The Worldwide Trend Closed Door Restaurants

Restaurants + Bars
by Eve Hyman Apr 7, 2010

A Man To Pet? Yep. Photo by Elizabeth Gleeson.

Hidden restaurants have one-upped speakeasy bars for nightlife bragging rights. Say the secret password and join those in the know for a pan-Asian tasting menu or a proper English roast in an Argentine haunted mansion.

Behind closed doors, a price-fixed tasting menu awaits with wine or cocktails and, in the case of gypsy resto The Pale Blue Door, or culinary shenanigans courtesy of Ghetto Gourmet, your underground dining experience may be a supper club complete with entertainment.

What’s for dinner? Photo:

The New Yorker recently covered a new food movement in France, “Le Fooding”, which is turning the country’s stodgy culinary image on its tush.

English celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is talking about a food revolution, while in the U.S. the slow food and organic movements hope for the same, despite controversy and division among their proponents.

But what can a local yokel do to get a piece of the food revolt? Go to a nomadic dinner party.

The Pale Blue Door, from Southern England, is Tony Hornecker’s infamous meals on wheels extravaganza. Tony and his team arrive in a foreign land, stake out suspicious-looking digs, and design a proper art installation of their own particular fashion with candles, carpentry, and flare.

A set designer to the stars back in London, Hornecker took the popular pop-up restaurant idea to a new level, traveling to Scandinavia and South America to create dinner parties in dubious settings. The highpoint of PBD? A one-man show by performer extraordinaire A Man To Pet.

Shrimp get sexy behind closed doors. Photo by Cocina Sunae.

Cocina Sunae in Buenos Aires is an eastern cocktail of a restaurant hiding out in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Argentina’s capital city. Thai curries, Vietnamese rolls, Chinese dumplings, and Korean BBQ are served weekend nights in the living room of a lovely family home.

Staff explain wine options or refill your lychee nut martini while you try not to rush through four delectable courses. Finish up with fried banana crepes and green tea ice cream, all made from scratch in the sterling family kitchen.

Hidden Kitchen is the brainchild of Braden Perkins and Laura Adrian, a couple from Seattle who started their own supper club – in Paris. HK serves ten courses with wine pairings on the weekend evenings.

They’ve been at it for three years and serve “pan-European, new American” cuisine to travelers and locals in their apartment near the Louvre. Pan-Euro, nouveau Yank means freshly-baked miniature pretzels and sausage with a shot glass of Belgian beer, followed by skillet-cooked chanterelles with mascarpone faro, Malibu fish tacos, seared Atlantic salmon and a light chèvre cheese cake with fresh fig. Each course with its own wine pairing.

But secret restaurants aren’t for everyone. Some balk at the thought of forking over $100 to eat in someone’s apartment. A reasonable enough hesitation, right? Others question the unregulated kitchen sanitation or find the hunt for the location frustrating, map in hand, no sign to guide you. The underground is its own culture club – it’s a gastronomic adventure into uncharted territory, for the culinary pirates among us.

Dining out. Photo by Cocina Sunae.

According to their website, The Ghetto Gourmet in Oakland, California, “started as a little Monday night “pirate restaurant” project with three main goals: 1. Try new things. 2. Build a groovy clientele. 3. Make the world a better place.

Sounds like San Francisco, right? Especially since the pirate restaurant ended up a foodie social network. But it also spawned a mobile eatery, a sort of traveling circus of dining, with Ghetto Gourmet events popping up across the U.S.

So while sustainable agribusiness may not be a reality, we can all do our part by partying with healthy, gourmet dishes in boho-exclusive settings, accompanied by great music and an amazing one-she-man show. If you’re traveling to a new city, a unique entry point into its authentic underbelly might just be through a closed door restaurant.

Community Connection

Follow Tom Gates for a round of binge eating in Buenos Aires, which includes a stop at the closed door restaurant Casa Saltshaker. Be sure to check out one of Matador’s many food related stories, including our staff’s favorite restaurants in the world.

Discover Matador