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In a luxury One Bedroom Spa Suite
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Executive Apartment Hotel
108 Northbourne Ave & Cnr of Girrahween St. Canberra City ACT 2601
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The Canberra Times | In The City Magazine
The nature of this story is such that I must use
a fake name to describe a fake name.
"I always use [White]," Jenny says of the
alias she uses to book restaurant tables for
Canberra's latest table service. "It's not as
corny as Smith, plus it's easy to spell and
Jenny is real -- that is to say, Jenny Bibo is her real
name -- though her role in the world is slightly fantastic.
Like some 21st century Venus, Jenny acts as an arbiter
of love in the capital, arranging dinner for complete
strangers via the Russian roulette relationship service of
Table For Six. She selects a restaurant, and books in a
half-dozen similarly-aged people under the moniker of
"White". Entrée. Mains. Dessert. Maybe sex. Possibly just
someone to share in your Tamagotchi collection.
"I moved to Canberra from Queensland and found it
a bit hard to break in and meet people down here, so I
thought Table For Six would be really good, and it wasn't
here," Jenny says.
"When I looked into it, they were looking for somebody
to bring it to Canberra -- so I decided to be the one to do it."
Jenny started the Canberra branch in February, though
the Table For Six franchise has expanded throughout
Australia during the past decade. Some come for the
social outlet, some come for new friends -- but the Whites
are all ultimately seeking love.
"Deep down, people are probably looking for a partner,
but most people are just coming in and going, 'Look, I
just want to get out and open some new networks, I just
want to get out to dinner'," Jenny says.
"If you don't connect romantically with anyone, it
doesn't really matter, you've still had a nice night out."
As part of the standard vetting process, Jenny meets
one-on-one with new Table For Six members before their
first dinner. There's an administrative aspect to this pre-
date -- a contract is signed, the person is verified as being
over 18, and they must pledge not to be in a committed
relationship. Jenny guarantees a minimum six dinners
for the 12-month fee, all of which will have at least two
new opposite-sex members in attendance.
New members are personally assessed to make it
easier for Jenny to find a table of similar-minded people.
At this point my pre-date becomes a little weird, a two-
way interview stream that sees me struggling to answer
basic questions about my personal interests.
"Films," I say. "And books. I like music, too." I also
enjoy breathing air, though I forget to tell Jenny this.
"OK," Jenny says. "What kind of music?"
"All sorts. Mostly dance music, I guess."
"So you go to festivals and that sort of thing?"
"Yeah. Not really. Sometimes. Not that much anymore."
Assuming that some lucky lady is bowled over by
such a stunning display of colourful intrigue, I'm left to
wonder -- what happens after the dinner?
"They come back through me the following week and
say, 'I really enjoyed meeting so-and-so, I'd really like to
meet up with them again for coffee'," Jenny explains. "I'll
go to that person and ask them if they're happy for me to
pass on their contact details."
While she hasn't witnessed marriages yet, Jenny
has managed to pair off quite a few couples, form new
friendships and introduce newcomers to the city.
"You get all age groups, all types of people. Some very
extroverted people, some very quiet, shy people, and
sometimes they just enjoy being part of conversation,"
"There's no real type of person that joins Table For
Six, it really is a mixture -- the only commonality amongst
people is they're all open to trying something different.
They've got that right attitude of, 'Well, let's go to dinner
and see what happens'."
I don't know whether I've got the right attitude, exactly.
But I do pick up a half-decent bottle of wine before I
arrive at the Turkish restaurant on Saturday night.
"Name?" the waitress asks.
She points to a table in the far corner. "Recognise that
gentleman over there?"
He's a total stranger, of course -- but not to lie would
be to give the game away. I take a seat next to the
gentleman; Andrew will do for a name. He's late-20s to
mid-30s, same as everybody else, and presses into the
corner for nervous shelter. Across the way, the three
ladies have already arrived, and sit in a neat row like a
heterosexual tribunal. I ask if anybody would like some
wine. Declined, allergy, declined.
"Aw, yeah," Andrew mumbles. "I'll have a bit."
I pour generously, drink deep and dive into the evening.
The conversation's central nervous system is
maintained by Heather, the director of a personal
fitness company who regretfully followed her "loser ex-
boyfriend" to Canberra.
"But every time I try to leave, I end up getting a better
job here," she says.
To her left, Kate is a public servant -- in education, to
be more precise -- who is attending her fourth dinner;
everyone else is on their first or second. Kate seems well-
practised at keeping the conversational ball rolling.
"So what're we all doing for Melbourne Cup day?" she
Staff tea room gatherings, office sweepstakes, a hired
pavilion with mates at Thoroughbred Park, in Andrew's
case. Jane, on the other hand, will be overseeing a hat
parade for the kids at the childcare centre she works for.
A standard working day at the centre, Jane says, begins
with a 'yard check' to make sure nothing untoward
has been left in the playground by overnight visitors --
garbage, beer bottles, bongs.
Andrew also works with kids, though in a far more
harrowing capacity, as an employee with Care and
"You have to really separate yourself from it, you have
to talk it out, otherwise it can really get to you," Andrew
"That's partly why I'm doing Table For Six, so I can
find a partner to talk to this stuff about."
When the third gentleman arrives -- Walter the quiet
computer scientist -- the table has decided on a banquet,
and as the platters of food begin to trickle out, I venture
to ask Walter what his work entails. Everybody leans
forward to hear the timid genius explain it in layman's
"I work for a start-up company that's developing
encryption technology. We're hoping to win some
government contracts, possibly intelligence agencies --"
LOUD MUSIC. Walter keeps talking, and while phrases
like "long integers", "fibre optics" and "can't sell to China"
creep through, he's mostly stifled by the rasping horns
that accompany the belly dancer who winds between
the tables. Even after the performance ends, the music
continues, and Heather grows impatient.
"That's really loud," she frowns. "Anyone else think
that's really loud? I'm going to ask them to turn it down."
The table watches as she stands up and strides over
to the bar; a moment later, the music quickly fades into
"That was a pretty gutsy thing to do," Andrew says
when Heather resumes her seat.
"Take me as I am or watch me as I leave," she shrugs.
Dessert, tea and coffee are offered, though the table
is content to subsist on the cubes of Turkish delight that
arrive by default. With the bottle of wine now looking
sadly empty, I enquire about peoples' experiences.
"It's a great way to make friends," Kate enthuses.
"Like, the last dinner I went to, some of the girls wanted
to see the Queen painting at the National Portrait Gallery
-- so we organised that the following week."
"I've enjoyed it," says Jane, the sole (legitimate) first-
timer. "I'm looking forward to the next one."
The Whites are the last to leave the restaurant, and we
mill outside the entrance for a few moments. The girls hug,
the boys shake hands, and everyone agrees that it was
lovely to have met before we all starburst into the night.
"Across the way, the three ladies
have already arrived, and sit in a
neat row like a heterosexual tribunal.
I ask if anybody would like some
wine. Declined, allergy, declined"
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