

Valentine’s Day: I’m feeling pretty blasé about the whole thing because that whole single-and-bitter-on-Valentine’s trope is tired and overused, and anyway, I was never really that big on it in the first place.

It’s Friday afternoon so I’m at work drinks as per usual and feeling good: couple beers, good banter, feels like any other Friday. Then people start peeling off one by one to meet up with their “better halves” (I hate that term so hard) until all of a sudden it’s just me and this other guy (back at his desk, waiting for his girlfriend to come into town) and I’ve just cracked open my third beer and fuck, am I really the only single person in the office?!

Luckily my mood the entire day has been floating on this buoyant cloud of “who cares?”* so I’m like whatever, I’m going out too. Down my beer, run to the shops to buy a new lipstick,** walk proud past the hand-holders and girls with red roses: let them have their romantic moments, I’m having mine.

For reasons I’d rather not get into*** it’s now been many months since I’ve taken myself anywhere nice and normally I think I’d feel kind of nervous walking into somewhere a bit upscale and buzzy like Charley Noble, but today I just get up in there without a fuss because who cares? I’m hungry.

It’s full, as I’d expected, of well-dressed couples probably in their mid-forties, semi-affluent types who look after themselves and have obviously had nice summer holidays because they’re looking tan and lean and just generally smokin’ hot. Normally I’d be intimidated. But again, today I’m just like, who cares. And maybe it’s because I’m feeling confident or not really caring what anyone else is thinking but I don’t feel anyone eyeing me up, I don’t feel out of place. My only impressions are: wow, it’s busy, wow, it smells fucking amazing in here, and wow, great atmosphere, the high ceilings and open kitchen remind me a bit of Cumulus Inc in Melbourne and I really like that.

(Also: the good thing about going to a place frequented by a clientèle slightly above your age group is there’s likely to be HARDLY ANYONE YOU KNOW there, which is awesome in Wellington, especially when it’s Valentine’s Day and you’re really happy doing your own thing but slightly wary of judgy acquaintances catching you out.)

There’s an hour wait for a table, so I sit at the bar instead (though I have to wait for a seat it’s no big deal because by this point I have a Campari in hand and am sipping away happily). This blonde girl with the most perfectly made-up face I’ve seen in a while is tending bar and because I’m indecisive and wary of over-ordering (there’s SO much on the menu I want to try) I ask her to recommend me something to eat and a wine to match. Although she’s clearly way busy she comes around to my side of the bar to talk over the menu with me, because it’s nicer than shouting over the bar. Points to her: it’s exactly the kind of personal touch that makes a solo diner feel acknowledged, important.

She recommends the spatchcock chicken with panzanella salad and a glass of pinot blanc. When it arrives I can feel people sitting around me eyeing up my plate with envy: it looks incredible, smells incredible. And it tastes damn good: crisp chicken skin, that woodfired smoky taste, capers, tomato, bread, basil, olives. For a moment I’m lost in my own world with my chicken and my wine and my book,**** sitting at the end of the bar looking over the whole restaurant, and I think to myself I haven’t felt this content in so long.

The feeling doesn’t last long. I’m not that hungry, I’d said when I’d ordered, and it was true at the time. But the three beers I had after work (and that Campari) are catching up with me and I just want some more bread, noodles, rice, anything to soak up the dreadful swimming feeling in my stomach. I can’t drink my wine, can barely finish my chicken, delicious though it is.

So I slow right down. There are these three guys sitting at the bar, and I keep glancing over thinking they’re kind of cute, but I’m not that interested, but they’re kind of cute, but I’m not that interested. They’re eating dessert, slipping the bartender spoonfuls of something rich and chocolate-coloured, and at that point I know I’ve lost her attention, never had theirs. I don’t blame any of them though. As far as losses go it’s a pretty inconsequential one. It’s Valentine’s Day, let them have their moment.

