Experiential dining

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Experiential dining is the new culinary catchphrase firing up restaurants’ focus beyond good food and beautiful décor to deliver multisensory magic acts. Belinda Beckett reviews the world’s top tables catering to our taste for adventure.

Would you pay a four-figure sum to eat in a restaurant without windows, accessed by a goods lift? Lots of people do, and dress up for the occasion although maybe that’s not surprising on the party island of Ibiza, where every summer heralds a new hot ticket attraction.

Sublimotion has been dominating that slot for three solid seasons since it opened at the trendy 5-star Hard Rock Hotel in Playa d’en Bossa. A concoction of virtual reality and kitchen chemistry conjured up by two-star Michelin maestro Paco Roncero from Madrid, the food is said to be as awesome as the technical trickery, by everyone from actress Paz Vega to singer Alejandro Sanz.

And that’s not the only twinkling star on the conceptual dining scene, a trend that is setting gas rings aflame globally. Show cooking was just for starters!

There’s touchy-feely Dinner in the Dark, where customers stumble to tables, fumble for food and dribble their soup in the aid of enhancing the sensory experience. You can do that at O.Noir in Toronto and DID at the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit in Bangkok.

Dinner in the Sky is a moveable feast on hire around the world, where diners and table plus food and chef are hoisted skyward by crane for a banquet (let’s hope everyone’s been to the bathroom first). There’s even a café in Paris choc-full of cats, where fondling a feline is offered as therapy, along with your café au lait, which is ok if you don’t mind a bunch of mangy moggies muscling in on your millefeuille.

Not such a loopy idea is Alton Towers’ new Rollercoaster Restaurant which brings theme park thrills to dining. With visitor figures to the Staffordshire adventure centre languishing after 2015’s Smiler tragedy, this culinary caper is ramping up turnover after the park closes and proving as much of a draw for grown-ups as kids.

We also have to hand it to Budapest’s Four Seasons Hotel and Hungary’s State Opera which is putting its magnificent 18th century auditorium to full use as a pop-up restaurant when the orchestra’s not in town.

Thailand’s jungle treepod tables are totally cool while, closer to home, Bland’s Travel Gibraltar will whisk you to a table in the Sahara Desert for an Arabian night’s feast. If that’s whetted your appetite, read on…

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Words Belinda Beckett

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