London's Most Unusual Dining Experiences

From chomping on insects to dining in the dark, these are London restaurants where the cuisine is only half the story.

Forget your standard three courses; the post-Heston Blumenthal generation want more than just food, they want a culinary experience to remember. As a leader in gastronomic innovation, London is stepping up to the plate with a range of exciting dining adventures you’ll want to write home about. Here is our ultimate rundown of the city’s most unusual ways and places to eat.

I Dined On A TV Series Set

The 1970s BBC TV comedy series Fawlty Towers made for some of the greatest and most memorable characters of all time. How can we forget Basil, Sybil and the hapless waiter Manuel? Now you can meet them in an immersive experience with Faulty Towers The Dining Experience, a 3-course dinner with actors playing the parts of these three main roles. The beauty is that it's largely unscripted, so the actors are interacting with diners with some hilarious consequences.

Try zebra jerky or caramel mealworms in Archipelago (courtesy Archipelago)
Try zebra jerky or caramel mealworms in Archipelago (courtesy Archipelago)

I Ate Insects

If you’re after something out of the ordinary, then elements of the exotic can be found in every inch of Archipelago, from the golden Buddha statues and giant peacock feathers, to the menu of pan fried crickets and crispy zebra. Visitors can also tickle their taste buds with kangaroo skewers, caramel mealworms and chocolate covered scorpions. Shaka Zulu also serves South African delicacies including crocodile, springbok and wildebeest. All meats are cooked on a traditional braai grill and carved wooden murals cover the restaurant, transporting you from London to an exotic taste adventure.

I Dined At The Chef’s Table

If you’re looking for a more interactive dining experience, the Chef’s table at a top restaurant gets you close to the action. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel's restaurant Dinner By Heston Blumenthal offers Chef’s Table privileges, with the chance to gain an insight into the work that creates Heston Blumenthal’s groundbreaking menu. Known for his experimental style, Heston’s dishes include oddities such as chicken liver parfait disguised as a fruit, scallops seared with cucumber ketchup and pineapple roasted on a spit powered by a £70,000 giant watch mechanism. Prepare to be astounded.

 

Diners are guided to their table at Dans Le Noir (courtesy Dans Le Noir)
Diners are guided to their table at Dans Le Noir (courtesy Dans Le Noir)

I Ate In Complete Darkness

It might not seem an appealing notion at first, but the daring dining concept Dans Le Noir offers the chance to enhance your taste experience by enjoying a meal in complete darkness. With 80 per cent of information fed to the brain through sight, Dans Le Noir is designed to help diners unlock senses they never use to their full potential, interacting with food in new and exciting ways. Guests choose from a mystery set menu and can chomp their way through three courses before discovering what they ate afterwards. Even better, Raclin’s restaurant employs partially sighted and blind staff who navigate the room with ease—transforming from ‘disabled’ to ‘able’ in the darkness.

I Dined In An Artist's Studio

If you have a keen eye for a masterpiece, then Topolski on the South Bank could be your perfect dining environment. Forget the odd picture hung about a restaurant for decoration; the entire walls are covered in huge paintings created by the Polish-born artist and illustrator Feliks Topolski. After moving to Britain in 1935, the accomplished painter became an official war artist and his studio, now the site of the restaurant and bar, remains the home of his Chronicles – a hand-illustrated ‘tour’ of the world and its momentous events.

Get to grips with The Destroyer burger at Red Dog Saloon (courtesy Red Dog Saloon)
Get to grips with The Destroyer burger at Red Dog Saloon (courtesy Red Dog Saloon)

I Conquered London’s Monster Burger

Are you hard enough for the Red Dog Saloon’s gargantuan burger? Aptly named ‘The Destroyer’, it’s filled with 180z of steak, 200g pulled pork, six rashers of applewood-smoked bacon and six slices of American cheese. A formidable opponent for any foodie. Red Dog are keen for your burger experience to be an authentic one, so their pork is cooked for 16 hours in the restaurant’s smoker imported from the U.S. and designed to recreate the cooking process of the Southern fire pits. The result is some of the most tender and succulent meat you’ll have ever tasted, oozing with delicious juices. If you’re feeling particularly brave you can even take on the Destroyer Challenge: wolfing the burger down in under ten minutes in exchange for a T-shirt and glory. The fastest competitor so far scoffed the giant burger in under three minutes.

I Discovered An Underground Supper Club

With the costs of launching a new restaurant in the city higher than ever, many foodies are taking matters into their own hands (and homes) with supper clubs. The Secret Larder offers one of the longest running weekly clubs in the city. Based in North London, each Tuesday sees 30 guests enjoy a set menu which could be one of many cuisines – perhaps Persian, or a Korean-inspired menu – all you need is your own bottle and £35. However, book well in advance as the Club’s burgeoning popularity makes competition for a place at the table highly competitive. One journalist commented it ‘harder to get into than The Ivy.’