And anyway, all things considered everything’s good and I feel like the queen of my own personal one-person empire, which I guess is how you want to feel when you take yourself somewhere fancy on a day like Valentine’s. But I’m tired – it’s not like I’m lonely (or at least, lonelier than usual), or sad, or any of that – I’m just tired and a bit drunk and can’t think of anything better than curling up in bed and finishing off my book so I stop texting the guys I’ve been texting and settle up the bill and take myself home along the cool, damp, moonlit waterfront, not quite happy but something close to it. 9/10, Charley Noble.

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*probably because I recently started following the way awesome @moscaddie on twitter

**I can tell you this move is a guaranteed confidence-booster

***If I explained this here and now it’d totally undermine my big effort not to fall into the bitter-and-sad-on-Valentine’s-Day cliché so just believe me when I say there are reasons, okay

****Pictured above. I highly recommend it, it’s great.

Ortega Fish Shack (a failed attempt)

Venue: Ortega Fish Shack
Attempted visit: Saturday, 8:30pm
Mood at time of visit: Confidence rapidly waning
Type: Seafood
Ambience: Shabby-fake but not necessarily in an unpleasant way
ClientèleWho the fuck at my age wears a suit out on a Saturday night (and is not, as far as I can tell, at a wedding or funeral or black tie charity auction in New York City)? 
Seating: Little tables packed full of people, plus seats at the bar.
Busy? Packed.
Service: N/A
Price (for one): N/A
Difficulty: I can’t say for sure because I was too intimidated to actually get through the door. 

Okay, so here’s the story.

I went away on holiday. Not for so long that I didn’t have a job or a home to come back to, but long enough to completely, absolutely, stop what I was doing. Switch gears, clear out the cobwebs of the mind, whatever. And long enough, certainly, to have the kind of never-completely-expected experience where you find yourself spending every available second of every single day in a completely unknown place with someone you feel like you’ve known since the day you were born, never imagining life could exist before or after this. You might call it a holiday romance. I don’t know. So first of all, behind all of this, there was that.

It is the nature of these things to be intense and fleeting, and before long I was back in a New Zealand summer, having been spat out of the cavity of a giant silver bullet speeding miles above the Pacific, with the bewildered exhaustion of someone who’s just spent dozens of hours in the kind of introspective trance that only comes with long-haul travel. I was home, it was the same, nothing and everything had changed. I settled back into routine, bored and sad and completely broke. Post-holiday blues, I guess, other people get them too. Maybe that’s the second little piece of background that informs the events of Saturday. (You will have already figured it out from the title of this blog post, but for completeness’ sake: failures.)

Saturday night: I was battling a hangover, citing which, I had just ditched a friend’s Christmas dinner for the relative comforts of bed but found myself unable to sleep. In the special type of spasm of loneliness and ennui that leads to questionable decisonmaking, I attempted (and failed, it is worth noting here, as a thinly veiled foreshadowing of my impending failed solo date) to arrange a, um, shall we say, tryst with a person I’ve seen once or twice before. (To put things in context: there’s no love lost here and I was in no way sad: this exchange was conducted, by both parties, with all the enthusiasm of trying and failing to get a last-minute appointment to have your teeth cleaned. Still, you’re inherently vulnerable when you open yourself up to rejection, no matter how low the stakes, and no matter how much you tell yourself how few fucks you give? It still stings. Even if only a little bit.)

Luckily the good thing about being stung when your feelings of self-respect are robust enough that you can pep-talk yourself out of taking it too personally is that you can use rejection as a springboard for Taking Action In Your Life: for fuck’s sake, it’s Saturday night, there are better ways of treating yourself to something nice than having average sex with someone you aren’t really into, or sitting on your bedroom floor eating a bag of blue Smurf-shaped Haribo gummies you brought back from Europe as a gift for a friend who sure isn’t going to get them now*…

Anyway, I was done thinking about that, so I put on some nice clothes, did my hair and makeup (kidding, I haven’t brushed my hair in days and my current preferred makeup look is “au naturel“) and put on my best shoes and headed out the door toward Ortega Fish Shack on Majoribanks Street because I’d never been there and it seemed both accessible and a little bit treat-yo’ self.

