Travelling and eating are two of our favourite things. Luckily the two go very well together.
Eating is as much about the experience as it is about the actual food. Thankfully, we’ve been fortunate to have participated in some incredible food events, with great food and great locations. Only occasionally has the food, or the location let us down.
Finding unusual places to eat has become a challenge for us, spending a great amount of time reading and researching, or talking to locals to uncover the less than obvious eating adventures.
A great source of inspiration and knowledge also comes from those who have “been there, done that”. I am delighted to have teamed up with many amazing travellers from around the world who have shared with me their unusual dining experiences around the world.
Eating in a restaurant will never be the same again. Not that there is anything wrong with restaurants! My “places to eat” list is full of ideas once more.
Folgefonna Glacier – Norway
It was the first time we had unhooked from the red rope keeping our group connected through the fog. We had been carefully negotiating a slippery path enveloped by a thick fog at every side. It was lunchtime on the Folgefonna Glacier in Norway and we were taking a short break from traversing the ice to catch our breath in our overwhelmingly surreal surroundings.
My crampons slid slightly under me as I took a seat on the boulder. My hands were slow to unwrap a sandwich, encumbered by my heavy gloves. We sipped on coffee prepared at my friend’s house that morning and watched our breath form clouds in front of our faces as we recounted the walk we had just made. It wasn’t a fancy restaurant but a simple, home made meal. But one I’ll never forget.
Leave it to Skye from The Fit Traveller to find a way to have a healthy meal whilst engaged in maximum adventure and physical activity. I bet the view was awesome!
While trying to find our way to the beach in Unawatuna we came across a hand written sign that said “Short Cut To The Beach”. As we headed the way of the sign a friendly lady approached us and it turned out she ran a simple homestay on the land of the short cut.
She asked if we’d like to come back the following evening for a home made Sri Lankan dinner. Just $5 per person – we were in!
We joined three other travellers (who were all there thanks to the short cut) for a communal candlelit garden dinner. Our fish was cooked on the ground over hot coals and we devoured vegetable curries and sambal. The family sat with us and it was lovely to learn about their culture. It was also incredibly sad to hear their stories of the 2004 tsunami. There is no photo of this meal because it truly was an experience that was just about being in the moment.
With such an incredible story like that, Sarah from Fit Travels can be excused for not getting a photo. I have all the visualisation I need from this great story.
Mexico City – Mexico
Whilst in Mexico City, my friend took me to quite a typical looking cafe style restaurant. I thought we were eating there, when suddenly we walked down the corridor, turned left, went through a door, and wound up in this entirely different, dimly lit restaurant. There were no signs to get there, and it was set up completely like the speakeasies of the prohibition days, complete with jazz bands playing.
Surprisingly enough for a vegetarian, this totally awesome speakeasy even had veggie burgers to die for. Great atmosphere, great food, but good luck finding it – not a single sign leads you there, you just have to know about it!
Danielle from Likeridingabicycle had such a great time at this restaurant that she forgot to take note of the name. Now that’s what I call having a good time.
Chiang Mai – Thailand
This lovely Italian fine dining restaurant’s unique selling proposition is in its location as it lies in the heart of a.. wait for it – village! Yes, that’s right – imagine crossing bamboo huts and cowdung to reach a restaurant!?
My first impression was that this was so shady. However, as soon as you enter, you are welcomed by the cozy, quaint decor.
Not just that, I had some unique dishes at Cuisine De Garden – think kiwi foam in liquid nitrogen, cherry in juice balls, half boiled eggs on a nest and so much more. Most of the times, I was very cautious and curious about the weird, yet exquisite food served there, but it was surely a very unique and interesting experience.
Jo from Wander with Jo has not only stumbled upon fine dining, but molecular gastronomy as well by the sounds of this delicious food. This is common place in a big city but not at all an expectation in small villages.
Jaisalmer – India
Setting foot inside Kiradu Temple complex, Jaisalmer, India, we were greeted with the sight of 30 pujaris chanting mantras in the main temple. A smaller temple just beside the main one had been elaborately set up for dining, with seating arrangements in traditional styles.
