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Our Guide To… Unusual Restaurants

Thursday 26th February 2015

La Bodega Negra

If you’re feeling naughty and want to impress a date with your knowledge of underground London, this one’s for you. The gaudy neon sign outside reads ‘sex shop’ and you’re greeted at the door by a mannequin in a PVC gimp suit, casually lounging by a very adult toy cupboard. Descend into a heady Mexican underworld, a subterranean lair of tequila barrels, tacos and a weird deconstructed piano thing hanging off the wall. This is a place to see and be seen. Better make sure you’re there then (gimp suit optional). www.labodeganegra.com

Dans Le Noir

Dans le Noir does exactly what it says on the tin (it means ‘in the dark’, for those of you who didn’t listen in school). Yep, at this Clerkenwell restaurant you eat in.total.darkness. Like, pitch black. You can’t see a thing and neither can the waiters, because they’re blind. But WHY, you ask? Well, not being able to see your food heightens your other senses, like taste, smell and texture. Choose from one of the mystery colour-coded menus: red (meat), blue (fish), green (vegetarian) and white (chef’s special – fingers crossed they’re not putting anything weird in there) and the rest is out of your hands (and sight). As well as awakening your senses, the darkness is meant bring about an open-minded atmosphere, encouraging diners to overcome social anxiety and see people with a disability in a new light. In the dark. www.london.danslenoir.com

Café de Paris

Dinner or cabaret? We know this is in your top five most agonising ‘would you rather…?’ questions, but thanks to Café de Paris you no longer have to answer it. It opened back in 1924 and is now regarded as the best cabaret club in the city, hosting show-stopping (but hopefully not literally) circus, burlesque, music, magic, cabaret and jazz acts in plush, red, velvety surroundings. The best night to pop down on is Friday, when they host their dazzling Cabaret de Distractions. And it’s certainly uhh distracting… While you marvel at the mystery of it all, quaff champagne on the mezzanine and dine on in the grand Titanic Ballroom. Oh laaa. www.cafedeparis.com

Brunswick House

Vauxhall. High rise buildings, dodgy clubs and the MI5 building, right? Yes, but in the middle of all this is the jewel that is Brunswick House. A listed Georgian mansion once home to the Dukes of Brunswick, it fell into disrepair but was restored its former glory by LASSCO. Diners can now lounge amid fancy bric-a-brac and beautiful antiques counter-balanced by the earthy yet refined British menu. www.brunswickhouse.co

Beach Blanket Babylon

There’s ongoing confusion as to where the name comes from (find a blanket and head to the beach in Babylon, duhh), but less confusion about why it’s one of the most fabulous restaurants in town. The décor is over the top opulent like you can’t even imagine; an Aladdin’s cave of twilrly gilt, glittering chandeliers, majestic candelabras, jewelled velvet, twinkling mirrors and gigantic, wide-mouthed gargoyles. It’s like you’ve wandered into Hercules’ heavenly house. Plutus’s palace. A grotto of glory. Got the idea yet? Good. The food isn’t bad either. www.beachblanket.co.uk

Bunga Bunga

When you think of ‘bunga bunga’, the first thing that pops into your head is probably the naughty parties that Silvio Berlusconi likes to attend. Equally fun (but somewhat less seedy) is Battersea’s Bunga Bunga, a cheeky Italian (like Silvio) pizzeria from the guys behind Bart’s, Kitt’s and Maggie’s. The walls and ceilings are adorned with quirky memorabilia, from mopeds and Vespa helmets to Roman busts, political caricatures and a shrine to the man himself. Upstairs you’ll find the Sistine Chapel and a Eurovision song contest room ready to satisfy your karaoke craving. With (often bizarre) live music, flirty cocktails and a crowd of hot young twenty somethings, there’s every chance it could turn into a real bunga bunga party… www.bungabunga-london.com

Sketch

Mourad Mazouz and Pierre Gagnaire wanted to create a restaurant which combined food, art and music. The result? The lavish, over the top, playful Pandora’s Box which is Sketch. Fiercely fun, from the pod-shaped loos which look like giant eggs to the hopscotch court in the entrance hall and the mating dogs statue on the stairs, this place really packs a punch and has been pulling in well-heeled hipsters for over a decade. With several dining areas to choose from (including the Michelin-starred Library), the food is imaginative French cuisine with an international spin from Japan, Italy, Spain and Britain. If you’re looking for the wow factor, Sketch has it. www.sketch.london

Shaka Zulu

If someone asked you to name your favourite cuisine, we’re pretty sure your immediate reply wouldn’t be ‘South African. Yep, love it’. But get yourself down to Shaka Zulu and this might all be about to change. London’s largest South African feeding hole is set over 27,000 square feet in Camden’s Stables Market and is decked out with 20 foot high Zulu statues, crocodile skin sinks and a blessing from Zulu King himself. It’s over the top, just like the menu of kudu, ostrich, springbok, zebra and antelope flown in from Namibia. It’s not going to become your regular haunt, but it’s a novelty experience if you can’t quite afford a safari this year. www.shaka-zulu.com

Les Trois Garcons

Not your regular East End boozer, Les Trois Garcons is a Victorian pub in the heart of Shoreditch but it’s pretty darn weird. Imagine climbing into the back of your granny’s wardrobe (minus the musky smell) and having a good root around. It’s stuffed floor to ceiling with absurd taxidermy (think giraffe heads and antelopes in a tiaras), swinging vintage handbags and ostentatious costume jewellery interspersed with antique chandeliers. But by no means does the whacky décor mean they scrimp on food. It’s deliciously indulgent French cuisine with a contemporary British twist; an all-round winner sure to impress the most discerning of diners. www.lestroisgarcons.com

Circus

If you’re thinking of running away to join the circus, this is probably the one you want to go for. A surreal yet stylish cocktail bar and cabaret restaurant, everything about Circus is clever. From the contemporary Pan-Asian menu to the exotic cocktails and the fire-eaters, burlesque acts and dancers who pop up in glorious little bursts throughout dinner to strut their stuff on the tables. In fact, it’s mainly about them.  Flirty and fun, it still manages to retain an air of sophisticated chic. Which isn’t usually the case in establishments full of semi-naked dancers… www.circus-london.co.uk

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