For many, the words “IKEA” and “DIY” in combination conjure up unpleasant memories of confusion, defeat and Allen wrench-fueled domestic discord. After all, what other major home furnishings retailer sells an assemble-it-yourself entertainment system that’s been dubbed “The Divorce Maker?”
Now, the flat-pack furniture behemoth is applying its DIY ethos to already stressful-enough-as-is food-based entertaining with the opening of a pop-up culinary venue in London’s trendy Shoreditch neighborhood that the retailer hopes will bring social bonding, not tears.
Simply called Dining Club, the ephemeral space will be home to an IKEA café, cookery supply boutique, virtual reality kitchen and workshop area which will host a variety of hot topics ranging from “Fermentation” to “Reducing food waste.” Last but not least, Dining Club will be centered around a cook-it-yourself restaurant-cum-communal dining space in which participants are provided with the opportunity to demonstrate their mad — or not-so-mad — culinary skills to up to 19 of their closest (read: open-minded) friends and family members.
And, yes, all on-site attempts at brunch, lunch or dinner will be supervised by an “expert head chef” so that, unlike DIY IKEA furniture assembly, the finished result won’t leave you weeping. However, unlike a wobbly bed frame, you can’t exactly take apart 10 servings of inadequately seasoned chicken paillard and start over again. At Dining Club, it is what it is — and it’s (hopefully) delicious. Or at the very least, edible.
Launched to “celebrate the joy of cooking” and perhaps give those who have failed in the world of furniture assembly an added boost of self-esteem, Dining Club — an establishment where “diners run the diner” — is the latest push by the Swedish retailer to highlight its food-related endeavors, which have also recently included the stateside deployment of nouveau Swedish meatball-hawking food trucks as part of the Together We Eat initiative and conceptual in-store hydroponic farms devised and built entirely using IKEA odds-and-ends by the magnificent Copenhagen-based design incubator Space 10. After all, not only is IKEA the world’s largest home furnishings retailer but it’s also the world’s seventh largest restaurant chain.
Reads a press release:
With people spending less time cooking and eating together in the UK, IKEA are giving the foodies, wannabe-cooks, kitchen-novices and fine-diners the chance to express themselves and impress their friends in a restaurant where they will have their very own sous chef and maître de. They will also have 20 of their friends as extra hands, making a meal to remember and proving that too many cooks is not always a bad thing.
This all said, while Dining Club’s pop-up café (pulled salmon rolls, anyone?) and workshops will be open to the general public from Sept. 10 through Sept. 25, the DIY dining area, a “homely kitchen area” meant to “mimic an actual dinner party” that will be temporarily named after the rotating chefs, will only be available for a total of 38 slots. In lieu of reservations, advance applications are required for consideration.
As IKEA details, the lucky amateur chef will preside over the kitchen free of charge — furthermore, his or her guests won’t be asked to foot any sort of bill. Cleanup is also taken care of. Hallelujah to that. And from the sounds of it, chefs-in-residence won’t exactly be able to come in, take over and prepare whatever they fancy. Rather, Dining Club comes equipped with a set, supervising chef-approved menu that includes a “range of modern sharing dishes” (Scandinavian staples, included) for guest chefs to choose from.
However daunting it may seem, assembling a meal for a dozen or so friends in a borrowed dining room will likely prove for most to be a significantly less unhinging experience than attempting to assemble an IKEA dining room set.
Now pass the lingonberry sauce ...