The Owls Are Not What They Seem: A diner that promises more than a damn fine cup of coffee

If you love Twin Peaks and want to know "where the pies go when they die", this is a very amusing way to spend two hours

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Indy Lifestyle Online

I had never, until last Wednesday, been to a restaurant in which you could ask to "see the body". Nor one in which the restaurant floor is presided over by a compact woman in Su Pollard spectacles carrying a log, which she periodically strokes. And a black-satin-sheeted bed is usually seen as superfluous in the food-service trade.

Yet so ran my evening a week ago.

I was at a London pop-up restaurant – which pops down on 17 Oct – called "The Owls Are Not What They Seem". Now, if that phrase means nothing to you, I can deduce that you were either born after, say, 1982, or you never had a spare 24 hours to kill at university, as I did. Because that phrase is the leitmotif, if you will, of one of the most peculiar, and indeed best, TV shows of the past 25 years: David Lynch's Twin Peaks.

Now, if you do know the story of the show, you might recognise that there is a certain difficulty in trying to theme a restaurant around it, given that it is focused on an FBI agent's investigation into the bizarre murder of a popular high-school student in a remote American town that seems to have more nuts than the KP factory and rather a problem with satanic owls. Pride and Prejudice it is not.

There was, however, some food in the show, which is handy. The 24-hour Double R Diner functioned as a sort of out-of-time meeting place, where various plotlines could be furled and unfurled, and it is here, or at least a facsimile of the place (the organisers are keen to point out that the Clerkenwell-based joint has nothing to do with David Lynch), that I find myself queuing up to find out what my "character" will be during dinner (I get "busybody old man" and attempt to get my James Dean on).

After a brief, disorientating few minutes speaking to a man in what looks like a scout uniform, we go through to the diner itself and are left to the tender embraces of the Log Lady. Food arrives not long after we have taken our seats in a red-leather booth and availed ourselves of a "damn fine cup of Joe", which seems to, in fact, be an espresso martini in a mug.

A second mug arrives, which this time contains an earthy mushroom broth accompanied by some savoury doughnuts. Next comes a hunk of pork meatloaf with a scoop of creamy mash and, that having been seen away, a slice of cherry pie, a dish that, if memory serves, featured nearly as often as the owls in the show. It is absolutely authentic, in that it is totally non-spectacular, but decent diner food.

The real attraction, though, is not the food but the atmospheric setting (apparently, there was a caravan parked somewhere in which you could chat to a psychiatrist) and the revolving cast of mad characters who seem to pullulate between the tables.

It is a triumph of bizarreness. And while I had planned to write something to the effect that all restaurants are in essence a theatrical space – all those bow ties and novelty oversized pepper grinders – and this was just taking things a step further, I think that, after visiting, I will just content myself by saying this: if you love Twin Peaks and want to know "where the pies go when they die", this is a very amusing way to spend two hours. If you don't, then you will likely find it an absolutely bemusing couple of hours – but at least you'll get the pleasure of asking the manager to "see the body", without being asked to "get your coat" in return.