I had failed to consider two factors:

1. I haven’t taken myself out like this since August and the self-assured confidence I had begun to feel back then, after months of solo dates, had completely disappeared sometime in the last four months.

2. It was eight thirty pm on a Saturday night. This particular restaurant seems to be busy even at the quietest of times, and now it was packed with elegant ladies and suit-clad thirtysomethings with suntans and close-cropped hair. A few of these guys had spilled out onto the pavement, smoking cigarettes and laughing loudly, confidently, naturally, like they owned that square of pavement, and as I neared the entrance to the restaurant I instinctively found myself speeding up until I was too far past to then casually make an about-face and walk into the restaurant. So I kept walking, around the corner, past elegant blondes dining at Capitol, then around past Deluxe and the kebab shop wondering if I should just get a lamb shish and call it a night, but I couldn’t give up just yet. I turned back.

On my way back the yuppies were still there, still joking coolly, and I peered inside as another smartly dressed couple walked in. My suspicions were confirmed: it was packed, no empty tables. I couldn’t see any available seats at the bar. And yes, this is a cop-out, but I could feel the smoking crowd watching me, curious now at what I was doing, and I couldn’t bring myself to go in and ask at the peak of a busy Saturday night service if there was room for one more person at the bar, one mild rejection earlier in the night was more than enough for me on this day, thankyouverymuch, 

So I walked across the road and paid for some takeaway noodles from the Vietnamese place and came home and sat crosslegged on my bedroom floor in my pyjamas eating bún bò huế and that was my Saturday night. 

A friend recently pointed out to me that my life could be bleaker. She’s probably right. Those spicy beef noodles were pretty fucking good. And there’s no doubt I’ll try Ortega again, better luck next time.

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*I may still have done this. Next person reading this who goes to a place where blue Smurf Haribo gummies are sold, please send me a bag?
**Yes, I walked by the next day and took this photo.

Six Barrel Soda

Venue: Six Barrel Soda Co
Visited: Tuesday, 7pm
Mood at time of visit: Relaxed
Type: Cafe
Ambience: I can forgive its borderline twee-ness because it’s cosy and charming and there’s soft lighting at night and the music is always really great, though maybe a bit too obscure for me to recognise
Seating: It’s all counter seating – either at a large communal table/counter or along the windows looking over Dixon St
Busy? Practically deserted at this time on a Tuesday night
Clientèle: A couple other solo diners in for a burger and soda, a young family stopping for dessert
Service: Table service, but very casual – nice, but not over-the-top
Price (for one): $19
Difficulty: Easy as pie (which, at Six Barrel, as it happens, is very delicious)

If there was one place out of all the restaurants and cafes in Wellington I’d recommend to solo diners it’d probably be Six Barrel Soda Co’s little cafe upstairs on the corner of Eva and Dixon Streets.

It’s the perfect spot for so many reasons. For a start, the layout of the place is excellent for a solo visit: you’re never going to be sitting at a table for two, staring at the empty seat across from you, because there’s only shared seating in this place. You can spread yourself out over the pile of magazines at the big wide counter-cum-table extending out from the pie case and the espresso machine and cosy up with a ginger latte or a cherry and pomegranate float. Or if you don’t want to be staring at the loved-up hipster couple playing Scrabble at the seats across from you then you can always opt for one of the many window seats overlooking Dixon Street. People watching is great; people watching from above, even better (though perhaps creepier).

The atmosphere is equally casual and comfortable: good music, good magazines, not intimidating at all for someone who’s new to solo dining or just tired and hungry and doesn’t give a damn. The service is casual, sometimes verging toward the cool end of nonchalant, but they treat everyone the same no matter if you’re on your own or in a group (and actually if you start chatting to the staff you’ll probably find – as I have on various occasions – that they’re really genuinely nice).

