'Restaurant for anorexics' to open in Berlin

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The Independent Online

A restaurant for anorexics? What food would it serve? Next month Berlin will become the first city in the world to find out.

A restaurant for anorexics? What food would it serve? Next month Berlin will become the first city in the world to find out.

Sehnsucht ("Longing"), a cosy 50-seater cantina in the German capital's leafy Tiergarten district, is the brainchild of a former anorexic, employs a bulimic waitress and has an anorexic chef presiding over a menu that deliberately distances dishes from the ingredients they contain. Developed with the help of a nutritionist, the menu will list non-food names like Hallo (in reality a lobster bisque), Heisshunger ("Ravenous Hunger", a rack of lamb), and Seele ("Soul", which will appear at your table in the form of a cappuccino crème dessert).

"The concept has been especially created with an anorexic in mind," said Sehnsucht's manager, Katja Eichbaum, 32, a former office clerk who battled with her own disorder for 15 years. "Anorexics have to be taught that eating out can be fun." All portions will be "normal sized" and the restaurant, also attached to a refuge and advice centre, will be open to non-anorexics as well.

Sehnsucht is the latest to feed Berlin's seemingly unending appetite for curiously themed restaurants. The city already has two highly successful "blind" restaurants, where guests eat in pitch darkness, served by blind waiters. There is a café for the deaf and an ultra-trendy establishment, run by a slightly crazy Argentinean, where you eat what you're given, then pay what you think the meal is worth.

Restaurant critics have their doubts. "I'm not sure I can see it being a commercial success," said Michael Pöppl, food editor and restaurant critic at Berlin's main listings magazine, Zitty. "Berlin restaurant-goers are renowned for wanting to try new things, but I think non-anorexics might be confused by what they can expect to actually eat at an anorexics' restaurant."

Sehnsucht's opening comes in the wake of news that Germany's star Olympic swimmer Franziska van Almsick battled anorexia as a teenager. The government is also launching a campaign to beat childhood obesity, a problem researchers believe can lead to eating disorders in adult life. Experts say the number of those suffering from eating disorders in Germany has tripled over the past 10 years, and have welcomed the restaurant.

"I think it's a great idea, even if I do have serious doubts about it," said Andreas Schnebel, a psychologist and anorexia specialist at Germany's largest eating disorder support and advice centre. "Normal therapy often fails, and if anorexics can re-learn that eating can be fun at this restaurant, then that's wonderful."

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