The book ‘Alice in Wonderland’ that was written by Lewis Carrol and published in 1865, filled with poetry and symbolism, considered one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre and riddled with mathematical pondering, is a dreadful bore.
I abandoned the children’s classic before reaching chapter five, frustrated that I found the original publication of one of my favourite stories so unbearably dull. Maybe it’s because the book was published almost 150 years ago, rendering the language extremely archaic, but I just couldn’t find flow in those pages.
Every sentence was agony.
That’s why I’m forever grateful to Disney for bringing the story to life in animation, and happy that places like the Alice in Wonderland restaurant exist, as they allow you to experience the magic of the story without the drudgery.
The Alice in Wonderland restaurant in Shinjuku is one of four Alice-themed restaurants that have been opened by Diamond Dining – a company that focuses on ‘guest pleasure’ by providing a snippet of ‘undaily life’ in a setting where concept and space are carefully incorporated into interior design.
Diamond Dining even offer a special project team – ‘Team Fantasy‘ – that is composed of the businesses top employees to help new restaurant owners realise unique theme ideas. Their English website is averagely translated and I found this Engrish gem when I was researching:
“Always we will go on try to create the restaurant that concept, space and story are incorporated in the interior design, service and cuisine everywhere with excitement and throb.”
Hee hee! Throb!
I’m so mature.
Diamond Dining worked with Fantastic Design Works Co to create the aesthetic of the Alice restaurants.
Fantastic Design Works Co
Fantastic Design Works Co (FDW) is a Japanese interior design company. Established in 2001 and presided over by Katsunori Suzuki, FDW specialize in other-wordly interior design and have created visual treats such as Le Club de Tokyo,
and restaurant Rin
along with many other incredible and unique designs.
Suzuki, like Hayao Miyazaki, sees value in taking wide and varied inspiration from the world to feed artistic vision. He tells young architects: ‘do something others might think of as silly and meaningless to broaden your horizons’ and reminds them to ‘purposefully keep a certain distance from what you like’ to enable them to ‘see the whole picture.’
Alice in Wonderland
The ‘Alice in Picture Book’ fantasy restaurant is no exception in FDW’s impressive portfolio. The 2,245 square foot space is divided into various scenes from the 1951 Disney animation. It features dramatic designs brought to life with a psychedelic yet subtle colour palette.
Finding the restaurant is a little like going down the rabbit-hole as it’s tucked away in the basement of the Odakyu HALC building. After winding down many flights of stairs, passing the cleaner’s area and wondering if we were in entirely the wrong place, we finally found the Alice restaurant.
In true form, the restaurant was immediately recognisable as the fantastical ‘Alice’ universe. The reception area appears as a giant library with the service desk perfectly styled as a stack of hugely oversized books. The automatic sliding door is a life-size replica of the Alice in Wonderland book cover, accented by an illuminated heart.
We entered through the sliding book-door into a dimmed hallway, draped in lush red curtains with golden trim, and asked for a table for two.
As we were lead to our table we passed private dining booths that imitated the croquette maze from the Disney animation. The little grass-green booths were decorated with delicate hearts and diamonds that contrasted beautifully with the black and white checkered floor.
Continuing through the restaurant we passed black and red seats, accented with pink fuzzy cushions, surrounding glossy tables that imitated giant-sized playing cards. We were seated in the Queen of Hearts dining area behind the grass maze booths. Next to us was a dining table topped with an incredible chandelier-like structure made of hearts:
We were left to settle in for a while before being offered our menu. It was the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen – an imitation of the Alice in Wonderland book with a delicate heart-shaped locket on the side:
All of the menu items are styled according to the characters, places and events of the book and movie. I can’t recall all of the options now, and obviously there was only so much we could eat, but as you can see here the food is highly stylised and beautifully presented:
They also offer a range of unique ‘Alice’ cocktails. Monique and I ordered a couple and decided to share a Caesar salad and a three-cheese ‘Cheshire Cat’ tail (which is essentially a pizza).
Then something strange happened.
When we received our Caeser salad we were greeted by a waitress, dressed in the likeness of Alice and wearing huge contact lenses, who asked us if she could sing for us. We agreed – our curiosity, piqued.
Before she started her song she presented us with each ingredient of the salad for us to approve. Then, as she was mixing all of the ingredients together, she asked us to clap a beat while she sang. The fact that we’d arrived very early for dinner (5.30-6pm), and there was only one other table occupied at the time, made the entire experience just that little bit stranger.
When Alice had finished her song, we applauded and thanked her and she left us to eat our meal, a little bit dazed from the oddness of being wooed with a salad-song.
Our food was tasty but trashy – heavy in salt, sugar, fat and gluten – standard chain-restaurant dining quality. We finished by sharing a Cheshire Cat dessert:
I was a bit skeptical of this dessert at first because, as you can see, it contains cornflakes. I’d never really thought of cornflakes as a dessert before, but I’ll admit that the texture they brought to the dish was amazing and Monique and I devoured it quickly. To finish we enjoyed another cocktail and let our food digest before heading back to our hotel.
Our visit to the Alice in Wonderland restaurant was a unique experience and something I remember as being a soothing departure from what had been a somewhat stressful day. We walked a lot that day, and by the time we reached the restaurant we were both tired and footsore, but our time there felt restorative and fun. I think Diamond Dining and Fantastic Design Works achieved their goal of providing an experience of ‘undaily life!’
And while the Alice in Wonderland book is hardly gripping, I doubt you’ll be bored for even a second at Shinjuku’s Alice restaurant.
Next post: Our visit to Odaiba
Until next time,
Kally & Mon.
Visiting the Alice in Wonderland restaurant
The ‘Alice in Picture Book’ fantasy restaurant is located in the basement of the Odakyu HALC building and is extremely close to the Yamanote and Seibu Shinjuku stations:
The address is:
Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 1-6-2
T-wing building B2F
When you approach the building, look for the entrance to Bic Camera and then proceed downstairs until you find this sign:
Opening hours are:
17:00 to 2:00 Mon-Thu
17:00 to 4:00 Friday, Saturday and holidays before
17:00 to 23:30 Sundays and holidays
[Feature Image Credit: Monique Nielsen]
[Image Credit (1,2,3): Fantastic Design Works]
[Image Credit (5,6): Gaijin Pot]
[Image Credit (4,7,8,9,11,12): Monique Nielsen]
[Image Credit (10): Alice in Picture Book fantasy restaurant]
What’s your favourite themed restaurant in Japan?