It was kind of a no-brainer to head there Tuesday night after a late finish at work, and I’m so glad I did. I pulled up a stool by the window and sipped a celery tonic (sweet, with a refreshing herbal undertone, if you haven’t tried this already DO IT ASAP) while reading poetry and pretending to be way more highbrow than I actually am, looking down on the passersby on Dixon Street below.

I had one of their little burgers – beef brisket this time – and the flavours were spot on: smoky, spicy, quintessential barbecue. But the meat was tough, and I think I would have preferred it either more tender, or pulled into more manageable strips. Nevermind, I’ll probably stick with the pulled pork or halloumi next time. Anyway, the chips that come on the side, which are shoestring and freshly made and sprinkled with flaky sea salt, are pretty much the best thing ever and when I’d finished them all I had to talk myself out of getting another order of just chips. Gotta stop somewhere, after all.

At some point in the night I found myself so comfortable and content that I caught myself smiling at somebody’s adorable kid (oh god, I’ve become THAT person), but figured it was okay because he was the one that kept staggering over and grinning maniacally at me, bursting into the ridiculous squealy giggle of the not-quite-two every time I smiled back.

It was almost closing time and there was still time for pie so I went back up to the glass case at the counter and stared for a while before settling on a chocolate peanut butter tart. It had this kind of doughy base that was verging on undercooked, but together with the peanut butter and chocolate topping tasted so fucking good, like peanut butter chocolate chip cookie dough in a more cafe-appropriate form. Yus.

Despite not having a Scrabble partner, my little dinner date at Six Barrel was still the most wonderful thing I could think of doing on that particular Tuesday evening. I’d rate this one a 10 out of 10 (would date again).

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Fratelli

Venue: Fratelli
Visited: Tuesday, 8pm
Mood at time of visit: On a happy, beery buzz, but with ugly self-pity lurking somewhere underneath
Type: Italian
Ambience: Inoffensive but restaurant – dim lighting, dark wood, vaguely-European music
Seating: A large-ish dining room – lots of tables – plus plenty of available bar seating
Busy? When I walk in there are a handful of tables seated most of whom finish up and leave over the course of my meal
Clientèle: A few groups of middle-aged women, some couples, all fairly innocuous
Service: Genuinely nice
Price (for one): $45.50
Difficulty: Fairly easy but I’d say this will depend highly on your mood. It’s a nice restaurant, but it’s also the kind of place where you can easily find yourself getting lonely.

It probably wasn’t the best idea to spend a Tuesday night alone at a restaurant bar, slowly slipping from merrily tipsy to melancholy drunk over a wine named after teardrops, but there I was.

“It’ll probably get a bit lonely out there once those tables finish up,” the girl at the host stand had said; “we’ll be at the bar anyway”. I’d appreciated that you’re-one-of-us show of female solidarity, or at least her looking after my emotional wellbeing, and had chosen to sit at the bar. I was the only one actually sitting there but waitresses came and went, polishing cutlery, chatting; that presence counted for something, right?

When she returned to take my wine order I’d asked her to recommend an Italian red and she’d picked out the Lacrima di Morro d’Alba. “It’s pretty unusual, and not everyone likes it – do you want to try it first?” I did; it tasted refreshingly novel – fruity, floral, perfumed, a bit odd – but my first impression was good. I’d ordered a glass. Only after she’d gone and I was left alone with a book, waiting for food, did I look at the wine list and discover that lacrima is Italian for tears.

Over three courses of dinner the nuanced floral tones that had attracted me in the first place grew heavier, darker. The longer I sat there, the more the sweet perfumelike scent grew sickly and malodorous, fleshy, corpulent almost in its suffocating insistence, and I struggled to drink it the way I struggled not to breathe in the air inside the houses of flowery old ladies’ houses everyone seems to visit as a child. But I also, strangely, dangerously, couldn’t put it down. I was slipping into a cloud of sorrow and I was alone and it was frightening, and for a moment I thought is this how people become alcoholics? and I was terrified. This is why people warn against getting drunk alone.

