Unique restaurants around the world
Seeking out a travel experience with a real difference you can talk about endlessly? At these quirky restaurants, people come for the atmosphere and stay for the food.
Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, Rangali Island, Maldives
No need to waterproof your phone to take photos in one of the most unique restaurants in the world. Located at the Conrad Maldives, Rangali Island Resort is a gorgeous and intimate underwater restaurant (seating capacity is 14 people) that is more than five metres below sea level. Opened in 2005, the all-glass restaurant has a menu consisting of fresh seafood, beef rib eye, veal and other gourmet dishes. Encased in a transparent acrylic roof, the restaurant offers its diners a 270-degree panoramic view of sea creatures swimming in the Maldives’ crystal clear waters. While a zinc paint coating protects Ithaa’s steel structure from corrosion, the saltwater and marine growth adhering to the paint will eventually break it down. Make a reservation while you still can.
Also, check out these 15 breathtaking destinations to visit before they disappear.
Ninja Akasaka, Toyko
To get to this hidden ninja village, guests must embark on a long and dark underground adventure. The ninja road involves a number of surprises, but only those with the heart to enter can find out what they are. Ninja Akasaka, a ninja-themed entertainment restaurant in Tokyo, offers private and communal room arranged in a labyrinth-like dining area, which replicates a ninja village from the Edo era. Waterfalls, ponds and the cries of bell crickets create a thrilling ambiance. And dining ranges from Japanese sushi, to French, Italian and Chinese cuisine.
Dinner in the Sky
Got an appetite for high altitude? Originating in Belgium, the concept for this novelty-based mobile restaurant involves a crane hoisting guests, who are securely strapped into ‘dining chairs’ 50 metres in the air, along with a table, wait staff and everything that’s required to enjoy a meal floating above the ground. Dinner in the Sky has gained popularity worldwide and is offered for limited run periods in cities around the globe, including Holland, Germany, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Denmark, Sweden, Ukraine, Russia, England, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Turkey, Morocco, Lebanon, United Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, South-Africa, India, Japan, China, Brazil, Colombia, Australia, Canada, Mexico and the USA. These unique restaurants offer fine dining, incredible views, and a story like no other.
Redwoods Treehouse, Warkworth, New Zealand
Redwoods Treehouse, built in 2008, is a pod-shaped structure situated 10 metres above the ground in a Redwood tree in the town of Warkworth, north of Auckland. Diners access the venue via an elevated treetop walkway built of redwood milled on site. The striking venue is used exclusively for private functions and events, with a capacity of 30 guests.
Cat Café Nekorobi, Tokyo, Japan
If watching cat videos gets you in a good mood, this unusual coffee shop will make you swoon with joy and cuteness. Nekorobi is a hip cat café located in the entertainment district of Ikebukuro, where you can spend time with friends of the feline kind. Patrons enter through modern glass doors into a dimly lit joint where cats prowl and sprawl out, and where a drinks dispenser vending machine offers a variety of hot and cold beverages including coffee, royal milk tea, green tea and instant miso soup. Visit in the evening and you’ll have a chance to witness the dinnertime ritual where the kitties feast on cat food in glass bowls arranged in a circle around a floor lamp. For feline lovers, this place is no doubt the ‘cat’s meow’.
Modern Toilet, Taipei City, Taiwan
This is the only place where dining etiquette and bathroom etiquette are one and the same. The idea for this odd restaurant was conceived by one of the owners as he was reading while sitting – where else? – on a toilet. Initially, it only sold chocolate ice cream in containers shaped like a squat toilet, but once the humorous spin became a great success, a fully fledged, bathroom-themed eatery emerged. Today, Modern Toilet is a chain with locations across Asia and it has plans for further expansion. If the idea piques your curiosity, drop into one of these unique restaurants and have a seat at one of the (non-working) toilets where meals are served in toilet bowl-shaped dinnerware.
Dans le Noir, Melbourne
Dining at Dans le Noir is more than just a place to eat. The concept behind this restaurant is dining in the dark so you capture a true sensory, social and human experience. The original concept was developed in France in cooperation with a major vision impairment foundation, and when the doors opened in Paris, the idea took off in Europe and around the world, including in Melbourne and Auckland. Dining in absolute darkness awakens your senses and allows you to completely re-evaluate your perception of taste and smell. Guests are taken to their tables in completed darkness by vision-impaired waiters who become the diners’ personal guides during the experience. The restaurant is vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian friendly, with the Feed Me Chef menu the most popular to challenge your senses.
