Restaurant for Anorexics Opens in Berlin

Restaurant to open in Berlin, Germany, catering to anorexics. The owner touts the eatery as a great way to meet others who share similar eating disorders.

Sehnsucht (German for "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 creme 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 center, 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 cafe 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 Poppl, 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 center. "Normal therapy often fails, and if anorexics can re-learn that eating can be fun at this restaurant, then that's wonderful."

Lack of Patrons Plagues "Restaurant for Anorexics"
Berlin, Germany - August 2nd, 2005

A restaurant that caters to anorexics called Sehnsucht is in immediate danger of closing due to lack of patronage. The restaurant's opening last January received worldwide press attention because the establishment specializes in catering to people with eating disorders. Set in a relaxing atmosphere, the restaurant makes no mention of illnesses. Instead, it uses uplifting names for dishes and words such as "enjoy" and "dream", are written on the walls. The restaurant is also owned and staffed by people suffering from eating disorders. According to Katja Eichbaum, the restaurant's owner, the eatery is operating in the red, because potential customers are staying away. She has not been able to secure financing for future operations and she is currently utilizing personal loans, which have put her deeply in debt. After operating for just a few months, a decision on the fate of the restaurant will be made in the next few days. "It's difficult to sell this concept. People think this is a restaurant for the sick, so it scares them off."

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