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Let's say you're going on a first date, or you have clients in town who you need to entertain, or maybe you're treating your mum to a Mother's Day treat; whatever the reason, you need a London restaurant experience that your prey will never forget. Why bother spending hours trawling the internet for a pop-up, rooftop, organic, locally-sourced, sustainably raised, no reservation restaurant meal when we have done the hard work for you and found 10 of the most unusual, inspiring, and downright barmy restaurants in London?
Rainforest Cafe London
West End / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: International
Rainforest Cafe is a tropical hideaway in the heart of the West End. This unusual restaurant recreates the sights and sounds of the Amazon Rainforest with the help of stunning special effects such as thunder and lightning storms, tropical rain showers and cascading waterfalls. The restaurant is also home to a cast of astounding, lifelike, animatronic inhabitants including chattering gorillas, a menacing jaguar and our trumpeting elephants. Rainforest Cafe offers a varied menu of American and tropical cuisine made from the freshest ingredients. Combine this imaginative food with the magical scenery and you have a great time out for the whole family.
The Gallery at Sketch
Mayfair / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: Modern European
Spread over two floors of a converted 18th-century Mayfair building, Sketch marries food, art and music in happy partnership. Dining at The Gallery - Sketch's more casual eatery - you become completely immersed in Turner Prize-winning artist Martin Creed's work. You sit on it. You eat off it. You drink from it. A mismatch of colour and design, the space is matched by a culturally mismatched menu which features Japanese, Spanish, British, French and Italian.
Knightsbridge / Restaurant / Cuisine: Russian
Vintage quirk in all its glory, Russian Mari Vanna guarantees a memorable experience. The unusual decor - a catacomb for everything every grandma has ever owned, including tapestries, crockery, lace, knick-knacks and endless china dolls - is only overshadowed by the even more unusual menu. Visit for homemade vodka, shuba, kholodetz and an out-of-this-world experience.
Paddington / Restaurant / Cuisine: French
Opera is a beautiful art that is enjoyed by many. Music lovers pay a lot of money to watch performances in some of London's illustrious venues. Singing waiters, however, is something you mostly tend to find in America. It's highly cheesy and embarrassing. Bel Canto, however, have combined fine French dining with the art of opera singing. This uniquely quirky themed restaurant which is situated in Hyde Park allows diners to eat sumptuous dishes whilst listening to waiters singing beautiful arias. Join the Opera Diners Club and enjoy La Boheme with your rabbit Ballantine. It is something Pavarotti would applaud.
Wunderlust at The Big Red
Deptford / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: British
Daily changing menu of British comfort food: check; cheeky list of inexpensive organic wines: check; local beers and local cheers: check; romantic booth seating arrangements on a converted double decker bus-cum-restaurant: check. And yes, you can even sit in the front seat to pretend to be the bus driver if you want! Weird, wonderful and just downright lovely.
London Shell Co.
Paddington / Restaurant / Cuisine: Seafood
There are a variety of reasons why this unusual dining experience is included in this Top 10 guide. Firstly, the wine list: a concise menu of Old and New World finds and one-offs from places as exotic as Hungary, Turkey and Hampshire. Secondly, the seating arrangement: here you're asked to make friends with people you don't know and eat dinner with them. Thirdly, this is a floating restaurant, that moves: disembarking from Paddington, this round-trip dinner takes you up to Camden via the Maida Hill Tunnel, providing plenty of Instagram moments. Also, the food menu: different each day, and based on whatever the crew can find and forage. Exciting!
Asia de Cuba
West End / Bar / Restaurant / Hotel / Cuisine: Latin
Asia de Cuba's unusual Chino-Latino plates and colourful flavour combinations are a great conversation starter. Give the crispy calamari and banana salad a try, test out the shrimp churros or tuna tartare with currants, and discover what plantain fried rice and lobster mash taste like. Tucked away inside the St Martins Lane London hotel, the restaurant retains its own independent personality, with warm service, a buzzing atmosphere and lively Cuban decor including a collection of books you're welcome to flick through as you dine.
The Brunswick House Cafe
Vauxhall & Oval / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: Cafe
Brunswick House is home to Lassco, seller of architectural antiques (which, if you were wondering, is things like interesting door knobs) and, well, it's just full of, you know, lots of stuff. The café is also full of stuff. They serve deceptively simple sounding food, which is also delicious; dishes such as baked aubergines, courgettes & Neal's Yard ricotta. And if you like any of the stuff you see decorating the café, you can buy it and take it home with you. Stuff yourself!
West End / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: Pan Asian
A Pan Asian dinner menu; nothing out of the ordinary there. A Covent Garden location; seems pretty standard. Lively cocktails and refreshing punches; so very London. So what's the big diff with Circus? Look to the restaurant's name and therein lies your answer. It?s not every meal at which you sit, en masse, along one long communal table, eating, drinking and being merry, whilst acrobats, contortionists, fire breathers and burlesque dancers parade up and down the table (pictured above). Keep hold of your drink! An unusual way to do 'dinner and a show in the West End'.
West End / Restaurant / Cuisine: Mediterranean
Walk into Sarastro on Drury Lane and you may think you are in a shop in Venice looking at costumes for a carnival. It is extremely lavish with tapestries hanging alongside flamboyant, decorative artwork. Keepsakes of past shows adorn the walls as you sit on gilt furniture and order food from a menu designed to rebuff the pretentious. Salad, pasta, mezze platters or lamb can be enjoyed alongside a string quartet and opera singers who hold performances on a Monday. Watch from the balcony above or in the opera boxes below. Indulge in their uniquely deluxe show after the show.
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