In a galaxy far, far, away, there’s a bar where everyone’s wearing VR masks, table tennis involved an overhead projector and you can order your burger by prodding the table. Welcome to the distant future, the year is 2020…
Tech already inhabits nearly all areas of our lives, phones wake us up, entertain us and keep us connected during the day, we touch credit cards to make payments and you’ll be unsurprised that I’m not writing this with a quill. And yet the restaurant industry remains quaint, champions of a system that remains relatively unchanged over the last century. Well not in these restaurants…
Ask a Londoner to suggest a ‘tech restaurant’ (and I’ve spent the last 24 hours doing just that!) and they’ll likely reply Inamo. With more tech than Silicone Roundabout and a menu that’s more likely to include microchips than sweet potato fries, the oriental fusion restaurant is famed for its interactive tables. With images projected onto the interactive tabletop, you’re able to set the mood, check out the local neighbourhood, watch the chef via CCTQ, graffiti, play games and… order your food, all with a few swipes. Think Tom Cruise in Minority Report, but with sushi.
Enter the hallucinogenic world of augmented reality cocktails. It’s not just Sailors’ Punch, a rum cocktail from bar and restaurant The Alchemist, but it’s a mind bending AR experience as grass skirted hull dancers gyrate round your glass, pirate ships sail past and a skull and cross bones waves above your drink. It’s well worth checking them out, and while you’re there you should tuck into a meal, the food is surprisingly tasty.
Table tennis just got a makeover. The green tabled sport, the domain of Chinese whizzes and Forrest Gump, feels like it’s long overdue an overhaul, and a techie Laurence Llewelyn Bowen has gone full-on neon over them using overhead projected interactive games. The restaurant/ping-pongstraunt, serves up excellent pizza as the perfect accompaniment to a game of Block Busters style bat and ball games.
Forget Wombles, Wimbledon’s got waffles, and at Waffle Jack’s it’s also got high tech tables. The American diner may come across as a 1950s throw-back, channelling the best of Americana, but take a booth seat and you can play interactive games while you wait for the burger order you just put through from the tabletop itself. Merton just got modern…
Wine cellars haven’t changed much since Roman times, but Caesar would be tangoing in his toga if he could just swipe a card to sample an amphora. Vagabond Wines aim to change the wine bar industry through their innovative system of by-the-glass wines, all activated via a pre-pay card. The wine selection changes on a weekly basis, maximising the choice available to drinkers. So swipe and swig.
Think Haggerston’s another world, wait until you try Otherworld. The East London bar is a virtual reality in all respects apart from the drinks (a pint of pixels would not be okay). Don a headset and plunge into a VR world. If you don’t spend enough of your real life shooting zombies then plunge into a first-person shoot’em’up game. Want to get your lightsaber out, as it were? Then burn calories in the dance game ‘Beat Saber’. You can even play ‘Job Simulator’, a game that allows you to simulate sitting in an office doing the day-to-day mundane tasks carried out by a white collar worker.
The mixology team serve a selection of unique and classic cocktails, with a rotating selection of craft beers and an Austrian house lager that’s ideal after a hard day wasting the zombie undead.
Thought that the best innovation in cheese was the Babybel? Think again! The cheeseboard just got its biggest upgrade in the form a conveyor belt. At Seven Dials the new invention sees diners surrounded by whirring machinery as cheeses whizz by in a blur of brie. Sadly there’s no option to kneel at the end of the conveyor and let the belt empty itself into your gaping mouth hole, but other than that it’s pretty ideal.
Of course, you could ditch all this technology altogether and enjoy spending time together. Leading the charge against technology is Theo Randall. The InterContinental London Park Lane plays host to Handbook favourite Theo Randall. Randall’s Italian restaurant is so keen to reject modern technologies that they don’t even have windows, and last month the chef launched ‘Festa in Famiglia’, a push to encourage guests to leave their phones behind and, in return, potentially win prizes. Ditch your phone and can choose a card from Italian card game Briscola, and if you draw a winning card you might win a round of negronis or even a personal cookery masterclass with Theo Randall!