We could sit cross-legged on the chowki style seats with little tables right in front. The thali (round platters) were elaborately stuffed with a satvik menu. Satvik food is a very holy concept of Hindus. Consumption of satvik food provides positive energy to the functions of the five vital energies (Panch-Pran) which spreads to the entire body.
Indrani from I Share These said that being able to eat satvik food at the end of ceremony added great value to the event.
We had the incredible experience of getting to stay with a Berber family in the Atlas mountains of Morocco. The stay consisted of all sorts of Moroccan staples while being completely disconnected from the grid. Couldn’t even get a phone signal! The highlight of the week is market day. During market day everyone descends on to one local town to buy and sell all of their goods.
However, before shopping is done it is tradition to sit down and have a meal. We entered a low-lying tent within the market and gave the workers some fresh eggs, tea, and tomatoes. Fifteen minutes later we were drinking Moroccan mint tea and having one of the most delicious omelets we’ve ever had. It was an enriching experience, far from anything resembling tourism.
Cameron from The World Pursuit has found one of the types of food experiences I love. Authentic and reasonably random. I’m quite envious of this one.
Las Peñitas – Nicaragua
Las Peñitas is a small lesser known beach area close to León in Nicaragua. One of the benefits of it being a fishing town is that there is fresh fish on offer if you know where to get it!
Luckily for you, I lived and volunteered through Workaway in paradise aka Las Peñitas, so I can disclose the secret!
Visit Carmen’s house / restaurant. It has an open front house with tarp roof, her husband lies in a hammock, her kids watch TV loudly, and her parrot screeches ‘Buenos’ at you! For 80 ($US2.82) – 100 cordobas, Carmen lets you select which fish you would like from the fridge and serves it up with the typical Nicaraguan Gallo pinto and tortilla. Cheap, quick, and healthy.
Wow, Gemma from Two Scots Abroad, that’s a great story. I can quite literally see her husband in the hammock, not having a care in the world, whilst she cooks away. The addition of the kids and the parrot would certainly make it memorable.
The amazing-ness of this experience rooted itself in authenticity. Where else could I enjoy a fine lunch being surrounded by some of the most gourmet pepper on earth? We sat down to feast in an outdoor porch area. Picture sprawling fields of pepper plants, lined up perfectly, surrounded by gorgeous Cambodian country side. I even got to sample a few pepper corns right from the plant!
I ate a hearty lunch in a peaceful, serene setting and also traded travel stories with fellow tour members from all over the world. The food was delicious but the calm environment and beautiful scenery made this dining experience most memorable.
Ryan from Blogging from Paradise has given me travel (and food) envy. The Kampot pepper plantations have long been on my list of places to get to.
Paris – France
I love finding novel ways to eat fantastic gourmet food at a good price, so I was thrilled to discover the Institut Vatel in Paris. The Institut Vatel is a culinary school in Paris that trains the next generation of France’s gourmet chefs and waiting staff.
Dining there is an experience, with exceptional service, and excellent food. The food is very classic and French, and what really struck me was the quality of the ingredients and the care with which everything was prepared. Service was precise, polite and attentive. The hovering supervisors can be deservedly proud of their students. Definitely the tastiest school I’ve ever been to!
Jo, from Frugal First Class Travel has really showcased how you can drive your dollar further whilst having a great experience, even in a city as huge as Paris. This one is definitely on my “must-do” list.
I’ve been traveling continuously for years now, but still, I find interesting experiences in different countries. This time, I’ll share the one in Norway, while I was traveling solely by bicycle from Spain to North Cape in summer.
After the whole day cycling, we were looking for a perfect spot to have dinner whilst making sure we were in an area with an amazing landscape that we could enjoy the next morning.
We ended up having a great barbecue dinner with salmon and steak, since you can make fire everywhere in Norway. Can you imagine having dinner next to the reindeers? Or having dinner with the midnight sun still up in the sky?
Since it was summer in Norway at that time, you can find light for 24 hours. It was one of the most unusual dinners I’ve ever had in my life. One that I’m not sure I will see again, but know that I will always remember.
Bligny Sur Ouche – France
As much as we loved wine tasting in Burgundy, eating dinner in a 13th century farm house was the highlight of our visit to this popular French region. Located in charming Bligny Sur Ouche, La Ruchotte has a single guest room and large dining room in addition to the comfortable living spaces for the Ménager family and their chickens, goats and pigs.
