Top 8 extreme restaurants
While a bricks and mortar Michelin-starred venue might be enough to sate most appetites for culinary exploration, these restaurants are in another league, offering the adventurous foodie an extreme dining experience.
Whether it’s underwater, in the sky or in space, there’s no frontier that the culinary world has not tried to conquer.
This year marked the opening (of reservations) to eat at Europe’s first underwater restaurant. Housed in a converted container, it doubles up as a marine conservation project, while offering diners an unrivalled view of the ocean floor.
With this in mind, we have taken a tour of the world to find some of the more extreme culinary experiences available to those with an open mind, and more often than not deep wallets.
Click through for a look at some of the world’s most extreme restaurants…
UNDER THE SEA
An architecture firm is working to bring Europe’s first underwater restaurant to Norway, housed inside a submerged concrete container that will double as an artificial mussel reef and marine research centre. Norwegian design firm Snøhetta has unveiled plans for the underwater restaurant, called ‘Under’ on a craggy stretch of coastline at the southernmost tip of Norway, near the village of Båly.
The 100-cover restaurant will be housed inside a rectangular concrete box that juts out of the ocean and stretches five metres below the surface, and will feature an observation window into the North Atlantic.
“Like a sunken periscope, the restaurant’s massive acrylic windows offer a view of the seabed as it changes throughout the seasons and varying weather conditions,” the team said of its creation. “Through its architecture, menu and mission of informing the public about the biodiversity of the sea, Under will provide an under-water experience inspiring a sense of awe and delight, activating all the senses – both physical and intellectual,”
The structure itself will have one metre thick walls in order for it to withstand pressure and shock from its rugged location, and will double as an artificial mussel reef and marine research centre, with marine biologists working in-house to maintain optimum conditions on the seabed so that fish and shellfish can “thrive in proximity to the restaurant”.
The team is already taking reservations, with a view to opening in 2019.
UP IN THE AIR
If you fancy being suspended from a crane and strapped to a steel dining table for dinner, then Dinner in the Sky could be up your street. The concept sees 22 diners at a time hoisted 50 meters in the air to enjoy a meal of their choosing catered by a team of professional chefs.
The concept was founded in 2006 by Hakuna Matata, a communications agency that specialised in gourmet pleasures, and The Fun Group, a company specialised in amusement park installations deploying cranes. Since then, the team has hosted more than 5,000 dinners above the skylines of 45 countries, in cities including Paris, Las Vegas, Sydney, Cape Town, Dubai, Bogota and Sao Paulo. One event saw Prince Albert of Monaco dine with France’s most highly ‘starred’ chef, the late Joel Robuchon. Other novelties to be added to the concept over the years have included Beach Bar in the Sky, an Opera in the Sky with Lesley Garrett singing at the Tower of London, an Internet Café in the Sky for Nokia in Las Vegas and a PokerMatch in the Sky at the Grand Prix Moto of Jerez.
The experience is available to hire for up to eight hours and can be held at any location provided there is a surface of at least 500 m² can be secured.
INSIDE A VOLCANO
Sitting down to eat inside a volcano would be a daring act, were it not for the fact that the Thrihnukagigur Volcano in Iceland is dormant. Written as Þríhnúkagígur in Iceland, it is located close to Reykjavík and covers 3,270 square metres drops to a depth of 213 meters. It has not erupted in the past 4000 years.
While the volcano itself is a popular attraction for tourists, there is an option to have a gourmet picnic inside it. A private dining experience in the bowels of this volcano doesn’t come cheap, but will see your troupe enjoy a gourmet picnic at the heart of the volcano, following a six-minute, 400ft descent.
The volcano itself was discovered in 1974 by cave explorer Árni B Stefánsson, and opened for tourism in 2012.
INSIDE A SEA CAVE
Italy’s Ristorante Grotta Palazzese is located inside a natural cave carved into a cliff off the coast of Puglia. The Grotta Palazzese restaurant takes its name from the homonymous cave and from the place that was once also called “Grotta di Palazzo”.
