Sublimotion is the Willy Wonka dining experience that will blow your mind
The world's most expensive restaurant offers a virtual reality dining experience full of deception, cabaret, Britney Spears hits and Satan carving some tuna. We find out if the food lives up to expectation, or if it's all smoke and mirrors
What does the food at the world’s most expensive restaurant taste like? What ambrosial delights can you expect at a meal that costs £1,200 per head? Is gold on the menu?
Two weeks after the event, I’m still not entirely sure. I do remember being involved in a sensory kaleidoscope where my brain, nose, eyes and tongue were whirled, jangled and mashed in a barrage of tastes, sights, sounds and smells that I have rarely – correction, never – experienced in a three-hour space before. But that’s about it. I’m still looking at my notes and trying to decipher exactly what it all was about.
Sublimotion is the name of this palace of insanity (“restaurant” does not do it justice) set up on the White Isle of Ibiza three years ago. It comes out of the mind of Paco Roncero, two Michelin-starred chef and one-time El Bulli employee who has taken an idea and run with it. And continued to run.
We meet—seven of us—at a white table at the Hard Rock Hotel where we are served frothing gin and chamomile cocktails in Fu Man Chu cups which tastes like mildly carbonated mouthwash.
Then chauffeur-driven five minutes down the road to a nondescript, white-panelled building we are invited into a small room that looks like a 1920s speakeasy coat-check. It is the preamble to a theatrical show that hits you like a pie in the face.
I am about to discover that nothing here is what it seems
When the doors open, via a make-believe lift, our host leads us into a windowless room with a large table cast over with shimmering projections and operatic music and I am about to discover that nothing here is what it seems.
But let me first try and focus on the food. The introductory course is gazpacho – we are in Spain – and an avocado and shellfish mash served in giant white shells. To be perfectly honest the sour soup is uninspiring and the avocado and shellfish untroublesome. There isn’t much time to pause and reflect, though, for suddenly these glass balls descend from the sky filled with a little edible garden. Edible but unedifying. But then again my mind is somewhat distracted by proceedings around us. Right now the projector is on full blast transforming the room into a whirring lightshow and I’m getting a strange, vertiginous effect of sinking as white dots circle around.
It stops when a lady in white emerges from a curtain. She is our lovely compere and will be making momentary appearances to talk us through the food and show—and she does mention the price. Her staff, of which there are many, turn us to the walls so we can watch a Charlie Chaplin film and we’re given frozen boxes of foie gras popcorn to munch on.
An Avatar world reached through virtual reality glasses where ingredients float in mid-air; skydiving out of a plane as I’m wheeled around the room feeling as if I should scream—“wheee!”
I stare in confusion as Charlie eats his boot then is strapped to a chair and subjected to various culinary tortures. Is it some kind of symbolic in-joke? Are we the chef’s experiments? Is this a gastronomic Clockwork Orange? And – lo and behold – when I turn I’m confronted by the Chaplin boot sitting right there on the table!
Meanwhile more entertainments rise behind curtains. Many of them. To précis – an Avatar world reached through virtual reality glasses where ingredients float in mid-air; skydiving out of a plane as I’m wheeled around the room feeling as if I should scream –“wheee!”; a cabaret scene where a lady in fishnets and basque jiggles upside down on a chair; a magician on a wall doing an interactive card trick with us and – following in this train of tumbling, logic-defying experiences – an aeroplane scene where Pan Am-style waitresses dance to the strains of Britney Spears’ Toxic and serve us on tiny airplane trays.
But what, my brains shouts, is the food like? I couldn’t tell you. Because the external cacophony is overriding any sense of taste. The soupy shrimp tartar, and Dover sole and caviar, and kimchi and beef are all couched under jangling waves of light and sound.
Flames burn on the wall behind us as a man dressed as Satan carves tuna to a groaning baroque melody
And then I am literally, figuratively and emotionally taken to hell. Flames burn on the wall behind us as a man dressed as Satan carves tuna to a groaning baroque melody and a torsoless model pushes a cart around the room.
As said, two weeks on and I’m still trying to work it all out. Yes, Sublimotion is designed to elicit a response – my main response right now is “WTF just happened there?” Perhaps in time things will settle and I will be smitten by a sudden coup de foudre. Until then, at £1,200 per head, this just does not cut the mustard.
To find out more: sublimotionibiza.com