a plate of food with green vegetables and red chilli
a plate of food with green vegetables and red chilli

Shisen Hanten’s signature steamed sliced kurobuta pork with chilli

Michelin-Star Singaporean Restaurant – renowned for high levels of food, and a view of Singapore from 35 levels high. LUX checks it out

Muted chandeliers, an almost debonair charm welcome one in – and the lights across night sky waving from fellow tall buildings, silhouetting the Singapore skyline.

a chef with lots of fire

Shisen Hanten’s Executive Chef, Chen Kentaro

We were served what is called the ‘Opulent Menu’ – something that Chef Kentaro likes to nimbly stretch across Szechwan cuisine with an embition menu, celebrating signature flavours of Shisen Hanten – a fusion, if you like – and traditional Cantonese flavours.

A fine Devaux Cuvée to start, to accompany a selection of (particularly succulent) prawn, pork and specially delicious bang bang chicken.

Next a Foie Gras Chawanmushi with Crab Roe soup. And the crab was so fresh that some guests, who didn’t like tripe, enjoyed these just fine.

a bowl with soup in it

Shisen Hanten’s Foie Gras Chawanmushi with Crab Roe Soup

But the freshness of a Wagyu Beef rose above itself, complimented by a glass of Torbreck. Tender, and served across an array of dishes.

a room with mood lighting, a large table and lots of chairs

Shisen Hanten is located on the thirty-fifth floor in Orchard, Singapore

Steamed lobster was cooked confidently, amply seasoned with its Yuzu soya sauce – retaining its juicy tenderness, and matched confidently by an Australian Chardonnay of a calm dry and the stir-fried tofu had a signature Singaporean fire unmatched.

a bowl with a red spicy-looking soup

Chef Chen’s Original Spicy Noodle Soup

Night was closing in, lights were beginning to turn out in the disciplined buildings of Singapore, but time for just one Szechwan jelly with delicious fresh fruit. One last sip of Chardonnay, before descending the many flights to the heart of the city below.

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Green field with a little house in the middle
Family of different generations sitting on a stone wall

The family Drouhin grew up in the vineyards and acquired a deep understanding of wine alongside their father, Robert Drouhin. They all have their own role and they share the same passion for wine

Veronique Drouhin was not supposed to run one of the world’s most celebrated wine producers. The scion of a family with holdings throughout Burgundy and beyond, she was born with the odds stacked against her in two ways: she was the second child, where traditionally the elder child took on the family business; and she was a woman in the very mannish world of wine.

“I did not think, when I was at school, that things would end up the way they did,” the urbane, lively head of Maison Drouhin says ahead of our tasting of some of her finest wines. But her elder brother, Philippe, decided that he wanted to devote his energies to being in the vineyards, making the wines great rather than running the company. And Veronique, although she is too modest to say so directly, showed the commercial nous required to take the company forward in the 21st century.

Drouhin is famed for making wines of finesse, vibrancy and balance. That was not necessarily always a plus point: there was a time earlier this century when many consumers of fine wines thought that the more powerful a wine was, the better. And being the head of a negotiant-producer, which both owns its own vineyards and buys grapes from small producers with their own vineyards, was also a double-edged sword as high-end consumers sought out tiny production boutiquewineries as a status symbol.

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But the pendulum has swung the other way, both on style, with finesse and balance most definitely back in vogue, and in terms of consumer demand, as the cost of wines from tiny producers shot upwards beyond sustainable levels. Drouhin, which makes wines from some of Burgundy’s most hallowed vineyards, suddenly looked like excellent value as well as high quality.

If there is a grace to the wines – more on which in our tasting notes below – there is also a grace to the head of the Maison. When I ask what she would have likely done if she had not been born into a major French wine dynasty, Veronique replies that she might have become a music. I can imagine her playing a Chopin sonata as much as I can imagine her tasting her wines or hosting a collector’s dinner.

Read more: A tasting of Dana Estate wines

Wine cellar

After carefully harvesting the precious fruits of a year’s labour, Maison Drouhin let their vines enter a period of rest, an enchanted interlude called dormancy.

Drouhin makes wines at a variety of price points: just days before this tasting of some of their highest-end wines, which costs hundreds of pounds/euros/dollars a bottle, I partook of a bottle of a more lowly Drouhin Savigny-les-Beaune red Burgundy, from the fulsome 2020 vintage, at a London restaurant. It was delicious, balanced, moreish; and very much in the style of all the others. But if you are seeking a high end Burgundy at a relatively reasonable price, look to the below.

The Drouhin tasting. Tasting notes by Darius Sanai

Whites:

Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos, 2018

The Chablis brand might suggest a certain austerity and steeliness; this grand cru, from one of the most celebrated vineyards, had that but also breadth, depth and white nectarines. Very classy and surprisingly powerful; a Jaguar E-type of a wine.

Green field with a little house in the middle

The harvest date is determined through regular samplings. Maison Drouhin closely monitors the health and maturation of the grapes.

Beaune Clos des Mouches, 2019

A white wine from Beaune? Sacré bleu – or sacré blanc!  But what a wine this rare and prized bottling is. Rounded, rich fruit with freshness and sex appeal and a lot of layers. An open-topped classic two-seater Mercedes SL from the 1980s.

Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru Morgeot, Marquis de Laguiche, 2019

From Chablis we headed south through the forest of the Plateau de Langres (Chablis is not connected to the rest of the Burgundy vineyards), over the continental divide and down to Beaune. Now we travel a few kilometres further south, with the Cote d’Or hills rising to our right, in our 1973 Porsche 911S, in a solid period dark green. That’s what this wine is: super-elegant, precise, crafted, stunning.

Multiple wine bottles standing next to each other

The harvest date is determined through regular samplings. Maison Drouhin closely monitors the health and maturation of the grapes.

Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru, 2019

Back up the road we go, past Beaune, to the rounded Hill of Corton. Corton Charlemagne is one of the most celebrated white Burgundies, and this is a beautiful interpretation, with stony fruits and the complexity to match a three Michelin-starred chef’s signature Escoffier-style white fish main course. A 1960s Citroen DS Decapotable (in black, with cream leather) of a wine.

Reds:

Volnay Premier Cru Clos des Chênes 2018

Such finesse, a wine that only hints at its true depth of first sip, then keeps speaking with you, reciting poetry in your ear.

Beaune Premier Cru Clos des Mouches 2018

Beaune is only a few kilometres away from Volnay, and this wine is made with the same, pinot noir, grape variety by the same producer: yet while retaining Drouhin’s finesse, this has power and muscularity. Like a Duke from the court of Louis XIV expounding on the virtues of his house musicians.

Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru Les Amoureuses 2009

On first sip, this is a balanced, structured and slightly delicate red Burgundy. By the end of the second glass, it’s an artist, a pianist, a poet and a dancer – and not a particularly chaste dancer. A Chippendale from the 2000s, or a brilliant burlesque; all at the same time. Astonishing.

Chambertin Clos de Beze 2003

This is a wine you would have at your last supper, with capon, truffle, caviar and tripe sweetbreads (and maybe some pommes dauphinoise). Like a Falstaffian royal performing a perfect ballet while reciting Rumi.

domainedrouhin.com

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Restaurant Markus Neff and The Japanese at the top of Gütsch in Andermatt

Two of our favourite mountain restaurants have just received Michelin stars. You can’t get in there right now because of the pandemic, though they are open for very stylish takeout, and as soon as they open up, LUX will be first in line

It’s a familiar scene. You do a couple of speedy red runs and take the gondola up from the village down in the valley, and within a few minutes you are above the tree line and the view has opened out – in this case, to a crossroads of four high valleys in central Switzerland, marking more or less the centre of the Alps.

