3 2 Kaleido room

Show Stoppers – a round-up of the best immersive restaurant across the globe

Gone are the days when ‘immersive’ meant dining in the dark – today’s ultra-sensory menus are the stuff of fantasy. Neil Davey explores some of the most radical experiences on offer


Avant garde and innovative, a meal at Mugaritz leaves reality at the door. Over 20-30 courses that demand your full attention (several of which, deliberately, you’re not necessarily supposed to enjoy) expect to have your perceptions of food thoroughly challenged. Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz is, almost inevitably for a Spanish chef of a certain generation, an El Bulli alumnus but, while he talks openly about the inspiring impact Ferran Adrià had on his career, Andoni has pushed beyond even those eccentric heights.

Founded in 1998 in Errenteria, just outside San Sebastián, Mugaritz is regarded as one of the world’s top restaurants – it remains on The World’s 50 Best list after 25 years – and Andoni and his extensive team of chefs continue to push boundaries. Since 2011, the restaurant has closed for some four months of the year so they can develop new dishes to make up the menu for the approximately 13,500 people they’ll serve. It may sound somewhat pretentious, but the traditional Basque country house setting is undeniably charming and, for all the extremes of creativity on display – aromas, textures, flavours, temperatures and sounds all play their part – there’s an air of playfulness in dishes with names such as ‘How Long a Kiss Lasts’ (a crab dish served on a tongue-shaped piece of ice) or the pressed fish wafer of ‘Textural Communion’.

Mugaritz photo jose luis lopez de zubiria

Travel Details

£223pp (£101pp payable on booking), excluding drinks. Otzazulueta Baserria, Aldura Aldea 20, Errenteria, Gipuzkoa, Spain, 00 34 943 522 455, mugaritz.com


A dish of mushroom and pea purée is served, cutlery-free, with the instruction ‘Lick it Up’ written on the plate. Menus list emojis rather than ingredients. A few days before, expect a questionnaire asking for your favourite swear word, favourite band, even your favourite position from the Kama Sutra… To say Gaggan Anand’s approach to food – and restaurant service – is different is an understatement.

Your experience at this intimate, 14-seat-only counter – ‘a culinary adventure of the senses and a rollercoaster ride of emotions’ as the chef defines it – requires suspension of… well, if not disbelief, exactly, certainly the conventions of fine dining. For the most part, though, Anand’s approach is as fun-seeking as it is provocative, looking to reward guests with a deeper emotional response than you’d get in a regular restaurant. Mind you, expecting the unexpected has long been the way to grasp what the innovative, Indian-born Anand has brought to Bangkok’s food scene. His previous restaurant, Gaggan, which opened in 2010, won two Michelin stars and was awarded the number one spot in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants for a record four years running before it closed in 2019. When a new venture to Japan stalled – it finally came to light in Fukuoka last year – Anand launched Gaggan Experience, a subtly renamed version of the multi-award-winning original on a new site in his adopted home city.

S16 441

Travel Details

£280pp (payable on booking), including drinks. 68 Sukhumvit 31, Khlong Tan Nuea, Watthana, Bangkok, Thailand, gaggananand.com/request-a-table


Expect pills that turn, in the mouth, into palate-cleansing sorbet. Anticipate nibbling mouthfuls of fish from a shell while ‘underwater’ – as sharks and schools of fish swim past you – before being whisked away in a virtual hot-air balloon or to the future or, indeed, any point beyond. Confused? You might be. But then that’s all part of the audio-visual-enhanced dining experience at Sublimotion. Chef Paco Roncero’s years of research into the emotions of fine dining – how sights, sounds, and smells can enhance flavours – have been translated, with the help of music, theatrical staging and cutting-edge technology, into a multi-sensory, 20-course dining experience. Dishes are crafted to engage all senses, particularly the visual: as well as exquisite presentation (and first-rate ingredients), this purpose-built dining space features augmented reality, projection mapping and state-of-theart audio. Its infamy as the world’s most expensive restaurant has not done this radically inventive, 12-seat-only, two-Michelin-starred experience any harm either. Indeed, the pricing, at not hundreds but thousands of pounds, is what allows the intimacy, while the location – a 15-minute transfer from Ibiza Marina – suggests they know their target audience.

