Themed eating

Themed eating

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In Competition No. 2366 you were invited to describe the opening of a bizarrely themed restaurant in this country. Berlin features its restaurant for anorexics and one for the blind where customers eat in pitch darkness, served by blind waiters; also a café run by an Argentinian where you eat what you’re given, then pay what you think the meal is worth. At Andrew Wilcox’s non-PC restaurant (‘Berkshire’s first’) ‘the party next to us was asked to leave after refusing to light up between courses’; at Josephine Boyle’s The Acrostic Appetite ‘the menu is a crossword and you won’t know what’s on that evening until you’ve solved some clues’; while Basil Ransome-Davies’s Check-In horrifically offers ‘the full airport experience’. The prizewinners get £25 each, and the Cobra Premium beer goes to Frank Upton.

I go to the opening of NHS (Lonely Street, E97), Britain’s first public-private partnership restaurant. Forget Pharmacy and expect the unexpected — from the pay-on-foot car park (‘Hope I’ve got one left!’ joked my partner) to the smiling waitresses who wheeled us to our ‘beds’, chattering in fluent Tagalog. Ward 3 was bright, functional and noisy, if rather dirty, with exuberant floral displays and TV screens over every ‘bed’ for only £1 a minute. We chose the prix fixe menu — cheap, with each ‘prescription’ priced at just £6.40. Service was enthusiastic and knowledgeable, but with no discernible organisation, and our Nigerian Cabernet Sauvignon was perfectly acceptable, taken intravenously. There is, however, only one word for the food: ‘Alas’.

Frank Upton

What distinguishes Slebs from other restaurants is that it serves no meals. Like its patrons — vetted at the door by a ruthless greeter — it is famous simply for being famous. Zeph D’Ado, its founder, spotted that busy celebrities needed to be seen going somewhere exclusive but didn’t want to waste time eating. He took discreet West End premises, hired door staff, and contracted photographers to cluster round the entrance. Then he opened with a PR masterstroke. He separately invited Gordon, Nigella, Jamie and Rick, promising each of them exposure for their new book. Their acrimonious meeting provided a snapfest for photographers and yards of copy for the gossip columnists. ‘Too many cooks spoil for a fight’, ‘Scrambled egos’ ran the headlines. Overnight, Slebs had the door you couldn’t not be seen going in — before paying your dues and slipping out at the back.

W.J. Webster

There are few left now to remember the good old days when bombs devastated British cities, everything was rationed and Europeans were either enemies or collaborators. We can’t return to those magical times. But we can savour something of their spirit — and at the same time cock a snook at Brussels. Taking its inspiration from the popular British restaurants of the war and austerity years, the Dunkirk offers its clientele the contemporary option of the flexible, modular table d’h