A new Moscow restaurant staffed entirely by sets of twins is an odd concept, but that’s nothing compared to some of the bizarre eateries in other parts of the world. Dinner on the loo, anyone?
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Magic Restroom Cafe, Los Angeles
The idea of sitting on a toilet in public is the stuff of nightmares but that hasn’t stopped the Magic Restroom making loos the focus of its new themed restaurant in LA. In fact toilet-themed restaurants are nothing new – Taiwans’ Modern Toilet where chocolate ice-cream is served in toilet-shaped dishes is well-documented. Inspired by its success Magic Restroom owner YoYo Li has introduced toilets as seats and a mix of Asian and western food – like zha jiang mian, named “constipation” on the menu, braised pork over rice, (“smells-like-poop”), and sundaes (choose from chocolate “black poop” or the vanilla-strawberry sundae “bloody number two”) served, of course, in miniature toilet bowls. Revolting and distrubing in equal measure. Freud would have a field day.
Twin Stars Diner, Moscow
It’s hard to stand out in a city that loves extreme dining, whether it involves vines and amphorae, (Tiflis, the Russian word for the Georgian capital, Tbilisi), moving trams (Annushka), live goats (Shinok), or waterfalls (Blue Elephant) – but Alexei Khodorkovsky has managed to find a new niche, with the opening of his twin-themed restaurant. At the Twin Stars diner in Moscow, all the staff – from waiters to bartenders and even the chefs – are identically-dressed twins. The creepy concept is inspired by a 1964 Soviet film in which a girl winds up in an alternate reality and confronts her twin. Khodorkovsky says it’s been hard to find suitably qualifed twins but the concept is paying off – the 24-hour restaurant is a hit with locals who don’t seem bothered about the issue of whether or not to tip twice.
If Twin Stars represents the new Russia with its modern, funky design, the Expedicia is more traditional Russia – appealing, one imagines, to chest-beating Putin types with a love of the outdoors. In the pricey, survival-themed Expeditsia (“expedition”) restaurant you eat between an orange helicopter parked in the pine trees and a stuffed polar bear scratching itself by a stream.
Guests can sprawl on the roof garden lawn or be beaten with birch twigs in the Siberian banya. Ingredients such as wild duck, fresh berries and mountain honey are flown in from the far north and east of Russia, and delicacies include elk in aspic, smoked venison, sea urchin and sturgeon, served with vodka, sea buckthorn juice or Baikal mineral water. Expect to pay around 1,500 roubles (£30) for a main course; a shot of vodka will set you back around £5 and a fresh juice £9.
Phoebe Taplin and Isabel Choat
Le Refuge des Fondues, Paris
Why, when in Paris, a city full of great restaurants, you would choose to go for a fondue is anyone’s guess but tucking into the Swiss dish is not the oddest thing about Le Refuge des Fondues in Monmatre. The real weirdness begins when you order your wine – and it’s brought to you in a baby’s bottle, apparently a ruse to avoid French tax on wine served in proper glasses. Gooey cheese and drinking out of a teat – it’s not somewhere you’d want to go on a first date, but it’s been pulling in the tourist crowds for decades.
• 17 Rue des 3 Frères
Carton King, Taichung City, Taiwan
Taiwan has a penchant for themed absurdity when it comes to eating out. Whether for Japanese assassins lurking in the rafters at Ninja or the drinks served in specimen bottles to wash down one’s turd-shaped bread at the aforementioned Modern Toilet, the food is rarely the primary draw. And so it is with Carton King, a restaurant whose owner was so depressed by the preponderance of plastic in modern life he built an eatery which, instead, promotes the virtues of corrugated cardboard. From the chairs to the plates and even the walls – the whole place is bedecked in the brown stuff. The food, although not fine dining, was more than edible and all that remained of our stewed pork ribs and herb-roasted chicken was the odd greasy smear on our cardboard table. Definitely worth a visit … just remember to leave your lighter at home.
Barbie restaurant, Taipei, Taiwan
The Far East’s love of all things cute and fluffy is well known; whether it’s actual, real-life cuteness in the shape of Tokyo’s cat cafes, where pet-less Tokyoites go to stroke and play with cats and kittens, or the Hello Kitty phenomenon in Seoul. So the only surprise about Taipei’s Barbie restaurant is that it took so long for someone to come up with the idea. It is staffed by waitresses in bright pink tops, tutus and tiaras, while the chairs are dressed in tutus and there’s enough pink food to sink a Barbie cruise ship.