3 2 Kaleido room

Travel Details

Around £2,000pp, including drinks. Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza, Ctra Playa D’en Bossa, Ibiza, 00 34 618 891358, sublimotionibiza.com


Rarely has a restaurant been so aptly named. As well as celebrating the seasonal ingredients and nature of Norway’s Lindesnes region, with local birds, wild sheep, mushrooms and berries all featuring, Under’s Danish chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard’s 18-course tasting menu leans very heavily on fish and seafood, with ‘pure, naked flavours’ to the fore. But then, when the restaurant is located 5m under the ocean surface, you’d probably expect that.

Under is an architectural marvel, a space of around 500sq m providing for 100 covers, located under the sea off the southern coast of Norway. As a building, it needs to withstand water pressure and the elements, while as a restaurant, it needs to be stylishly beautiful. Remarkably, it’s achieved both aims to award-winning effect. Through the large glass wall, guests can watch schools of fish move around the structure, and get a unique perspective on the weather above surface, from light patterns on sunny days, to the motion of the water on stormier ones.

Under copyright ivar kvaal N246

Travel Details

£224pp (£75pp payable on booking), excluding drinks. Bålyveien 48, Lindesnes, Norway, exploretock.com/under


Grant Achatz’s Alinea, like The Fat Duck, is one of the restaurants most often associated with trailblazing, immersive cuisine. Edible balloons and extremely deconstructed dessert ‘paint’ – ie sauces and freeze-dried ice cream all over the table – may be famous to the point of much-imitated cliché, but other dishes still amaze.

Alinea now offers three dining options, perhaps making it a little more accessible than before: the main dining room, The Gallery, serves the full multiple-course menu; while The Salon delivers a slightly shorter option at a lower price; and for those seeking exclusivity and the full Alinea experience, parties of six can book into The Kitchen Table. Across all options, there’s no little sense of theatre, but the chef isn’t averse to displaying a serious side too, including specific detail: ‘the truffle explosion’, for example, comes with a set of instructions on precisely how to eat it. It can’t be denied the experience goes way beyond what’s on the plate (or table, or floating on a string, etc) with the use of scents, lighting, music and table dressing intended to provoke thought, test your perceptions, or simply to make everything taste really very good.

Alinea Chef Photo

Travel Details

From £246pp (The Salon), £335pp (The Gallery), £392pp (The Kitchen Table), all excluding drinks. 1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, USA, 00 1 312 867 0110, alinearestaurant.com


Chef Himanshu Saini’s innovative, creative Indian cuisine is front and centre at Trèsind, both at the Mumbai original and its Dubai sister restaurant, Trèsind Studio. Dishes such as a vividly coloured blossom chaat with pumpkin mash and tempered yoghurt, or ghee-roasted crab with burnt cinnamon and curry leaf crisp, push the boundaries of Indian flavours, ingredients, and influences in a meal that’s both celebration and education. The 16-dish menu, divided into North, South, East and West, explores those regions of India via the extraordinary diversity of the country’s cuisine. The journey can also be literal, as diners are moved around the 20-cover space, course by course; while at times music, lighting and, indeed, the absence of lighting, play with diners’ mood. The heart of the concept, however, probably comes from the Indian phrase atithi devo bhava, which translates – happily – to ‘guest is god’. That also explains how Trèsind Studio won the Art of Hospitality award at the inaugural Middle East and North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants awards in 2022.

Like Gaggan Anand, Himanshu challenges received wisdom on Indian cooking, showcasing both the expected and unexpected flavours, the new and the familiar through what has proved to be a highly creative lens. His ethos also extends, where possible, to local, organic ingredients grown by sustainable farmers in the UAE. For Himanshu, this is not a novelty but a way of life, as he grew up in an agricultural family in India, surrounded by fresh produce, herbs and flowers.

