London is known for its Michelin star restaurants and for its competition with Paris for the title of ‘Europe’s gastronomic capital’. If you are looking for an experience beyond good food, the capital has extraordinary restaurants that are known for their eccentricity, extravagance and rarity. Here we present you with the ten most unusual restaurants in London.
Sarastro is located in Drury Lane, in the heart of West End and the London theatre area, and because of that it has a wonderful theatrical atmosphere. The restaurant, located in an old pub, is named after a character from Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute. Inside there are handrails from the Royal Opera House, works of erotic art in the toilets, and antique accessories as well as theatrical elements scattered throughout the premises. There are 10 spaces that simulate an opera house. Each is based on a different aesthetic, so there are areas in English, Gothic, Rococo, Byzantine and Ottoman style, with a box seat in the middle of the room. The cuisine is Mediterranean and Turkish, offering dishes such as Anatolia lamb, Topkapi chicken, and veal chops, as well as some French classics like boeuf bourguignon.
Sarastro, 126 Drury Lane, London, WC2B 5SU, UK, 44 020 7836 0101
Abracadabra, located in West End, was opened in 2005. The cuisine is Russian and Eastern European, so the menu contains meat, meatballs and Stroganoff. On the walls there are photos of the owner with Cherie Blair and some hidden phallic symbols. The place has been officially blessed by the Orthodox Archpriest Konstantin Tatarinev. Inside, tables are scattered throughout the restaurant. Each area has its own theme, such as Disney animations, puppets, vintage French advertising posters and gold records from Sinatra and Elvis. There is also a revolving table in the center that turn every hour to provide a different view.
Abracadabra, 91 Jermyn Street, St James, London, SW1Y 6JB, UK, 44 020 7930 3111
3. Bunga Bunga
Taking its name from Silvio Berlusconi’s sex parties, Bunga Bunga, in Battersea, is a crazy collection of Italian kitsch and comical clichés. You enter through an Italian telephone box and inside there is a gondola shaped bar with murals of Venice on the walls. It organizes karaoke evenings dedicated to classical opera. The cocktails have names like ‘The Coliseum’, ‘The Fiat 500’ and ‘The Leaning Tower of Pisa’. There is a tribute wall to Berlusconi and lamps made from old Vespa helmets. The food consists mainly of large pizzas, including the wonderful Julius Cheeser. There is a reproduction of Michelangelo’s art on the ceiling and walls.
Bunga Bunga, 37 Battersea Bridge Road, London, SW11 3BA, UK, 44 020 7095 0360
4. Buona Sera
Buona Sera, located on King’s Road in Chelsea, has a contemporary Italian menu, so there are a wide range of antipasti, pasta and risotto dishes, with unusual Italian wines, such as Pinot Grigio, Barbera and Sangiovese. Some dishes you might want to try are the lasagna bolognese and spaghetti di mare, chicken fricassee, meat spiedino and bistecca. The restaurant has an unsual interior design: tables and seats are arranged in two levels, like bunk beds.
Buona Sera, 289 King Road, London, SW3 5EW, UK, 44 020 7352 8827
5. Dans le Noir?
Dans le Noir? is a concept that emerged in the late 1990s in France. The first restaurant opened in 2004. Currently, there are Dans le Noir? restaurants in London, Paris, New York, Brussels and Barcelona. The concept is simple: food is served in total darkness. Also, the staff is blind. The idea behind this system is that by eliminating the sense of sight, other senses such as smell and taste are emphasized. Diners must rely on the waiters, as they are the only ones who know what they are serving. There’s nothing that emits light at the bar (before entering, everything that gives light is taken away from the clients). The customer chooses from one of the four available menus: meat, seafood, vegetarian or exotic. The client does not know what they have consumed until after the meal.
Dans le Noir, 30-31 Clerkenwell Green, London, EC1R 0DU, UK, 44 020 7253 1100
6. Powder Keg Diplomacy
Powder Keg Diplomacy is located in an interior garden with original ironwork. Food and drinks are inspired by patriotism and the British Empire, with recipes drawn from old cookbooks, using ingredients from independent suppliers and breweries. The restaurant was established in 2011 with a menu that serves classic British cuisine, including Orkney crab, grilled asparagus, Scottish salmon, Romney Marsh lamb and a cheese platter including Waterloo, made with Guernsey milk and Smoked Lincolnshire Poacher. The wines and beers on offer are also varied. There are cocktails made according to old recipes and classic London gin as well as liquors, beers from 40 microbreweries in the capital and the English wine vineyards of Kent, Sussex and Gloucestershire.
Powder Keg Diplomacy, 147 St John Hill, London, SW11 1TQ, UK, 44 020 7450 6457
7. Café des Artistes
Cafe des Artistes in Finsbury Park, opened in June 1995 and is defined as a family restaurant with a small difference: the theme is Thai. You’ll find images of the King of Thailand and a tuk-tuk parked at the entrance. The furniture is made of dark wood and was brought from the Orient. The owners are cat lovers: there are statues of domestic and wild cats. On the walls there are also autographed photos of celebrities, so you can sit and enjoy the meal with Michael Caine, Jeremy Beadle and comedy duo Ant and Dec. The menu is, of course, Thai, so there are spring rolls, fried meats, pork ribs, curry and lots of seafood.
Café des Artistes, 79 Stroud Green Road, London, N4 3EG, UK, 44 020 7281 5557
Silk is part of the 5-star Courthouse Hotel in Soho and it was once the Great Marlborough Street Magistrates’ Court. The building dates from the early 1800s and has an extraordinary history. It was where Charles Dickens worked, Oscar Wilde sued the Marquis of Queensbury for libel, and Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were prosecuted for drug possession in the 1960s. Silk is based on the old No.1 Court and still has the original wood panel design. The name is a play on both the silk dress lawyers wear and the Silk Road to the East. The menu focuses on oriental spices and flavors. The cuisine is varied—Indian, Chinese and Thai—and incorporates oriental spices with British products. The signature dish jungli maas, complemented with chili and smoked vegetables is highly recommended.
Silk in the Courthouse, 19-21 Great Marlborough Street, London, W1F 7HL, UK, 44 020 7297 5555
9. Les Trois Garçons
Les Trois Garcons is located in a renovated Shoreditch pub dating from 1880. Originally, the three owners, hence the eponym Les Trois Garçons, lived in the pub in 1996. The restaurant is spectacular because of its exaggerated decoration and excellent food. In Les Trois Garcons you will find animal heads on the walls, gaudy chandeliers and vintage bags hanging from the lights. Everything is very idiosyncratic and surreal. This is a product of the imagination of a Swede, a Malaysian and a French, which explains the baroque approach in the decoration. The cuisine is classic French with contemporary British influences, so there are snails, foie gras, lobster and Chateaubriand, as well as cod fillet.
Les Trois Garçons, 1 Club Row, London, E1 6JX, UK, 44 020 7613 1924
Archipelago, in Fitzrovia, serves all the types of food from the African tropics and the East that you have probably never had the chance to try. The restaurant is a world of extravagant and complex culinary delights. On the menu you’ll find exotic ingredients such as crocodile, snake meat, beetles and other insects. The decor is international. There are golden statues of Buddha, miniature palms and peacock feathers. Dishes you might want to try include crocodile, zebra jerky, crickets, bison, kangaroo skewers and the most dangerous fish in the world.
Archipiélago, 53 Cleveland Street, London, W1T 4JJ, UK, 44 020 7383 3346
Which one will you end up trying?