The Royal Dragon, Bangkok, Thailand
If you think Britain’s biggest restaurant, serving 2,000 diners a day, is massive, think again. Bangkok’s Royal Dragon is monumental. The colossal seafood place sprawls across 8.35 acres, has 1,000 staff, and requires 540 costumed waiters on roller skates to serve some 5,000 customers. And while it boasts the largest collection of live seafood tanks and 1,000 pan-Asian dishes, diners don’t come for the food. It’s all about the spectacle: traditional Thai and Chinese music, dance and martial arts shows, and waiters walking on water and “flying” through the air on zip-wires. Watch what you order if you choose live seafood (it is priced by weight and can be expensive), so there are no surprises – other than the waiters falling from the sky, that is. The dim sum buffet and set menus are the best value. Service can be slow despite the wheels and wires, making the experience best done with a group of (well-lubricated) friends.
The Heart Attack Grill, Las Vegas, US
We all know Americans love big portions. The Heart Attack Grill in Vegas (where else?) celebrates the fact with gusto by serving obscenely huge burgers with sides of fries deep-fried in lard. Diners are given hospital style gowns before tucking into the likes of a quadruple bypass burger, a towering heart attack on a plate made with four beef patties and 20 slices of bacon, served by waitresses dressed as nurses who will help you out of the restaurant in a wheel chair if necessary. If you are prepared to gamble with your health, the Heart Attack Grill is certainly a meal to remember.
Draculas and Witches in Britches, Melbourne, Australia
Two longstanding Melbourne schlock horror-themed theatre restaurants owe their recent resurgence in popularity to the Twilight phenomenon, the current obsession with vampires, witches and werewolves, and the burlesque craze. Claiming to have served three million people in 30 years, Draculas offers a camp, vaudevillian-style cabaret during a three-course dinner that begins with drinks in the Graveyard cocktail lounge and a ghost-train ride.
Located in the Wicked Castle, the 40-year old Witches in Britches offers a kitschy interactive show rooted in contemporary pop culture (it helps to have some knowledge of Aussie television) and a five-course meal that starts with pumpkin soup with “herbs picked from the old hag’s garden”, ladled from a cauldron.
• draculas.com.au, witchesinbritches.com.au
Onkel Taa, Italian Tyrol
Hidden away in a tiny village of the Italian Tyrol, Onkel Taa is a gourmet restaurant serving traditional Mitteleuropa cuisine, but it is also the fantasy world of the owner-chef, Karl Platino. He is known in Italy as “Il Re delle Lumache”, the Snail King, because not only does he serve a dozen dishes featuring snails, he also breeds these molluscs in the jungle-like gardens surrounding the restaurant. And this is only one of Onkel Taa’s passions: the decor of the cosy wood-panelled osteria is filled with his weird and wonderful collections – everything from corkscrews to snail shaped fossils; and a whole museum is dedicated to the Habsurg Empire and Emperor Franz Josef in particular, whom, coincidentally, the chef closely resembles. And if you want to see something really special, ask to go upstairs from the dining room, where Signor Platino has over a thousand incredible antique wooden doors stashed away.
Soldatenkaffee, Bandung, Indoneisa
And the award for most tastless restaurant goes to … the Soldatenkaffee in Bandung, Indonesia. Celebrating “Hitler as pop culture” it is staffed by waiters in Nazi uniform. On the menu are “German” nachos, curry wurst and “Bird Ness”, whatever that is; and on the walls are photos of Hitler, stormtroopers and swastikas. Owner Henry Mulyana seemed genuinely surprised at the outrage the restaurant caused, insisting that he doesn’t idolise Hitler, he “simply adores the soldier’s paraphernalia”, a message he emphasises on his website: “This WEB is not pro NAZI. It is matter of fact, with the intention of exploring Hitler & the NAZIS as pop culture. The authors of the WEB are not NAZIS or neo-NAZIS, we are Indonesian with no political affiliations”. The furore caused by Soldatenkaffee didn’t put off another owner opening the equally offensive Hitler Fried Chicken in Bangkok, a bizarre take on KFC, with an image of Hitler replacing that of Colonel Sanders.
The runner-up prize for most tasteless restaurant goes to Bunga Bunga in Battersea, London. It’s hard to fathom anyone wanting to eat in a restaurant themed around a slimy, criminal fraudster famed for his liaisons with underaged prostitutes, but here it is, the shameless Bunga Bunga, which draws crowds of young Chelsea types with its all-you-can-drink prosecco and bellini parties. In fact, it’s exactly the sort of place you wouldn’t be surprised to find a toff dressed in a Nazi uniform “for fun”.
• bungabunga-london.com, oldatenkaffee.com
Link to article: feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663875/s/3279e635/sc/10/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Ctravel0C20A130Coct0C150Cten0Eof0Eworlds0Eweird0Erestaurants/story01.htm