OK, so they’re not that secret. In fact you may well have heard of all of them. But they are all unusual, and will make a mundane dinner date into something far more memorable. Whether that’s memorable in a good way or a bad way is up to you, especially when it comes to following food with karaoke. Our top tip? Steer clear of ‘Wuthering Heights’. Over to you Neil…
The Wapping Project
Located in an old hydraulic power station in Wapping (a 15 minute power-walk – if you do the weird elbow thing – from Tower Bridge), the Wapping Project’s a pretty crazy place to eat. Particularly good for Sunday brunch, there’s a large – and spooky – exhibition space at the back, where an eclectic range of installations and exhibitions are showcased each month. Also worth checking out is the rooftop, which few people know is the official home to London’s worst swimming pool.
Love this place. That’s an order. Each course of Andrew Lassetter’s Pan-Asian menu is punctuated by a succession of bendy acrobats, fire-eating dancers and random human oddities, all of whom will carefully flip, spin and hop over or around the wine glass that you forgot to remove from your table. On the subject of your table, statistical probability would indicate that you, specifically, are 94% likely to end up dancing on it by the end of the night. But as there’s only a 76% chance of anyone else following you up there, you may want to hang back for a bit… or not, ya crazy bastard.
La Bodega Negra
Step 1: Head to a colourful street-level café and tacqueria called ‘La Bodega Negra” on Moor Street. Step 2: Ignore that, and edge around the corner to Old Compton Street instead. Step 3: Find the illuminated entrance to a seedy-looking sex shop (see above). Step 4: Check in with Mr Clipboard, and descend the stairs into a buzzy, hacienda-style, subterranean den enveloped by battered concrete walls; old tequila barrels and – most surprisingly of all – other diners. Step 5: You can stop looking for porn now, there isn’t any.
This is a moodily-lit, exotic and mysterious place. It also represents your best opportunity yet to eat crocodile, wildebeest, garlic crickets, locusts, zebra and scorpion without first having to suffer the indignity of becoming famous, then becoming less famous, and then joining the cast of ‘I’m a Celebrity’. The best news? You’re allowed salt, pepper and ketchup here. Well, maybe not the ketchup.
You’ll enter through an Italian phone box, head past the large gondola-shaped bar, and quickly find yourself at a tribute wall dedicated to sexy Silvio himself. Enveloped by the soft glow emanating from upside-down Vespa helmet lights, you’ll pick at the remnants of your Leaning Tower of Pizza; down a signature Horse’s Head cocktail; polish off a terracotta carafe of wine, and then head to the Colosseum stage to perform your legendary rendition of ‘That’s Amore’. You: 1 Dean Martin: 0
Read more of Neil’s recommendations at TheNudge.com