When a cereal cafe opened in London's Shoreditch district, and everyone cried "gentrification!", the owners were swift to assert that they were just a couple of bros in beards with an idea to bring to the masses.
But much as they'd like to argue otherwise, they are part of a wider trend. All around the world, hot drinks and light lunches are becoming luxury items, and a sign reading "cafe" is no longer enough to draw people in. No, to really get bums on seats, you either need to serve coffee grown in your cupped hands and roasted on a dragon's tongue, or you need a concept.
Here are a few of the silliest.
The hospital cafe
Image: The Clinic.
The Clinic in Singapore is a cafe themed on that most cheerful of places. Diners sit in golden wheelchairs, and are served food in metal surgeon dishes. Ketchup comes out of syringes.
Image: The Clinic.
We would advise against taking any friends who've recently suffered the loss of a family member, but the cafe has already shut down. It's almost as if people don't want to eat in surroundings usually associated with sicknes and death.
The Nazi-themed cafe
If you found the last one offensive, you are definitely not going to like this. The SoldatenKafee in Indonesia is all about the Third Reich. This one too was forced to close in 2013 after the owner received death threats, but reopened in 2014, swastikas and all. There are also giant Hitler quotes on the wall, and an eagle-flanked DJ booth:
The porridge cafe
Fresh on the heels of its uncooked counterpart, a porridge cafe is due to set up shop in London from 2 March. Unlike the cereal cafe, however, the cafe's onwers plan to veer sharply away from the standard porridge recipe with dishes like the one below, which appears to be beetroot porridge with a poached egg and capers:
Image: Porridge Cafe.
We'll pass, thanks.
The crisp sandwich cafe
Image: Simply Crispy.
Simply Crispy in Belfast began life as an ironic pisstake of London's cereal cafe, and originally only opened for four weeks. However, the cafe's selection of crisps, bread and soup was such a hit with customers that the pop-up's organisers decided to make like the subjects of their mockery and keep it going full-time.
The sweatshop cafe
Image: Sweat Shop.
Paris's contribution to the concept cafe trend comes in the form of "Sweat Shop Cafe". This trades off the fact that sewing in Paris is a fun activity for bourgeois coffee-drinkers, not, as it is elsewhere in the world, a way to earn a pittance in a crowded, hot room, and potentially lose a few fingers. Vive la France!
There are actually two, very different, types of cuddle cafe.
First, there's London's Cuddle Cafe, run by McVities the biscuit people, and only open for two days this February (you've already missed it, sorry). Basically, punters had to go give a giant stuffed owl a hug, after which they could get a free tea, coffee or biscuit. The owl is very scary-looking and has dead, dead eyes:
From The Independent's story on the cafe:
Cuddles will be the only currency accepted at the cafe. Visitors will be offered hot drinks and yummy treats, all for the price of one cuddle with the adorable oversized McVitie's BN Owl.
Next up is "Soineya", Tokyo's "cuddle" or "co-sleeping" cafe, where you can sleep next to a "high school to 30 year old girl". You pay by the minute: 20 minutes costs 3,000 Yen (£16); 10 hours costs 50,000 Yen (£273.50); both will also cost you you're dignity.
Image: sprklg via Flickr.
Cat cafes originated in Taiwan, then spread to Japan (where they're called "neko " cafes). Now, there's one in London, called "Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium", and there's talk of one opening up in Birmingham, too. All involve paying by the minute to eat and drink while surrounded by loads of cats which aren't yours.
To us, that just sounds like a standard depressing trip to an elderly relative, only more expensive – but each to their own.
Anyway, here's a picture of a cat.
Known as "fukurou cafes", these establishments allow you to cuddle, stroke and even buy owls. They're also in Japan, and are, in our opinion, an even worse idea than cat cafes: first, because owls are not domesticated, and second because they are nocturnal.
This owl just wants to go to sleep, and almost definitely does not want you cuddling it.
This owl is feeling really sad:
Keep the owls in your thoughts, guys.