As I walk towards Kala Bistro in Manchester, I’m already rehearsing my shtick.

“No, I don’t think I look like a Helen.” Once again, I’m a substitute for our illustrious editor who has been unavoidably delayed at Northern Soul Towers on matters of state. Not that I mind, as good food, interesting company and fine wine awaits. 

I’m on my way to the launch of First Table, an online restaurant initiative which offers diners a 50 per cent discount for booking off-peak tables at a range of participating venues. There’s no charge to sign up but diners must pay £6 to secure each offer (drinks are not included). It’s been going since 2018 and operates in London, Birmingham and Bristol. Now it’s in Manchester.

While it’s hoped that the early door policy will create a ‘buzz early on in the service’, I have a small beef. Recent press reports have suggested that some restaurants have been charging double for single diners who, it is alleged, ‘take up the space of two’. The well-known food critic Jay Rayner has often defended the rights and, indeed, the joys of single dinning. For once, I agree with him. I went to Bologna last week. Asked how long I would be staying, I replied “two lunches and three dinners”. And that was just me. I do hope that First Table extends its offer to us lone and oppressed gourmands.

Nevertheless, the evening at Kala was excellent and I wish First Table good luck and good eating in its launch in the North. 

By Robert Hamilton  

Main image courtesy of First Table