Spassverderber im Themenrestaurant (engl. Originalversion der Kolumne in der htr hotel revue vom 13.08.2015)
Sadly, I’m with the Smint-Eaters. Other people call us ‘Killjoys’ or ‘Spoilsports’. Yes, we’re the types who go to costume parties in normal clothes (if you really want to dress up as a pirate or a priest, then why not be one?) True, we can put a dampener on other people’s fun as we stand around making ‘normal’ conversation, not entering into the spirit of things and smugly pointing out that we can safely take public transport home instead of having to crush our sequinned and feathered bodies into taxis to avoid being beaten up on the bus.
And yet I can’t help defending myself and my fellow Killjoys when it comes to the thorny issue of themed food. Good food is good food: it doesn’t taste any better served with a side order of Novelty Value. All too often themed restaurants are blatant publicity traps, with more attention paid to an eye-catching gimmick than to food that satisfies the stomach and sings to the soul.
In London last week, I noticed with horror that themed restaurants are not only surviving, they’re thriving like weeds in fertile touristy soil. ‘But you’re a fan of edited menus, aren’t you?’ asked my friend in surprise. ‘And you like knowing what to expect.’ True, and true. But it’s one thing to be offered a thoughtfully edited selection of delicious seasonal food, and quite another to hear about a chips-themed restaurant, cringe-makingly called ‘Come Fry With Me’, crashing into the formerly pretty good restaurant scene at Covent Garden. If I want chips I’ll order some perfectly cooked ones on the side of my perfectly normal main course – or go to a kebab van at 2 a.m. and eat them piping hot, out of paper, with lashings of ketchup and mayo. Chips don’t need to be the main theme of the night. Ever.
The horror went on. On National Orgasm Day (yes, there really is one) a themed supper club hit the headlines. ‘Aphrodisishack’ was serving sheep’s testicles and dishes based on Spanish Fly (a beetle long linked with sexual desire), with jelly for dessert – mixed by mini-vibrators.
Even at the high end of the market, the fun and games continued. A suave, slinky restaurant in West London opened with a themed boom – starring the truffle. Here you could order a £38 burger in a brioche bun with truffle mayo. Or the old English staple macaroni and cheese, all truffled up. Or truffle risotto. And no need to go all the way to Covent Garden for your chips – just ask for truffle fries!
I can’t help thinking that the novelty value of this would wear off pretty fast: probably around the time you checked your coat. Themed restaurants can all too quickly become dinosaurs in a scene that chews ever-faster through the ‘new’, spits out the bones and looks around for the next novelty. Meantime you’ll find us Killjoys at our usual dark corner tables, slowly musing over non-trend-driven menus, thanking god for food that isn’t fun.