Pickled Pepper Buttermilk Curry Ice cream

Travel Details

From £153pp, excluding drinks. Nakheel Mall, The Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, UAE, 00 971 588 951272, tresindstudio.com


Chef and self-billed alchemist Rasmus Munk refers to what his restaurant does as ‘holistic cuisine’: an attempt to ‘redefine and broaden our understanding of the concept of dining [via] elements from the world of gastronomy, theatre and art… science, technology and design’. Understandably, then, food is only the starting point of this four-to-six hour experience – a 50-course, five-act meal served through different spaces of the building or under the projections on the stunning Planetariumesque dome. ln this building that was once a boat workshop on Refshaleøen island, Rasmus marries classic technique with sensory technical wizardry but also brings a thoughtful, provocative element to bear: dishes might include cod with edible plastic – as a reference to pollution of the seas – or a coffin-shaped chocolate bar to raise awareness of child labour in the cacao industry. As the restaurant is quick to point out, Alchemist might not be the right choice for a business dinner or a first date.

Dome Heartbeat credit Søren Gammelmark gammelmarkphoto

Travel Details

£580pp (£237pp payable on booking), excluding drinks. Refshalevej 173C, Copenhagen, Denmark, alchemist.dk


Scallop, sea urchin, cucumber, coriander and buttermilk. Blue lobster, artichoke, lardo, citrus leaves oil and myoga. Björn Frantzén’s fire-driven, Scandinavian-with-a-hint-of-Japanese cuisine does not go in expected directions.The method of cooking may seem at odds with the delicate nature of the Asian element, but Björn makes a case that cooking over fire ‘makes the food richer and more primal’ and keeps the team on its toes: the presence of a real fire in in the kitchen ensures ‘tempo increases [and] skills are mastered’.

Like his menu, Frantzén’s CV covers both the expected – Chez Nico, London, Arpège in Paris, Stockholm’s Edsbacka Krog – and the unexpected: he began his career as a chef in the army. Perhaps that discipline helps you achieve three Michelin stars, though. Ingredients are seasonal and as local as possible considering the nod to Asia and, as with other restaurants of this ilk, the experience extends to the setting, in this case a beautiful multistorey townhouse in Stockholm’s Norrmalm district that’s extremely intimate – 23 seats across three floors – and with some dishes served as guests meander deliberately through the building.

Frantzen 1484

Travel Details

£375pp, excluding drinks. Klara Norra kyrkogata 26, Stockholm, Sweden, restaurantfrantzen.com


An industrial state at the top end of the Northern Line is not the obvious location for one of London’s most innovative food experiences. Michelin-trained founder/chef patron Jozef Youssef has created something intriguing and delicious, with the help of some fascinating collaborators including sensory marketing expert (and Gastrophysics author) Professor Charles Spence, Steve Keller, Pandora’s sonic strategy director, and multi-award winning cutlery designer William Welch.

Kitchen Theory is actually a design studio with its own Chef’s Table. Perhaps this wealth of creative and scientific input explains why dishes play with your senses, psychology and tastebuds over eight-courses. You may find yourself served mushrooms and other edible fungi, their flavour enhanced by a ‘plate’ that’s a cross-section of a tree, with a table-top projection of forest floor and the odour of damp foliage hanging in the air, with no cutlery other than a metal ‘leaf’ that can cut like a knife, spear like a fork and scoop like a spoon. Or you could be sipping a glass of whisky while listening to two pieces of music that somehow manage to completely change the way the spirit tastes.


Travel Details

£190pp (payable on booking), including drinks. Unit 9A, Alston Works, Falkland Road, Barnet, London, 020 3302 7030, kitchen-theory.com/book-experience


Eatrenalin is the restaurant you’ll find in the centre of the admittedly unlikely Venn diagram of Fine Dining and Theme Park Ride. Located at Europa-Park, on the French/German border, Eatrenalin lives up to the creators’ ‘restaurant of the future’ claim, with a floating chair ride that takes diners from course to course, and room to room, for a multi-sensory meal unlike anything else we’ve discovered to date.