Kayabukiya Tavern, Utsunomiya, Japan
We’re headed back to Japan for this unique restaurant! This traditional sake house has one interesting addition that makes it anything but “traditional”: monkeys! Two monkeys are currently employed by the Japanese restaurant. The younger macaque monkey, Fuku-chan, will bring you a hot towel before your meal to clean your hands, while the older macaque, Yat-chan, will actually take your drink order and bring you your beverage. More monkeys are currently being trained as servers at this restaurant. You can leave your furry waiter a tip in the form of boiled edamame. You’ll have to be careful about when you go, thought – the monkeys work very short shifts – but while they’re in the restaurant, they enjoy playing with all the customers as shown in videos like this one.
Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, Kenya
Giraffe Manor is an exclusive boutique hotel set in 5 hectares of private land within 56 hectares of indigenous forest. The building, with its stately façade, elegant interior, sunny terraces and delightful courtyards, harks back to the 1930s. However, the most extraordinary thing about Giraffe Manor is its herd of giraffes, which visit morning and evening, sometimes poking their long necks into the windows in the hope of a treat.
De Kas, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Anyone who owns a garden knows that nothing compares to making a meal with fresh produce you’ve grown yourself. Imagine a restaurant where the menu selections are prepared using the freshest possible ingredients, and by freshest, we mean harvested in the field at sunrise of the same day you are dining. Welcome to De Kas, an old greenhouse in Amsterdam that was due to be demolished in 2001, but was saved by an ambitious Michelin star chef, Gert Jan Hageman, who converted the unique eight-metre high glass building into a restaurant and nursery. Mediterranean vegetables, herbs and edible flowers are grown and harvested at the greenhouse and garden near the restaurant, and Hageman can be found in De Kas’ nursery daily, working the soil, planting, weeding and harvesting herbs and vegetables.
Lapland Hotel’s SnowVillage Restaurants, Kittilä, Finland
Be sure to wrap up as warmly as you can before visiting these unique restaurants in Finland because two of them are made completely of snow and ice! The Lapland Hotel’s SnowVillage features three restaurants, The Snow Restaurant, The Ice Bar and The Log Restaurant, which has the same menu as the Snow Restaurant but is open all year and is a bit warmer. The Snow Restaurant serves classic Finish cuisine including salmon soup and reindeer fillet and is expected to reopen December 12, 2019. The Ice Bar offers blankets to their clientele to stay warm in their candlelit bar, serving Nordic-themed cocktails and hot chocolate.
If spooky is more your cup of tea, check out 15 of the world’s spookiest travel destinations.
The Stage Door, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
With a menu that promises ‘Want great service? We suggest you try elsewhere’, it is surprising that the Stage Door restaurant is one this harbour town’s best-loved institutions. But in reality, the steaks are great, the beer is cold and the service is fast and friendly. It is located in the centuries-old Phoenix Hotel, and every nook and cranny of the quirky wood-panelled pub is filled with original 1940s and 1950s metal advertising signs, dolls, gramophones, vehicle number plates and an amazing collection of Pez candy dispensers.
The Bubble Room, Captiva Island, Florida
Opened in 1979, this eclectic restaurant decorated with classic toys from the 1930s and 1940s started as a small one-room eatery, and today has grown into a multi-themed restaurant occupying all three storeys of the house it originated in. Staff are known as ‘bubble scouts’, each wearing a different crazy hat. Moving trains are on all three floors and photographs of old-time movie scenes and stars adorn every available wall space. ‘It’s always Christmas at the Bubble Room’ is a theme made evident by the presence of the many Father Christmases, the Elf Room, and year-round Christmas lights. Music from the 1920s to 1940s serves as the soundtrack for The Bubble Room, and the bright and cheerful pastel colours of the venue make it a near-hallucinatory experience. Favourites on the menu are original items offered since the restaurant’s early days such as Socra cheese (a cheese served flamed tableside), Bubble Bread, and many of the colossal-sized desserts.
But if traditional cuisine is more your style, head to Lyon in France.
Heart Attack Grill, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Of all the unique restaurants on our list, this one is absolutely the least healthy, so if you’re trying to stick to a diet, steer clear of Heart Attack Grill. Wait staff are dressed as nurses, customers’ orders are called prescriptions, and customers themselves are referred to as patients – Heart Attack Grill really leans into their theme of giving you a heart attack. And they honestly just might. With Single, Double, all the way up to Octuple Bypass burgers, ranging in size from 250g to 1kg of beef, just your main dish could have over 37,000 kilojoules. You can add on Flatliner fries and order disgustingly unhealthy drinks. Your ‘nurse’ will take your blood pressure before you eat, and you can opt to be weighed in, too.
If travelling alone, you may want to find ideal cities for the solo traveller.
Sign up here to get Reader’s Digest’s favourite stories sent straight to your inbox!