Is Naked Dining A Gimmick Too Far?
By Food Journalist, Tom Flin
Many of you will already be aware that the country’s first, and let’s hope last, naked restaurant opened its doors in London on the 11th of June. Bunyadi is a three month pop up restaurant where diners are invited to eat naked as a means to experience a purely natural dining experience. This is further emphasised through the restaurants ban on electronic devices and its focus on serving raw foods that have been produced without the use of gas or electricity.
The restaurant is the brain child of London based company Lollipop who are also responsible for the “Breaking Bad” cocktail bar. Clearly they enjoy creating something quirky and attention grabbing. The idea behind the naked restaurant is to create an environment that liberates the diners and frees them from the impurities of modern life.
Initial reviews all seem to be very positive with diners reporting that they felt relaxed and at ease once the distractions of 21st century life had been removed. That being said if it takes eating naked in public in order to stop checking your phone for a couple hours then perhaps you should take a moment to reflect on your life.
Now Brighton is a city that is pretty comfortable when it comes to public nudity. We have our very own nudist beach and the annual naked bike ride, an event that I have considered taking part in myself, has grown in popularity over the years. We even have our very own Eat Naked Café – although this is in reference to the food rather than the customers. Now I consider myself a pretty liberal minded individual and have no issues with the human form in its natural state, but when it comes to naked dining I think this is a step too far.
This got me thinking about some of the other ridiculous dining gimmicks that have come and gone over the years. Whether it be a short lived PR stunt or an actual permanent restaurant many crimes have been committed in the world of food. Here are some of my top, in the loosest sense of the word, foodie gimmicks that have been inflicted upon us.
Cereal Killer Café – Brick Lane, London
Arguably the most famous of the food gimmicks, and most successful, the Cereal Killer Café in London has been with us since 2014. Founded by identical twin brothers Alan and Gary Keery the café has been the focus of a lot of media attention since opening. Serving up over 120 different cereals from around the world the idea has really struck a chord with trendy London hipsters – and a nerve with many others. Most recently they were in the press for being attacked during a “class war” march as being representative of the gentrification of working class London.
Love them or hate them you have to admit that the brothers have clearly been hugely successful in making the idea work. As gimmicks go this one is pretty inoffensive and they have managed to make a living from selling breakfast cereal which is no small feat – unless you are Mr Kelloggs of course. (Photo via Cereal Killer Cafe)
Breast Milk Ice Cream
In February 2011 the country was struck with a mixture of intrigue, disgust, confusion and most of all bemusement when breast milk ice cream, “Baby Gaga”, was launched in London. Designed by ice cream makers “The Licktators”, the vanilla and lemon ice cream developed using hospital screened breast milk. Despite it being an initial hit, after a week of sale they were forced to stop selling it by the local council following a couple of complaints. They also incurred the wrath of the pop star to whom the name was derived stating that the idea was “nausea-inducing” – which is pretty rich coming from someone who wore a dress made of meat. The ice cream has recently made a small comeback having released a special edition to celebrate the royal baby.
Despite the completely unnecessary nature of this product there was a good reason for it. The ice cream was produced to remind people of the benefits of breastfeeding and made in collaboration with breastfeeding campaigner Victoria Hiley. Does this mean we can forgive them, perhaps, but it still should not have been allowed.
Brighton Sky restaurant – Hove
When I started writing this I thought our city was safe from my gaze but I then remembered the brief “Dine in the Sky” experience. In 2013 British Airways put a crane on Hove lawns and hoisted diners 100ft in the air in order to eat their lunch or dinner. It was all a publicity stunt to promote some of BA’s holiday destinations and for the most part was completely pointless. With BA now sponsoring the i360 on Brighton’s seafront they clearly quite liked the idea and have gone for a slightly more impressive version than in 2013.
As this only took place over 6 days and they served standard food and drink it is a gimmick that we can let slide – nothing more than a publicity stunt that should never have happened. Thankfully Brighton has so far remained fairly gimmick free and I hope that it will remain that way. (Photo via the Argus)
Russian Toilet Themed Café
If you really want to start looking at some of the most weird and not so wonderful restaurants you need to look further afield than the UK. In Moscow a toilet theme café opened in October of last year where diners sit on actual toilets and eat out of toilet bowls and drink from urinals. To top it all off the food is actually designed with a faecal theme in mind which not only sounds disgusting it looks it as well.
Amazingly the idea was not original with the café based on a chain of toilet themed cafés in Taiwan – the mind boggles.
Whilst not necessarily a gimmick there are few things as concerning as the combination of two vastly different cuisines into a single plate of food. Done well it can be extremely interesting, creating brand new flavour combinations that push boundaries and excite the sense. In Brighton we are lucky enough to have restaurants such as Senor Buddha on London Road who have got the formula right.
When it comes to bad fusion food the worst offenders have got to be supermarkets and convenience food. Frozen food “specialists” Iceland are perhaps the biggest criminals with offerings such as chicken tikka lasagne, Chicken tikka Yorkshire pudding and doner kebab pizza. These food gimmicks are perhaps the worst offenders of all and do not appear to be going anywhere soon.
There are many more crimes against food that I’ve not included such as robot themed restaurants in Japan and even a war themed café in Beirut. Themed restaurants and gimmicky food will never go away and we can only hope that Brighton remains fairly free of these ill thought out PR stunts.
What are you worst food disasters and can you think of any in the local area that I have missed?