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18. February 2021
by Varun Sharma
In 2005, a resort in the Maldives created a unique dining experience that turned it into one of the most popular Indian Ocean destinations. Its dining under the surface of the sea concept has been copied many times, but its popularity has not diminished. Additionally, there are a plethora of top restaurants that are surrounded by enormous aquarium tanks – giving the illusion of eating with the fishes. Now haute cuisine has moved from land to under-the-sea and the finest exponent in the world can be found in Scandinavian waters.
UNDER – 1 Michelin star – Norway
There are ten Michelin-star winning restaurants in Norway but one – Under – is attracting gourmands from all over the world. They are travelling to Lindesnes – 370 kilometres from Oslo by car – not only for the cuisine but the experience itself. Diners enjoy their meals 4.5 metres (15 feet) under the North Atlantic Ocean.
The purpose-built restaurant sits on a bleak landscape on the south coast of Norway with the incredible dining room under the surface of the water. The only thing keeping the diners from the cold ocean are windows constructed of large, thick reinforced sheets of acrylic. The room itself is Scandi to the hilt – understated primal elegance – making the “view” – and indeed the cuisine – the stars of the show. The Danish Head Chef – Nicolai Ellitsgaard – uses local ingredients – mainly from the waters around Under for his culinary creations. His specialties include crab, lobster and seaweed.
ITHAA UNDERSEA RESTAURANT – Maldives
Opened in April 2005, the Ithaa Undersea Restaurant earned the accolade of the world’s first all-glass underwater restaurant. It sits 5 metres (16 feet) under the sea – with the warm, clear waters of the Indian Ocean providing up to 14 diners incredible views of “life under the sea”. The 45 square metres (480 square feet) restaurant is a huge draw for the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort. Ithaa (which translates as mother of pearl in Dhivehi) serves European with Asian influenced cuisine. The resort once turned the restaurant into a guestroom – the ultimate underwater sleeping experience without having to get wet!
SUBSIX – Niyama Private Islands – Maldives
Once one of the most exclusive nightclubs in the world, Subsix is now a restaurant that offers diners fine cuisine and views that takes the breath away. Subsix sits six metres (20 feet) under the surface of the Indian Ocean – 500 metres from the beach of the Niyama Private Island Resort. Diners can only reach Subsix by boat from the island. They then descend a three-tier staircase into a room like no other. The ceiling of Subsix is dominated by waves of Capiz shells and the soft anemone chairs that sit around the low tables are a delight. Yes, you can quaff fine champagne and gorge on haute cuisine, but it is the vista from the floor to ceiling windows that will remain with you for years to come. The reef that sits in front of Subsix is teaming with parrot fish, eels, groupers and over 90 species of coral. The ever-changing scenery is simply mesmerising …
AL MAHARA – The Burj Al Arab – Dubai, UAE
The underwater dining experience at arguably the world’s greatest hotel starts with a submarine journey. Diners are “transported” to Al Mahara in unique fashion and waiting for them is a fantastic dining room which is coupled with cuisine from a multi-Michelin-star winning chef, who specialises in seafood. The dining room is dominated by a floor to ceiling aquarium which gives guests the illusion that they are underwater. Located in Dubai’s most luxurious hotel, Al Mahara (“oyster shell” in Arabic) is beautifully furnished and tables by the windows are highly sought after.
The cuisine is designed and prepared under the watchful eyes of the French-South Korean Chef Kim Joinié-Maurin who has won three Michelin stars for his cooking so far in his short but illustrious career. The menu is dominated by lobster, crab, Hokkaido scallops and Loch Fyne Oysters. Chef’s signature dish is a king crab salad with green herbs in a daikon ravioli with honey & sherry vinaigrette. While Al Mahara is technically not “underwater”, it is an incredible experience and is a must for any gastronome visiting Dubai.
L’OCEANOGRAPHIC SUBMARINO RESTAURANT – Valencia, Spain
Oceanogràfic Valencia is the largest aquarium in Europe and one of the top tourist attractions in Spain. The park boasts sharks, dolphins, seals, whales, and hundreds of other species, but more importantly, it is also one of the most successful aquatic conservation and education centres in the world. Its Submarino restaurant is one of the most popular in Valencia – not only to due to the cuisine but also its surroundings – a giant marine habitat that contains over 10,000 fish. Diners can enjoy salmon tartare, paella Valenciana and amazing desserts while being distracted by the fish that busily swim by with inquiring looks. It can be a family experience or a more intimate one.
BusinessClass.com suggests that visitors to Valencia stay in The Caro Hotel which is housed in a 19th-century palace in the centre of the city – just 200 metres from Valencia’s ornate Cathedral.