At the top station, the sky is a deep ultramarine, and though the sun is strong, the air is chilly. It’s time for lunch.

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At the top of Gütsch in Andermatt, you have the option of two restaurants. But there is no tartiflette, fondue or rösti available here.

The dining terrace. Image by Valentin Luthiger

To your right is The Japanese, run by the team from the Chedi hotel down in the valley. You can luxuriate in a feast of salmon, tuna, hamachi, Swiss shrimp, scallop, sea bass, waghu and tamago nigiri. Or you can just sit on the terrace and nibble on teppanyaki dumplings and drink Krug.

sushi

A selection of sashimi from The Japanese menu

Next door, and reached by an interconnecting terrace, is the Restaurant Markus Neff at Gütsch. Here you have similarly haute cuisine in every sense of the word, but in a very different style: bisque of Swiss Rheinfelden shrimp; saddle of venison, brussels sprouts and chanterelles.

Read more: Juanita Ingram on empowering women in the workplace

It’s a tough choice, for which the only answer is to ensure you have two lunchtimes to sample them both – though you will need to book well in advance.

The interiors of Restaurant Markus Neff. Image by Valentin Luthiger

And as the proof of the pudding is in the awarding, we are delighted but not in the least surprised to hear that both restaurants have just been awarded a Michelin star, in their first full year of operation. Quite an achievement for restaurants where the ingredients arrive by gondola. But that’s kind of what we’ve come to expect at the swanky new development of Andermatt Swiss Alps in Switzerland.

For more information visit: andermatt-swissalps.ch/en;  thechediandermatt.com/en/Restaurants/The-Japanese-by-The-Chedi-Andermatt/;guetsch.com

 

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luxury alpine hotel

The Alpina Gstaad’s main building and gardens, which opened in 2012. © The Alpina Gstaad

Artistic, playful and utterly spoiling, The Alpina Gstaad may just be the best hotel anywhere in Europe. So why don’t you know about it?

A contemporary jazz duo is singing and playing its heart out. Your champagne bottle is emptying steadily as you look out from your sofa at the array of contemporary art around you, and the rolling mountains in the distance. It’s time for Japanese, and you and your companions wander over, just a few metres, into a different world into Megu. This is Switzerland’s highest-rated Asian restaurant, a Michelin-starred area decorated by blonde Alpine wood, antique kimonos and slatted wooden partitions.

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The vibe is lively but not raucous, stylish but not gaudy, expensive but not stuffy. Everywhere at the Alpina has a contemporary mountain chic laced with a global sensibility, a generosity of spirit and space, and a sense of future.

contemporary sculpture

Dritte Tier by Thomas Schütte, part of the hotel’s extensive collection of contemporary art. © The Alpina Gstaad

The Alpina in, or to be precise, above Gstaad, is the one example of a European resort hotel that surpasses its surroundings. Some of the great legacy hotels of Europe have been defined by the locations they sit in and need to live with the legacy. Others feel as if they might have been transported from any exotic location in the world.

asian restaurant interiors

The hotel’s Japanese restaurant Megu. © The Alpina Gstaad

The Alpina does something else: it redefines the location it is in. Given that Gstaad is the hub for some of the world’s wealthiest and most discerning people, that is quite an ask. Yet breeze in amid the local granite and reclaimed wood, walk up the sweeping staircase to the bar, lounge and outside terrace, enjoy the light and the art collection, and you know you’re in a place which is writing its own story.

Read more: Chopard’s Caroline Scheufele on versatile jewellery design

There is nothing particularly Swiss about a salt room, a cavernous underground lounge and juice bar, or a huge indoor pool and hydrotherapy area in a grotto. Or about a Japanese restaurant with 16 Gault Millau points and a ‘gastronomic’ yet contemporary informal restaurant, or Sommet, also with a Michelin star and 18 Gault Millau points. Like Schrödinger’s cat, the Alpina is, and it isn’t. Maybe it’s the owners: one is a local Swiss, one is decidedly international, together they give the Alpina its confidence.

views from a jacuzzi

luxurious hotel interiors

The duplex Panorama Suite with its outdoor jacuzzi. © The Alpina Gstaad

But this is not a place where comfort is sacrificed on the altar of credibility. The rooms have a gorgeous mix of local wood (much reclaimed from barns), stone, contemporary art and giant glass-cowbell light fittings – with perfect sheets and massive bathrooms. And huge balconies; whatever side of the building you are on you have peace, a sense of place and a magnificent view.

Gstaad is moving to its own tune, there is something of a real-estate boom in the area right now. Among the most fortunate are those who bought one of the residences within the hotel building: these are effectively buildings within the building, to match the most opulent chalets anywhere in Switzerland. Unfortunately, they have all sold, but if you know the right people, you may be able to persuade them to rent them to you or, who knows, even sell them to you, one day. Meanwhile, just check in.

Darius Sanai

Book your stay: thealpinagstaad.ch

This article originally appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2020/2021 Issue. 

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Exhibition of kitchen appliances
Exhibition of kitchen appliances

Gaggenau’s new combi-steam ovens 400 and 200 series

Last week, LUX attended the launch of Gaggenau’s new combi-steam ovens, presented alongside underwater artworks by artist Jason deCaires Taylor and food prepared by executive chef Phil Fanning

Steaming food might be the latest trend in healthy eating, but it’s also a way of enhancing the natural flavours of ingredients. With an increased capacity of 50 litres, Gaggenau’s new combi-steam ovens offer chefs – both budding and professional – the opportunity to get creative with their steaming.

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At the brand’s launch event in Fitzrovia, London, executive chef and owner of restaurant Paris House Phil Fanning showed guests the kind of results that a Gaggenau combi-steam oven can achieve with not just vegetables, but also meats, baked goods or pastry.

Chef preparing food in the kitchen

Chef Phil Fanning preparing dessert using a Gaggenau combi-steam oven

Gaggenau’s ovens work by combining hot air with varying percentages of humidity (ranging from 100 to 0%), whilst an in-built probe monitors the temperature and continually revises the estimated cooking time to ensure best results and the preservation of nutrients.

Read more: Chef Alain Ducasse on the importance of telling your own story

Gaggenau’s new ovens shown alongside artworks by Jason deCaires Taylor

Strikingly sleek and minimalist in design, the ovens were presented alongside a series of intriguing glass-encased underwater sculptures by British artist Jason deCaires Taylor. Made from pH-neutral cement, deCaires Taylor’s sculptures are ordinarily encountered on the seabeds where they transform into coral reefs as they are consumed and naturally transformed by aquatic microorganisms. Viewed in this new setting, the artworks appeared even more otherworldly, whilst also inviting guests to reflect on the poeticism of the steaming process.

For more information visit: gaggenau.com/gb/

 

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Yellow Ferrari sports car pictured in the desert

Yellow Ferrari sports car pictured in the desert

LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai tries out Michelin’s supercar tyres on his Ferrari 430 Spider to see whether they’re worth the investment

Tyres are a curiously under-explored subject when it comes to supercar optimisation and maintenance. You can have conversations all day long with fellow owners about filters, suspension geometry, engine remapping, and other arcane elements of your car’s construction that might add fractions of a second to your lap time on a circuit.

