We've done it all: fine-dined like royalty, seen food styled like unpalatable high art, and immersed ourselves in interiors unparalleled in creativity and style. And just when we thought that dining couldn't get any better, a spate of restaurants has come in and added a new twist to the tale. From dining in darkness and going back in time aboard a make-belief Titanic, to sitting in an acrylic shell beneath the surface of the sea, here are some quirky additions to the existing culinary landscape.
Ithaa underwater restaurant, Maldives
Few restaurants can compete with the dining ambience of the Ithaa Underwater Restaurant in the Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa. Designed in New Zealand and constructed in Singapore with materials from the US, it was then shipped to the Maldives where it was lowered into its present position over a period of 13 hours! Today, the world's firstever, all-glass marine restaurant sits 16 feet below the waves of the Indian Ocean, encased in a clear, archshaped capsule. Here, diners are one with the sea, making the whole experience a truly fascinating one.
Ithaa means 'pearl' in the local language, and this marine treasure sure lives up to its name. Strategically located within a coral reef, the restaurant seats up to 12 diners, and offers a 180-degree panoramic view of its marine habitat. Clearly a lot of precise planning has gone into building a restaurant which stood strong even through the December 2004 tsunami.
The contemporary Maldivian cuisine is a result of three months of experimentation; with 23 dishes served over four courses, and wine from the house of Louis Roederer. Ithaa is an unforgettable experience.
Dans Lé Noir, London
Eating sans sight may sound a little strange at first, but Dans Lé Noir puts a positive spin on blindness; if only temporarily. Creating a novel culinary experience wherein one drinks and dines in pitch dark, this restaurant leaves you re-evaluating your sense of taste.
Co-founded by the Paul Guinot Foundation for Blind People, the concept behind the project is simple -to have diners 'see' as the visually disabled do. In order to fully grasp the dining concept and the ordering process, the restaurant advises its patrons to arrive 20 minutes prior to their booking. The restaurant staff gives diners a crash course in how to order, eat and ask for any help they might need during the course of the evening. Here, it is believed that dining sans sight heightens the other senses; it kills preconceptions and lends authenticity to each bite. Not only are diners more conscious of the flavour and ingredients, the absence of vision also challenges them emotionally and socially. Once the meal is served, they are guided and served by a visually-impaired staff, creating a switch in dependency. At Dans Lé Noir, the blind become your eyes!
All in all, the experience is strong, emotionally charged and definitely worth trying. You might have no visual memory of your meal, but it's likely to become one of the most unforgettable experiences of your life. Incidentally, Dans lé Noir also offers a franchise programme for entrepreneurs interested in the project. The first franchise opened in Moscow in 2006.
Titanic Theatre Restaurant, Melbourne
Whether it's the sense of tragedy, the opulent interiors, or the air of exclusivity surrounding the vessel -when it comes to the Titanic Theatre Restaurant, we just can't seem to get enough.
It recreates the ship's maiden voyage replete with all the drama, glamour, excitement and tragedy, artfully blending dining and theatre into an evening of entertainment! Guests pay for 'steerage' or 'first class', with a dress code to match, and are welcomed aboard the ship by the captain and crew. A five-course dinner follows, with some of Melbourne's finest actors staging an absorbing show with an original script and catchy music.
Suddenly amidst all the merrymaking, ice warnings are heard as the 'unsinkable' vessel hits an iceberg. Above SOS calls and flashing lights, the Titanic starts to sink. Thankfully in this case, the tragic tale has a happy ending. The rescue ship Carpathia arrives just in time to whisk everyone off to the dance floor.
Now that is hard to top!