Magic Restroom Cafe, Los Angeles
The idea of sitting on a toilet in public is the stuff of nightmares but that hasn’t stopped the Magic Restroom making loos the focus of its new themed restaurant in LA. In fact toilet-themed restaurants are nothing new – Taiwans’ Modern Toilet where chocolate ice-cream is served in toilet-shaped dishes is well-documented. Inspired by its success Magic Restroom owner YoYo Li has introduced toilets as seats and a mix of Asian and western food – like zha jiang mian, named “constipation” on the menu, braised pork over rice, (“smells-like-poop”), and sundaes (choose from chocolate “black poop” or the vanilla-strawberry sundae “bloody number two”) served, of course, in miniature toilet bowls. Revolting and distrubing in equal measure. Freud would have a field day. Isabel Choat
Twin Stars Diner, Moscow
It’s hard to stand out in a city that loves extreme dining, whether it involves vines and amphorae, (Tiflis, the Russian word for the Georgian capital, Tbilisi), moving trams (Annushka), live goats (Shinok), or waterfalls (Blue Elephant) – but Alexei Khodorkovsky has managed to find a new niche, with the opening of his twin-themed restaurant. At the Twin Stars diner in Moscow, all the staff – from waiters to bartenders and even the chefs – are identically-dressed twins. The creepy concept is inspired by a 1964 Soviet film in which a girl winds up in an alternate reality and confronts her twin. Khodorkovsky says it’s been hard to find suitably qualifed twins but the concept is paying off – the 24-hour restaurant is a hit with locals who don’t seem bothered about the issue of whether or not to tip twice.
If Twin Stars represents the new Russia with its modern, funky design, the Expedicia is more traditional Russia – appealing, one imagines, to chest-beating Putin types with a love of the outdoors. In the pricey, survival-themed Expeditsia (“expedition”) restaurant you eat between an orange helicopter parked in the pine trees and a stuffed polar bear scratching itself by a stream.
Guests can sprawl on the roof garden lawn or be beaten with birch twigs in the Siberian banya. Ingredients such as wild duck, fresh berries and mountain honey are flown in from the far north and east of Russia, and delicacies include elk in aspic, smoked venison, sea urchin and sturgeon, served with vodka, sea buckthorn juice or Baikal mineral water. Expect to pay around 1,500 roubles (£30) for a main course; a shot of vodka will set you back around £5 and a fresh juice £9. • expedicia.ru Phoebe Taplin and Isabel Choat
Le Refuge des Fondues, Paris
Why, when in Paris, a city full of great restaurants, you would choose to go for a fondue is anyone’s guess but tucking into the Swiss dish is not the oddest thing about Le Refuge des Fondues in Monmatre. The real weirdness begins when you order your wine – and it’s brought to you in a baby’s bottle, apparently a ruse to avoid French tax on wine served in proper glasses. Gooey cheese and drinking out of a teat – it’s not somewhere you’d want to go on a first date, but it’s been pulling in the tourist crowds for decades. • 17 Rue des 3 Frères IC
Carton King, Taichung City, Taiwan
Taiwan has a penchant for themed absurdity when it comes to eating out. Whether for Japanese assassins lurking in the rafters at Ninja or the drinks served in specimen bottles to wash down one’s turd-shaped bread at the aforementioned Modern Toilet, the food is rarely the primary draw. And so it is with Carton King, a restaurant whose owner was so depressed by the preponderance of plastic in modern life he built an eatery which, instead, promotes the virtues of corrugated cardboard. From the chairs to the plates and even the walls – the whole place is bedecked in the brown stuff. The food, although not fine dining, was more than edible and all that remained of our stewed pork ribs and herb-roasted chicken was the odd greasy smear on our cardboard table. Definitely worth a visit … just remember to leave your lighter at home. Mark Pygott
Barbie restaurant, Taipei, Taiwan
The Far East’s love of all things cute and fluffy is well known; whether it’s actual, real-life cuteness in the shape of Tokyo’s cat cafes, where pet-less Tokyoites go to stroke and play with cats and kittens, or the Hello Kitty phenomenon in Seoul. So the only surprise about Taipei’s Barbie restaurant is that it took so long for someone to come up with the idea. It is staffed by waitresses in bright pink tops, tutus and tiaras, while the chairs are dressed in tutus and there’s enough pink food to sink a Barbie cruise ship. IC