Last Wednesday while I was supposed to be job hunting, I decided to take a break from gallery hopping and bargain shopping to have some lunch by myself. For some reason, I have always been told that it is an important rite of passage to sit and be able to have a meal alone in a restaurant; in fact, Sex and the City had a whole episode about it. As a woman who has travelled all over the world there have been numerous occasions where I have eaten alone; sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s not, but something I believe that everyone needs to try at least once.
I stopped along Grafton Street at The Wooden Monkey because I had heard lots of good things about it from both native Haligonians and visitors, and was not surprised to enter the beautiful heritage building and encounter a very busy (and full) restaurant. The kind server encouraged me to go upstairs to find a table for one and as I walked up the antique staircase, I was already feeling at ease in the vintage chic restaurant.
Once seated, I was greeted by a bubbly server who brought me a Perrier while I perused the menu. One thing that struck me immediately was the large selection of drinks; there were teas and fair trade coffee, an array of juices, cocktails and wine, something to wet anyone’s whistle. The menu itself was also large with a variety of salads, gourmet pizzas, and sandwiches for lunch, and some delicious looking entrees as well. One thing to note about The Wooden Monkey is their allegiance to locally grown and organic food. Most people these days like to know not only what they are eating but also where it comes from, and The Wooden Monkey is dedicated to using local and organic ingredients in their food. In the explanations of the menu items they are careful to state what is locally grown and where it comes from and, in fact, most everything on their menu is.
My selection for lunch was the Scallop and Almond Salad, and after a short wait (very short for how busy the place looked), I was presented with a large salad topped with feta cheese. The fresh greens with cherry tomatoes, carrots, and almonds were a delectable bed for the herb encrusted phyllo pastry basket that cradled five enticing Digby scallops. It was heavenly. The sweet onion vinaigrette complimented the luscious greens and scallops so well, and it was a very satisfying meal. I had no trouble finishing every last bite; the salad was indeed a lovely lunch companion, while it lasted!
It’s interesting the things you notice in a restaurant when you are alone, as opposed to being focused on what’s going on at your table. For one thing, the people. There were all sorts of different people gathered at The Wooden Monkey at 1:30pm on a Wednesday: Business types speaking and eating briskly, old friends on their third bottle of wine, moms and daughters with new babies, and of course, the classic young women out for lunch with their friends. I also noticed how many people were confused about which bathroom is men’s and which is women’s, something I had trouble with myself, but which must be forgiven in the old heritage building, where indoor plumbing is a more recent alteration.
I really enjoyed the atmosphere at The Wooden Monkey, it was friendly and very food conscious without being pretentious about it. Overall, I enjoyed my solo lunch experience, and would advocate it to anyone who hasn’t tried it. Think of it as a new dining experience, even if it’s somewhere you have eaten before, or you could choose The Wooden Monkey, and explore, eat, repeat.
Things worth mentioning…
Cost: 25$ for Salad and Drink with tip….slightly pricy for lunch, but worth it for the fresh Digby scallops.
Things I liked: The wide wooden floor boards, the friendly and attentive service.
Things I didn’t: The tablecloth was a little too worn, and the bathrooms were confusing…minor details.
Best place to sit: By the window…there are many, upstairs and down!
What to order next time: Come back for dinner for the Free-Range Steak and some Jost Sparkling.
Rating: 8 out of 10