Some restaurants are adapting their spaces to merely meet new restrictions. But one restaurant took COVID-19 health protocols as a call for reinvention.
Mediamatic Eten, a restaurant that’s part of an art and design center on Amsterdam’s waterfront, is testing out new “quarantine greenhouses” to introduce socially distanced dining to its outdoor seating area. But rather than simply placing tables six feet apart, which can make the environment feel isolated and impersonal, this fine dining restaurant is turning seclusion into a feature by installing glass structures designed for an intimate meal for two.
They’re calling these new enclosures serres séparées, from the French chambre séparée, a traditional phrase for a separate room found in restaurants and bars. “It suggests a sexy kind of intimacy, here things can happen that should remain hidden from plain sight and not be heard by all,” the restaurant explains on its website, adding that while it’s borrowing the idea, its see-through greenhouses “will be a lot more public.”
While certainly more open than a dark corner of your favorite watering hole, the serres séparées straddle the line between public and private spaces. During testing on April 27 and May 5, patrons (at the time, only employees and their friends) were served through an open door in the metal-framed greenhouses. Waitstaff wore face shields by Waag Society and maintained physical distance from their customers by delivering food on long wooden planks resembling oversize cheese boards.
Those looking to eat en plein air via their personal biodome can reserve a plant-based dinner for two in one of Eten’s five greenhouses for 100 euros. (A third diner can be added for 40 euro. Of course, the serres séparées are only recommended for people already living together. Even so, all this might be a moot point, as restaurants are still waiting for permission from the Dutch government to reopen. (While reservations are sold out until June, Eten says it will offer refunds if the government says restaurants must remain closed.) The restaurant didn’t share how its indoor dining will be adjusted or if it will remain closed.
The dreamy, intimate ambience Eten created in the face of functional constraints seems to have created an appetite for a new kind of fine dining experience—where coveted, secluded spaces reinforce a sense of togetherness, rather than a reminder of how customers need to stay apart.