There are some meals so exclusive and so extravagant that they warrant a trip halfway around the world. By Rashima Nagpal & Sushmita Srivastav
No. 1 High on Food – Dinner In The Sky
Fancy being strapped to a dining table that is suspended in the air—160 feet above the ground—by a crane? Dinner In The Sky offers gourmands an elevated experience, quite literally! This mobile dinner first made an appearance in Belgium in 2006, but has travelled the world ever since. Today, it runs for limited periods in 45 different countries. As extreme as it seems, Dinner In The Sky is not only an adventurous outing, but also delights gastronomy enthusiasts with a global menu. Obviously, this one isn’t for the fainthearted, but your cold feet are gone as soon as the dishes are plated before you with a 360-degree urban vista lurking in the background. Come December, you will be welcomed with ‘Santa in the sky’ and his eight flying reindeer in a lit-up sleigh. Meal for one from INR 19,980.
No. 2 By the Atlantic – Wolfgat, South Africa
Freckled walls, an unassuming setting, and a basic hearth. A fine dining venue can look like this too. In the old fishing village of Paternoster on the West Coast of South Africa, Wolfgat—chef-owner Kobus van der Merwe’s unconventional 20-seater restaurant—is changing the way we look at food. Natives from the region, almost all of them women with no formal training, and Chef Kobus—a former food writer—have been running the show here since September 2016. Wolfgat has recently received rave reviews and accolades on the global stage. One reason for its popularity is the 130-year-old cottage overlooking the Atlantic Ocean that it is housed in; another is its seasonal seven-course tasting menu featuring local ingredients. Not too many places offer fresh seafood seasoned with wild herbs and seaweed sourced from rock pools. The best part? A three-hour drive along the coast from Cape Town is the only way to get here. Meal for one from INR 4,165.
No. 3 Cocoon Dining – The Redwoods Treehouse, New Zealand
Ever wondered what it’d be like to step inside a chrysalis? A little north of Auckland, in New Zealand, there stands a living redwood tree with a cocoon-shaped pod built around its trunk. Hovering 32 feet above the ground, The Redwoods Treehouse near Warkworth can be booked as a private venue for 30 guests, and is a popular choice for corporate parties, family dinners, and even intimate weddings. Walk into this dreamy capsule—made up of sustainably harvested pine, poplar, and of course, some good old redwood—through an equally fascinating elevated walkway that offers breathtaking bird’s-eye views and lets you dine in the wild. The bespoke meals customised to your palate by the recommended caterers will bowl you over if the views don’t. The Redwoods Treehouse, however, isn’t a casual diner and remains closed for individual walk-ins. The venue can be booked for INR 1,40,502 plus taxes, meal costs are additional.
No. 4 The Giraffe in the Room – Giraffe Manor, Kenya
Giraffe Manor is a 12-bedroom boutique hotel in Nairobi that remains booked most of the year. The reason should be obvious in its name. Set amid 140 acres of lush vegetation in the Langata suburb of Nairobi, the 12-acre property is visited by a herd of Rothschild’s giraffes. Almost every day, these majestic creatures join you for a snack if you’re eating in the hotel’s dining area at dusk or dawn. Imagine members of the Earth’s tallest animal species poking their heads through a window to share a meal with you. Available to only the guests staying at the property, the experience is kept as organic as possible, and the animals are wild and free to come and go as they please. Together with the hotel’s regal façade, verdant gardens, sunny terraces, and expansive courtyards, this is the Kenyan countryside dream. Doubles from INR 86,040 per night.
No. 5 Sushi Dreams – Sukiyabashi Jiro, Japan
He examines your mouth and hands before crafting a nigiri for you, picks each fish out of the refrigerator at a specific temperature to ensure freshness, and his website elaborates in exquisite detail the right way to hold and eat sushi. Even at 93, Japanese chef Jiro Ono is the liveliest person alive when it comes to presenting traditional Edo-style sushi to the world. The man even had his story told through a movie, Jiro Dreams of Sushi. His restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro—the celebrated three-Michelin star Japanese sushi restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo—has been running with its 10 seats full ever since it started in 1965. If you manage to get yourself a seat (there are over 500 reservations pending), arrive early, leave your phone at home, and indulge your senses in the 20-course omakase meal as the best way to enjoy Jiro Ono’s sushi is to concentrate entirely on dining. Meal for one from INR 20,745.
