|Posted on April 23, 2012 at 3:50 PM|
The maitre d' is nowhere to be seen when we arrive at the lobby. Instead, we're greeted by the sight of a mother taking a photograph of her daughter, who is proudly sporting a giant brown curled-up spongy object on her head.
When they see us, they look faintly embarrassed, drop the spongy object and shuffle off, with big, guilty grins on their faces. The maitre d' finally appears, picks the spongy thing up off the floor, deposits it back on the shelf, and beckons us warmly inside.
I was sceptical as to whether the Modern Toilet Restaurant would be the best place to take my friend, but German is smiling. Like me, it seems she has a weakness for toilet humour.
There are two branches of this Taiwanese franchise in Hong Kong. We're in the Causeway Bay one, which, to reach, you have to scale two sets of escalators and navigate a way through the floor of a busy pharmacy store. But if the build-up was unusual, the restaurant is even weirder.
It's almost as if someone opened a bathroom showroom, then upped and left, only for a restaurateur to move in and decide not to bother changing the décor.
Diners – a mix of young Hong Kong families and Filipino workers on their day off - are seated on actual toilets, which fringe see-through glass tables that rest atop shiny white sinks.
The walls are decorated with mirrors and hanging bathrobes, plus sparkling new toilet seats, bearing the flags of various countries (I note there's a shiny Union Jack). Next door to the kitchen is a cabinet stacked with toilet paraphernalia, including a plastic brown lump with a fly enmeshed in it.
Although we both have a strange craving to photograph each and every angle of this ridiculous place, we have some eating to do – something queasy people would find hard to stomach in such surroundings.
As we drink green tea from urinal-shaped glasses, we ponder the menu, a blend of Asian and Italian cuisine.
German plays it safe and opts for a chicken pasta dish. I go for the Modern Toilet Combination Hot Pot. When it arrives, in a mini plastic toilet, full to the brim with steaming meat, noodles, coconut and sweetcorn, we get the giggles.
In truth, the food's not all that. It would be harsh to say it's crap, because it isn't. But it's fair to say that Modern Toilet Restaurant would win more prizes for its conceptual creativity than its cuisine.
We consider dessert, but decide to skip it when we see a couple of children at the table next to us licking a chocolate ice-cream cone.
After paying the bill (around $25 overall) we head to the exit and German persuades me to wear the giant brown curled-up spongy object on my head. As I pose for a picture, an Australian couple enter the restaurant. “Suits ya mate,” says the bloke, winking.
Feeling my face reddening, I chuckle awkwardly, remove it from my head and make for a sharp exit.