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Food in the nude: Behind the scenes at Paris’s first naked restaurant

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.

Food in the nude: Behind the scenes at Paris's first naked restaurant
Photo: Screenshot/BFM TV
Located down a quiet side street in southwest Paris, O'naturel, billed as the French capital's first nudist restaurant
 
Diners are presented with a list of rules outlining what is expected of them in terms of behaviour — any voyeurism or exhibitionism likely to shock is not tolerated and only teenagers (who must be accompanied by an adult) are allowed to keep their clothes on in the dining room. 
 
Clothes must be left in the cloakroom along with mobile phones ad cameras — perhaps for obvious reasons. 
 
The 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 trialled 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.”
 
 
 
Snails and foie gras
 
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.
 
 
Photo: O'naturel/restaurant website   
 
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.
 
Photo: O'naturel/restaurant website   
 
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.
 
Photo: O'naturel/restaurant website      
 
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 neighbours 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.”
 
READ ALSO:

Paris just opened its first nudist park

TRAVEL NEWS

Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

Car, moped, public transport, or electric bicycle - which means of transport is the quickest way to get across Paris?

Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

One intrepid reporter for French daily Le Parisien decided to find out. 

The challenge was simple. Which mode of transport would get the journalist from the heart of Fontenay-sous-Bois in the eastern suburbs to the newspaper’s office on Boulevard de Grenelle, west Paris, fastest?

Over four separate journeys, each one in the middle of rush hour, the electric bicycle was quickest and easiest. More expensive than conventional bikes, electric bikes do come with a government subsidy.

The journey was described as ‘pleasant and touristy’ on a dry but chilly morning going via dedicated cycle lanes that meant the dogged journalist avoided having to weave in and out of traffic.

It took, in total, 47 minutes from start to finish at an average speed of 19km/h, on a trip described as “comfortable” but with a caveat for bad weather. The cost was a few centimes for charging up the bike.

In comparison, a car journey between the same points took 1 hour 27 minutes – a journey not helped by a broken-down vehicle. Even accounting for that, according to the reporter’s traffic app, the journey should – going via part of the capital’s southern ringroad – have taken about 1 hr 12.

Average speed in the car was 15km/h, and it cost about €2.85 in diesel – plus parking.

A “chaotic and stressful” moped trip took 1 hour 3 minutes, and cost €1.30 in unleaded petrol.

Public transport – the RER and Metro combined via RER A to Charles-de-Gaulle-Étoile then Metro line 6 to the station Bir-Hakeim – took 50 minutes door to door, including a 10-minute walk and cost €2.80. The journey was described as “tiring”.

READ ALSO 6 ways to get around Paris without the Metro

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