gap year programs may think they need to spend their whole time being holy and helpful (or creative and dedicated) but they may want to think about taking some time out from saving the world to investigate crazy dining options near them.
A quadruple bypass burger that is. Anyone up for one of these? Surely twenty slices of bacon would be enough to put most people off the idea of dinner, but not so for the intrepid diners at the Heart Attack Grill. As they are greeted by nursing/waiting staff, diners slip on hospital gowns in accordance with the A&E theme but these also act as bibs for dining at the Grill is dangerous on many levels. A single burger is the size of a frisbee, the burger buns, not unlike those of the buxom 'nurses'.
Dr. Jon (not a real doctor), leaps from table to table, taking blood pressure and tapping on people's knees. He is the brains behind the operation, and is passionate about his endeavour. He says: “Behind good quality taste is simply this: it's lard,” holding aloft a quantity of white goo. “That's what we call taste worth dying for.” A few seconds later, he throws the lard on to some chips and looks visibly emotional at the sight.
If you manage to eat it all, one of the charming 'nurses' will assist you when you leave the premises using extra large wheelchairs. For those in the middle of volunteer work abroad, such gastronomic excess may give you even more impetuous to get back and help the world’s poorest people.
Small portions: Kinderkookkafe, Amsterdam
Open since 1981, this is a café run by mini members of staff: your kids, your friends' or your family's. The best part is that you can order what you want, leave for a few moments of peace and waltz in when your meal is ready – socialist-style childcare at its best, though perhaps better if you're travelling with family rather than doing a gap year...
Once in the kitchen, the kids are given freshly prepared ingredients to create their own dishes, with supervision of course! You can come back to cakes, pizzas, pasta, hot sandwiches... The little darlings also serve the food and drinks. Of course, the kids absolutely love it and have no idea that it's a variant of slave labour. And now for the best part: they get to do the washing up as well. If only they didn't grow up... Ever.
Love thy neighbour: Ogori cafe, Kashiwa
Sadly, this place is no longer, but the idea is so cute that it just had to be included. Here, you get what the guest in front of you ordered, and the person behind you gets what you ordered. It's a risk, certainly, but it can be a really rewarding experience. 'Ogori' in Japanese means 'to treat somebody else to food', so the idea is that you should give something special to the next person. Mike, a traveller to Kashiwa, found this out to his delight, and bought ice cream, cake, drinks and a Japanese horn-of-plenty mystery with lots of tasty morsels in it. The next person to come in behind him were a mother and her son, and they were delighted!
It is a difficult concept to pull off in a café setting: so many people have dietary restrictions and allergies nowadays. Perhaps it would work better as an events concept.
Dishy dining: Restophone, Montpellier
Each table has a telephone and a large number for other tables to see. The point of this? In short, getting laid. The idea is that you have an ogle around the room, see a hottie who takes your fancy and call up their number for some ear on ear action. Even the shyest of Simons can become a Casanova for a night whilst love rats have to rein themselves in for a few hours at least. It's a bit like a masked ball, where everyone is peering at each other, trying to gauge who's the best piece of meat without getting caught. Helpfully, the owners have provided a dancefloor for post-dining rendez-vous, so you can get a better feel for the person you have been flirting with all night but not properly met.
“What's the food like?” you ask. Who cares when you've got so many tasty dishes at the other tables!
A Tail of Eight Kitties: Guru Gurudou, Osaka
For the feline-al entry we have cat cafés. Neko cafés are actually quite common in Japan, and for good reason: for the price of a (rather expensive) soft drink, you get to spend one hour draped with the café's numerous cats. In Japan, felines are held in high regard (and why shouldn't they be?), and the cafés will reflect a wide variety in feline tastes. Some will actively aim to get stray cats off the street corners, while others cater to more upmarket cat lovers with fancy breeds such as Maine Coone, Somali, Norwegian Forest...
In Guru Gurudou, you will be charged ¥1,000 (about £8/$10)for the pleasurable company of eight of these 5th Avenue breeds. If you are very taken with them, there are usually a few for sale for exorbitant prices, with Tom being the current hot ticket at around ¥100,000 (about £800/$1,000). There's a whimsical flowchart on the wall introducing each of the kitties, their history, personality, likes and dislikes... Truly, a cat lover's purrfect place.
Lalage has a passion for travelling the world and tasting amazing delicacies from all around the world!