by Faith Norris
Discovering unusual restaurants while traveling is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in other cultures and to taste traditional cuisine. Exploring areas off the beaten track and stumbling across a hidden gem is all part of the fun. For the chance to make your friends at home truly envious of your travels, be sure to visit one of these amazing restaurants.
Restaurant Ithaa – Rangali Island, Maldives
Ithaa (which in Dhivehi means mother-of-pearl) provides a truly unique dining experience, being the world’s only under water restaurant! From secluded huts with private infinity pools to extravagant dishes in the most amazing underwater setting, the Maldives scream indulgence and luxury. Ithaa was built in 2005 and is expected to last only 20 years, so wannabe diners had better get here quick; from five meters underwater, guests can watch sharks, seahorses and other spectacular marine life swim overhead as they tuck into a decadent five course dinner in this intimate 14-seater setting. The menu consists of everything expensive; duck foie gras, caviar, lobster and of course, chilled champagne. On special request, the restaurant can be transformed into a bedroom – imagine falling asleep with schools of fish drifting above! To truly submerge yourself in the underwater theme, why not book on the mini submarine excursion available from Rangali Island?
Best Dish: The whole menu is mouth-wateringly good, however the best dish has to be the Maldivian lobster Carpaccio, reef fish tartar, poached quail egg served with passion fruit dressing.
Restaurante Estaminé – Ilha da Barreta, Algarve
In the south of Portugal, there is the Algarve where you can find the Ilha da Barreta which is also known as Deserta Island (Portuguese for deserted island) because, apart from Estaminé and gorgeous sandy beaches, there really isn’t much else to distract your attention from some much-needed relaxation. The island is a quiet, tranquil retreat; ideal for those wanting to escape popular and busy resorts such as Albufeira and Vilamoura. Estaminé, which was built in 2007, is a modern wooden building on the tip of the island which is run by José Vargas and his wife Isabel Vicente. Offering beautiful panoramic views, the restaurant serves mostly fish cooked over hot BBQ coals – clams, cuttlefish, shrimp and squid are their specialities. As you dine you’ll be able to gaze out to sea and watch the world go by. Once sufficiently full, head to the beach, whip out the beach towel and catch 40 winks while basking in the Portuguese sun. On the mainland, there is the Ria Formosa National Park where you’ll have the chance to see wild flamingos in the lagoons and hike around the stunning landscape.
Best Dish: Try the salads; the octopus and tuna salad is a must – a light meal ideal for the warm weather.
The Redwoods Tree House Restaurant – Auckland, New Zealand
The striking tree house was built as part of a marketing campaign in 2008, when a group of entrepreneurs were asked to build a tree house 30 feet up a redwood tree using only products they could find in the directory. The outcome is an elegant, pod-like building, which provides a beautiful setting for a unforgettable meal. At night, when the pod is lit up, it looks even more remarkable – the floating structure in the Auckland forest blends in with the natural environment seamlessly. There are two tree house menus which both serve seasonal produce, so you can choose between a gourmet BBQ and a fine dining menu, offering dishes such as roasted lamb, crispy roast duck and char-grilled tuna. Before your dining experience, head to the Sky Tower for amazing views of Auckland from a building which is over 1000 feet tall.
Best Dish: The choice of food is extensive and eclectic, so you’ll be sure to find something which tickles your fancy. The fillet of beef with wild mushrooms and a garlic and herb mash sounds delectable.
The Rock – Zanzibar, Tanzania
There is a small restaurant built on a rock just off the coast of Michanwi Pingwe beach, on the island of Zanzibar. A local fisherman owns the unusual restaurant where the freshest and most delicious seafood dishes are served. If the tide is out far enough, The Rock can be reached by foot, however sometime patrons are required to take a boat to enjoy the dining experience. The views from the restaurant are spectacular – the perfect setting for a romantic dinner or a special occasion. Everything on the menu has fish in, so this probably isn’t the place for you if you prefer turf rather than surf. Be sure to explore other popular attractions in Zanzibar; head to the Mtoni Palace Ruins where outdoor candle-lit concerts take place and traditional Zanzibar food is served. Dishes such as Boku-boku, a stewed meat dish infused with ginger, cumin and chilli or Pwewa wa nazi, a coconut, garlic and octopus dish, are amongst the favourites.
Best Dish: There is a small menu available on The Rocks website, and The Rock special won the best dish award. It consists of freshly caught king prawns, calamari, lobster and cigale, all cooked on the grill.
Casa Princess Arminda – Fuerteventura, Spain
The Casa Princess Arminda is a 600 year old estate which can be found next to the bell tower in the small village of Betancuria, Fuerteventura. Betancuria, the island’s former capital, was built high in the hills to protect its inhabitants from pirate attacks. The Casa Princess Arminda has rustic indoor dining rooms and outdoor terraces with beautiful views over the volcanic landscape. Escape from the busy seaside resorts and touristy restaurants to enjoy truly traditional Canarian food, Spanish wine and utterly stunning scenery. The menu consists of a tempting tapas selection, antipasto platters, fresh seafood dishes, soups and tasty stews. The restaurant is part of a small hotel which has a handful of quirky rooms and a pool – an ideal place to cool off in between soaking up the Spanish sun. Better still, the closest beaches are only 15 minutes away, so take your pick from either Aguas Verdes or Pozo Negro.
Best Dish: Paella. It would be near illegal not to try paella while in Spain! The rice dish is cooked in a large pan and is bursting with delicious flavours and local shellfish such as mussels, clams and squid.
Visit authentic and memorable restaurants such as these for memories that will last a lifetime and culinary delights that leave you wanting more.
Faith Norris is a travel writer for lowcostholidays and loves to try local cuisine while traveling. One of her favourite memories is eating delicious food in the mountains of Sri Lanka, the traditional way… with her hands!