Is there anything more ridiculous than the concept restaurant? It seems no-one, nowhere and no cuisine is immune. Cherry-picking from the headlining new openings in the next few months, we see that St Jamie of O is not content with dominion over Italian and whatever the heck Barbacoa is supposed to be; his next new thing is a chain called Union Jack’s, but – wait for it – the concept is ‘undecided.’ Well, we’d hazard a guess it’s not going to be Korean. Also down South, Mark Sargeant is expanding The Smokehouse, his newest venture with a ‘fish and chip concept.’ Erm, that’s just fish and chips to you and me. While we’re at it, look out for the latest in confusion dining – Orchid’s ‘Pizza Pub’ concept, which is, and you would never guess it, a pub serving pizza ‘in a casual environment.’ Clearly necessity is the Godfather of invention – who knew?
They say the concept of a ‘concept’ is to tell a story, although quite why there must be a story is anybody’s guess. Frankly, it just looks like a cheeky way to put a premium price on a bog-standard idea while an arty-farty waiter can introduce you to the novel ‘concept’ of ferrying food into your mouth. We say, if we’re there, we just want to eat; we don’t want to wait for it to go cold and if you have to explain it to us, it’s already too complicated.
If you’re going to do it, go crazy. Go all out and really hit the headlines. Maybe the problem is us Brits are just too damn straight-thinking. The craziest we could come up with was Dans Le Noir, which was a stupid idea to start with – dining in pitch-black and having to guess what the food was – and was nicked from Paris, where they shouldn’t ever, ever try to dabble in novelty. (The tradition-loving French were never going to pull that off). No, you need to be living in CrazyLand to really get it. Check out The Modern Toilet Restaurant in Taiwan, where you can both literally and metaphorically spend a penny (or more) while you eat; a time-saving, energy-efficient genius idea. Or Buns & Guns in Beirut: a military-themed restaurant where you dine to the muzak of gunfire and the chefs wear helmets.
What’s the most ridiculous concept you’re been confronted with? Or does the idea of a new twist on an old favourite have you rushing to be first in the queue? Do we even need new twists – or have we gone as far as we can and now, like old-timers, we’ve seen it all before and we just want to enjoy a meal?