Choosing a name is one of the most difficult tasks a restaurant owner faces. An unpronounceable appellation can be the kiss of death, since no one wants to embarrass themselves by getting it wrong.
Jason Atherton, the owner of restaurant 22 Ships in Hong Kong, says that he could not name the eatery after his Singapore tapas bar, Esquina, as esquina means “corner” in Spanish, and his Singapore establishment sits on one, while his Hong Kong restaurant does not. Atherton instead went for a more straightforward approach based on the restaurant’s address (22 Ships is located at… 22 Ship Street).
Some names are serendipitous – Atherton’s Singapore restaurant Pollen is housed in a flower garden, which fitted in nicely with his existing London establishment the Pollen Street Social, based as it is on Pollen Street.
Other names appear to be a challenge to the competition. When the Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong opened, it chose the name Tin Lung Heen (Dragon in the Sky) for its 102nd-floor Cantonese restaurant. Some saw this as a provocation to their rivals in the Four Seasons’ Lung King Heen (View of the Dragon) on the other side of the harbour.
Then there are the curious and sometimes downright unappealing names over surprisingly good restaurants – Thailand’s Cabbages and Condoms chain and New York’s A Salt & Battery are examples of this trend. Here are some of the best examples of bizarrely named dining establishments whose memorable monikers belie their outstanding culinary credentials.
La Marmite, Hong Kong
Marmite, for those who have not yet had the pleasure, is one of the most polarising foodstuffs around. The dark brown, yeast-extract paste has a powerful taste that, according to its own advertising, you either love or hate. Such controversial fare is not a natural inspiration for a restaurant name. However, for the French, the word simply means “the pot”. Owners, the Aqua group, were inspired by the cast iron cooking pot traditionally used in France, as they thought it evoked images of families and friends merrily eating good food together. aqua.com.hk
Brussels Sprouts, Singapore
Emmanuel Stroobant is one of Singapore’s most popular celebrity chefs, having set up the renowned French fine dining restaurant Saint Pierre. His more casual eatery goes by an unusual name: Brussels Sprouts, arguably one of the world’s least-loved foods. The menu is deliciously Belgian: moules frites (the mussels come with a variety of sauces and the fries are replenished for free) and a choice of nearly 200 beers. Desserts include chocolate cake, waffles and crêpes. brusselssprouts.com.sg
Bleeding Heart, London
This atmospheric restaurant is tucked away in a courtyard down a side street near Hatton Garden. Legend has it that Bleeding Heart Yard was named after the murdered Lady Elizabeth Hatton who was found in the courtyard in the 17th century “torn limb from limb” but with her heart still beating. Still hungry? It would be a shame to lose your appetite in the face of such fabulous food including, foie gras, lobster and steaks that are to die for. bleedingheart.co.uk