It was a couple days after a series of earthquakes had rattled the city. I’m not really phased by earthquakes (tornadoes, on the other hand, are another story altogether; it’s a lucky thing I live in New Zealand where we don’t have to deal with Twister-type* nightmares, they scare the fuck out of me) so, aside from an initial jolt of adrenaline when the 6.5 hit on Sunday I was doing just fine, really.

That is, until I got to work on Tuesday and swapped earthquake stories with a workmate whose dicky ex-boyfriend had messaged her from overseas, concerned about Wellington generally and her specifically. And stupidly, inexplicably, it was this conversation that rattled me more than any of the quakes, that triggered the newest ugly wave of jealous self-pity. The silly thing is it hadn’t even crossed my mind before, and suddenly I was consumed with rage and sorrow at the (now) glaringly obvious lack of concern from my equivalent dicky overseas ex-boyfriend.

There is no emotion more loathsome than self-pity. This is especially true in a situation where you know other people have legitimate reasons to be affected by recent events: an overwhelming fear of earthquakes, perhaps, or… yeah, an overwhelming fear of earthquakes, mostly, since Wellington seems to have more or less escaped any major damage. Meanwhile I was stuck on some stupid feeling that hadn’t even existed five minutes before. (But just a short “hope you’re okay” would’ve been nice, right?!)

I couldn’t shake this mopey feeling all day, stuck in the vicious cycle of self-pity and then self-loathing at the utter stupidity of said self-pity, punctuated occasionally by cheery self-peptalks (“cool it girl, you’re better off without him!”) but getting myself down again because he could have just said something, and so on until the whole situation was blown out of proportion in my mind and I was the one crying at my desk, blaming it on aftershock nerves.

So the best thing to do, probably, was get half-drunk on an empty stomach with a bunch of semi-strangers I couldn’t unload my stupid non-relationship non-problems on. By the time eight o’clock rolled around I was well tipsy and fucking ravenous, so I hauled myself to Fratelli where I knew there was a Tuesday night dinner special on.

Which is how I found myself sitting at the aforementioned bar, sinking slowly into despair and realising just one glass of wine was pushing me into treacherous territory.

The food itself, though, was pretty good. On Tuesdays there’s a $35 set menu which is excellent value, and though I wondered how the woodfired flatbread starter – meant to be shared – would work for a solo diner, I shouldn’t have worried: it came as an oblong, single-serve pizza-like bread, cut neatly into three triangular pieces. Just enough for one. And I should mention it was topped with bits of rosemary and silky-sweet cloves of caramelised garlic: excellent.

For the second course I vaguely remember a choice between risotto, pasta or gnocchi; I had the risotto which had, mushrooms and woodfire-roasted chicken probably balsamic, I don’t know, I was sliding further into a hazily inebriated loneliness; a dangerous place for anyone to be.

After the dessert course (a housemade gelato – strawberry and white chocolate – that was the highlight of the meal), in the bathroom, listening to the drip of the tap, all I could think was this is a fucking lonely business and you need to get the hell out of here right now. I was overwhelmed with a slightly drunk melancholy (or as I like to call it, “drunkencholy”) and there was nothing more for me here. I paid, left, walked home.

Fratelli is a decent, respectable sort of place, with good, decent Italian food and good, decent staff who will be kind to you. But there wasn’t much about the whole experience – the food, the atmosphere – that made me go holy shit, this is spectacular. I suspect it’s the kind of place you’d appreciate more with the aid of conversation, of conviviality. Or maybe I was just slightly drunk and lonely and sad and drinking a wine named after tears. For those reasons, I’m going to have to give my experience of Fratelli a 6 out of 10.

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*yeah, anyone remember that movie? Did you know there is a Twister museum in Wakita, Oklahoma? Now you do.