I always enjoyed taking meals in a basement. You could also call it a bunker. It need not be a glorified bunker either. It need not be a Bavarian beer garten, a Czech pub, or a Polish jadalnia. It should, however, give an appearance of solidity. Of something built for survival. Brick interiors, solid-wood furniture, effective sound insulation. I want the assurance of being able to finish a meal in presence of full-scale warfare. And I want the exclusivity.
Many enjoy eating outdoors. I’m largely indifferent to such a setting. Sure, it feels relaxing on a refreshing day. People watching can be entertaining. Yet it also feels invasive. Pigeons are not shy in hovering the floor space for goods to consume. The disciplined ones limit themselves to the ground. The more mischievous sort eagerly joins at the table. One of my favorite São Paulo cafes, adjacent to impressive vegetation, experienced this problem. It felt like a mad hatter tea party.
As far as I recall, I’ve considered the eating experience as something intimate. Concerning my plate contents, I don’t favor comments, analysis, unsolicited advice, or invasion attempts of any kind. And outside eating feels somewhat like exposure. I don’t mean the kind with an enclosed terrace, but the Parisian cafe street-facing kind. Total exposure.
Taking outside meals could not present a more opposing experience to a bunker. Yet I occasionally welcome outside eating spaces. Even in presence of pigeons. The Nowy Świat area of Karzemierz in Kraków feels surprisingly pleasant for gathering to eat in the evening time frame. It features a round plaza with tiny eateries on the inside as well as the periphery, each with a nearly crumbling little table and a few equally crumbling chairs. Considering the neighborhood, the atmosphere is as invasive as it gets in Kraków. Yet it somehow works. Until an older decadent type seated adjacent to the eatery, like a magician, extracts a loaf of bread from seemingly nowhere and organizes a picnic for those birds.
It may sound like a paradox, but in my time in Asia, I preferred mostly outside meals. Asia, however, I felt to be governed by entirely different principles. I felt myself to be different, inclined towards behavior inconsistent to that in the European or American parts of the world.
Presently, I prefer a bunker, for any meal of the day. Breakfast especially. During each of my few days in Prague, I took breakfast at such a bunker. I didn’t want to leave.