Dining out is one of the great pleasures of travelling – discovering new ingredients, dishes and flavour combinations. But there are some restaurants where the location you’re eating in adds to the experience just as much as the food. Whether it’s an extreme environment or an unusual way of cooking, here are five of the world’s most unusual dining experiences.
1. Eating in the dark – Dans Le Noir, Paris, London, Barcelona, St Petersburg and Nairobi
Since 2001 over a million diners have experienced dinner in the darkness with Dans Le Noir. It’s all based on the idea that our senses of smell and taste are heightened by not being able to see. So a four-course meal is served in the pitch black, with blind waiting staff to guide you. You don’t get to choose what you eat, instead there’s a choice between four menus – meat, fish, vegetarian and the more exotic chef’s choice – but each dish is a surprise. The restaurant uses local organic and seasonal produce, and you’ll be glad to hear that the kitchens are fully lit.
2. Eating underwater – Ithaa, Maldives
Part of the luxurious Conrad Maldives Rangali Island hotel, Ithaa is the world’s first underwater glass restaurant. Sixteen feet below sea level, it has a 270-degree view out into the deep blue of the Indian Ocean. The restaurant cost £3 million to build and serves lavish five-star lunch and dinner tasting menus to just 14 diners at a time. The food mixes Maldivian specialities with Western and Asian influences. And of course there’s plenty of seafood – with caviar, reef fish and lobster on the menu, and sharks, stingrays and turtles swimming past your window.
3. Eating in the air – Dinner in the Sky, various locations
With no walls, floors or ceilings to get in the way of the views, Dinner in the Sky is the ultimate airborne dining experience. The idea started in Belgium and since then events have been held everywhere from the Las Vegas Strip and Copacabana beach to London’s Southbank. 22 guests are strapped into chairs and hoisted 180 feet into the air by a crane. In the centre of the table a chef, assistant and waiters cook and serve your meal, with big-name chefs like Joël Robuchon, Tom Aikens and Heston Blumenthal all taking part so far.
4. Eating inside a volcano – El Diablo, Lanzarote
Set among the volcanoes of Lanzarote’s Timanfaya National Park is a restaurant with a unique approach to cooking. El Diablo sits on top of the dormant Islote de Hilario volcano, with views out across dusty craters and lava fields. Although the volcano hasn’t erupted since 1824 there’s still a lot going on under the surface. A giant grill has been built above a pool of 400-degree bubbling lava. The hot vapours are used to grill chicken, pork chops, steaks and fish, with diners offered a behind-the-scenes kitchen tour to see this volcanic barbeque in action.
5.Eating in a freezer – Chillout Café, Dubai
Dubai isn’t the most obvious place for a restaurant built of ice, but the Chillout Café brings a touch of the Arctic to the desert. Almost everything inside is made from ice – from the bar and chandeliers to the tables and glasses. The temperate is a frosty -6 degrees Celsius when it’s over 35 degrees outside, so they have a supply of thermal boots, coats and hats for guests to borrow. You can get soup or hot chocolate to keep you warm as well as a lunch menu. But you don’t want to linger over your meal as visits are limited to 40 minutes or you might risk frostbite.