thumbnail text


Food & Drink

Eat and be wary

— Jakarta


Strung out across Southeast Asia is a chain of restaurants where doll-like North Korean waitresses sing to diners as they sample the country’s cuisine (well, what’s left of it). Is it a benign culinary business foray or something altogether more sinister?

Moscow Grimaces!, Pyongyang Restaurant, The Double Kay Bar, The Hallyday Inn, The Yokel's Fists

For what I’d imagined to be a faceless servant of the Dear Leader, the woman who picks up the phone at the North Korean Embassy is bewilderingly chipper. Are the rumours true, I ask. Is North Korea running a restaurant in Jakarta? “Yes,” she replies. Can just anyone turn up? “Sure.” Are the staff really shipped in from North Korea? Do they really dance for us, in unison, while singing karaoke? “Of course,” she says, her voice sliding into a ribald whine, like a Stalinist bordello madam. “We’ve got pretty, pretty girls.”

For most outsiders, a sta…


0:00:00 0:01:00

Drag me