Records and paintings show that the location in Polignano al Mare hosted gatherings as far back as 1700. Today’s diners can enjoy traditional Apuglian cuisine at tables perched either overlooking the Adriatic Sea or set back on the terrace with views into the large central grotto.
IN THE DARK
Not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are looking for a completely unique dining experience, Dans le Noir in London is hard to beat. Based in Clerkenwell the restaurant is completely cloaked in darkness, with guests filed to their seats in a conga-esque fashion, guided by blind waiting staff. Once seated, guests are completely oblivious to the food being presented to them, and are offered a choice of four different “surprise” menus; White, Blue, Red or Green.
While you might think that eating with a knife and fork would be easy in the dark, it’s not. Cutlery is left at the door, with guests resorting to eating with their hands, grasping around their plate for tasty morsels. Plates are paired with wine by the restaurant’s in-house blind wine expert, Christophe Garnier. While you could be sitting in a concrete bunker for all you know, the appeal of being able to shut one’s eyes, slouch or roll your eyes at a tiresome comment made by a fellow diner, that would otherwise require a pleasant smile, is surprisingly liberating.
INSIDE A SNOW CASTLE
Not for the cold-blooded, the SnowCastle in Kemi, Finland, is a hotel and restaurant made made entirely from ice and snow, even the tables and chairs.
It was first built in 1996 in the city of Kemi. Ever since, it has been painstakingly rebuilt every year from scratch, opening to guests from January through to April. It offers the same amenities as a regular hotel, albeit at minus 5° Celsius, with visItors advised to dress warmly.
While still in the early stages, a restaurant in space is not entirely out of the realms of possibility. In April, Houston-based space tech start-up Orion Span announced plans this month to open the first luxury hotel in space in 2021. For $9.5m, four astronauts will have the chance to experience life in zero gravity for 12 days aboard the ‘Aurora Station’. The size of a private jet cabin, the luxury space hotel will feature two suites and a virtual-reality holodeck. It will orbit the earth every 90 minutes, meaning guests will be treated to 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets every day.
Orion Span’s CEO Frank Bunger, plans to partner with chefs to serve decent space food rather than the standard freeze-dried fare.
“Cooking in zero gravity is a special challenge, but we’ll give guests as luxurious a taste as possible, that’s still safe on board,” he said. “In the future we’ll look to sell parts of the station, so people can visit or lease out the capacity or live there. It’s like a condo concept, that’s the idea behind it,” he added.
Before being welcomed on board, guests would need to complete a three-month astronaut certification programme to ensure they are fully prepared for life in outer space. Those keen to travel to infinity and beyond can reserve their place via a refundable $80,000 deposit.
The hotel is due to launch in 2021 and will welcome its first guests in 2022. Each guest mission will be accompanied by two Orion Span crew members.
IN THE NUDE
Following in London’s lead, a nudist restaurant called O’naturel opened in Paris’s 12th arrondissement last year, where customers are encouraged to disrobe before dinner. Founded by twin brothers Mike and Stéphane Saada, the restaurant served its first meals on 2 November to members of the Paris Naturists Association, naturally.
The 40-seater site has been kitted out with thick blackout curtains to ensure privacy and features a cloakroom where customers can strip before dinner. Napkins are provided for diners who are keen to protect their modesty. Among the dishes on offer are snails with parsley; duck foie gras with apple chutney and sesame oil; braised chicken with truffle polenta and ‘crème brûlée revisited’.
In London, ‘naked’ restaurant The Bunyadi has announced plans to return with a permanent site after a three-month pop-up in Elephant & Castle proved such a success. The Bunyadi aims to take diners back to basics in a canopied space filled with candles, bamboo and wicker. Working with natural and home-grown ingredients, the restaurant was free from phones, electric lights and clothing, though dining naked wasn’t obligatory. The permanent site will echo the pop-up’s format of serving grilled meats on a wood fire and raw foods served on handmade clay crockery will edible cutlery.