BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - A British set designer has taken his love for art, added some food, and opened a temporary pop-up restaurant -- made with scrap materials scavenged from the streets -- in one of Berlin's central community gardens.
Tony Hornecker, the mastermind behind the thriving shanty town-style restaurant "The Pale Blue Door," said that he does not make any profit with his fanciful underground restaurant, but feels that he is giving Berlin a unique attraction.
"A lot of people are saying it's a such a quintessentially Berlin experience that doesn't really exist any more in Berlin, but we've managed to get back to that," he said, referring to the city's spontaneous art scene.
"The Pale Blue Door," named after the battered door through which guests enter the mismatched collection of ramshackle huts, shacks and treehouses draped with brightly colored fabrics in the Kreuzberg district, has been going down a storm with Berliners.
"It's been sold out, we've had 60 people a night for 20 nights," Hornecker told Reuters.
The pop-up restaurant, which took 10 days to build, has been so popular that its initial 12-day stay in the German capital city has already been extended by three weeks.
On four nights a week, for 25 euros a head, guests can tuck into a salad starter, a main course of roast beef, potato and greens, followed by a fruit crumble -- all accompanied by half a bottle of wine and "contemporary drag" entertainment.
The dinner is cooked up by Hornecker himself, served on mismatched crockery and eaten either in a central outdoor seating area, or on beds in one of the small huts which double up as the team's living accommodation.
"Essentially it's an art installation, it's not a commercial business. It doesn't make money, it pays for us to be here," Hornecker said.
"Within that context we don't sell alcohol. It comes with the ticket for the experience, so as an art piece, it's a lot more fluid in what we can do," he added.
Reactions to the underground restaurant have been positive.
Prior to the Berlin installation, Hornecker had already run successful pop-up restaurants in London, Buenos Aires, Santiago and at the Glastonbury Festival in England. He was initially inspired to open a restaurant for one weekend in his London studio in 2009 when the recession left him without work.
"They're always different, I always write a story for each place. It's inspired by the space or images in my mind," he said.
"It's amazing because it gives me a limitless opportunity to imagine things and then create them," he added.
The idea behind the Berlin installation was to create a gypsy camp. Hornecker said he wanted the whole team to build their own houses in a "childish" style and live on site -- Berlin is the first location the team has stayed on site.
Arriving in Berlin in a van filled with tablecloths, plates, wood, windows and the eponymous pale blue door from Hornecker's London home, the team spent the first week driving around the capital collecting materials from the streets.
"Berlin basically gave us everything we have here," Hornecker said.
Most of the installation will be taken down when the team head back to Britain shortly, but Hornecker plans to leave his house behind.
"That's my latest thing -- I'm going to start leaving a little house wherever I go so I can pop back to it," he said.
Hornecker and his team are planning to do a tour through South America with the restaurant next year.
"We're going to buy a truck and convert it into an installation. It'll be a fold-out restaurant and we'll drive from Chile to Columbia, stopping along the way to open up and do a few nights in a few places," Hornecker said.
Editing by Paul Casciato