There are up to 16 people on each two-hour ‘flight’ and as your computer-controlled chair takes you through eight different ‘taste zones’ your seating configuration changes to experience it ‘in context’. Across rooms that may be themed as the waters of the ocean or the vastness of outer space, menus designed by Spanish celebrity chef Pablo Montoro – choose either red or green (vegetarian) ‘dimensions’ – include the likes of seaweed salad, ginger dashi, plankton, or cauliflower, monolith brioche, sweet potato, with wine pairing in each taste zone. The experience, as a whole, has been kept remarkably secret to date. ‘Eatrenalin is a 360-degree gastronomy experience – it’s one you have to make for yourself,’ explains Thomas Mack, managing partner of Europa-Park. It may seem odd to have a marriage between fine dining and a theme park, but Europa-Park are no strangers to either with Ammolite, the resort’s two Michelin-starred restaurant, already on-site.


Travel Details

£173pp, including drinks. Roland-Mack-Ring 5, Rust, Germany, 00 49 7822 776677, eatrenalin.de/en/booking


A three-starred Michelin experience, Ultraviolet is an exceptionally exclusive multi-sensory experience: a single table, 10-person, 20-course meal. Chef Paul Pairet’s interactive culinary journey uses floor-to-ceiling screens projecting visuals, while other tweaks set the set the scene, from lighting levels to the temperature. There’s a whole new level of complexity at Ultraviolet and a whole new level of secrecy: the evening begins at Paul’s other Shanghai venue, Mr & Mrs Bund, from which guests are driven through Shanghai to Ultraviolet’s secret location.

On its own, Ultraviolet’s aesthetic is ascetic: no decor, no paintings and no views. Everything, then, comes via the (concealed) technology, from screens to dry-scent diffusers, stage and UV lighting, table projectors, and a multichannel speaker system. The target is to stimulate ‘psycho-taste’, which ‘delves into the notion that memories, associations, expectations, ideas, misunderstandings, joys and fears all play a role in the experience of a meal’.

There are three menus, on weekly rotation, UVA, UVB and UVC, and each, unsurprisingly, took years to conceive. Expect 20 (or so) plates served in four ‘acts’ (plus intermission) with dishes such as DIY BLT (where guests curate their own special sandwich) and Foie Gras Can’t Quit, featuring a crisp fruit skin ‘cigar stub’ filled with foie gras, served in an ashtray with black cabbage ‘ash’.

UV ROOM WOODS AUTUMN photo Scott Wright

Travel Details

From £350pp (half payable on booking), including drinks. Secret location, Shanghai, China, uvbypp.cc/bookings


As the address suggests, this is bona fide destination dining. Set in the heart of the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, some four hours’ drive from the nearest town, the location is more than enough to make this a memorable experience. Under the guidance of chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, it’s just the beginning. The dining experience starts on the porch of this Twenties desert farmhouse, and finishes in an underground dining room via a replete Kalahari larder. In between, there’s an attention to detail that explains why this remains one of the hardest reservations to secure.

You’ll arrive for dinner from your nearby lodge accommodation to be greeted with a hand-washing ritual, then served a drink and your first course. From there… Well, to avoid spoilers (and jealousy), it’s perhaps best not to go into the detail. Just expect surprises, remarkable architectural tricks and a dining space called the Infinity Room, from which you can watch the Kalahari sunset. Ingredients for the seven-course menu celebrate the Kalahari terroir; discover desert plants like spiked cucumbers and tsamma melons and local springbok and camel milk. Frequently using foraged ingredients, recipes are ultra-modern while echoing the region’s history and, as befits the ecologically-minded setting, there’s a zero-waste ethos.

Klein Jan April2021 Hanru Marais Photography 314

Travel Details

£111pp (payable on booking), including drinks; bookings go live on the first of the month, or are included with a reservation at Tswalu Lodges. Between Hotazel and Vanzylsrus, Northern Cape, South Africa, janonline.com/restaurantkleinjan tswalu.com

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