Table for one? Sweden pop-up restaurant to serve solo diners only

May 1, 2020, 6:20 AM

    (CNN) — The cost of a three-course meal at Bord For En (Table For One), a pop-up restaurant in Sweden opening May 10, is left to the diner’s discretion.

And that is diner, singular, just like the restaurant’s name suggests.

Rasmus Persson and Linda Karlsson are the couple responsible for the unique concept. Located in Värmland, roughly 350 kilometers (217 miles) from Stockholm, the restaurant, or the restaurant’s single table and chair, more accurately, is situated in a lush meadow.

The promise — and premise — is no interaction with others. This is an individual experience meant to be enjoyed in isolation.

There’s no waitstaff and nary another guest in site. Throughout its limited run (it will be open through August 1), one person a day will be served so Persson and Karlsson can give their full focus to the guest.

The couple is not trying to turn tables and, indeed, are not doing this to make money.

They say they won’t allow spectators either: “We want to avoid the feeling of being watched while you eat your food. We all are facing difficult times and there are people who have lost their jobs, a loved one or even their mind.”

Eat now, pay whatever

Persson and Karlsson devised the Table for One concept on a whim one evening several weeks ago when Karlsson’s parents showed up at the couple’s home as Covid-19 made its way around the globe.

Karlsson notes Sweden has issued recommendations, not flat-out restrictions, around social distancing practices.

Despite that, Persson and Karlsson decided rather than let Karlsson’s at-risk parents inside the house where the four could enjoy a shared meal under normal circumstances, it would be prudent to set up a table for them outside in the garden a safe distance away.

This unusual dining experience served as an inspiration for something more official. Thus, Table for One was born.

“We welcome all, no matter what financial situation you are in. The price of the menu is up to the guest,” says Karlsson, who, along with Persson has experience in the hospitality industry — she, front of house; he, back of house.

Karlsson and Persson work in radio, and though Karlsson says the question “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” is haunting everyone, she hasn’t figured it out yet. Still, the couple says they might expand Table For One “when this is all over.”

Socially acceptable dining

In many international cities, dining alone, whether at the bar or a two-top in the corner, is not only acceptable but also normalized and cherished.

Still, not all restaurants have embraced the practice of the solo diner. Karlsson is optimistic that Table For One will further lessen any lingering social awkwardness surrounding the solo diner: “I have had a dream about it being socially acceptable to dine by yourself, and maybe now we are getting there?”

“The mere image of the lonely chair and table is a call to solo experiences.”

Three courses, one guest

The menu, inspired by Persson’s travels and memories, is set through the restaurant’s months-long run. Swedish-style hash browns, smetana (a type of sour cream), seaweed caviar and wood plucked sorrel is the starter.

Following the first course is yellow carrot-ginger puree, browned hazelnut butter, sweet corn croquettes, serpent root ash. Dessert, called “Last Days of Summer,” is ginned blueberries, iced buttermilk and viola sugar from beets on the couple’s farm.

Drinks will be served as well, but all will be of the nonalcoholic variety.

Think elderflower, seedlip and strawberries served in a small bottle, thanks to curator Joel Söderbäck, who helms a couple of high-end bars in Stockholm. Söderbäck plans to take advantage of locally farmed and seasonal ingredients to create his concoctions.

The food and drink will be brought to each guest in a picnic basket tied to a rope leading to the restaurant’s kitchen window.

Asked whether exceptions will be made for more than one guest, say a couple who have been self-isolating together, Karlsson says “unfortunately not.”

“It feels sad to say no,” she adds, while praising the authenticity of the self-isolation experience.

“We might be isolated, but do we spend time with ourselves? This is an opportunity to do that. You are worth spending time with.”

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Table for one? Sweden pop-up restaurant to serve solo diners only