Have the stomach for Indonesia's 'toilet' cafe?

At Jamban Cafe (left), guests sit on upright toilet seats around a table where food is served in squat loos. "Jamban" means toilet in Bahasa Indonesia. On the cafe's menu is meatballs in soup (above). Other places have similar themed restaurants, but
At Jamban Cafe (above), guests sit on upright toilet seats around a table where food is served in squat loos. "Jamban" means toilet in Bahasa Indonesia. On the cafe's menu is meatballs in soup. Other places have similar themed restaurants, but Indonesia's modest version aims to educate people about sanitation and encourage people to use toilets for their bodily functions.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
At Jamban Cafe (left), guests sit on upright toilet seats around a table where food is served in squat loos. "Jamban" means toilet in Bahasa Indonesia. On the cafe's menu is meatballs in soup (above). Other places have similar themed restaurants, but
At Jamban Cafe, guests sit on upright toilet seats around a table where food is served in squat loos. "Jamban" means toilet in Bahasa Indonesia. On the cafe's menu is meatballs in soup (above). Other places have similar themed restaurants, but Indonesia's modest version aims to educate people about sanitation and encourage people to use toilets for their bodily functions.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SEMARANG (Indonesia) - A toilet- themed cafe where customers dine on meatballs floating in soup-filled latrines may not appeal to everyone, but many Indonesians are eager to try the latest lavatorial trend.

Guests at the "Jamban Cafe" sit on upright toilet seats around a table where food is served in squat loos.

On a recent visit to the venue, in Semarang on Java island, traditional Indonesian "bakso" - a type of meatball - bobbed in a murky soup in one toilet, while a second contained a brightly coloured, alcohol-free cocktail.

For those who found the whole experience too nauseating, there was a sick bag hanging by the entrance.

Other places, such as Taiwan and Russia, are home to similar themed restaurants, but Indonesia's modest version has a key difference - it aims to educate people about sanitation and encourage the increased use of toilets.

Said customer Mukodas, 27: "I think the idea is pretty interesting because if you try to have a campaign without a gimmick like this, the information won't stick."

Another customer, 15-year-old Annisa Dhea, conceded she initially found the toilet treats "a bit unappealing" but felt somewhat reassured after "the owner told me that the food was clean and hygienic".

The cafe - whose name "Jamban" means toilet in Bahasa Indonesia - has been open since April and currently welcomes only small groups who book ahead.

Owner Budi Laksono, a public health expert who used to work for the local government, hosts discussions with customers and shows them videos as he seeks to encourage people to use dedicated facilities for their bodily functions.

However, he admitted that his unusual approach had sparked some controversy. "Many critics say the cafe is inappropriate and against Islamic law," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2016, with the headline 'Have the stomach for Indonesia's 'toilet' cafe?'. Print Edition | Subscribe