But conversations about the patches of rubber that actually transmit all the power, and handling, from the car to the road and vice versa, are frequently limited to the very basics. How big are your wheels? How wide are your tires? Are they okay to drive when they have a certain amount of tread left, or a certain age?

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But tyres are, as any Formula One driver knows, far more important than that. Not only are they the only point of contact between your car and the road, they also elements of your car that will never, ever be made by the manufacturer of your car. You may have a Ferrari, a McLaren, or a Lamborghini, but your tyres will always be made by third-party manufacturers.

Each manufacturer has a range of tyres optimised for types of car and driving. My Ferraris were all supplied with Pirelli P Zero tyres, with the owners’ handbooks stating that these and similar Michelin and Bridgestone tyres were all officially approved. Owners’ forums, meanwhile, were full of discussion about the latest range of Michelin tyres for supercars, the Pilot Sport 4S.

Product image of the Michelin PS4S tyres

Michelin PS4S tyres

Of all my Ferraris, there is one model that has become my car of choice for a sunny, weekend high-speed drive in the countryside. The 430 Spider is the last of the line in a significant way. Certain model lines of Ferrari are celebrated for their ‘mid engines’, meaning the engine is located just behind the driver’s head, rather than under the front bonnet. They are also celebrated for their “gated manual” gearshift: a metal manual gear-lever which moves around a race-style bar metal gate, a work of art in itself. The 430 Spider is the last, and most modern, Ferrari that combines these two attributes; all mid-engined Ferraris since then have been made only with paddle-style gearshifts by the steering wheel, and no clutch pedals, like an automatic.

So the 430 Spider is a piece of history, and quite rare: a few hundred were made in right-hand drive. And it’s also tremendous fun to drive, combining a 485hp engine behind your head, no roof, sharp handling, and the opportunity to shift gear yourself. There was nothing wrong with the way it drove on its Pirelli tyres, in fact it was quite thrilling, but I decided to swap over to the new Michelins to see if they made any difference.

Read more: Investigating Vincent van Gogh’s iconic masterpiece

First thing to notice: the car rides appreciably more smoothly on the new tyres. Lumps in the road that formerly jarred now only bump. But you don’t buy a Ferrari for its comfortable ride.

Yellow sports car driving along a desert road

Going for an enthusiastic drive, the improvements made themselves known more subtly. Previously, turning into a corner, the car felt sharp, but now that sharpness, and feel, was there all the way through each curve. It was as if there was a new channel of communication open with the road. Push harder around the corner, and the feel increased: you had a stronger sense of what the car was doing.

Modern Ferraris have a switch on the steering wheel that allows you to flick between driving modes; the F430 was the first to have this, and for enthusiastic driving I switch mine to Race. This sharpens up responses and also means the car is allowed to slide around a bit when you are driving at its limit, before the electronic systems (usually) catch the car. Pushing on, in Race mode, the car now feels more adhesive at the limit – it simply feels like it sticks to the road more. It’s not a transformation – the car always had superb roadholding – but now you feel more on the way, and can stay gripping the road longer.

Read more: 6 mountain restaurants to stir your soul this summer

I haven’t tested another of the PS4S’s supposed attributes, its wet weather grip, because I don’t take my car out in the wet; and hope not to test another of its noted qualities, its performance under emergency braking.

Normally, performance and comfort in tyres are in inverse proportion: the more comfortable the tyre, the less suited to high-speed driving, and vice versa. The PS4S (not to be confused with another Michelin tyre, the less sporty PS4) manages somehow to combine both. In terms of investing in an upgrade in your car: if you have a car worth £150,000 (or euros, or dollars) or more, spending around 1% of that on a set of new Pilot Sport 4S tyres might just be the smartest investment you make.

Find out more at michelin.com and ferrari.com

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Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG silver car pictured against blue sky
Mercedes-Benz silver estate car pictured from the front

The Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG: Mercedes’ high-performance version of a family car

Our high-performance Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG is transformed further by the simple expedients of an excellent annual service, and new high performance tyres from Michelin

One day, in the not too distant future, the idea of having your own metal encased room, with leather-covered chairs,which stands idle for the vast majority of the time, may seem as old-fashioned as owning a watch featuring a gyrating cage designed in the 18th century to try to counter affect the force of gravity.

Until then, I’m going to make the most of my Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG wagon. This car is the last in the line. A sleek, low, white, black estate car/station wagon, it is Mercedes’ own souped up version of its ubiquitous family transportation. In this particular case, it came with a 6.2 litre V8 engine, with more than 450 hp powering a relatively small car.

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These days, almost all powerful cars have efficient, turbocharged engines. My C 63, on the other hand, has a big, non-turbo charged V8 engine. To connoisseurs, this is like drinking an authentic Bordeaux first growth, rather than a New World imitator. Or listening to a Stradivarius violin. It’s not about the end result, it’s about how the result is produced. The car is only a couple of years old, but, car design cycles be being what they are, I remember speaking to the engineers at AMG, Mercedes racing division, almost two decades ago when they were talking about developing this particular engine. They were as excited as small children. In my car, it gains power with a gentle gurgle, which turns into a rumble and then a scream, and all the while the car pulls harder and harder. For a car nut, it’s an engine on a par with offerings from Ferrari. And it’s powering a car that can happily swallow a family and its sports and musical equipment, plus a family friend, and the imaginary Irish Wolfhound the family are lobbying to own.

A powerful turbocharged engine of today, on the other hand, simply punches along efficiently. Changes of tone and timbre and that mechanical sensation of being at a different stage in the power evolution are minimal. And electric cars make no sound at all.

The flipside over having a normal car is, as I have learned, that you need to treat this practical family wagon as if it is a thoroughbred. As cars do these days, it informed me around a month ago that it needed a service. It was duly booked in to Mercedes-Benz of Chelsea in London, where Dino, the service manager took care of both the car and me in a manner so professional and efficient, it almost wiped out all my previous memories of nightmarish customer service even from the most premium car brands.
Just like a racehorse owner would not stand (I would imagine) for dealing with somebody who has no idea what they’re talking about as an interlocutory for their racehorse care, the most frustrating element of looking after your cars is dealing with someone purportedly in a service department who wouldn’t know a V8 from a vegetable. If you know more about cars than your service advisor, I advise you to change dealerships.
Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG silver car pictured against blue sky

Dino, on the other hand, talked me through any potential issues with the car with deep knowledge, and was delightful to deal with. The car passed with flying colours, and the real surprise was when it came home. I thought its slight grumpiness had been due to the cold winter weather, but in fact with an oil change and related items in the service, the thoroughbred engine was hugely, demonstrably smoother and more refined. Note to self: service the car next time before she even asks.

When you have such a powerful engine in a relatively light car, one challenge you may come across as with the tyres. After all, these are the only things responsible for transmitting the kinetic energy of the car onto the road and thus propelling it forward. On my car, I had the correct specification high-performance tyres, which had been on the wheels for nearly three years. Accelerating hard out of a junction or corner, sometimes the tyres would spin round without getting traction. In heavy rain, fast cornering sometimes made me wonder if the car was going to hang onto the road or not.

I put all this down simply to the slight imbalance. The car was just a bit too powerful for its own good, or so I thought. But on closer inspection, my tyres were halfway worn. Time to change them. Rather than simply change for more tired of the same make, I decided to do what few people end up doing, and change all four tyres to the latest and supposedly best versions for a completely different marque.

