Like your mezze with a side of mezzo-soprano, or your strudel with a side of flugelhorn? London’s beautiful, mad and sprawling dining scene has you covered for all your tabletop-trapeze and tableside opera needs.
Dans Le Noir
The waiters at Dans Le Noir are all blind and way more self-assured in the dark than you'll be at this pitch black restaurant. They're on hand to guide you through the experience, although responsibility for getting your set menu — choices are carnivore, vegetarian and chef's surprise — from plate to face is, ultimately, going to be yours. Maybe wear clothes that can mask a few slips, and take an understanding date.
Dans Le Noir, 30-31, Clerkenwell Green, EC1R 0DU
The food's pan-Asian at this central London institution, and very ornate. But nobody's there for the sashimi spirals, they're at Circus for the... the circus. Jugglers, contortionists and cabaret take centre stage, and centre stage is the middle of your table. Slide your drinks to one side to make space for the leathered-up firebreathers, ignore your sushi in favour of the trapeze artists dangling above. Brace yourself for high-adrenaline and a steep bill to go with it.
Circus, 27-29, Endell Street, WC2H 9BA
This Austrian restaurant's been going for years, and there's no evidence they've changed anything in that time. The lederhosen-wearing waiters perform traditional Austrian music, interspersed with some light yodelling, the occasional cowbell, and a lot of fondue. Portions are generous, audience participation is pretty inevitable and although you can find places doing better Austrian food in London (Fishcher's and Kipferl are among them), it’d be hard to beat this place for enormous, expansive cheerfulness.
Tiroler Hut, 27 Westbourne Grove, W2 4UA
Turkish-ish food, classically-trained singers for staff, and a massively gold-leaf-and-rococo interior — as you might expect, Sarastro's usually filled with tourists enjoying the opera-box seating and interludes when the waiters burst into their best Carmen.
Oddly, Sarastro isn't the only place of its sort in the area — apparently the London appetite for opera can keep three of them alive. TWID in Battersea is a slightly cheaper option, with live opera four evenings a week and Bel Canto in Bayswater offers their singing accompanied by a French menu in slightly more traditional, somewhat less dramatic surroundings.
Sarastro, 126, Drury Lane, WC2B 5SU
La Bodega Negra
Inside, La Bodega Negra looks like a pretty, sun-bleached hacienda — wooden beams and floors, paint peeling on the walls, candlelight dotted everywhere — although slightly less romantic for the pounding soundtrack. Pan out, though, and you're in the cellar of a Soho sex shop, with a street level entrance making neon promises about peep shows and hot videos. If you manage to stifle your disappointment that you're not actually going to find anything nearly so racy at this Mexican restaurant, the tostadas and tequila list are both still worth the visit
La Bodega Negra, 9, Old Compton Street, W1D 5JF
Obviously we're not in a position in the UK to laugh at the state of other people's nations... But this Berlusconi-inspired monument to pizza, prosecco and flamboyant parties is still well worth a visit, even if you can't call it political satire anymore without feeling like a massive hypocrite. Go for Saturday brunch to catch the Battersea restaurant at its height of messy decadence — hitting up three courses, free-flowing Bellinis and the karaoke stage all before 2.30pm feels like a level of bravado that even Berlusconi would admire.
Bunga Bunga, 37, Battersea Bridge Road, SW11 3BA