Dining out in the midst of a pandemic is probably not something many people would have thought about before 2020. Even fewer of us could have guessed the weird and wonderful ways that restaurants would adapt to the global situation.
Novelty hats, a table for one in an empty field and dining with stuffed pandas are just a few dining options available across the globe. Due to the restrictions on numbers, the challenge restaurateurs are now facing is how to create compelling, but safe, environments that entice patrons.
From London to Thailand, many restaurants have put a positive spin on the restrictions, and the creative workarounds have become a highlight in an otherwise challenging time.
Bord för en, Sweden
We’ve heard of al fresco dining, but it took a global pandemic for us to consider eating alone in the middle of a field.
Surely one of the only all-new restaurants opening in the world right now, Bord för en, or Table for one, will serve a three-course meal to a single customer each day, in the middle of a meadow in western Sweden.
Sweden has eschewed the blanket lockdowns imposed by many European countries, instead advising its people to employ social distancing, and Table for one has taken the message to heart.
Designed to be as coronavirus-proof as possible, food will be transported from kitchen window to table in a wicker basket down a line of rope, and dishes will be double washed between patrons. Guests will have nothing but table and chair for company, and can enjoy their meal in perfect seclusion.
The brainchild of chef-and-waitress duo Rasmus Persson and Linda Karlsson, the idea struck while hosting Ms Karlsson’s elderly parents, and they began developing their website immediately.
A three-course sample menu promises a Swedish meal with Spanish inspiration, including Swedish-style hash browns, seaweed caviar, sweetcorn croquettes, and freshly picked blueberries. With purse-strings tightening across the continent, diners can decide for themselves how much they can and will pay, with proceeds going to a ‘fund for creative mums’ set up by Mr Persson.
If nothing else, the pair hope to help tackle the strange stigma attached to eating alone. “When I dined alone before, it felt like people were under the impression that I had been stood up,” says Ms Karlsson. “At this restaurant you will not meet anyone. Not even a waiter.”
Nowhere is a new Swedish restaurant-cum-philosophical exercise that urges diners to embrace the isolation of COVID times. Guests will be seated at one of six fully laden tables – one erected in a secluded forest clearing, another perched at the end of a pier – in the extremely al fresco surroundings of the Häringe nature reserve.
The food comes courtesy of Garba, which specialises in pop-up restaurants and took Stockholm by storm in 2017, while the table design is the work of Insta-famous B&B owners the Norrmans.
“Nowhere is a place that feels the utmost indifference against everything and everyone,” reads the restaurant website. “It has no opinion. It has no agenda. It feels nothing. Nowhere is something we desperately need right now. That is why we have taken nowhere and made it into somewhere.”
The tables are spread some distance apart – between waterfronts, fields, and forest glens – so there’s little chance of bumping into a fellow diner. The restaurant is the progeny of alcohol-free wine makers Oddbird, and opened for business on 20 August.
Cafe & Konditorei Rothe, Germany
This eatery in Schwerin, in the north-eastern German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, put a very creative spin on keeping its customers distant. Instead of the usual floor markings that many cafes and restaurants went with, they distributed hats with colourful pool noodles attached to ensure everyone kept 1.5m apart. While usually offering 56 tables, 36 inside and 20 outside, it is now running at less than half of its seating capacity.
“With the new hygiene and social distancing measures, we only have 12 tables inside and only eight outside,” Jaqueline Rothe, the owner, told local TV company RTL.
Mr Fogg’s House of Botanicals, London, UK
Waiters wearing masks and hazmat suits will do little to calm concerns. So, this themed bar has come up with a simple solution – turn the new uniform into part of the display.
At Mr Fogg’s the menu and decor are floral, herbal and aromatic, so staff are set to dress in mock beekeeper outfits – mask, veil and all.
Maison Saigon, Bangkok, Thailand
This Vietnamese restaurant has come up with a great idea to encourage customers to sit separately, they offer each patron the option to dine with a fluffy stuffed panda. The restaurant thought that having pandas on the chairs that need to be left empty was a friendlier option than having them cordoned off.
Mediamatic ETEN, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Mediamatic arts centre has the perfect set up for a socially distanced dinner. They have erected small greenhouses along the Oosterdok River, their size perfect for an intimate dinner for two. The staff wear face shields and long wooden planks allow the servers to deliver the food without entering the individual greenhouses.
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