This restaurant makes social distancing easy by serving dinner in 'quarantine greenhouses'

Those who have tried it found this unique way of dining to be intimate and cozy.
Mediamatic ETEN, a restaurant and bar in Amsterdam, is testing out a new concept where customers will dine in individual greenhouses.
Mediamatic ETEN, a restaurant and bar in Amsterdam, is testing out a new concept where customers will dine in individual greenhouses.Willem Velthoven Amsterdam

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/ Source: TODAY
By Ronnie Koenig

For many, the thought of going out to eat seems like a fantasy amid mandated stay-at-home measures due to the coronavirus pandemic, but one restaurant has found an interesting way to welcome customers while adhering to social distancing recommendations.

Mediamatic ETEN, a restaurant and bar in Amsterdam, is testing out a new concept where customers will be able to dine on a four-course, plant-based meal in small greenhouses. The restaurant posted some pictures of the new setup on Instagram and it looks kind of ... romantic?

"Serres Sépparées is one of our new dining concepts. With the current situation it's difficult to open a restaurant with limited space. So why don't we add to our location and create a safe and intimate home for partners to reconnect, with the outside world at their own leisure," reads the caption that accompanies several shots of the waterfront location by day and at night, lit up with twinkling lights.

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"Our team came up with the idea," Willem Velthoven, founder of Mediamatic, told TODAY Food. "We were brainstorming how to change the way we work. We had six little greenhouses that were for art projects but currently not in use. They are quite small, so we worried it would feel claustrophobic but the consensus is that they feel very cozy and intimate."

Mediamatic AmsterdamWillem Velthoven Amsterdam

The greenhouses, which were first built and used by artist Diana Scherer as part of her "Spectrum Crops - Findings in Color" project in the spring of 2017, are set up by the waterfront on the Oosterdok with candles and white tablecloths. The restaurant staff has gone through special training to get used to this new way of working, which includes wearing masks and serving food on long wooden planks in order to maximize their distance from customers.

Mediamatic AmsterdamWillem Velthoven Amsterdam

The restaurant started its current test run at the end of April and is now serving only friends and family of the staff. So far, diners have tended to linger in the greenhouses, enjoying their meal and a glass of wine, Velthoven said, adding that people in Amsterdam are eager to go out again and longing for social connection amid the ongoing pandemic. The restaurant's solution appears to have made people happy.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported that restaurants will likely be closed to diners through May 19, but Velthoven hopes to make the concept work for the foreseeable future.

"It's lovely, so we hope to continue it," he said.

Mediametic, a center for art with a focus on sustainability, has presented similarly radical projects in the past, even offering unique funeral services to guests, like "life-sized projections" and "arriving by boat."

Mediamatic AmsterdamWillem Velthoven Amsterdam

Bookings for Serres Sépparées are available for parties of two, but a third guest can be added at the door for an additional fee. Tickets for a four-course dinner start at 100 euros (about $108) for two people, but extras, like drinks or other nibbles, may also be added. Dinner for one can also be accommodated. Seatings are currently sold out through June and are "fully dependent on obtaining permission from local and national authorities," according to the website. If the restaurant is told to shut down by authorities, customers will be given a full refund.

Velthoven acknowledges that dining out may look very different when the world reopens and thinks the idea of separate dining pods could definitely catch on in other places.

"We had some people ask, 'Where can we buy these greenhouses?'" Velthoven said. "We hope to share it and inspire others with it."