Tea With a Theme

How about a spoonful of travel stories with your chai; or whiskey with two cubes of jazz; or a hobbit-hole to dine in? Welcome to the world of themed cafes. Here, you’re allowed to escape into a world of make-believe, art and stories, while dining, drinking, or merely biding time.

Sarastro, London Housed in a Victorian-style building in London’s upscale Covent Garden, Sarastro is a flamboyant opera-themed restaurant. Richard Niazi fused his passion for cuisine and the performing arts and opened a space where both could co-exist in 1996. Ten opera boxes come equipped with velvet drapes, theatre props and colourful artwork, and positioned for best views of the performances. The opera and string quarter performances every Sunday and Monday pull in huge crowds. Performers include professionals from London’s Opera House and guest singers from across the world. The cuisine is predominantly Turkish and Mediterranean, and the restaurant has designed special Opera menus and Tenor menus for days with performances.  

Kunzum Travel Cafe, New Delhi Located in Delhi’s boho-chic Hauz Khas Village neighbourhood, Kunzum Travel Cafe is amongst the first to bring in the concept of travel in this area. Set up by Ajay Jain in 2007 as a space where travellers can meet and exchange stories, Kunzum is an interactive space showcasing travel in every form. Books and magazines line the walls, and visitors are encouraged to spend long hours reading travel stories and exchanging notes over coffee and cookies. Large framed photographs from destinations around the world adorn the walls and are for up for sale as well. Guests can pay what they like for the tea, coffee and cookies as there’s no menu and no fixed price.  

The Pigeonhole, Singapore A rare book store, an arts space and cafe all rolled into one, The Pigeonhole is a space to indulge one’s curiosity. Housing an impressive collection of second-hand and hard-to-find books sourced from India, Thailand, Malaysia and other corners of the world, this cafe is perfect for spending a quiet solitary afternoon with books on history, law, philosophy and more. With its quaint red flooring and rustic furniture, the vintage and first-edition books complete the café’s old-world aura. The Pigeonhole often ties up with local NGOs to host events related to art and music, like the Soundcloud Global Meetup, Music Market and Science Café.

Hobbit House, Manila This Lord of the Rings-themed restaurant in Manila, Philippines, is manned entirely by “little” Filipino people. The bar was opened in 1973 by former Peace Corps volunteer and Tolkein buff, Jim Turner. Huge murals of Tolkein’s lead characters adorn the outer wall of the restaurant, while the inside houses paintings of scenes from the trilogy. The menu has international staples and a range of local specialties like Pinoy steak and a coconut liquor called ‘Lambanog.’ The bar claims to employ the “smallest waiters in the world” and the “little people,” as they are fondly called, are ever ready to pose for photographs with tourists.  

House of Blues, New Orleans The birthplace of Jazz, New Orleans is home to one of the legendary House of Blues – a premiere live music bar for jazz, blues and rock n roll music. Located in the charming French Quarter, this bar has seen the likes of Eric Clapton and Fats Domino bring in the crowds since 1994. Two hundred and ninety eight pieces of folk art cover the walls of this venue where music, food and art come together. With 13 branches across the United States, a steady stream of top musicians frequents the HOB for the best in live entertainment.

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Malavika Bhattacharya