Dining 100 Feet in the Sky
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because eating posh food while strapped into your chair and dangling from a cable sounds like an adventure. Amiright?
Ah, what the rich will pay just to eat food a little differently: In September, against the outline of the London skyline, 20 fearless foodies paid $400 each to be first to sit at a table hoisted by crane 100 feet above the city’s Docklands development while they wined and dined on food cooked in situ by a handful of Michelin-starred chefs.
London’s neophile nibblers have become something of a joke, grasping at whatever they perceive to be the latest way to experience a meal without the sheer drudgery of entering a restaurant. In the past, novelty dining has included cinemas and pitch-blackness (by blind waiters), on rooftops and in a glass pod on the London Eye. But never before have guests needed to assess their personal degrees of height aversion — which includes being strapped into their seats by three fright-ride-type seat belts — before dining.
“The dining in the sky thing is crazy. I think that dining now is a form of entertainment and it didn’t use to be,” says Michele Mandell, a restaurant industry consultant. She works with Bay Area restaurants to make their concepts more appealing. “I think that people feel a need to do something crazy, to get attention.”
After five minutes, you won’t notice you’re up in the sky. You’ll just enjoy yourself.
— Dale Agar, director of Events in the Sky
Once diners are seated and belted in, a single cable hoists aloft the whole 7 tons of kit in 30 seconds. (Each meal is covered by a $16 million public liability and third-party insurance policy.) The center of the circular table is cut out and a platform inserted to house an oven plus three waiters and the chef, who are also wearing harnesses. What if it rains? Here’s hoping the thin rainproof canopy is enough to keep diners dry. Mid-meal, the open-sided contraption swings around to offer a different vertiginous view of Thameside landmarks.
“After five minutes, you won’t notice you’re up in the sky. You’ll just enjoy yourself,” claims Dale Agar, director of Events in the Sky , the U.K. franchise of Belgium-based Dinner in the Sky. The company is already planning another dinner event next summer in a different location. Not allowed on board: loose footwear, pregnant women, those under 4 feet tall and any déclassé behavior. But there are no weight restrictions.
The company launched in 2006, with the U.K. joining in three years later, and caters to 42 global markets, from the U.S. to Japan and South Africa. This is the first time London’s paying public has been able to buy into the experience; it was previously staged only for private and corporate events.
And it appears there were plenty of non-acrophobic Londoners willing to shell out big bucks to eat in a floating restaurant; 1,980 scoffed in the sky over the 10-day event in mid-September.
Understandably, dining 100 feet up is not for everyone. “My entire body was frozen into a corpse-like stiffness,” writes Harry Wallop , a writer for the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph newspaper and self-confessed vertigo sufferer, about his experience. His “vice-like grip on the table” made eating difficult, although he found the food to be impressive.
Meals were served at breakfast (for $80), lunch and dinner — including posh-sounding nosh like “white gold legine fish, French caviar, almond and verbena,” “Duchess of marmite & crispy potato ribbon” and “24-carat gold leaf, cucumber raita, Aquitaine caviar” — and cater to both carnivores and vegetarians.
Hopefully for the diners, the food drew the focus away from the nail-biting heights — and for those below, that diners’ lunches stayed in their stomachs.