Read more: Why you should use Instagram as your diary

I had heard more than good things about the latest tire from Michelin, the Pilot Sport 4S. Enough users reported that it had transformed their supercar driving experience, that I thought I would take the plunge on all four tyres on the AMG. But how big a difference could really make? Would it really be worth it?

Product image of the Michelin PS4S tyres

Michelin PS4S tyres

As I drove the car out of the Kwik Fit depot in Chelsea wearing four new Michelin PS4S tyres, I muttered aloud to myself that the car had been transformed. First, and unexpectedly, the ride was smoother. Lumps, bumps and little potholes in the road were not transmitted to me faithfully, shopping trolley style, as they had been with the previous tyres.

This was unexpected because high-performance tyres are, by nature, hard. They are made to give little in cornering, so that they can transmit the forces generated by the car faithfully to the road.

So, would the flipside be softer, less racy handling? I didn’t want that. Astonishingly, though, handling was also transformed – in a positive direction. The car seem to have a bigger, broader, stickier footprint on the road. You could feel more, in a positive way,  exactly how the car was positioned for a corner. There was no more wheel spin on exiting small roads in the cold and wet; when it rained, the car felt like it was on rails, rather than threatening to skate off them. This is why these cars were so sensational when they were new, I remembered, and why car writers consider them modern classics.

Searching for an analogy, the best I could come up with after a couple of weeks was going on previously it felt like the car had been wearing a rather old pair of dress shoes with shiny leather soles. Now it was wearing top specification athletic running shoes with support everywhere and super gritty soles. The analogy also extended to the ride, with the cushioning that implies. The manufacturer’s blurb says this is due to “a hybrid belt of aramid and nylon ensuring the optimum transmission between steering instruction and the road” – which must be true.

The difference is so immense, that I have asked myself what I would have thought, had the car been taken away, and the tyres changed, without my knowledge. If I had been driving the car and forced to guess what exactly had been upgraded, I might of said it had a whole new suspension system.

I can’t think of any further praise that saying that I am now seriously considering fitting for the same tyres to one of my Ferraris, which had four new tyres from the marque previously worn by my AMG, just two years ago. Watch this space.

And as for people owning high-performance metal rooms years into the future: well, there’s still quite a market for archaic, gravity defying and fabulous tourbillon mechanical watches.

Find out more at michelin.com and mercedes-benz.co.uk

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Reading time: 6 min
Massimo Bottura
Massimo Bottura chef

The crunchy part of lasagne. Massimo Bottura at Geneva Motor Show 2017

Massimo Bottura has the world at his feet: his three Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, achieved the ultimate award in 2016, being voted best restaurant in the world in the prestigious San Pellegrino awards. And yet, rather than open multiple clones in parts of the world where wealthy foodies cluster, he is focusing on helping the needy – and cutting down food waste. Starting at the EXPO World Fair in Milan in 2015, Bottura has been setting up mini-gastro temples using ‘recovered food’ – ingredients that other food operations would otherwise throw away – with the proceeds going to charity.

His next, and most ambitious, cultural-social project using ‘recovered food’ will be the Refettorio Felix in London in June, with the collaboration of Alain Ducasse, Angela Hartnett, Daniel Boulud, Giorgio Locatelli, Jason Atherton, Michel Roux Jr, Nuno Mendes, and numerous other star names from in and around the capital. Darius Sanai spoke to the super-chef and brand ambassador for Maserati (the luxury car company also hailing from Modena) about his passions and plans.

LUX: Your original inspiration for these projects came from a childhood recipe for food that would otherwise be thrown away..
Massimo Bottura: The one that I developed specially for the project in Milan is called ‘Bread is Gold’. It’s what I thought as a child, the best bite before going to bed was a big cup of milk with breadcrumbs, sugar and a bit of chocolate or coffee (depending on what was left). For me it was the best meal as a kid. So we developed this beautiful dessert about bread, milk and sugar that we presented.

Another very simple example that we created (in Milan) was the breadcrumb pesto. All these people were passing through and they needed energy. And they were asking for pasta. So I said okay – tomorrow I am going to cook pasta for you. And because I saw some basil, I was thinking of making pesto.

I went to the kitchen the next day, and there wasn’t a lot left, only one case, which for 100 people is nothing. So I started thinking…I took out all of the herbs thyme and mint which matched perfectly with basil, and I start putting in some Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and some extra virgin olive oil. But I was missing the pine nuts, and I couldn’t go and buy them because they were too expensive [for the project]! So, I had an idea – I put everything in the blender, with a little bit of garlic and then I started adding very cold still water. If I keep the mixer at low temperature there is no oxidation with the extra virgin olive oil. Then, instead of putting pine nuts, I used breadcrumbs by grating the leftover bread from two days before. Then I strained with a strainer, got all the impurities out, and then I re-grated it. It got very creamy but extremely light because the only fat was the extra virgin olive oil and it came out as an amazingly creamy basil pesto with breadcrumbs! Then I rescued all the herbs we had, and the mint (it was summer) gave the freshness. We served it to 100 people. It was one of the biggest hits of the summer.

Osteria Francescana

“Oops I dropped the lemon tart”. Dessert at Osteria Francescana. Image by Callo Albanese & Sueo

Read next: Spring in the world’s most romantic city at Hôtel Plaza Athénée

LUX: As a chef, you like to be innovative. Is that the right word?
Massimo Bottura: Contemporary. I think it’s more contemporary. Osteria Francescana is the place where we develop ideas. It’s like the bottega del rinascimento: the renaissance story where the master gives the ideas to develop and to the guys who are working together as a family and we create culture everyday. We develop, and we bring tradition to the future.

We are also ambassadors of agriculture. And you know in Italy we are crazy and obsessed about the quality of the ingredients. And then we also train people: we have thousands of CVs from people waiting to come and learn from Osteria. And then tourism – we developed tourism for the first time in history in Modena, tourists from all over the world. They speak English, Japanese, Chinese and Spanish. People come to see where Osteria is, matching with the people coming to see Maserati and Ferrari [in nearby Maranello]!

Massimo Bottura at Geneva Motor Show 2017

LUX: You haven’t tried to create copies of Osteria around the world. Why is that?
Massimo Bottura: Because I believe in it. Because excellence and quality is one. And when I am in Modena I have to be there and be respectful of all the people who come from all over. Of course I have to travel because I have to spread ideas and explain the word and my point of view. Yesterday at my conference in Milan there were around 5,000 people, listening to me. People like the CEO of Gucci to the Mayor of Milan from the Minister of Agriculture to the most important journalists. It’s about that too. It’s not just about the quality of the ingredients, it’s about the quality of the ideas that’s the most important thing.

Osteria Francescana

Osteria Francescana. Image by Callo Albanese & Sueo

Developing different restaurants is all about making money, and we have enough. We don’t need a private jet or a helicopter on a big boat. To me personally, it is much more satisfying to give joy to people and because I am a chef you cook for others to give joy and transfer emotion. Even in this social project, it is all about culture. Knowledge consciousness and sense of responsibility. The sense of responsibility is not about to getting rich but to give back after having all of the success that I’ve had.

