"Inevitably there comes a time when someone in my social circle asks what’s the most glamorous event I have ever attended (or in my case planned), or the finest restaurant I have dined at. My reply, depending on the person asking, will range from Michelin-starred soirees that took months of meticulous planning to spontaneous low-key adventures which were sensational for reasons you would not expect.
'We live in a world of fantasy, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality,' said author and philosopher Dame Jean Iris Murdoch DBE. Despite our dependence on sight when it comes to dining, it actually misleads us in the most basic of ways. By eliminating it one can redefine how we engage with a space and environment – transforming the experience of an entire menu. Dans le Noir in London leaves guests to navigate their menu in pitch black. Served by visually impaired waiters as guides, the menu is only revealed once dinner finishes – and you’d be surprised how off the mark your guesses are when sight is taken away. A similar concept, Noire, has recently opened at the Fairmont Dubai.
Sensory stimulation is a powerful tool. As humans we have evolved to be visually dominant but designers must also invest in stimulating not only sight but all the other senses; this allows us to differentiate the experience and our understanding of a space. Sublimotion is Ibiza's new and exclusive 12 seater restaurant, creating false realities on 360-degree screens, which heighten the dining and party experience. Created by Paco Roncero (to relive a dream), he works with chefs, engineers, illusionists, set designers, architects, choreographers and screenwriters, pioneering the dining stagecraft with technology to intensify the pleasure of eating. One moment you’re submerged within a coral reef as sea food is served in a conch shell; the next you’re in a ploughed field with a ‘garden’ of vegetables before you; or hot air balloons surround you as dessert floats down onto the table. Not only is this futuristic and fun but it engages all your senses to heighten both the taste of the food and the dining experience.
Theatrical concepts break down the wall between passive dining and the service, inviting guests into a delightful world of adventure. London pop-up Marcos Meatballs entertains with comedic Mafia family brawls from the moment guests enter. This is a thrilling evening of murder mystery and unexpected fun with simple Italian food and drink! Challenging design conventions has a powerful effect on what we experience and remember. Tom Seller’s Story in London features edible tableware – the candlewax is dripping lard for dunking bread. Guests are also invited to bring their favourite storybook with a message about their evening, creating a vast literary installation to make the evening all the more personal.
Another fine example is by The Institute of Making; a team of amazing scientists who can be found tinkering in their labs with the materiality of matter. They’ve recently patented cutlery made of anything from wood to gold, to pair with food and optimise the flavours. Technology is taking dinner off the plate and spreading it around the room, creating unrivalled experiential dining scenarios never before tasted. Too many cooks can spoil the broth, but a whole production team will enhance it."
This article first appeared in Harper's Bazaar Interiors magazine