Forget Galentine’s, I went on a date to The Shard on my own
‘I can’t offer you company, but I can offer you some reading materials’
Queuing up to go through The Shard’s security, I watched a group of women in their 30s giggle as they tried to get a mirror selfie. I was sandwiched between them and a French family who decided to bring their six-year-old child for a trip up London’s most iconic skyscraper on the eve before Valentine’s.
As I passed my clutch to the security guard, who looked at me like he was trying to work out which group I’d turned up with, I wondered if there’d be as many couples as I’d anticipated. Was The Shard a bit much for a date on the most romantic day of the year?
I squeezed into the lift. A couple tucked away in the corner were getting off with ferocious vigour as we shot up 32 floors. You’d think the bit where your ears pop – quite painfully – as you hit floor 17 would have stopped them. It did not.
I’d rung The Oblix, one of the restaurants in the Shard, the previous day to make a reservation for one, but they were fully booked. If I wanted a table, they advised, they kept a couple of seats unreserved for walk-ins. All I had to do was hope for the best, otherwise it was going to be a long night of drowning my sorrows at the bar on an empty stomach. I walked in and ordered a Pink Cadillac; a pink and girly blend of Ketel One vodka, lychee, lemon, raspberry, egg whites and lavender. I stood at the bar, watching young men in sharp suits and shirts open tabs as their girlfriends pored over the champagne and cocktail menus, rings glistening in the dark.
Twenty minutes later, the same waitress who greeted me at the door informed me my table was ready, and I went into the restaurant. I was seated at a bar stool by the open kitchen, as far away from the couples as possible. “These seats are so good,” she smiled. “We keep them unreserved for people who just walk in, but you’re always guaranteed a seat by the window whereas if you book a table you’re not.” The view of London looks all the better with no one to share it with.
A charming waiter came over to take my order, and politely accepted my request to take a photo of me. I was hoping to have a bit of a chat, but – as it was a Saturday night and Valentine’s weekend – they were rather busy. Still, they were very attentive. They were probably checking in to see if I was about to cry at any moment.
With no one to talk to, it felt like my food took forever to come. A couple who also hadn’t booked sat one seat away from me, wrongly presuming I was with somebody.
My hopes were lifted when another waiter came over to me with a large glass of red. Did I have an admirer? I felt like I was in a film, where a powerful, independent woman perches at the bar as eligible bachelor after eligible bachelor sends her drinks, hoping to get the knowing nod to come over in return. I hoped to enquire gracefully to whom I owed the pleasure, when the young lady sat one seat away from me informed the waiter it was actually for her. Never mind. The waiter apologised, before saying: “I’m afraid I can’t offer you company, but I can offer you some reading materials. Do let me know if I can be of assistance in any way.” I asked for the wine list. It is a reading material.
My food arrived, a very tasty rotisserie chicken with mash and garlic crisps. With no conversation to interrupt the meal, it was over pretty quickly. I tried to take my time, but it was just really awkward staring into the distance at intervals during my meal. The frantic chefs behind me barked out orders. “Table 12 need their lobster”; “Where are table 12’s octopus starters?”; if I pretended hard enough, maybe it would seem like I was having a conversation. Oh wait.
Waiters marched past with bottles of their finest wine. If my bill for a cocktail, two glasses of wine and some chicken and mash came to £60, god knows how much these desperate souls were splashing out on their girlfriends. And no, they didn’t have a special deal on for Valentine’s weekend, just the usual a la carte. I paid up and took a seat at the bar to finish my drink, and then headed home. Alone.