A tall man dressed as a grotesque parody of Tina Turner – garish make-up, huge frightwig and monstrous plastic breasts – strides about the muddy ground, weaving amongst laughing diners, shrieking, “The Best! Better than all the rest!” He mimes, throwing frantic shapes, shouting, “Better than anyone else!”
The music speeds up while “Tina” jiggles and cavorts even faster. The audience giggles and shouts encouragement, plates full of roast beef and potatoes growing cold in the evening breeze.
“It’s like a cross between Popeye’s village – you know, in the Robin Williams movie – and Mad Max,” says one of my dinner-buddies, taking it all in.
“It’s more like a Peter Pan-style nightmare,” considers another.
We are perched on a tiny bed, balancing dinner plates on our laps, in a roughly-built tree house, above the muddy urban community garden the Prinzessinnengarten in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district.
The tape “Tina” sings along to speeds up and down haplessly, the performance quickening manically in response. Soon after this, “Tina” reappears sporting three pairs of gigantic comedy breasts to lead a post-dinner conga line through the tables, noisily exhorting guests to join in and dance. It’s probably not the best place to take staid parents, break up with a partner or for anyone who plans to get up early the next morning.
This is “The Pale Blue Door,” a touring “pop-up” restaurant and cabaret, and it’s a little like finding a magical secret garden deep inside Prinzessinnengarten’s dense foliage and boxes of herbs.
There visitors will find the eponymous blue door that opens to the ‘restaurant’ itself, a sprinkling of ramshackle tables, set into a small gypsy-style ground. All around, built into and under the trees are wonky wooden huts, constructed with locally-scavenged – and delightfully curated – scrap and junk. Some house tiny dining tables and beds (The Pale Blue Door team sleeps on-site), others serve as kitchen and utility spaces.
Every weekend until the end of September, the small team will prepare a three-course meal for over 50 diners, heroically cooking up the dishes (to avoid bothersome ordering, just a meal of salad, beef and dessert is served, though vegetarians will also be accommodated) in cramped wooden huts.
Between the trees, pulleys and cables convey dishes and drinks between the bar and kitchen, high above guests’ heads. Cheery coloured lights are strung about, glowing in the dusk.
Devised by German artist and set designer Tony Hornecker and a group of friends and professionals, “The Pale Blue Door” has travelled the world, setting up the pop-up establishments in Santiago, Buenos Aires, London, Glastonbury, and since last month, Berlin. The team ferrets out whatever local materials they can find to construct the whimsical structures – but each entrance is marked by the weathered door in robin egg blue.
The last location at the Glastonbury Festival was fashioned as a junk yard restaurant and hotel, with the ‘rooms’ available by the hour. As one of the project’s team members, our waiter (and night-time occupier of our tree house) Cristabel explained, couples seeking a little private time had to enter and exit via the downstairs restaurant, much to their embarrassment and the amusement of the team.
Nevertheless, it was a huge success.
“Now it’s Berlin’s turn,” Cristabel smiles. “It’s very busy here now for us, we’re full up nearly every night.”
The team initially planned a two-week stay in town – but the event’s popularity has seen this run extended until the last week in September. As one of the most bizarre – and enjoyable – dining experiences available in Berlin this month, it’s well worth a visit.
Meals cost about €25. For more information and reservations, contact Ralf at The Pale Blue Door: [email protected]