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Now we have two options for COVID-friendly dining, greenhouses and bell jars [UPDATED]

Illustration for article titled Now we have itwo/i options for COVID-friendly dining, greenhouses and bell jars [UPDATED]
Photo: ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN/ANP/AFP (Getty Images)

Updated story, May 28, 2020: We’ve got ourselves another stylish way to eat fancy food while looking good and protecting ourselves from potentially-fatal viruses!

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This new contraption is called the “Plex’eat,” and it’s currently being temporarily showcased at a Parisian restaurant called H.A.N.D. The Associated Press reports that designer Christophe Gernigon was inspired by a shop he visited in Bangkok, which, he told AP, featured “three individual domes with chairs where people would sit and listen to music.” He combined the idea with the large plastic face shields worn by some frontline medical professionals in America. So far, the human bell jar has been pre-ordered by 200 restaurants globally.

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Original story, May 12, 2020: As we enter a third month of COVID-19 quarantine restrictions, other countries that were hit by the pandemic earlier than the United States are now figuring out how to become models of cautious reopening. In the Netherlands, June 1 will mark the beginning of measures intended to allow museums, movie theaters, and restaurants to reopen at reduced capacity in a way that observes social distancing measures. Dining in particular is a transaction that happens at close quarters, presenting a challenge moving forward. But in Amsterdam, one restaurant is piloting a solution to the problem: tiny greenhouses that each hold one table, so diners can sit and enjoy their meal near one another, but apart.

Mediamatic ETEN, a vegan restaurant located inside Amsterdam’s Mediamatic arts center, is testing out this “Serres Séparées” approach (that’s “separate greenhouses” in French) to minimize contact between employees and guests. The servers wear face shields while interacting with diners, and the food is served on long wooden boards, increasing the distance between parties. It’s not open to the public yet—the restaurant has only tested out these procedures on employees’ family and friends so far—but if the trial is successful, reservations at Mediamatic ETEN could resume as soon as May 21, pending approval from city officials.

The genius of this approach is that it builds on a style of dining that’s already quite popular: Dome Dining, which sits at the crossroads of indoor and outdoor dining in the most aesthetically pleasing way. And while not every restaurant is going to have the floor space for a solution like this, it could still serve as an example of how to adhere to COVID-19 precautions in a way that doesn’t detract from the restaurant experience—or at least doesn’t make you feel like you’re dining in a sterile cubicle.

Marnie Shure is editor in chief of The Takeout.

Allison Robicelli is The Takeout staff writer, a former professional chef, author of three books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Questions about recipes/need cooking advice? Tweet @Robicellis.

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DISCUSSION

And how much time do you spend sterilizing that virus storage bubble between seatings?