LUX: Tell us more about your ‘Soup Kitchen’ projects.
Massimo Bottura: They are are not a charity project, they are a cultural project because I involve all the best chefs in the world to cook the waste from supermarkets and other restaurants. It is enormous. The mayor of Tokyo said he would love a project like that in place for the Tokyo Olympics. The United Nations, hospitals in New York..we are working on all these things. The next one will be the Reffertorio Felix in London in June.

We involve artists, designers, architects to build beautiful spaces and to rebuild the dignity of the people. It’s not about serving just some hot food – that’s fine and beautiful. But this is a different project. I am doing different things, with a different perspective. For me, inside a beautiful space I can rebuild something. Dignity of people, or give pride to the food that has been considered waste for 99.99% of people. Through my knowledge, and through our knowledge, because it’s a project that involves all of the best chefs in the world.

I can see the reaction of people around the world which is so interesting. Numbers are numbers. 160 million people are starving. 1.4 billion are overweight and 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted every year. 33% of food production is wasted. It’s 50% in Brazil. Every single day in Rio de Janeiro 10 food trucks full of food are burnt. Vegetables and fruit. Why? Because…I don’t know. There is no explanation. It’s not about producing more, it’s about wasting less.

Massimo Bottura

Refettorio Gastromotiva. Image by Angelo Dal Bo

LUX: Is the Soup Kitchen business sustainable? Do you need support? How does that work?
Massimo Bottura: We need local partners like we had in Rio, Gastromotiva; in Milan Caritas. We need a local partner that takes care of everyday life, so that every single one is sustainable. In Rio de Janeiro they are selling the space for companies to hold meetings. They donate money to sustain the dinners. Caritas too is doing that.

There is zero food waste in Osteria and we develop ideas in our everyday life and project these ideas into the soup kitchen all over the world. Now there is a beautiful movie that is coming out from the experience in Milan. There is another one that is in production for the experience in Rio. There’s Anthony Bourdain supported by the Rockefeller Foundation that is going to presented at the Tribeca film festival. There is book; we signed yesterday with Phaidon. A beautiful book about 150 recipes on waste – what you can do with an over ripe banana with some breadcrumbs or some ugly tomatoes – you can do beautiful, beautiful things. And these are ideas that have to be spread everywhere.

Read next: William Fan on the androgynous future of fashion

LUX: What is your idea of achievement? What are you satisfied with?
Massimo Bottura: Next, I want to build a university. I want to build a university in the most amazing villa outside of Modena. It’s abandoned. Now we have started restoring it with Emilia Romagna’s regional government and the Minster of Agriculture. It was an old villa with a full circle of life. There is small place to make two different wheels of parmigiano every day. There is a vineyard for the balsamic vinegar. There is the land all around for pasture.

LUX: What will the future bring for food?
Massimo Bottura: I think in the future the most important ingredient is culture. The chef will know more about soil, and the farmers of the future will know more about taste. Growing up together, studying together.

Donate to Food for Soul at www.foodforsoul.it
Our thanks to Maserati for the interview www.maserati.com

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Reading time: 8 min
The Royal Suite
Eiffel suite Hotel Plaza Athenee

The view from one of the Eiffel Suites

Why should I go now?

Paris in the spring; summer fashions adorning the Parisiennes and their offspring and canines; do you have no romance? The Avenue Montaigne, upon which Hôtel Plaza Athénée sits like a palace, is the most sophisticated retail street in the world, with the river and view across to the Eiffel Tower at one end, and the ‘rond-point’ floral circle of the Champs-Elysées at the other.

Hôtel Plaza Athénée Dining paris

Alain Ducasse at Hôtel Plaza Athénée. Interiors by Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku.

What’s the lowdown?

Hôtel Plaza Athénée is the ultimate Paris ‘establishment’ hotel. Republics are created and Prime Ministers deposed in its art-deco Relais restaurant. Unions (romantic, corporate and both) are created in the three-Michelin-starred Alain Ducasse restaurant, the centrepiece of the chef’s empire. A recent complete refurbishment has transformed the hotel. The long gallery through its heart still has classic Paris in its soul but the lighting and ambience are gently contemporary; it now feels like a place for a 21st century couple, rather than the deposed Count of Montauban and his dowager companion. Service, by the Dorchester Collection, is typically attentive; as flourishing as you could possibly expect over tea at the Gallery. The bar is a place to propose over a Black Forest Gin Martini. The bar staff seemed slightly in two minds whether they needed to be cucumber-cool to match the new style bar décor, or Dorchester-attentive to the numerous couples paying attention to each other in the dim crannies overlooking the Avenue Montaigne.

The Royal Suite

The Royal Suite

Getting horizontal

Our room had the best view in Paris, across Place l’Alma to the Eiffel Tower; a Disney movie couldn’t have made it better. Rooms have also had a complete refurb, although the style is a little different from Bruno Monaird’s ultra-sophisticated public areas; more classical, with less subtle lighting, and plenty of trad luxury, reds and golds.

Flipside

There really isn’t anything to dislike about Hôtel Plaza Athénée. The palace hotels of Paris are still in a league of their own in Europe, and possibly the world, for grandeur backed up by depth of product and service, and of course location; and Hôtel Plaza Athénée is one of the very greatest. If you’re wedded to all-white design hotel boxes with all their signage in lower case sans serif, then perhaps it’s not the place for you, but then Paris probably is not, either.

Rates: From €850 excluding breakfast (approx. USD $900/£700)
Darius Sanai

Paris in the spring: every year, from April to June

dorchestercollection.com/en/paris/hotel-plaza-athenee

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Reading time: 2 min
Garden maki sushi
Sushi Shop is a ground-breaking global sushi chain, combining takeaway casual, fine-dining quality, experimental cuisine, and collaborations with some of the world’s greatest chefs. Kitty Harris floats between branches in London and Paris to discover more
Salmon Gravlax roll at sushi shop

Salmon Gravlax Roll

Grégory Marciano has brought gastronomic sushi collaborations to the Paris dining scene. His Sushi Shops, 36 in Paris and more than 130 in total around the world, combine a chilled-out takeaway twist alongside annual partnerships with some of the greatest chefs in the world.

Unsurprisingly, at their core is a blend of French gastronomic culture and Japanese heritage. Being a regular at his London, Marylebone store (kumquat and yuzu sunny roll and detox poke bowl, please) I jumped on the Eurostar to try the latest creations of Kei Kobayashi, this year’s collaborator, in the 8th Arrondissement of Paris. I started with the Salmon Gravlax roll, a reinterpretation of Kei’s signature dish, with turnips, carrots and mint with a spicy tapenade-style sauce. Followed by the Gyu special roll, on top of which the beef carpaccio was blow torched twice to lacquer the teriyaki sauce.

Kei Kobayashi

Kei Kobayashi

Kobayashi is one of a number of celebrated chefs who had worked with Sushi Shop. Others include Joël Robuchon, the most Michelin-starred chef in the world; Jean-François Piège, of the two Michelin star ‘Le Grand Restaurant’ in Paris was followed by Thierry Marx of ‘Sur Mesure’, the two-Michelin starred restaurant at Mandarin Oriental, Paris.

Japanese-born Kobayashi has just received his second star at his French restaurant ‘Kei’ in Rue Coq Héron in Paris. He trained with Piège, the legendary Alain Ducasse, and Christophe Moret of the Shangri-La Hotel, Paris. “My inspiration comes from the products. Each product is unique and the ways to cook them are infinite. Especially vegetables…I couldn’t live without vegetables.” His Sushi Shop creations, the garden maki and red miso cucumber salad with peanuts, maple syrup, chilli and yuzu zest are testament to this.

