Restaurant in the jungle
Huka Lodge Jetty Pavilion

Gourmet Getaways

Usually, eating out is all about being part of a restaurant’s bustle and ambiance. Maybe, too, about being seen. But sometimes, the goal is different. For special occasions, the best seats in the house aren’t necessarily at booth No. 1 or the table with the sweeping view of the dining room. At a growing number of restaurants and resorts, the perfect seats aren’t even in the dining room. They’re tucked away somewhere special, in a downstairs wine cellar, or perhaps at a secluded table on a private deck or patio, often with a stunning, privileged view. Here’s a sampling.
One Flight Up in Chicago
OK, so the marriage didn’t last, but Richard Gere proposed to Cindy Crawford in the cozy, six-by-12-foot confines of Vivo’s Elevator Shaft Room, a purple-velvet-curtained hideaway one flight up from the Chicago restaurant’s mezzanine level. More recent patrons at the 35-foot-high ­private dining nook have included actor Tyler Perry and rapper Eminem. The transformed space—a freight-elevator shaft in a meatpacking plant back in Chicago’s stockyard days—now hosts five-course prix-fixe meals for up to six guests. Info: vivo-chicago.com
A Sanctum in New York
No one looks down on the kitchen at New York’s Daniel, which critics perennially call one of the finest in America. No one, that is, except for those fortunate enough to be dining in chef Daniel Boulud’s exclusive Skybox, a photo-, book- and memorabilia-filled tiny room where two to four guests can slide onto comfortable banquettes and gaze through a big window. On the other side of the glass: a culinary ballet in a state-of-the-art, 1,800-square-foot kitchen, where more than two-dozen cooks prepare and plate the de rigueur eight-course tasting menu. Info: danielnyc.com
South Carolina’s Secret Door
As if winking to those lucky enough to know its secret, a painting by famous wine ­artist Thomas Arvid hangs on a narrow stretch of a faux-bricked wall at Soby’s, the seminal restaurant on the recently revived Main Street in charming Greenville, South Carolina. The painting helps mask the hidden door that leads down to the new private table in Soby’s award-winning, 5,000-plus-bottle wine cellar. The table, which comes with special menus, is best booked for groups of six to 12. Info: sobys.com
Seattle’s Coveted Caché
Dating to 1950, Canlis is a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired gem of a restaurant perched on Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill, overlooking Lake Union and the Cascade Mountains. But the most privileged views are from Caché, the establishment’s private dining room, which seats two to four and has hosted guests such as Bill Gates and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. The hideaway has helped seal many a marriage proposal, none more creative than the one from a guest who preset the room’s telescope to a city park location where he’d arranged for a banner to be unfurled. Taking her turn at the telescope, his girlfriend shrieked happily at the words: “Will you marry me?” Info: canlis.com
A London Hideaway
As if London’s Roof Gardens, a Limited Edition Richard Branson property, were not exclusive enough, a private table for two to 12 awaits at Babylon Restaurant, seven floors above the Kensington neighborhood. It comes with a dedicated waiter, a terrace and a bird’s-eye view of the 1.5-acre, sixth-floor gardens, not to mention the four resident flamingoes traversing the tranquil green refuge one floor below. Info: virginlimitededition.com
A Royal Experience in Berlin
Though you might well consider it, you don’t need to be staying at the Schlosshotel in the fashionable Grunewald section of Berlin to reserve the intimate, gilded Oval Room at Vivaldi, the hotel’s fine restaurant. Here, you’ll dine like royalty at a round table that can host up to eight beneath a crystal chandelier and beside a fireplace. Info: schlosshotelberlin.com
Montana’s Room with Two Views
The secluded chef’s table at the luxe Triple Creek Ranch resort in Darby, Montana, provides an insider’s window on the gourmet kitchen preparing your seven-course tasting menu, which typically features such local game as venison, elk and pheasant. But a mere turn of the head delivers postcard-perfect, end-of-day views of Montana’s scenic West Fork Valley and the Bitterroot Mountains fading into darkness. Info: triplecreekranch.com
A New Jersey Kitchen You Won’t Forget
Not many restaurant kitchens have an ornate stone fireplace near the pass between chefs and waitstaff. But then few such kitchens occupy the former dining room of an early 20th century mansion. That’s the case with Morristown, New Jersey’s Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen, which was built in Italian Renaissance palazzo style for the first president of AT&T. The best two seats here are in this kitchen at an equally old, glass-topped butcher table from Wisconsin. Like the paintings and photographs scattered throughout the museum-like restaurant, the unique table, its stunning floral display and dining duo are framed, captured in an interior, second-floor arched window that faces the mansion’s majestic atrium-like entryway. Info: jockeyhollowbarandkitchen.com
A Tasting Table in Thailand
A walk through the organic garden at Six Senses resort on Yao Noi Island in Thailand’s Phang Nga Bay brings you to its open-air chef’s table/kitchen and dedicated chef, who prepares a customized six-course tasting menu on the working side of a U-shaped counter limited to eight diners. The treehouse-like setting even has a waterfall for background music. Returning guests know to reserve their seats upon arrival or, better yet, when they book their trip. Info: sixsenses.com
On the Rocks in St. Lucia
A wooden stairway takes you down to a sunset-kissed wooden deck called Rock Maison, which sits atop St. Lucia’s craggy shoreline in the West Indies. A single table practically surfs the crashing waves. Dinner for two or small, intimate groups will be hand-delivered from the Cap Maison resort’s cliffside restaurant high above. But a bottle of champagne and such occasion-appropriate items as roses or an engagement ring arrive with unforgettable flair: in a covered basket lowered by zip-line. Info: capmaison.com
New York’s Cave for Cheese Lovers
La Cave Fromage, in one of Manhattan’s temples to fine cheese, is not underground, but rather in a temperature- and climate-controlled room in the back of Artisanal Fromagerie Bistro. Lucky patrons (reservations are taken for two to four guests) dine on a chef’s tasting menu surrounded by aging wheels of Paglierino, Brillat-Savarin, Robiola Due Latti, Bonne Bouche, Bûcherondin and scores more of the world’s most celebrated cow’s, sheep’s, and goat’s milk varieties aging on the surrounding shelves. No need to request a cheese course. Info: artisanalbistro.com
20 New Zealand Hideaways
After a day of fly fishing, kayaking, horseback riding or bungee jumping, guests at the luxurious Huka Lodge in Taupo, New Zealand, can choose from 20 private dining spots. Among the most stunning: the underground Wine Cellar, an evocatively lit, vault-like chamber across from the Main Lodge; the so-called Green Room, an outdoor haven with river views walled by meticulously trimmed, towering evergreen hedges; and the Jetty Pavilion, a table for two to six guests close enough to the rippling turquoise waters of the Waikata River to drop a line. Info: hukalodge.co.


 John Grossman has contributed to such publications as Audubon, Cigar Aficionado, Departures, Esquire, Gourmet, Inc., National Geographic Traveler, the New York Times and Smithsonian.

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