Magnificent 7: the world’s most unusual restaurants

What could be more refreshing than a cup of tea at 7,000 feet? Vision looks at some of the most extraordinary eateries on Earth

El Diablo

Spain

Set among the ethereal “fire mountains” of the Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote, El Diablo has a view of the surrounding dramatic blistered hills that keeps visitors coming back. The very chain of volcanoes that transformed the countryside into a vast Martian landscape is still broiling away under the surface, its purpose in life now limited to grilling hunks of skewered meat carefully watched by the chefs. Diners look on as their lunch is cooked by raw volcanic power, with 400-degree lava bubbling softly away six feet below the giant grill opening.

El Diablo
El Diablo

In a word: Elemental

Redwoods Treehouse

New Zealand

Integrating nature and function in a sleek, beautifully architectural structure, the Redwoods Treehouse is a unique confection of cocoon-like pods and soaring wooden walkways. This 10-metre-high treehouse was built as part of a marketing campaign for the Yellow Book and initially ran as a restaurant open to the public. It is now available to hire out for private events. Aside from the charm of its location in the serene redwood forest, the Treehouse is constructed of sustainably grown pine and poplar, as well as local redwood milled on site. During the day, sun shines through the curved fins and slats of the shell-like structure, and at night the whole restaurant lights up from the inside.

Redwoods Treehouse
Redwoods Treehouse

In a word: Peaceful

Ossiano

Atlantis The Palm, Dubai

There is no place more fitting – yet more dreamlike – to eat a plate of seafood than under the sea. The brains behind seafood-centric restaurant Ossiano have created a truly maritime experience, where diners are able to enjoy their smoked salmon and caviar in a comp-letely underwater setting. Elegant restaurant-goers and sleek waiters mill around in this submarine locale, which serves some of the best seafood the city has to offer. While the food is excellent, it is almost overshadowed by the view. The ocean life of the Ambassador Lagoon is positively bustling, and its 65,000 marine creatures include the spiny lionfish, bobbing troupes of jellyfish, and larger creatures such as stingrays.

Ossiano
Ossiano

In a word: Stunning

Dans le Noir

London

There is no room for preconception in this obscure take on restaurant eating. In an effort to strip back the senses and focus diners purely on the taste and smell of their food, Dans le Noir switches off the lights and guides guests through a meal in pitch-black darkness. What ensues is a highly sensory experience, as blind waiting staff deftly serve fine cuisine from a surprise menu truly deserving of the title. The restaurant, which also has venues in Dubai and Paris, acts as an awareness-raising foundation as well as an eating experience, with links to charities such as Blind Foundation. Part of the profits go towards these fundraising efforts.

Dans Le Noir
Dans Le Noir

In a word: Intriguing

‘s Baggers

Germany

The focus is on fun at the ‘s Baggers restaurant in Nuremburg. Orders are placed using the tabletop tablet PC, and arrive via small carts that either trundle over to the table on sturdy brass rails, or swoop down from above on spiral tracks. The automated “roller-coaster” delivery system injects a healthy dose of playfulness into the eating experience, and the restaurant is popular with families and groups seeking a fun atmosphere for special occasions. The restaurant is serious about food though, and the menu puts an emphasis on local, organic cuisine. Hearty dishes reflect regional cuisine, including spaetzle and walnut sauce.

's Baggers
's Baggers

In a word: Entertaining

Dinner in the Sky

Worldwide

A dining experience that offers not only excellent cuisine, but an entire city over which to enjoy it. The Dinner in the Sky platform is purposely built to hoist 22 guests, plus a personal chef, up into the air in locations chosen completely by diners. High above the bustle below, fine food is served up while guests have time to soak in the incomparable views. Now operating in 40 different countries, food lovers with a head for heights can experience this unique dining treat from Sydney to Rio de Janeiro. It goes without saying that no two dinners in the sky are the same.

Dinner in the Sky
Dinner in the Sky

In a word: Vertiginous

Mount Huashan Southern Peak teahouse

China

Notable more for the effort it takes to get there than the tea itself (which is no doubt delicious), the route to the Huashan teahouse has been described as one of the most dangerous hiking paths in the world.

The teahouse is one of the many Daoist temples to be found on each of the five peaks that make up Mount Huashan, in China’s Shaanxi province. The temple was originally inhabited by ascetics in search of seclusion, who drank plentiful tea in breaks from their meditative regime.

Intrepid tea lovers must first climb 999 “Heavenly Stairs” at the base of the mountain before taking a gondola to the base of the Southern Peak. They must then progress up an ever-diminishing path, until the only means of access is to traverse the sheer rock face supported only by planks, with a chain to act as a handrail. Meeting someone coming the opposite way requires one of the parties to reverse back to a wider landing area before attempting the section again. The final stretch is straight up the rock face, using the toeholds carved into the rock.

Once at the summit, however, one is guaranteed some of the most breathtaking views any restaurant could hope to offer. At an altitude of 7,087 feet, this one-time Buddhist and Daoist temple offers a well-deserved cup of warm tea to its daring clientele, as well as a priceless panorama over the Shaanxi Province. Absolute serenity, though not for the faint of heart.

Mount Huashan Southern Peak teahouse
Mount Huashan Southern Peak teahouse

In a word: Challenging