Formerly a notable chef in both Paris and Burgundy, Chef Frèdéric Ménager now runs his farm kitchen with style and finesse. Our meal was an intimate dining experience where it was just us, the chef, incredible wine and amazing food.
We toasted our ongoing love affair with France as we dined on the likes of poached eggs over girolle mushrooms, rabbit with caramelized shallots and squash, fresh chevre and a Mirabelle tart. The addition of excellent white wine from Mersault made our La Ruchotte experience a meal to remember.
Mindi from 2foodtrippers always uncovers amazing food experiences as she travels around the world with her husband Daryl. We’ve also had some great times in Burgundy but didn’t know about this place. Sounds like a good reason for me to return!
Would you dine in the dark? In Dans Le Noir, a restaurant founded in Paris that has since opened in cities like London and Barcelona, guests are introduced to a multi-sensory dining experience as they eat in absolute darkness.
Visitors are asked to put their phones and digital watches in lockers before entering the restaurant. After choosing from one of four surprise menus – fish, vegetarian, meat, and exotic surprise – guests are guided inside by visually impaired servers.
The experience, which raises awareness for the blind and disabled, can be daunting at first but becomes more enjoyable when you relax and release your inhibitions. Without outside distractions, dining turns into a more visceral journey with sole reliance on heightened taste, smell, and touch It is a one-of-a-kind experience and will leave you re-evaluating what you know about how we eat.
Wow, dining in complete darkness by choice is certainly a different experience. As someone who really loves to see what I eat, I would find this challenging. Good on you Kimberly from Ready, Set, Kgo, you’ve shown me something new.
Zagros Mountains – Iran
My husband and I spent an evening camping with a Qashqai nomad family in the Zagros Mountains near Shiraz, Iran. We sat outside in their courtyard with their chickens and baby goats whilst their daughter made rice over a campfire, lining the pot with naan so the rice wouldn’t stick.
They plied us with candies and sheep-yogurt balls, and cup after cup of tea. We learned to drink tea by their tradition, which is to pour the tea from your cup into the deep saucer in order to cool it off quickly, and you don’t put sugar cubes into your tea, rather, you hold the sugar cube or crystals between your front teeth and suck the tea through the sugar cube. We ate dinner inside their seasonal home on their priceless Persian carpets, as our translator relayed to us the jokes they were telling each other. A very special evening.
Shara from SKJ Travel has really had a one-of-a-kind experience here. I would happily participate in this although, I can’t even imagine trying to drink tea with a sugar cube in your teeth!!
We went to a restaurant in an alley that looked like someone’s modest dining room rather than an eatery.
A Chinese lady greeted us with a very surprised look on her face and pointed towards a table covered with a cheap plastic tablecloth. She brought the menus – some Chinese characters badly printed on a piece of paper. She didn’t speak a word of English, we didn’t speak a word of Chinese.
And that’s when the fun began. We just pointed out random items on the menu, while the woman was trying to point to her suggestions. When a certain number of items was reached, she gave us a large smile and disappeared into the kitchen.
She came back shortly after with a simmering metal pot filled with boiling water (and a lot of different unknown things floating inside). The pot was round, with a “tall neck” coming out of the centre. Underneath it, there was an open fire.
The lady brought out different ingredients, the ones we unknowingly ordered. She then showed us how to pickup the vegetables with the chopsticks and dunk them into the water to boil. The meat had to touch the metal neck of the pot, to fry.
It was an amazing eating experience that I would love to try again. The self-cooked food was delicious!
Joanna from The World In My Pocket shows how you can just fall into great food experiences. Sometimes the best finds you when you are not looking for it.
Unusual dining experiences around the world
In these 14 stories, we’ve seriously covered some global territory. From the desert, to the mountains, the alleys, glaciers, small villages and major world cities. Each experience is unique and proof that you don’t always need a big budget.
What I love even more is knowing that there are so many more of these types of opportunities out there and I’m going to make it our mission to find as many as I can. Thanks to these great travellers, I now have a great place to start.