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Vidisha Bathwal Of Paprika Gourmet talks about the rising trend of experiential dining

As a seasoned chef, I’ve witnessed first-hand the transformation of dining into a dynamic form of entertainment, blending flavours, aromas, and ambience into unforgettable moments

Vidisha Bathwal | Published 24.05.24, 12:09 PM

Picture: iStock

Food is much more than just the act of eating. We’ve all heard the term, “Feeding the ’Gram!”. Today, meals are about embarking on a culinary adventure. Experiential dining is the art of making a meal an immersive experience that engages all senses, not just the palate. As a seasoned chef, I’ve witnessed first-hand the transformation of dining into a dynamic form of entertainment, blending flavours, aromas, and ambience into unforgettable moments.

The Culinary ‘Arts’


Experiential dining marks a revolution in how we understand the culinary arts. Why should art be relegated to paints and canvas alone? The colours from different foods interplay with texture and create a visual landscape that can only be described as truly breathtaking! This innovative approach goes beyond mere plating aesthetics to involve diners in a narrative that unfolds with each course. By transforming ingredients into stories, chefs like myself are turning meals into memorable events that resonate on a personal level with guests.

Getting ‘Environmental’

One of the key aspects of experiential dining is the environment. The surroundings of the diner can elevate the meal to another level, physically transporting them to a space where the food plays a role in a theatre production, aimed to titillate the senses. Themed menus are paired with immersive settings to enhance the dining experience.

Sublimotion, in Ibiza, Spain, for example, takes themed dining to an extreme, with each course accompanied by a different virtual environment. With a combination of art, high-end technology, and elaborate stagecraft, diners are transported through various worlds, from the bottom of the ocean to a futuristic space, making each course a vivid part of the narrative. This transformation enables the diner to engage all their senses, and have a multi-dimensional experience!

Tech to the Table

Innovation in technology has played a pivotal role in reshaping dining experiences too. Inamo, in London features interactive tables where diners can play games, view chef-cam feeds, and even customise their table surface designs, enhancing engagement and personalisation through technology. We, as a generation, cannot manage without our smartphones. As per table manners, bringing handheld technology to a dinner can be tantamount to what can only be considered extremely rude. The engagement factor provided by the tech at the table can take away from inter-diner interactions, but does provide a new avenue to be completely engaged with the food they’re consuming. I consider this to be a win for those of us who love our tech.

The robots aren’t far behind too! The Bionic Bar on Royal Caribbean Cruises features robotic bartenders that mix cocktails ordered through tablet devices. It’s a glimpse into what the future holds.

In more ways than one

Food is truly the way to my heart, and I am quite certain that a lot of you share this sentiment. The look, smell, texture and taste of the meal engage all my senses, and leaving any one of them out of the picture is completely non-negotiable. The essence of real experiential dining lies in its ability to capture all senses.

At Alinea in Chicago, meals are infused with aroma and presented in inventive forms, making dining a multi-sensory affair that extends to touch, smell, and even sound, and not just taste. One of its iconic dishes involves an edible balloon made from apple-flavoured helium, offering a unique interactive experience. Now this is what I call the X-factor. By bringing an entirely unexpected element into the picture, prepare to build your experience to a whole new level.

Make it your own

In luxury, personalisation is de rigueur! From stationery to handbags, if it isn’t personalised, it’s not luxury. Shirts, socks and coffee have jumped on the personalisation bandwagon a long time ago, so why should dining be any different? Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, in London, offers a menu inspired by historical British cuisine, tailored to the interests and dietary preferences of its diners, ensuring a unique and personal dining experience. Dictating your preferences at a restaurant is truly the ultimate in any dining experience.

Knowing your food

Sustainability is increasingly at the forefront of the culinary scene, and has become the mantra of the times. And rightfully so! The food industry has become acutely aware of food wastage, and the sooner we all shift to sustainable practices, the longer we can ensure we have access to all the goodness Mother Earth provides us with.

Azurmendi, a restaurant near Bilbao, Spain, not only serves food from its own greenhouse but also educates guests about sustainable practices through a guided tour of its facilities, integrating ethics seamlessly into the dining experience. Having a fabulous dining experience is a high, but to integrate a little bit about knowing where the food is from provides a take-home experience that lasts long after the meal.

Dining 2024

As we look to the future, experiential dining is set to become even more innovative. Two decades ago, O’Noir, a restaurant in Canada, aimed to heighten other senses of the diners by serving them in a pitch-dark room, by visually impaired servers. The effect was unimaginable. Not being able to see the food plunged the diners into noticing aromas, textures and tastes in a very different way, leaving them often wondering what they were eating.

We have come a long way since. From virtual reality dining to meals curated to match DNA-based dietary needs, the possibilities are limitless. These advancements promise to further redefine our dining experiences, making each meal a discovery of new tastes, technologies, and traditions. Experiential dining is not just a trend; it’s the future of eating out. It’s about creating an environment where food is not just consumed but experienced. As a chef, my goal is to continue pushing the boundaries of what a dining experience can be, ensuring that every guest leaves with a story to tell. This innovative approach to dining promises to transform our eating habits, turning every meal into an occasion, and every occasion into a cherished memory.

If you have had an absolutely unparalleled dining experience, I would love to hear about it at

Vidisha Bathwal is the founder of Paprika Gourmet, an exotic artisan catering service brand in Calcutta. She’s also a passionate foodie and a fitness enthusiast.

Last updated on 24.05.24, 12:10 PM

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