Back in London, Marciano tells me that the plan is for high-end sushi collaborations to take over the world. Currently in more than 130 locations from New York to Madrid, he is well on his way, with Amsterdam and Zurich opening this year. A true raw revolution.

mysushishop.co.uk

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Reading time: 1 min

 

SWEDEN IS CELEBRATING ITS OWN, UNIQUE GASTRONOMIC CULTURE LIKE NEVER BEFORE, AS Caroline Davies DISCOVERS ON A TOUR OF THE CAPITAL

Sweden is going back to its own. No longer satisfied with following the dictates of the French, the demands of the Spanish, the inventions of the Americans, Swedes are making a stand. Organic, traditional, simple, smoked, foraged and served, the Swedish food movement is embracing its homegrown tastes and getting its hands dirty. In more than one way, they are going back to their roots.

My visit to Sweden starts in twilight, at 3pm in the afternoon on a winter’s day. By the time my friend Rory, a discerning foodie, and I arrive in the city known as the “Venice of the North”, night has fallen. We bumble our way through the old town streets of Gamla stan, pausing to take in the view across the lakes, ornate pristine facades and street lights reflected in the water, or to peer past the curtained covered windows of cafes promising bowls of hot chocolate.

At the unlikely location of a motorway junction, we find our first stop. Strömmingvagnen, the herring stand, is the Swedish equivalent of a burger van. For over 20 years, the small trailer under a large golden fish has served herring in different forms to late night snackers and adventurous tourists. Ravenous from the journey, we examine the faded images displayed behind the counter and opt for rye bread, gravalax, dill and herring. Warm, gooey, salty and sweet, it is impossible to eat neatly and without noises of appreciation. Hands still a little sticky, we head for our hotel.

Hotel Rival, owned in part by Benny Andersson of Abba fame, is a converted cinema. The huge theatre, filled with 700 red velvet covered seats, is still used for screenings – Abba, the movie was premiered here – theatre productions and comedy nights. On performance evenings the foyer and bar are lively and the hotel has more spirit than most. Swedes love their coffee shops, a welcome escape from the winds that whip across the waterways, and Hotel Rival’s cosy art house style cafe tucked in the corner is a good spot to grab something smothered in cinnamon.

Each room is decorated with a wall sized print of a famous golden moment in cinematic history, a teddy bear and, of course, an Abba “The Greatest Hits” Album. Unsurprisingly, the sound system is not only crystal clear, but available in a variety of guises. If you haven’t had enough after singing along to “Dancing Queen” in the shower, you can request a speakerphone pillow from the menu and allow Benny, Agnetha, Björn and Anni-Frid’s dulcet tones to sing you to sleep. Buoyed by the burst of Swedish pop, we head out for our first taste of the food.

Volt is discreet. Situated on an elegant street in Ostermalmstorg we walk past it a couple of times before noticing that the clean framed front with elm branches in the window is the entrance. The decor – black carpet with white walls, the occasional pencil sketch hung on the wall – sounds stark, but is surprisingly relaxing, even comforting. Perhaps it is the quiet friendliness of the staff, who are so closely involved in the restaurant they pick everything from the art on the walls to the berries used in the tea at the end of your meal, that makes the restaurant feel familiar. Their music choices, which sounds as though they should be the soundtrack to an indie film, mummer in the background. Brass pipes cross geometrically along the walls with the occasional tap, used to refill the jugs with icy cool water.

The six course tasting menu, paired carefully with wine from Germany and France, focus on in season ingredients. Plates are balanced, but flavoursome with interesting pairings; smoky tinges are encouraged but not dominant, berries present but used sparingly. The Normandy cider, made only from fallen apples from a Michelin starred producer was a confident match with the cheese plate from local farms. With understanding and careful delivery, the menu wins even initial sceptics round.

“This place is one gravedigger short of Elsinore.” Rory says as we wander the isolated path towards the nursery gardens in Djurgården.

There is something Hamlet-esque about the Rosendals Trädgård in winter. Black mud sucks in the green tendrils of the grass and stains the solid grey boulders, silver birches hold cawing ravens. The bright light of daytime cuts the outlines of the surroundings into clear focus, so that we can see a horse drawn cart dragging its way through the mud in the distance with distinct clarity. We come across an art installation, the words “this is the corner of a larger field” written in swirling handwriting, created in white wire 10ft long, its stand planted solidly in the marshy ground giving the impression that it has been scrawled across the landscape.

The gardens are in the stately home of Rosendal palace. An organic haven, they grow seasonal produce for local restaurants and their own cafe, an expansive, steamy greenhouse with painted blue picnic benches laden with plates of Swedish biscuits and rosehip tea. In summer the gardens are full, but in the colder months, the cafe is filled with dog walkers and knowledgeable foodies. It is a curiosity, not quite bleak and not quite twee. We wander the garden’s paths past artistic bamboo structures and carefully pruned topiary to find a locked greenhouse, empty but for a leaf strewn dinner table, decorated for a dinner party that never came or is perhaps yet to arrive.

Henrik Norström is viewed as the pioneer of the Swedish food movement. Formerly a chef at a Michelin starred restaurant in central Stockholm specialising in French and Spanish cuisine, Norström decided that he was tired of meals dominated by flavours from other countries. He wanted his dishes local. In 2003, he opened Lux, a converted staff canteen for the Electrolux company, overlooking the lake on the small island of Lila Essingen. In 2004, they won a Michelin star.

“From here you can see the changes in the season,” he says. “If you have a restaurant in the city you have your four walls and you cannot see if it’s summer, winter, autumn or spring.”

Even a trained eye might find it difficult to spot the distinction between each of Norström seasons; there are 16. He is an innovator in tune with his subject.

“If you came back here this time next year there would be different items on the menu,” he says. “I use the same produce, but I never go back and use old dishes.”

Over the past decade Norström has developed a relationship with each of his suppliers, be they the fisherman, apple growers or reindeer farmers in the northern reaches of Sweden. Not unlike its owner, the restaurant is elegant and understated; the focus is on the food and a lifestyle, not brash gimmicks.

Back in central Stockholm, Swedish restaurants are fast becoming a la mode. With the food’s hunter gatherer ethos, some restaurants have adopted a macho edge. Ekstedt is bold. Red brick walls, black granite surfaces, bare light bulbs and a scorching fire behind wisely placed glass barrier, this is a hearty restaurant. Dishes are smoked, sizzled and grilled at the flame before being prepared by chefs in leather aprons at the central table and presented carefully on slate plates and wooden charred slats. The food is rich and creamy, the meat tender and the flavours strong. Butter soft reindeer meat, baked in ember and served with truffle proves a highlight, and their lemon ice cream with smoked almonds and salty caramel mixes textures well. The chef and creator behind it, Niklas Ekstedt, researched traditional methods to give his food the authentic Swedish edge; you can certainly imagine that their five-course tasting menu would sustain you through a long winter.

Full to the brim and as it is our final night in the city, we wrap up and meander through the old streets of Gamla stan past churches and narrow passages. Heading for home, we find ourselves in front of the big golden fish over the small trailer. We pause. There is always a little room left for herring.

