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London’s Most Unusual Restaurants

When people plan a trip to London, it’s rarely the victuals that dictate the itinerary. For far too long, the English have gotten a bad rap at the dinner table, with complaints ranging from bland to boring. Thankfully, London eateries and chefs are working hard to change that reputation, one delighted palette at a time, and often in surprising ways providing an experience that reaches far beyond the plate.

If you’re looking to head to London on holiday, why not plan your trip around your meals? From fabulous presentations to ambience and surprise, here’s where to eat the next time you’re in London. 

Sketch

Sketch is a sensory experience. A unique destination site that emphasizes food, art and music, the culinary experiences in this centre are truly one-of-a-kind. With a number of different spaces and themes to choose from, you could spend an entire holiday just experiencing Sketch. All the while, you would be eating, drinking, staring and soaking in the different atmospheres and their offerings to your heart’s content. 

The Lecture Room. For elegant fine dining, this two Michelin-starred restaurant is difficult to beat. The menu is complex and exciting and was designed by French Master Chef Pierre Gagnaire, and their wine list is one of the best in the city. 

The Glade. When it’s time for lunch or tea, the woodland fairy-themed Glade offers a perfect and serene adventure. Elegant French rattan furniture offsets the hand-cut and printed, decoupage paper that covers the walls. Seating and spaces are accented by elegant drapes. Glade’s mood is all romance, whimsy and imagination — just like their menu. 

The Gallery. Designed by Martin Creed — a Turner Prize-wining artist — this gastro-brasserie provides a stunning visual experience appropriately complemented by the excellent food. The marble floor has 96 different tiles from all over the world arranged in a geometric and colourful pattern, and the furniture is a hodgepodge of styles and designs that make you feel like you’re eating in an art space in the middle of someone’s giant dining room in the middle of a flea market. The menu is the work of French Master Chef Pierre Gagnaire, and it fits perfectly in the space, as both are hospitable and art-driven. 

The Wapping Project

The Wapping Project occupies what used to be the old hydraulic power station on Wapping High Street, just about a 15-minute walk from Tower Bridge. The food is fantastic, but this dining experience is about the environment. It feels like you’re in a science fiction novel out in a space station somewhere that also happens to host regular art events. There is a large exhibition space at the back of the restaurant featuring installations and exhibits throughout the year. Sunday brunch is a best-bet.

Bunga Bunga

To enter Bunga Bunga, you go through an Italian phone box. Described as “An Englishman’s Italian Bar, Pizzeria and Karaoke,” Bunga Bunga is a tip of the hat to Silvio Berluscni, who used the term to refer to a certain type of adult party he would host at his home. A great — and highly unusual — Italian restaurant, the bar has a cocktail called the Horse’s Head (cue the ghastly scene from “The Godfather”), Italian language lessons that play on constant repeat in the washrooms, a gondola-shaped bar, Cistine Chapel wallpaper and karaoke. It almost doesn’t matter what you eat at Bunga Bunga, but thankfully, the pizza more than passes muster. If you want an almost surreal Italian dining experience in the heart of London, Bunga Bunga is the place.

Les Trois Garçons

This decadent French bistro was once a pub. Now, it is a destination site for everyone from Hollywood A-listers to foodies and those who just want an unforgettable dining experience. Designed with a flair for the fantastic, the space is filled with objects and furniture unlike any you’ll find elsewhere. A stuffed tiger, chandeliers, a stuffed giraffe, purses that hang from the ceiling, candlelight, a statue of a monkey smoking a cigar in a crown, impeccable service and a menu that invites and astounds — if you want to eat a fabulous meal in a bizarre and almost licentious sensory environment, look no further than Les Trois Garçons. 

Eating in London can be just as good as eating in Paris and just as unusual as eating with Alice in Wonderland. Whether it’s a pleased palette you’re after or a feast for the eyes, these restaurants offer something truly special — and they can only be experienced in London.

 

About the Author: Jenni Lands is a contributing writer, foodie and London native who must balance her lavish tastes with her writer’s budget.

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