ParisButter

I am a staunch advocate of dining alone. Perhaps my enthusiasm for this exercise has been born of necessity: the combination of my love of eating out, financially responsible friends, and a perpetual lack of significant (or even regularly dateable) other means that I am often without a companion for gastronomical escapades. But I’ve come to love it. I’m always surprised when otherwise independent, self-actualised acquaintances state that they’ve never sat at a café or gone to a movie by themselves. In contrast, I routinely take a kitchen-side seat at Burger Burger in order to gorge myself on kumara fries, smash a salmon karaage at Renkon, and, of course, frequently polish off a cinnamon brioche at Little and Friday, with a podcast in my ears, an out-of-date Metro magazine at hand, obnoxiously comfortable in my own company. As a regular at these establishments, I like to imagine the familiar staff pitying my singledom and psychologically high-fiving me whenever I turn up with a friend.

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Only recently, however, have I ventured into the realm of dining solo at a “fancy” restaurant. The first occasion falls squarely in the pathetic camp: a few Tuesdays ago, a potential date evaporated, and then I gracefully wiped out on High Street in the rain (cue your pick of Daniel Powter’s Bad Day or the F.R.I.E.N.D.S theme song), so I remedied the situation with an impromptu binge of pizzette, parmesan-crumbed mushrooms, goat cheese balls, and three glasses of GSM at Vivace. The maître d’ asked if I was “in town on business from Sydney or somewhere”; instead of claiming that cool-as cover story, I opted for the Bridget Jonesian truth.

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But with that under my belt, I was determined to have a more purposeful single-at-a-restaurant experience. Where the legendary Vinnies once stood on Jervois Road, a new venture named ParisButter has recently opened and, as a big fan of both of those concepts in noun form, I was sold. And so it was that I found myself on a Sunday night, novel in hand, phone switched to airplane mode, at a table for one – a booking which was, quelle surprise, not hard to secure.

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Devised by executive chef Nick Honeyman, the menu is both structurally and elementally traditional. As an entrée, I opted for confit pork belly, served with scallops, boudin noir, cauliflower, and soy. A glass of Cave de Lugny Bourgogne Blanc from Burgundy was the perfect accompaniment and, as ever, a complimentary side of crusty bread was most welcome. For my main course, I selected the butcher’s cut (a medium cut, slow-cooked at that ephemeral 62 degrees), with the eponymous Paris butter, house fries, and black garlic rouille. Yes, I ordered glorified steak and chips, and my god, it was glorious. Sticking with wine from L’Hexagone, a Château Magnol Cru Bourgeois from the Haut-Medoc region in Bordeaux went down a treat.

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And then dessert, or more accurately, the cheese course. In my presence, no self-respecting cheese selection stands a chance. At the recent wedding of two very dear friends, I infamously raided the cheese boards of surrounding tables to such an extent that I must have eaten close to my body weight in fromage. Appropriately restrained this time around, the choices for consumption included a blue and a washed rind, both from Puhoi, and a brie from Normandy. All were sampled, and all were délicieux. 

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At the end of the day, the experience was supremely satisfying, if not a cause for reflection on my stagnant relationship status. A passage from a recent New York Times Modern Love column by Sarah Moses really hit home for me:

Everyone says you have to be happy with yourself before you can find happiness with someone else. I find that notion extremely frustrating. I am happy enough: I have a good job, great friends and live in New York City [substitute Auckland, but you get the picture]. But I am not going to say the loneliness isn’t palpable, that I don’t wake up in the middle of the night in a state of panic, wondering if I am going to be alone for the rest of my life.

[…]

At the same time, I also try hard to accept that it may never happen for me. I tell myself that I don’t need a partner to lead a happy and fulfilling life.

I’m certainly not saying I don’t long for a man whose arm I can regularly twist into indulging in a decadent night out (for any eligible suitors: my shout).  But it is a liberating thing to be able to relish doing so by myself.

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ParisButter

166 Jervois Road, Herne Bay

Open for dinner from 6pm Wednesday to Sunday and lunch from 12pm Thursday to Sunday

$95 for entrée, main, cheese course, and two glasses of wine

www.parisbutter.co.nz

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ParisButter

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