Weird and wonderful places to eat

Gillian Rowe / 22 May 2018

The gastronomic boom in the UK has led to some extraordinary dining experiences, from the quirky to the ultra-hip. Gillian Rowe whets your appetite.

Gloucester Studio, Gloucester

If you like small and intimate, how about eating in a shed? This may not sound like everyone’s idea of haute cuisine, but behind a normal terraced house in Gloucester, a past MasterChef semi-finalist Kathryn Minchew has installed a Scandinavian Kota hut, which seats 8-10 people. Inside, there’s a roaring fire and guests are seated on reindeer hide covered benches, where they will enjoy a ten-course banquet with each dish cooked over the coals. Open for just 30 days each year, you’ll need to book ahead.

Dans Le Noir? London EC1

What would it be like to dine blindfolded? Well, you don’t have to go to quite that extreme at this fascinating restaurant but, as the name suggests, the idea here is to eat in the dark to let your other senses – taste, feel and smell – do the work for you.

First, choose a seasonal surprise menu by colour only, white is the chef’s own choice, blue for fish and shellfish, green for vegetarian and red for meat. That’s all you get to know.

All will be revealed about what you have just eaten when the meal is over, and you are guided back into the light. Open daily.

The Clink

The Clink, Cardiff

No, not a new restaurant near London’s famous old jail, this extraordinary dining experience is at HMP Cardiff. Staffed by prisoners working towards food service accredited qualifications, the Clink Charity works in partnership with Her Majesty’s Prison Service to help cut reoffending rates and prepare offenders for a new life. You’ll get a fabulous culinary experience too as this is an award-winning restaurant. Open daily.

Fungi forage

Fungi Forage and Cook Up, Canterbury

There are foraging courses now throughout the UK, where you can identify and cook any number of wild ingredients from nettles, to seaweeds and hawthorn berries. Fungi is a natural for foraging and Fergus the Forager is one of the most well-known exponents in the country, running one-day courses in Kent throughout the year for whatever is in season. For his fungi course in September, Fergus does a recce the day before to spot where the best quality and quantity are to be found in woodland and grassland, with a three-course wild-food-based meal provided at the end of the day.

Huntsham Court

The F.E.A.S.T. Project, Huntsham Court, near Tiverton

Foraging on an entirely different scale here, this luxury event is for gourmands who enjoy the finer things in life. For a hefty price tag, you can experience this two-night feast adventure in a stunning Victorian gothic stately home set in the rolling Devon and Somerset countryside, where up to 30 guests are split into two teams and given the chance to hunt, shoot, forage and fish for their dinner. Chefs will then dream up a menu with the day’s bounty, which is served in a glorious, grand dining room.


Archipelago, London W1

Ever fancied your chances in the eating challenge in I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here? Well, here’s your opportunity at this restaurant in London offering world cuisine for the more adventurous. Exotic dishes include crocodile, wildebeest and kangaroo alongside python carpaccio, jerked alpaca, and cricket and worm salad. In a city that offers every dining experience possible, from circus performers on your table to arias with your appetisers, this one is up there as one of the most unusual. Open Monday to Saturday.

Cook House, Newcastle upon Tyne

All sorts of odd places are used for restaurants today, from old railway stations and carriages to, ahem, a Victorian urinal in London. Former architect Anna Hedworth has created this award-winning restaurant using two shipping containers to produce a local gem close to the River Tyne, with food that is hard to beat. It was featured on Channel 4’s Hidden Restaurants and offers a homely, welcoming style; everything is made in-house, including vinegars, jams, chutneys and pickles. Cook House has a programme of supperclubs when other talented local chefs cook for the evening, otherwise it’s open Monday to Saturday for breakfast and lunch.

Rick Stein

Rick Stein Cookery School, Padstow, Cornwall

Learning how to catch, prepare and cook fish is growing in popularity with those looking for a more hands-on dining experience, so why not learn with the best at Rick Stein’s Cookery School. After starting the day with a boat trip on the Camel Estuary with local fisherman Lee Wicks, you’ll head back to the kitchen with your catch to learn how to prepare and cook mackerel with piriñaca salad using a recipe from Stein’s Long Weekends book and Newlyn fish pie from Fish & Shellfish. A fun, interactive culinary experience.

Farm to Table

Farm to Table: Roast, Southwark, London

We all know those food magazine features about how to create a dish with five ingredients, but this is a challenge on a far greater scale. Stuart Cauldwell, head chef at London’s well-known Roast restaurant will take a group of four on a private tour of infamous Borough Market to learn how a top chef selects the best ingredients by visiting some of his favourite suppliers. After the tour, guests enjoy a fully bespoke multi-course lunch using the morning’s produce.

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