Adventurous dining used to mean eating potentially deadly pufferfish, crunching into deep-fried crickets or slurping back still-wriggling octopus, but more and more ‘unconventional’ culinary experiences these days involve jaw-dropping or unique locations as part of the attraction. According to a study from George Washington University, the growing adventure tourism market is booming. The best options throw in a little cultural education, some environmental sustainability and an exotic locale. And the ones with a gastronomic bent are meant to be enjoyed both by fine dining lovers and thrill-seekers alike. From mountain peak dining in Austria to a volcano chamber in Iceland, here are some of the most unexpected places and experiences to enjoy a truly unforgettable meal.
© Rudi Wyhlidal
It’s a steep - though spatious - gondola ride to the summit dinner at ice Q. The restaurant built into the side of Gaislachkogl, a 3,048-metre-high mountain in Sölden, Austria, is worth the trip. Most famously a site where the James Bond movie Spectre was filmed, the fine dining destination offers better-than-IMAX views of over 250 neighbouring peaks from the 360-degree, all-glass windows. And they become even more stunning when you traverse the suspension bridge from the restaurant across to the Gaislachkogl peak.
The refined menu includes yellowfin tuna tartar with ginger stock and cress; beef consommé with semolina dumplings and sliced pancake roulade; fried turbot with pumpkin risotto and Thai asparagus; and beef fillet with marrow and braised veal cheek. The fresh cheese curd mousse dumplings with blueberries, hazelnuts and maple syrup for dessert are the icing on the snow-frosted cake.
© Saffire Freycinet
At the Freycinet Marine Oyster Farm in Tasmania (Australia), you’ll have to wade hip-deep into the waters to get to your bivalves and your meal. Learn about the working oyster farm of a sheep farmer-turned-oyster cultivator while your guide shucks the freshest Pacific oysters of your life. The white tablecloth on the table in the middle of the water and the glasses of sparkling wine are thoughtful, whimsical touches. The oyster farm visit is a complimentary excursion as part of a stay at the Saffire Freycinet and is only offered through the luxury hotel. So book your stay in advance if you want a private table with the ultimate ocean view.
In terms of an exotic dining destination, the interior of a volcano is probably at the top of the list. You’ll have to hike for about 45 minutes before descending 120 metres into the belly of the Thrihnukagigur volcano, in Iceland. Thankfully, it’s been dormant for more than 4,000 years. And there’s no reason to be claustrophobic when the interior – the magma chamber – is about the size of three basketball courts and taller than the Statue of Liberty.
The chamber, or heart of the volcano, is exceptional; unlike others where the liquid rock usually hardens and closes the crater off to any wishing to enter, Thrihnukagigur’s magma seems to have disappeared – perhaps solidifying into the walls or simply draining into the earth below, theorize experts.
The volcano dining experience is part of a luxurious, seven-day transportation-included Icelandic adventure that includes a visit to the Blue Lagoon, scuba diving or snorkeling in the Silfa Fissure, Europe’s largest glacier, black sand beaches and hiking to active volcanos and geysers. The menu of the meal is up to you. The day after your dinner, you’ll even fly over the volcano in a helicopter for the aerial perspective.
Your romantic private dinner starts at ground level, but you’ll crest 165 metres twice during your four courses in the comfortable and spacious Singapore Flyer, the world’s largest giant observation wheel. The in-flight host will handle tableside service and keep your Champagne glass topped up while you move from crawfish-mango salad to clam chowder, to your choice of 70-day grain-fed rib-eye with peppercorn sauce, miso-glazed salmon, or lamb shank with polenta and gremolata. Both the Western menu and Chinese menu finish with an opera sponge cake with chocolate ganache and coffee buttercream.
But the Chinese version starts Thai-style with shredded chicken and sesame sauce with fried whitebait and continues with winter melon soup with dried scallop followed by pan-fried chicken with abalone sauce and crispy noodles. Vegetarians enjoy vichyssoise, gnocchi with porcini and shaved truffle, and chocolate cremeux. Time your visit with the sunset you’ll enjoy a breathtaking view of Marina Bay as well as nearby Malaysia and Indonesia in the distance.