Themed restaurants you need to visit

When you think of restaurants, what exactly do you imagine? If you're anything like most people, you probably see an establishment that's not too far out of the ordinary: all white tablecloths and warm lighting, with a cozy bar area and a chic decor, perhaps with a nice view of the outside world. It's the amalgamation of everything a decent restaurant ought to be, but that doesn't mean that's always what you want. 

Some of the more colorful restaurants out there (both characteristically and literally) tend to adhere less to the norm and more to a very specific, often very niche theme. These are the medieval banquets, the cat cafes, the pseudo-cinematic dining experiences; and although they're more than a little different from one another, they all share one very important trait — they're utterly unlike anything else, either.

Cereal Killer

The last few years have seen somewhat of a new phenomenon arise in the metropolitan centers of Europe and the USA: the themed cafe. Mostly based around the food they serve, these themes vary wildly, but the craze arguably began with the opening of London's Cereal Killer cafe a while back.

The concept is simple: you go in, you marvel at the endless boxes of cereals (many of which aren't available in the UK), order a bowl of whatever you like — and enjoy. Cereal Killer has attracted some controversy in its time, especially from activists who see it as an unwanted symptom of gentrification, but its influence is difficult to ignore, with imitators going on to open specialist cafes based on a wide range of foods, from grilled cheeses to Creme Eggs.

The Nutella cafe

On a similar level is Nutella's first ever official cafe, which opened in Chicago earlier this year. Lovers of the world's most popular nut-based spread can enjoy an all-day menu which features a mind-boggling array of dishes based on or inspired by Nutella, including salads, breakfast pastries, paninis and, of course, desserts, all set in a suitably themed environment, including a Nutella jar-shaped door, interior decorating which resembles chocolate, and lights in the shape of hazelnut flowers. Apparently there's no such thing as Nutella overkill.

Cynics might wonder just how much Nutella the average person can handle before entering a chocolate coma or developing a spontaneous nut allergy, but don't listen to them — the full menu is a sight worthy of remembrance.

H.R. Giger's bar

If you're after something a little less quirky and a bit more outright horrifying, then Switzerland's H.R. Giger might be just what you're looking for. Situated inside a castle which was once owned by the world-famous surrealist — who is perhaps most well-known for providing the aesthetic basis for Ridley Scott's Alien — the bar, which forms a part of the larger H.R. Giger Museum, is decorated like something straight out of one of Giger's paintings. Think cavernous rooms adorned with high skeletal arches, xenomorph heads on the ceilings and the superbly creepy addition of infant gargoyles built into the walls. 

As somewhere to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of the local vintage, it probably ranks among the most unsettling places in the entire world. And if you must go, try not to look into any alien eggs. It won't end well.

The Harry Potter restaurant

That there's a cafe out there based on J.K. Rowling's cultural titan really shouldn't be much of a surprise. In fact, it's a wonder they aren't all over the place. Probably the most impressive of the ones that are scattered around the world, however, is Singapore's Platform 1094.

It's not just the long, candle-lit tables or stag chairs which bring Potter fans to Platform 1094, however — the cafe also offers a food and drinks menu full of items inspired by the series, including the Goblet of Fire (which is actually set on fire) and the Black Magic, which is made up of black sesame panna cotta with squid ink profiterole and mango cream. We don't quite remember that showing up in the books, but it sure does look impressive.

The Green Dragon

In terms of sheer cinematic immersion, you're not going to find anywhere quite as impressive as this. The Green Dragon is a real-life pub located near Matamata in New Zealand, on a tract of land that was originally used to film the Hobbiton scenes in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, and which now acts as an open air museum of sorts for aficionados of the saga to visit and enjoy.

Tourists who embark on the Hobbiton set tour will get the opportunity to wind down afterwards in the Green Dragon, which stands exactly where it did during filming almost 20 years ago, and which offers food, drinks and even the opportunity to host a private banquet. They've even got their own range of Shire-inspired ales and ciders.