No. 6 Table For Two – Solo per Due, Italy
True to its name, the 30-year-old Solo per Due serves just two people at once, and is thus famous as the smallest restaurant in the world. Couples from around the world book the single table months in advance, just to experience the exclusivity it offers in a vintage setting in the sylvan hamlet of Vacone, Italy. An hour-long drive from Rome, the venue is meant for the romantically inclined. As you arrive, you are personally greeted by Giovanni Di Claudio, the co-owner who walks you through the gardens and escorts you inside. Once settled, you are served with minimum interruptions to your conversation. Solo per Due is mostly visited by pairs celebrating milestones, and the restaurant personalises your experience with the decor, music, and other elements, given you put in the request well in advance. Before you leave, you can add your story to the libro dei pensieri (book of thoughts) like most lovers who come here do. Meal for one from INR 19,612.
No. 7 Living off the Land – DAMON BAEHREL, US
Breaking all gastronomic conventions, the renowned self-taught Chef Damon Baehrel is the host, chef, server, organic grower, cheese-maker, and forager for his self-derived cuisine, Native Harvest, and the sole employee at his eponymous restaurant in Earlton, New York, in the Upper Hudson Valley. The sought-after dining experience he curates is a 20-plus-course meal that runs over five hours, with ingredients grown on his 12-acre property and dishes crafted to culinary perfection. Baehrel’s cuisine includes unique flours, pressed oils, seasonings, and preparation implemented with no suppliers involved unless there’s meat or seafood involved. During the dining experience, the outdoors is brought in and guests move to several environments, including a beautiful year-round outdoor room. The restaurant is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2019; last year alone, guests from over 65 countries made the trip to DAMON BAEHREL to get a taste of the chef’s organic way of life. Meal for one from INR 26,017.
No. 8 Peruvian Rendezvous – Central, Peru
The Best Restaurant in Latin America for three consecutive years, as declared by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy, Central in Lima offers a taste of life across the country’s 12 ecosystems. Chefs and life partners, Virgilio Martínez and Pía León have put their hearts into building this one-Michelin star restaurant that celebrates Peruvian biodiversity. Whether you book yourself a vegetarian tasting menu or something else, expect unique ingredients, and dish names such as High Jungle, Red Desert, and Forest Cotton, among others. From shrubs and herbs, to ants and worms, and plates carved out of rock, each course here is an insight into indigenous flora and fauna. What sets the dining experience at Central apart is Mater Iniciativa, the biological and cultural research centre that works behind the scenes to give you the experience of a lifetime. Meal for one from INR 11,948.
No. 9 A Spanish Soirée – El Celler de Can Roca, Spain
The three Roca brothers—Joan, Josep, and Jordi—are placing the world on a plate ever since they started El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Catalonia, which has twice been named the World’s Best Restaurant on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Having earned three Michelin stars over the course of 14 years, the restaurant offers the most coveted culinary experience in Spain. The menu boasts complex Catalan creations with global highlights and an impressive collection of organic and biodynamic wines. But it also comes with an 11-month waiting list, with reservations open only at midnight on the first day of every month. Fret not, though. The restaurant goes on global tours for pop-ups from time to time—the three brothers (who like to call themselves gastronomic travellers), along with the 40 member-strong El Celler team, travel through countries, creating a special menu for each destination. Meal for one from INR 23,456.
No. 10 The Chosen Ones – José’s Table at Minibar, US
Minibar by José Andrés is a renowned two-Michelin star establishment in Washington DC. While a meal at the main 12-seater restaurant counts as a feat itself, its super-private dining offering—José’s Table—is in another league of exclusivity. Designed for a single group of up to six guests, it gives you the opportunity to relish the chef’s exemplary take on modern Spanish cuisine. From his innovative and ever-changing creations, like pink piggy-shaped meringues filled with bacon ice cream, and rare wine pairings, to a deep insight into his cooking techniques, there are many delightful treats to be savoured at José’s Table. Keep an eye on their social media platforms, where they announce the release of tickets for each month. And in case it matters to you, the restaurant is also on Barack Obama’s list of favourites. Meal for one from INR 34,670.