There are many lists of the world’s top dining experiences, although possibly the most esteemed is that of S. Pellegrino whose poll of acclaimed chefs and renowned food critics rate the world’s best 50 restaurants every year. We aren’t claiming to better S.Pellegrino by any means, but our collection of 10 restaurants includes some little known gems that are special for varying reasons be that their location on a ferris wheel, a restaurant that moves location, has a charity arm or features the world’s smallest waiters.
The Pale Blue Door, London
Revolving restaurants have long been a trend and can be found in cities around the world, but this one actually packs up and moves country. Tony Hornecker’s restaurant travels with him wherever he goes, be that in a ramshackle treehouse like in Santiago de Chile, an abandoned mansion in Buenos Aires or a terraced house-cum-studio in London. Hornecker is an artist and set designer so diners could be treated to various mismatched furniture and trinkets, a decent dinner and possibly a theatrical performance as well. Keep an eye out for this one.
Redwood Treehouse Restaurant, Warkworth, New Zealand
Formerly known as the Yellow Treehouse, this incredible haute cuisine experience is located in a pod-shaped structure, 10 metres above the ground in a giant redwood tree just north of Auckland. Diners reach the restaurant by a treetop walkway and enjoy views over the forest. While the restaurant is currently seeking a resource consent, in its original season it was flooded with bookings. Up to 30 seated guests or 50 standing guests can be accommodated.
Singapore Flyer, Singapore
The experience aboard Singapore’s ferris wheel, the world’s largest, can only be described as food with a view. In this case you enjoy 360 degrees of Singapore from 165 meters in the air. The service inside each air-conditioned glass cabins comes complete with a dedicated butler to serve your every need. The experience begins in the third-story VIP lounge until your cabin is ready. You then journey for one hour above Singapore, enjoying a three course meal from a menu that is changed monthly. Cabins accommodate up to 10 but couples or groups can book the entire cabin for full privacy.
Noma, Copenhagen, Denmark
Well we had to list at least one of the S.Pellegrino choices so why not go with one of the chart toppers? Noma serves food from the Nordic region only and Chef René Redzepi’s use of local wildflowers, herbs, animals and root vegetables has seen his restaurant jump from 33 five years ago to third in 2009 and now to the top. He admits cold and icy Denmark is not the type of place people have traditionally gone to eat, but now people are flying in just to eat Noma’s "vintage potato and whey," and "lovage and prästost” (a Swedish cheese). He says if you can create a cuisine in Denmark, you can do it anywhere.
Casa Saltshaker, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The 2001 economic crisis in Argentina made in-home eateries a smart, low cost investment for the city’s chefs. Former New Yorker, Dan Perlman, with 25 years of experience, set up one of the best-known of these in Buenos Aires. The restaurants are known as closed-door or locked-door because you can only go if you know where it is with an invitation or a referral. They are particularly popular with those wanting to meet new people be they tourists, expats or locals, and those who are really into food and wine. Perlman serves food that is generally not available elsewhere.
Fifteen, Amsterdam, Cornwall, London and Melbourne
Famous British television chef Jamie Oliver set up the Fifteen restaurants as part of his registered charity, the Jamie Oliver Foundation. All profits from the restaurants go towards an apprenticeship scheme to train troubled youth between the ages of 18 and 24 years to become chefs. It’s not a cheap dining experience but you will get fresh, high quality food with something of the Oliver flair.
La Trattoria degli Amici, Rome, Italy
The “restaurant of friends” is run by a cooperative that works alongside disabled people who wait on the tables and cook while others provide the decorations or enjoy the sit down meals themselves. For a completely different experience of Rome with real meaning, join the “friends” and you’ll also enjoy the same great Roman food you’ll get everywhere.
Hobbit House, Manila, Philippines
The Hobbit House in Manila has the smallest waiters in the world that was inspired by the Tolkien books as a means of employing little people. It opened in 1973 and has an incredible array of liquors and spirits at the bar. There are over 150 kinds of beer and ale, or you can choose from a list of cocktails and mixed drinks. Local and western dishes are served as well, that are considered much better than average bar chow. If you like the Lord of the Rings you’ll love the themed elements too.
Pollsmoor Mess, Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town has a number of fantastic and exclusive places to eat, but one that comes with a difference is the restaurant inside this prison that once housed Nelson Mandela. Pollsmoor is still a working prison and the waiters serving your food and drinks are actually inmates. You can talk to them but you’re not allowed to hand them any money. All the waiters have qualifications and training and the food is both very good and very affordable.
Alinea is a mainstay on the top 100 restaurants lists in the world, often times in the top 10. So what is it about this place that’s so good? Well there aren’t too many high notch restaurants where you’ll find a peanut butter and jelly sandwich but you will here. Alinea is a typographical symbol that denotes a new train of thought. And Chef Grant Achatz has created a cuisine that’s just a little different, in keeping with this idea. For example they intentionally use aromas to create a cerebral effect for dining guests. This might be through the trapping the smell of burnt leaves beneath a glass and releasing them while people eat. The idea is to create a dining experience that is akin to a performance, that also gives people an emotionally rich experience. Some things on the menu you will therefore recognize but others have been changed and altered.