'Flying table' lifts gourmet dining to new heights
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - If someone drops a fork at Dinner in the Sky, a seven-ton platform may have to be lowered 50 meters (yards) to pick up a new one, so diners tend to keep a good grip on the cutlery.
Joining a growing trend for extreme dining - from supper in the dark to eating in the jungle - Dinner in the Sky takes the concept to, well, new heights, with a select group of guests sitting around a table suspended 160 feet in the air.
You could be eating above a forest, hovering above a beach or dangling in the midst of a European capital, floating above landmarks usually only seen from the ground. Whatever the location, the aim is to elevate dining out of the ordinary.
That's the case with the Brussels edition of Dinner in the Sky, which during June gives 22 diners at a time the chance to enjoy gourmet food and champagne while suspended near sites such as the Royal Palace, the famed Atomium or the Cambre forest.
"I just thought, wouldn't it be nice if we could eat up here?" Stefan Kerkhofs, one of the Belgian creators, explained as a group of guests was hoisted above Brussels this week.
Kerkhofs, who used to set up bungee-jumping and amusement part installations, partnered with marketing executive David Ghelys to develop Dinner in the Sky six years ago. The two now travel the world putting on dramatic dining shows.
Kerkhofs has designed and built 40 platforms and charges up to 250 euros ($310) a head for the experience, with Las Vegas, Barcelona, Paris, Monaco and Tokyo all popular destinations.
While the views from up above are spectacular, the aim is to ensure that the food is too, with some of the world's top chefs preparing the meals. One recent menu included foie gras, lobster with lemongrass and crispy veal sweetbreads followed by a chocolate, caramel and coconut concoction.
"I only do special events," said Kerkhofs with a grin. "If you asked me to do anything normal, I couldn't."
This month is the first time the event is open to the public in Brussels, where it forms part of Brusselicious 2012, a gastronomic fair featuring seven of the city's top chefs - a serious pull in a city known for its top-notch restaurants.
While great food and a funky experience are the goals, Kerkhofs has to think seriously about security too.
Diners are carefully strapped into seats not dissimilar to those on a rollercoaster and hoisted gently by crane to the dining altitude, which depends on wind and other weather conditions, but hits a maximum of 50 meters (165 feet).
From above, even some of Brussels' grandest monuments are reduced to miniature proportions, with the Royal Palace looking more like a fancy dollhouse and the lush green Cambre forest - site of an upcoming Dinner in the Sky event - looking more like a mountain of broccoli on the horizon.