Marianna Hunt

London’s most unusual dining spots

London's most unusual dining spots
London in the Sky opens on 28 April
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With around 15,000 options to choose from, how can a London restaurant stand out? Some have pulled out all the stops – setting up kitchens on water, in the air or offering something completely new. Here is our selection of the venues that best combine uniqueness with top-notch cuisine.

Hawksmoor Canary Wharf

Hawksmoor's newest opening

This new East London joint sits on a floating pontoon that softly rises and falls with the tide. Diners must walk the plank (well, bridge) to enter the sleek lounge, which is complete with the 1920s-style sconce lighting, leather banquettes and marble-top bar we’ve come to expect from Hawksmoor’s restaurants.

The group’s new eco-friendly pavilion just next to Canary Wharf station is made of glass and aluminium with twinkling lights that reflect back at you from the water. From the outside, it manages to look like a shipping container, one floor of a swanky skyscraper and a spaceship all at once - yet somehow it works. There are plans to plant wildflowers and grasses on the roof to suck up carbon.

The menu is classic Hawksmoor fare: slab-like steaks priced by weight, sweet and meaty lobsters and oysters served multiple ways (try them roasted with bone marrow). All sumptuous and cooked to perfection. Make sure to start your meal with one of the restaurant’s signature cocktails while admiring the view from the waterside terrace.

thehawksmoor.com/locations/wood-wharf/

London in the Sky

London in the Sky, The O2

Not one for foodies who are afraid of heights, this experience involves dining at a table suspended 100ft in the air - the equivalent of around 5 two-storey houses stacked on top of each other.

Diners meet just by the O2 arena, are strapped in using three harnesses then wooshed up by crane along with their table for panoramic views over the Canary Wharf, London docks and towards the City. The experience will run this year from 28 April to 20 June.

There are eight flights a day (running from breakfast to cocktails and dinner) and they go ahead regardless of weather. The 22-seat table is covered but you’re still at the whim of the elements, so dress accordingly.

The menu is curated by top chefs and served right at the Sky Table. Dinner includes 3 courses plus wine, with prices starting from £149, while a 45-minute breakfast flight costs from £79.

londoninthesky.co.uk

Dans le Noir?

From some of the best views in London to no view at all…diners at Dans le Noir? eat in pitch black – an attempt to shift the focus to their other senses and get a new perspective on food.

Visitors are asked to leave their phones and other electronic devices in the lobby and are then led to their seats by blind or partially sighted waiters.

The menus are specially curated to evoke different textures, temperatures, aromas and flavours and kept secret in advance. You simply pick from one of four colour-coded options - red (meat), blue (fish), green (vegetarian) and white (chef’s special) - and let the chef know about any allergies. Then it’s up to you to use your taste buds to guess what you’re eating. At the end, the dishes are revealed.

The meat comes from Smithfield market (just round the corner) and the seafood is sustainably sourced from a family-run fishery. Avoid wearing white - as there’s likely to be a few spills and mishaps as you fumble your way through the courses. Prices start from £48 for a two course menu.

london.danslenoir.com

London Shell Company

London Shell Company

If you’re not content with one view from your table, how about 2h30 of different views? Dinner with The London Shell Company involves hopping aboard The Prince Regent, a 30-year-old wooden barge, and setting sail as you enjoy a magnificent 5-course set menu.

The route transports you from Paddington to Camden and back via iconic landmarks such as London Zoo and Regent’s Park. Cruises run from Wednesday to Saturday, departing at 7pm and returning by 9.30pm (cost £65). Lunch jaunts operate on Saturdays and Sundays with the same food at the same price.

The menu changes daily based on what ingredients are freshest but typically involves a smorgasbord of fishy delights such as buttery Orkney scallops, smoked cod’s roe and spider crab risotto. Co-founder Harry Lobek comes from a sommelier background - so the wine list is sublime: short but brimming with little-known artisanal varieties.

The watery views and stylish decor make for an uber-romantic experience. The company also has a second boat, The Grand Duchess, which does static meals (no cruising) and has an a la carte menu.

londonshellco.com

WC

WC, Bloomsbury

A toilet as old as Queen Victoria might not spring to mind as somewhere to grab a drink and some small plates. However WC (cleverly Wine & Charcuterie) in Clapham is one of the best date spots in the area.

The former water closet has sat under Clapham Common Station for more than 100 years. The white tiles and mosaic floors remain - with the bar now serving a menu of about 35 carefully chosen wines as well as cocktails and spirits.

The food menu is designed for grazing, featuring dishes such as tartiflette and wild mushrooms with polenta, as well as the obligatory cheese and charcuterie boards. There’s also a plant-based platter with Vegan cheeses. Prices range from £5 for a pot of olives to £19 for the meat board.

The WC was lovingly restored over 3 decades by the owners and the toilets are, fittingly, original.

The owners also have another WC-turned-swanky-wine-bar in Bloomsbury.

www.wcbars.co.uk

The Clink

The Clink, Brixton

Barbed wire and an airport-style security check greet you as you arrive at The Clink’s South London outpost. The venue? Her Majesty’s Prison Brixton.

The Clink is a charity that helps prisoners secure qualifications in food/hospitality, while working their way towards a better life. All the food on the menu is cooked and served by the inmates.

The charity has four restaurants and more than 100 graduates have since been released from prison. Its Brixton restaurant is housed in an old governor’s house dating back to the early 1800s. All the leather upholstery and boardroom tables are made by prisoners at HMP Frankland (a jail in Durham).

Rules are relatively strict: mobile phones, bags and wallets are not allowed in the prison/restaurant (drugs, scissors and knives are also, unsurprisingly, banned). But once you’re past security, things feel relatively normal save for a few quirks - plastic cutlery and no alcohol.

The menu changes regularly: previous dishes have included twice-baked goats’ cheese soufflé, seafood terrine and chocolate and hazelnut mille-feuille.

theclinkcharity.org/restaurants/brixton