No Peeking: Paris Opens Up Its First Ever Nudist Restaurant
The restaurant, which opened its doors earlier this month, is the latest in a series of nude eateries to pop up around the world, from London to Melbourne to Tokyo.
A meal at O'Naturel (Image courtesy: AFP Relaxnews)
Leave your coats, your pants and your inhibitions at the door: a Paris restaurant has begun serving up classic French fare to diners in the nude. Located down a quiet side street in southwest Paris, O'naturel, billed as the French capital's first nudist restaurant, is the brainchild of 42-year-old twins Mike and Stephane Saada. Former insurance salesmen, they aren't nudists themselves -- but they spotted a money-making opportunity in a country that enjoys a reputation as a top naturist holiday destination.
"People only get to be nudists in the summer," explained Stephane.
O'naturel is considerably warmer in November than the roughly 460 designated outdoor nudist spots around France, most of them beaches and campsites. The capital trialed a nudist area in its Bois de Vincennes park in October, while Parisians can swim in the buff several times a week at a public pool. But Yves Leclerc, the president of the French Naturist Federation, was thrilled at the idea of being able to strip off for dinner.
"We're in the heart of Paris and we're eating naked. It's a little surreal," he said, sitting at one of the restaurant's 20 tables. "It's like when we're on holiday, but it's even better," he said, lamenting that at home, in Leucate on the southwest coast, "I have to put my clothes on to go to a restaurant."
The restaurant, which opened its doors earlier this month, is the latest in a series of nude eateries to pop up around the world, from London to Melbourne to Tokyo. O'naturel boasts a minimalist decor and a menu of upmarket French bistro cuisine -- lobster, foie gras and snails with parsley cream sauce -- priced at 49 euros ($57.50) for three courses. A large white curtain over the windows shields diners from gawpers outside.
Clothes must be left in the cloakroom along with mobile phones, to prevent people from sneaking a photo of their fellow customers. The diners are then provided with slippers to wear, though women -- who make up 40 percent of the clientele, according to the managers -- may keep their heels on. The black chair covers are discreetly changed between sittings. "Our role is to put people at ease," said Stephane. "As soon as they enter the dining room, we accompany them to their table and we reassure them that it's not like the whole room is looking at them."
The only fabric visible in the room is the table cloths, the napkins and the clothes of the two managers who also serve as waiters. Under the law, the Saada brothers insist, they have to be dressed -- unlike at nude London restaurant The Bunyadi which opened briefly last year, where the staff were topless. Five young men sit down at a table, laughing at each other, before recovering from their giggles as they inspect the menu.
Alexandre, a 21-year-old firefighter, said he found the restaurant "serious and intimate". "We are really with honest people here," he said. Before he walked in, he noted, a passerby had shouted: "Enjoy your naked dinner!" Jimmy Denis, a 28-year-old soldier, admitted he had been "a bit apprehensive" ahead of the dinner, and said he was grateful that the restaurant was warm.
"I'm glad I worked out this morning," he joked. The restaurant is only open for dinner, strictly by reservation.
Stephane said he and his brother try to stop "bad surprises" from the wrong type of guest. "We might reject someone, or explain to them that if they're looking to hook up, they should go somewhere else," he said. His brother Mike chipped in, "Nudity doesn't have to mean sexuality."
While many in a country used to nudity might shrug at the idea of enjoying a plate of scallops while starkers, the restaurant has raised eyebrows among some neighbors who note it is next to a creche. "I've got nothing against nudism on the beach," said Donatella Charter, a 42-year-old interpreter. "But eating in the buff with other people, I don't get it."
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