This Swedish restaurant serves one patron at a time, alone in a field, using pulleys
Bord För En — or 'Table For One' — a 'small respite from daily stress' of COVID-19, says owner
At Rasmus Persson and Linda Karlsson's restaurant, you don't have to order takeout, or wear a mask, or try to stay two metres away from the other patrons — because there are no other patrons.
It's just you, seated alone at a table in a picturesque meadow in the Swedish countryside as you're served a homemade meal that arrives in a basket using a rope and pulley.
It's called Bord För En, which translates to "table for one," and it opened on May 10 in Ransäter, a rural town some 350 kilometres west of Stockholm.
"We wanted to create a space that's 100 per cent corona-free, as much as we could at least," Persson told As It Happens host Carol Off.
"Our ambition and our hopes and dreams is that people are going to have an inner-experience, an inner-journey of sorts, and also a short break from all the stress in life that we're all facing right now."
When you first arrive at Bord För En, you're greeted with a sign and a rope.
"You follow that rope and the rope leads you to the meadow. The table is set for you. And when you sit down, there is a letter from someone that you know," Persson said.
This is something Persson and Karlsson set up ahead of time for each patron. When you book your reservation at Bord För En, you include a list of names of your close friends, and the restaurateurs then solicit one of them to write you a personal message.
"So there is social interaction at first before the first drink arrives, and then the evening transpires from that," Persson said.
Dinner is served as a three-course meal, each of which arrives via a basket from the second floor of the couple's home about 70 metres away from the table. Each course comes with a poem, curated by the restaurateurs from local poets.
While it sounds like the kind of Instagrammable experience that would cost an arm and a leg, Bord För En is operating on a pay-what-you-can model.
"When we came up with this idea, we realized we're never going make money from a restaurant with just one chair in it. So instead, we wanted to celebrate or honour the fact that in these times, there are so many people losing things," Persson said.
"People are losing their loved ones and they are losing their jobs. And some of us are losing our minds. So we wanted to be a kind of a safe haven or just a small respite from daily stress."
They plan to keep the business going through the summer, and they've been booked solid. Inexplicably, Persson says most of their customers are men.
"I'm a man myself and I've had some theories as to why that's the case," he said, noting that men not only dominate foodie culture, but may simply be lonelier.
"I've felt it myself as I've become a father and I'm kind of drifting in and out of, I wouldn't say desolation, but you know, isolation at least," he said. "I think it's a male thing. Is it the same in Canada?"
Sweden's controversial approach
Sweden has faced criticism for its response to the pandemic. Rather than declaring a full lockdown, the country adopted a mix of legislation and recommendations.
The government has banned gatherings of more than 50 people, closed high schools and universities and recommended physical distancing, protecting the elderly, working from home and staying at home if unwell.
But elementary schools are open, people have not been obliged to stay indoors, and stores and restaurants have remained open.
As of Tuesday, the country had recorded more than 35,727 cases and 4,266 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. That's 40 deaths per 10,000 people, one of the highest mortality rates from the virus of any country.
Sweden's government defended its response on Tuesday.
"Transmission is slowing down, the treatment of COVID-19 patients in intensive care is decreasing significantly, and the rising death toll curve has been flattened," Foreign Minister Ann Linde told foreign correspondents at a briefing in Stockholm. "There is no full lockdown of Sweden, but many parts of the Swedish society have shut down."
Asked how he feels about the country's response, Persson said it's too far outside his area of expertise for him really to know what's best.
"What I want to say is that this sort of insecurity that I'm feeling — and I think all of us are feeling in the world today — is something that in recent weeks, I've felt a huge connection, like a global connection," he said.
"There is a certain feeling right now — which is not a good feeling, it's a very sad feeling — but it's a feeling that we share. All of us. I mean, really all of us in every country. And for me, that's a first."
Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from The Associated Press. Interview produced by Kate Cornick.