Volt: restaurangvolt.se

Ekstedt: ekstedt.nu

The Rival Hotel: rival.se

Info: visitstockholm.com 

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Reading time: 7 min
Berry pie at De Kas, Amsterdam

Berry pie at De Kas, Amsterdam

Michelin stars are so twentieth century. Karys Webber rounds up 21 establishments around the world where you can have a meal on the wild side, whatever your tastes

MOTO, Chicago

Michelin-starred Moto in Chicago is molecular gastronomy at its best. Chef with a hint of mad scientist Homaro Cantu creates the most inventive, surprising and bizarre dishes for a multi-sensory food experience using high tech equipment and intricate techniques. The menu and ingredients change regularly and dishes are given mysterious names like ‘River’ and ‘Paradise’ that give little away. But one thing is consistent, nothing is quite as it seems: expect hard to be soft, savoury to be sweet and inedible to be edible. In a bid to avoid the use of paper in the restaurant, even the menus at Moto are edible, printed onto rice paper using a modified Canon i560 inkjet printer in which the print cartridges are filled with food-based ‘inks’, including tomatoes and purple potatoes. The science theme also extends to the laboratory style decor, which features walls of the periodic table of elements and displays of glass flasks and beakers. motorestaurant.com  

Acrobats and fine dining, Circus, London

Acrobats and fine dining, Circus, London

CIRCUS, London

If you favour a side of acrobatics with your dinner then head to Circus in London’s Covent Garden, a late night cocktail bar and cabaret restaurant rolled into one. A surrealistinspired décor, dreamed up by designer Tom Dixon, is striking in black and white with gold Harlequin wallpaper and mirrors galore whilst a Pan-Asian menu offers up dishes such as Chilean sea bass, lychee and aubergine green curry and red pepper lamb chops with chilli and honey. Performances from acrobats, fire eaters, trapeze artists and burlesque dancers occur spontaneously during dinner but come into full force afterwards when the glossy white platform that dominates the main dining room transforms from communal dining table to stage and runway for the entertainment. circus-london.co.uk

DISASTER CAFÉ, Lloret de Mar

If you are someone who thinks going out for a meal is just too easy, perhaps you should make a visit to Disaster Café in Lloret de Mar, Spain where they make eating that much more of a challenge. The bizarre underground restaurant simulates an earthquake equivalent to 7.8 on the Richter scale during your dinner. Waiters don protective headgear and reflective vests and guests, unsurprisingly, are advised to wear machine washable clothing as inevitably things get messy. Even more bizarrely, the restaurant is a hit; tables are booked up weeks in advance by diners who clearly aren’t put off by the fact that the majority of the meal will end up on the floor. disastercafe.com

 

Situated in a restored greenhouse, De Kas grows its own fruits and vegetables

Situated in a restored greenhouse, De Kas grows its own fruits and vegetables

DE KAS, Amsterdam

De Kas is the project of Michelin-starred chef Gert Jan Hageman who in 2001, rescued Amsterdam’s Muncipal Nursery from demolition and turned it into one of the city’s coolest and most beautiful restaurants. Located in Frankendael Park, the 8-metre high greenhouse, which dates back to 1926, now operates as a unique restaurant-comenursery serving up fresh, seasonal and organic vegetables grown on the premises and locally sourced meat and fish. A fixed menu of simple, stylish dishes inspired by rural Mediterranean is created each morning based on the day’s harvest. Recent offerings have included smoked halibut with celeriac ravioli and lemon panna cotta with pomegranate seeds, melon and basil ice cream. The conservatory dining area is minimalist in design, courtesy of Dutch designer Piet Boon, letting the impressive glass structure take centre stage and a four-seat chef ‘s table is also available in the kitchen if you’re interested in seeing all the action. Alternatively, weather permitting, you can also dine outside in the picturesque herb garden. restaurantdekas.nl

Underwater dining at Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, Maldives

Underwater dining at Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, Maldives

ITHAA UNDERSEA RESTAURANT. Maldives

If you fancy dining with the fishes there’s no more magical an experience than Ithaa Undersea Restaurant on the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. Residing nearly five metres below the surface in the Indian Ocean, Ithaa – which means ‘mother of pearl’ in Dhivehi, the native Maldivian language – allows its diners to marvel at some of the richest marine life in the world whilst sipping champagne cocktails. Sharks, turtles and stingrays are all regularly spotted along with swarms of tropical reef fish and with a seafood heavy Maldivian-Western fusion menu, there’s a high chance you’ll be able to spot what’s on your plate swimming above your head. Intimate with only 14 seats, the 5 x 9 metre restaurant is encased by 12.5mm thick clear acrylic glass and cost $5 million to build. conradhotels.com

CANNABALISTIC SUSHI, Tokyo

Nyotaimori is the obscure Japanese practice of serving sushi on the body of a naked woman. Inspired by this, a restaurant in Tokyo has taken the concept to new levels with a macabre twist. Definitely not for the squeamish, at the Cannibalistic Sushi restaurant, guests are presented with an edible ‘human body’, wheeled out on a gurney by a waitress dressed as a nurse. The chefs at the restaurant ensure that the life size corpse is as realistic as possible, using dough to create the flesh, sushi and sashimi inside to replicate organs and blood red sauce embedded in the skin layer to create realistic bleeding when you make your incision. You can even choose between male and female bodies.

DINNER IN THE SKY, Worldwide

If you suffer from vertigo then this one may not be for you, however for spectacular views and your meal with a side of fear then Dinner in the Sky is a must do. The bespoke experience dangles 22 guests 100 feet in the air at a location of your choice with a chef, waiter and entertainer enclosed in the centre to tend to your needs, plus the swiveling chairs allow you to enjoy 180-degree views. Just make sure you take a bathroom trip beforehand, the whole table has to be brought down if anyone needs to go to the toilet during dinner. dinnerinthesky.co.uk

A zip-lining waiter enroute to the Soneva Kiri Treetop Dining Pod

A zip-lining waiter enroute to the Soneva Kiri Treetop Dining Pod

SONEVA KIRI TREETOP DINING POD, Koh Food, Thailand

Also taking dining to new heights is five star eco-resort, Soneva Kiri, on the Thai island Koh Kood. Soneva Kiri offers its guests a unique Treetop Dining experience using a rattan pod that seats up to four people. Boarded at ground level, the bird’s nest-esque pod is then hoisted up 16 feet into the native massang trees so guests can enjoy their meal at one with nature and with stunning views of the island and out to sea. The menu also follows a jungle theme serving up dishes such as ‘Canapés in the Canopy’ and ‘Forager’s Basket’ using produce predominantly from the island’s organic gardens. With such a secluded, uneasy to reach location you may be wondering how your food arrives. In fact, the waiters glide elegantly through the trees using zip wires to reach you. However, designer of the Treepod, Louis Thompson, has said, “we are also looking into guests being able to fly on the zip line through the jungle themselves, as there is a certain amount of envy when they watch the waiters.” soneva.com/soneva-kiri/home

OPAGUE, Los Angeles

Everyone enjoys a candlelit dinner so why not go one step further and ditch the light completely? You can do just that at Opaque in Los Angeles where they promise a ‘more stimulating dining experience’ based on the theory that removing your vision heightens your remaining senses, enhancing the smell, taste and texture of your food. Guests at Opaque enjoy their meal in a completely pitch black room aided by waiters who are all blind or visually impaired. darkdining.com.

