|Spuntino, a perfect place to dine solo. From www.arbuturian.com|
Make eye contact as soon as possible. You don't want to scuttle in apologetically whilst looking at the floor. You're not going to enjoy that. Own the place, but not too much (If you know the chef's name, ask if they're cooking today. If they are, smile knowingly and protest that you don't want to disturb them. At all costs. You don't even know them, you just read about them in Time Out).
2. First orderIf they ask what you'd like to drink as soon as you sit down, buy yourself some extra time and order some tap water. You don't want to panic-buy the first negroni you see. Then spend ten minutes perusing the wine/cocktail list. Resist ordering what you really want (vodka & coke) and go for a mid-price cocktail (about £8.50). The more Vermouth, bitters and ridiculous garnishes, the better.
3. How much to order
Don't get bullied into ordering the 'recommended' ten plates. Just order a few, and then a few more. There's only you so you don't have to pretend to like those pickled cat's feet your mate ordered. Take your time. Of course, it is expected to order off menu. Pick a word at random and say it whilst winking. Upon facing a blank stare, say, 'It's off Twitter?' They'll be too embarrassed to check.
If you're confident enough to sit with only the company of your massive DSLR, that's fine. Otherwise, you can sit with a magazine or book for company. For foodies, a cookbook, industry-related magazines or a copy of Fire & Knives are all acceptable reading material. It's also fine to livetweet your experience. Throw in some controversial comments about other diners or service to gain bonus points.
If you're at the bar of say, Duck Soup, space is sparse. Highlight this by keeping your elbows in as far as possible and adopt a martyred expression. Unless you've taken a fancy to the hot tattooed, converse- and beanie-wearing guy next to you. In which case, 'accidentally' nudge away and keep your iPhone screen as visible as possible so he can see your Twitter/Instagram handle.
If someone you don't want to sits down next to you and tries to talk to you, keep it to the food. You don't need to hear their life story. If they're not a foodie, feign needing the loo. On your return, move to the other side of the bar. This won't work as well in one of the many small Soho bars as you can see everything from any given point.
You may feel like everyone's staring at you. They're not. No-one gives a shit about solo diners any more. It's 2012. If there are people staring at you, stare back. Listen to their conversations - you can pick up some great gossip in Soho that you can tweet to make fellow diners paranoid.
Bring cash. You don't wait for no waiter/tress. You can slam the money down and saunter out, to avoid awkward silences while you wait for the card machine to process your payment. And you don't have to feel horrendously mean for not adding a full 12.5% gratuity if you don't think they deserved that.