World Travel

World's most expensive restaurants

El Bulli
These shrines to dining belong to another world. Fancy eating underwater? Or accompanied by an extraordinary firework display? We discover which restaurants really
take the biscuit in the luxury league.
Eat 5m below sea level at Ithaa, the world's first underwater restaurant. Housed in an acrylic shell, it cost around US$5 million (A$6 million) to build. Diners descend to the 14 seat restaurant via a spiral staircase. The interior is an incredible tunnel of sea, surrounded on all sides by blue, shoals of fish, coral, rays and even sharks. Cuisine is western with a Maldivian twist (yes, seafood does feature), and the tasting menu is 23 courses long ($300). We only wonder what the fish make of it, looking in.
Tiny Masa is New York's most expensive restaurant, with a tasting menu costing $480 to $680 per person. It's in the Time Warner Centre — a glitzy shopping mall that contains several other top flight restaurants. Entering Masa's huge wooden door is like going through the looking glass. In the demure, temple like, 26 seat room, Chef Masa Takayama himself greets guests, then begins to conjure divine morsels of food. You're not presented with choices, but a wondrous seasonal array, such as wild watercress tempura and lobster and foie gras hotpot. To accompany these, why not the 10 year old sake at $480 a bottle? For fastidious foodies, this is like dying and going to (sushi) heaven. The only non Zen thing is the bill.
Old school glamour oozes from this temple of taste. It's dominated by a huge, fragmented chandelier, whose 10,000 crystals shimmer like raindrops. Plaza Athénée in Paris is a flagship of superstar chef Alain Ducasse, who holds enough Michelin Stars to fill a firmament. Classic dishes include langoustines topped with caviar and pigeon fillets in a shallot and mustard sauce, and there is a choice of 35,000 bottles in the wine cellar.
Hold the ketchup! Unassuming steakhouse Aragawa has the typically understated style of Tokyo's greatest restaurants. It is the finest place in the world to treat yourself to Kobe beef (and we mean treat, meals cost around $450 per person). Its hand-fed beef comes from a single nearby farm, and it melts in your mouth, as it should at that price.
You won't be put off by other diners at Solo Per Due, which means "just for two". This is the world's smallest restaurant (meals $426 per person), with just one table, for two. The 19th century building is reached via a candlelit driveway. In summer, guests are served aperitifs in the vine shaded garden. In winter, they can snuggle by a log fire. Then it's delicious, local, seasonal Italian cuisine. No one hovers — you tinkle the silver bell for the waiter. If this doesn't feel lavish enough, add a personal firework display and Ferrari hire.
Although the food at the mountaintop restaurant (reached via a private ski lift) of the Eagle Ski Club is not notably expensive, this is the world's costliest place to eat. You have to be a member to dine here, and membership costs a cool $50,000. If you make it through stringent vetting procedures and three-year waiting list, perma-tanned Hollywood (Roger Moore is a regular) and actual royalty are likely to be occupying the neighbouring tables.
You have to reserve at least two months ahead for the French Laundry, a modest stone building, and one of the hallowed halls of fine dining. Thomas Keller is often cited as one of the world's best chefs, famous for intense dedication to beautiful food and exquisite ingredients. He uses around 300 purveyors, often name checked as the waiter introduces the dish (the eggs are handpicked by so and so in New York, etc). The standard tasting menu costs $180, including esoteric delights such as his signature "oysters and pearls" (caviar topped oysters).
El Bulli, perched above a remote bay two hours north of Barcelona, opens only six months a year. Its chef Ferran Adria spends the winter in a laboratory, creating new culinary concoctions. Eating here is a Willy Wonka like experience. Each of the 15 tables gets a different menu (around $426 a head), which might include parmesan snow, pinecone mousse, freeze dried foie gras, and olive oil spirals that rollercoaster through flavours as they dissolve in your mouth, and so on and on for 30 courses. To get a table requires tenacity because as soon as booking opens, the restaurant sells out, with around 500,000 enquiries for 8,000 places.
Sketch is a fantastical, surreal and self consciously chic bar restaurant complex in London. The Library, lined in cream leather, is the most infamously expensive of its two restaurants — starters can cost up to $300 and some main courses ring in at $149. Devised by French master Pierre Gagnaire, the cuisine is guided by his protege Pascal Sanchez, showcasing intricate virtuosity. Starters don't get much more spectacular than langoustine tails "addressed in five different ways", which arrives on five separate plates.
Casino mogul Steve Wynn has brought some Las Vegas sparkle to the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau, via his hotel and casino Wynn Macau. Restaurant Il Teatro's decor is all ruched curtains, carved wood and lampshaded chandeliers, and the southern Italian menu is equally sumptuous. Watch it being created in the open kitchen — hence the restaurant's name, "theatre" in Italian. But it's the other theatrical aspect which makes it truly an extravagant player. The room is shaped like an auditorium, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a lake, where a spectacular water, light, colour and fire show takes place every 15 minutes.

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User comments
Also a great restaurant at the expensive end of the scale in Berkshire, England. The food is good, though nothing to really write home about. It's all about the whole experience of the degustation menu in a 3 Michelin star restaurant. Something everyone should try once!