The Wrapping Gallery combines a restaurant with a contemporary art gallery

The Wrapping Gallery combines a restaurant with a contemporary art gallery

THE WRAPPING PROJECT, London

The venture of Australian-born theatre director and curator Jules Wright, The Wapping Project in London brings together a restaurant and contemporary art gallery in a disused hydraulic power station. With utilitarian furniture, high ceilings, bare-brick walls and looming industrial machinery, it’s not the cosiest of settings to settle down for dinner, but it is impressive. The daily changing menu offers up treats like veal rump with winter tomato, wild fennel, herb, almond and ricotta, courtesy of newly appointed chef Matthew Young, plus an all-Australian wine list handpicked by Wright. A cavernous art space at the back plays host to a variety of installations and exhibitions each month. thewappingproject.com

EL DIABLO, TIMANFAYA NATIONAL PARK, Lanzarote

El Diablo restaurant crowns the top of Islote de Hilario, the tallest of Timanfaya National Park’s famous ‘Fire Mountain’ volcanoes in Lanzarote. What makes this circular, glass-walled restaurant unique though is not just the spectacular views and odd location choice, it’s the way they cook the food. The chefs use the semi-dormant volcano itself to grill your dinner to perfection via a cavernous black pit, which reaches to the ground to utilize the natural 400°C heat that emanates from below the ground’s surface. The restaurant itself was designed by the late artist and architect, César Manrique, who was responsible for much of Lanzarote’s development. lanzarote.com/timanfaya  LAINO SNOW VILLAGE ICE BAR, Ylläsjärvi, Finland The Laino Snow Village Ice Bar resides in the town of Ylläsjärvi in Finland, just north of the Arctic Circle, and as you may have guessed, is made entirely of ice and snow. Diners here can enjoy local specialties such as reindeer, Lappish potato soup and vodka-lingonberry jelly (served in ice glasses of course) and as the restaurant is kept at a cool -2 to -5 degrees Celsius at all times, fur rugs are considerately draped over the solid ice chairs to keep you warm. The restaurant only exists however during the winter season when the weather is cold enough to sustain it, for the rest of the year it disappears entirely and is rebuilt from scratch when winter next arrives. snowvillage.fi

FORTEZZA MEDICEA, Volterra

For a somewhat tense dining experience, try Fortezza Medicea restaurant in Volterra, near Pisa, which just happens to reside inside a maximum-security prison. An experiment in prison rehabilitation, all the waiters and chefs that work in the restaurant are convicts who inhabit the 500-year-old facility, based on the idea that the inmates will learn valuable skills to help them find work upon release. Unsurprisingly, security checks are thorough: would be diners are required to submit a two-month background check before their reservations are considered and upon arrival at the restaurant, guests have to pass a series of checkpoints and hand over mobile phones and handbags before settling down for their meal. Armed prison wardens are stationed around the restaurant and, just in case, all cutlery and plates are plastic. The menu consists of Southern Italian dishes like mini frittatas and gnocci with a fava bean puree, plus a pianist doing life for murder serenades diners during their meal.

Fully automated service at `S Baggers, Nuremberg

Fully automated service at `S Baggers, Nuremberg

‘S BAGGERS, Nurenberg

At ‘s Baggers restaurant in Nuremberg they’ve done away with the traditional table service in favour of a fully automated electronic system. Customers simply place their orders themselves using the touch screen computers at each table and when ready, your food will come whizzing towards you from the kitchen above on the spiraling metallic tracks that dominate the dining area. sbaggers.de

ANNALAKSHMI, Singapore

The motto at vegetarian restaurant Annalakshmi in Singapore is simply, ‘eat what you want, give what you feel’. That’s right, it’s up to you to decide how much you’d like to pay for your dinner. To entice your generosity however, the money you pay is donated to the Temple of Fine Arts, an artistic and cultural organization dedicated to serving the society through arts, music and dance, and all the staff at Annalakshmi are volunteers who hold regular day jobs and view their work at the restaurant as ‘service’. The unusual restaurant also has outlets in Kuala Lumpur and Perth. annalakshmi.com.sg

Sound of Silence, Australian barbecue in the Outback

Sound of Silence, Australian barbecue in the Outback

SOUNDS OF SILENCE, Ayers Rock

If a romantic, starlit dinner is more your thing then try the awardwinning Sounds of Silence experience which offers a memorable meal in the secluded Australian outback. Champagne and canapés kick start the evening at sunset on a lone sand dune overlooking Ayers Rock followed by a traditional Australian barbecue in a candlelit desert clearing, serving up classic Northern Territory dishes kangaroo, crocodile, emu and barramundi. After dinner, you can indulge in a spot of stargazing with the resident astronomer on hand to guide you through the night sky. In the chillier winter months a campfire is also lit to keep things toasty. ayersrockresort.com.au

HAJIME, Bangkok

At Japanese restaurant, Hajime, in Bangkok they’ve come up with a novel, if slightly terrifying, way to serve customers. All food here comes courtesy of enormous, bug-eyed robots, dressed in snazzy samurai outfits. What’s more, they also perform clunky dance routines to Asian pop music for your entertainment. Owner Lapassard Thanaphant invested nearly $1 million to create the boogying robot waiters. hajimerobot.com

THE SPAM MUSEUM, Austin, Minnesota

Brilliantly dubbed The Guggenham, The SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota is 16,500 square foot dedicated purely to the canned meat. Visitors to the museum can experience ‘the world’s most comprehensive collection of spiced pork artifacts’ with exhibitions ranging from a short film entitled ‘Spam…A Love Story’, vintage SPAM brand advertising, SPAM trivia and a World War II exhibit that includes a letter from former U.S. president, Dwight Eisenhower, thanking the company for keeping the troops well fed during the war. Of course, you can also swing by the museum store on your way out to stock up on priceless SPAM collectables. spam.com/spam-101/the-spam-museum

MESTIZO, Santiago

Mestizo restaurant in Santiago, Chile, doesn’t really look much like a restaurant. If it wasn’t for the arrangement of tables and chairs, catching sight of it you’d be much more likely to mistake it for an art gallery or a museum. Designed by architect Smiljan Radic Clarke, what makes the structure so unique is the use of large boulders to support the wooden roof that stretches over the kitchen at one end, the indoor section of the restaurant in the middle and an outdoor deck patio at the other end. Occupying a corner of Parque Bicentenario, the restaurant overlooks picturesque water gardens and serves an eclectic mix of Chilean and Peruvian cuisine. mestizorestaurant.cl

THE CURRYWURST MUSEUM, Berlin

As ‘the culinary emblem of Germany’s capital city’, naturally the currywurst should have a museum dedicated to its greatness in Berlin. Opened in 2009 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the dish, the museum claims that ‘no national dish inspires as many stories, preferences and celebrity connoisseurs as this one does’ and holds interactive exhibitions including a Spice Chamber which features a sausage sofa, sniffing stations and a ‘Currymat’ that will tell you what curry type you are. currywurstmuseum.de

ROADKILL COOK-OFF FESTIVAL, West Virginia, USA

Yes, you have read that right. Every September, the people of Marlinton, West Virginia hold the stomach-churning Roadkill Cook-Off Festival. Thankfully, the dishes are merely inspired by common roadkill in the area as opposed to participants actually using animals scraped off the country roads. The rules state that competitors’ main ingredient must be an animal that often meets it’s grisly end in a road accident, be it a possum, beaver, raccoon, deer, squirrel or even a rattlesnake. Previous dishes have included teriyakimarinated bear. Vegetarians need not apply. pccocwv.com/

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