Bar Luce

If you could have anyone in the world design your bar, cafe or restaurant, just who would it be? Congratulations to anybody who answered 'Wes Anderson', because that's objectively the correct answer. The iconic director of films such as The Royal Tenenbaums, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom is particularly renowned for his unmistakable charm and visual style, and that touch is as present as ever in Milan's Bar Luce, which was designed by the man himself.

Plastered with pastel colors and quirky furnishings and stocked with such treasures as a Steve Zissou-themed pinball machine, Bar Luce was designed as somewhere that Anderson himself would want to find himself writing a movie. For fans of Italian decadence, it's as good as anywhere else in Milan; for fans of Anderson, it's better than anywhere else on the planet.

SafeHouse

You've got to love a restaurant with a backstory. Milwaukee's SafeHouse was (allegedly, wink wink) opened in 1966 to provide a safe haven for global spies. Situated cozily down an alleyway and marked only by a sign reading "International Exports, Ltd," the restaurant now serves a whole host of spy-themed food and drinks, including the Cuban Missile Crisis pulled pork sandwich, the Colombian salad and the Smersh burger. The theme doesn't stop there, either, with the website proving typically covert in revealing the location of the restaurant, and with guests having to provide a password to gain entry in the first place. In its long lifetime, SafeHouse has become one of America's most recognizable secret establishments, and has led to the opening of a second branch in Chicago.

Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium

Originating in Taiwan a couple of decades ago, the concept of the cat cafe has become immeasurably popular over the last few years. One of the most popular is Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium, which was the first to open in London. The deal is a simple one: you make a booking, receive a quick talk from the staff regarding etiquette, then get a slot of about 90 minutes in which you can enjoy hot drinks, sandwiches, bagels, salads and desserts, all while surrounded by a small army of cats and kittens. 

Lady Dinah's also offers a cat-themed gift shop, cat yoga sessions and pet first aid courses on top of everything else. It became wildly popular upon opening and is now matched by a number of similar cafes all over the UK and the United States.

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., which you of course recognize from the iconic Tom Hanks movie Forrest Gump, might well be the most recognizable and successful themed restaurant of all time. Based on the shrimp company opened by Forrest after being inspired by Bubba, his late friend who was killed in Vietnam, the real life version of Bubba Gump has dozens of locations around the USA, and serves up a hefty seafood menu for lovers of fish and film alike.

The restaurant's success has also seen new locations open around the world, including London and Tokyo. Sure, you might not be getting quite the best seafood on the planet, but a visit to Bubba Gump has to be a place of pilgrimage for Forrest Gump fans the world over.

The Medieval Banquet

Chalk another one up for London here, which is also home to the Medieval Banquet, a themed restaurant that does exactly what it says on the tin. Less a restaurant and more of an interactive dinner, the Medieval Banquet offers a menu that includes meat and cheese platters, roasted chicken, potatoes and vegetables, soups and pies, all accompanied by live medieval and Renaissance music and even a range of period costumes you can hire to help you fit in.

Naturally, the whole thing takes place in a historically-decorated setting, surrounded by actors and entertainers with more than a few opportunities to get involved yourself. Sure, it's not exactly Dinner by Heston, but, if nothing else, it's probably a whole heap of fun.

Central Perk

It may not be located in anywhere near the real Central Park — in fact, it's in a pokey little shopping mall in Beijing — but the city's take on Friends' instantly recognizable cafe and hangout spot is actually surprisingly accurate. You've got the classic logo on the windows, that iconic couch in the middle of the room and a design scheme that's honestly as close as you're likely to get without going back in time and wandering on-set yourself.

They've got old episodes of the show playing on repeat (naturally) and have even gone as far as replicating Joey and Chandler's apartment in a room next door, which, again, hits pretty close to the mark. And we can't fault the inspired yet slightly baffling character-based cupcakes on the menu, either.