Just when you thought it strange enough that Tarragona, a pretty port city in Catalonia, recently opened its first North Korea-themed café, you then realise its owner is a Kim Jong-un supporter and president of the Korean Friendship Association.
When we first heard about Pyongyang Café, which opened this summer, we assumed it was a joke theme – a huge North Korean flag hanging behind the bar, propaganda posters from Pyongyang plastering the walls, and Asian beers in the fridge.
But then we realised the owner, Alejandro Cao de Benos, is an avid fan of North Korea, who claims the country is a victim of a smear campaign by the West.
Not only that, but he apparently hopes to turn Pyongyang Café into a “cultural centre” celebrating all things North Korean, with film screenings, in-depth talks and traditional dishes all on the menu.
Suddenly a trip to Pyongyang Café sounds less fun.
There are, however, still plenty of other bonkers themed bars around the world where you can snap your selfie, enjoy a few stiff drinks and yet not be lectured in the wisdom of Kim Jong-un. Here are a few to add to your list.
Tokyo: Golden Gai
If you’re interested in exploring Tokyo’s nightlife scene, be assured that Shinjuku’s Golden Gai area is an absolute highlight. It’s a mini maze of six narrow alleys stuffed with teeny bars all piled one on top of the other (almost 300 of them), each with their own theme and space for just a handful of guests. While many bars have a strict locals-only policy, some are foreigner-friendly – you just have to be brave and ask. And it’s worth the steady stream of rejection until someone takes pity, as each bar is a truly unique character – like Tachibana shinryoushitsu, a surgery-themed spot with worrying-sounding cocktails such as the “enema” served in surgical beakers, a collection of decorative anatomical models and a barwoman dressed as a nurse. the-goldengai.com
Limpopo Province: Baobab Tree Bar
An oldie but a goodie, the Baobab Tree Bar –situated inside a 6,000-year-old baobab tree in South Africa – first opened in the late Eighties. It might be inside a tree, but that doesn’t stop it from being kitted out with all the bar essentials, including a dart board and a flat screen TV. The tree is large enough to comfortably seat 15 customers inside its hollow trunk, and is set on a scenic mango farm where visitors can also hire quad bikes or go hiking. bigbaobab.co.za
Berlin: Madame Claude
The fact Madame Claude bar is a former brothel in Berlin’s too-cool district of Kreuzberg isn’t the most interesting thing about it – not by far. No, no, the oddest thing about Madame Claude is that it’s an “upside down bar”, which means everything you’d expect to be on the floor is actually glued to the ceiling. With tables, chairs and rugs hanging above you, it’s all a bit confusing – but we have it on good authority that this is not necessarily the strangest thing you'll see on a night out in Berlin. madameclaude.de
Manhattan: Genuine Liquorette
As with any cocktail bar in NYC deemed worthy of the prefix “cool”, Genuine Liquorette is hidden within a fast food joint – this time it’s Genuine Superette, essentially a burgers and fried chicken spot, nattily positioned as “a take on the classic California roadside stand”. But more interesting is the basement bar dressed up like a neon-lit California liquor store, where cocktails are mixed with the help of a “Cha-Chunker” – a hole-punching contraption that upends a mini bottle of liquor into a canned soft drink. Sounds daft, but it looks great. eatgenuine.com
Antarctica: Faraday Bar
Vernadsky Research Base, which sits lonesome on the Antarctic Peninsula, has one warming comfort to offer its scientists – a British boozer. The pub was constructed from timber meant for a pier when the Brits occupied what was then called Faraday station – good to know they had their priorities in order. The base was bought by Ukraine for a symbolic £1 in 1996, but they kept the pub, with its pool table, dart board and bras hanging behind the bar. Order the homemade vodka and understand why the Ukrainians here remain cheerful despite their isolation. You’ll need to join an expedition to Antarctica to drink here. quarkexpeditions.com