Although I was seated at a dinner table with another 21 guests, there
wasn’t any conversation. Nobody talked, and nobody cared to look at the
menu, or comment on the beautiful sunset that was imbuing the ocean
with hues of dark orange. What was happening around and below our feet
was far more exciting. In awe, we watched as our dinner table was slowly
lifted up by a crane to take us to a dinner experience in the sky.
Although we were all properly “tied up” in our seats, some couldn’t help
but to feel nervous as we smoothly ascended, meter by meter.
Once we reached the proper height — 50 meters above sea level — the platform was fixated and our nervousness settled.
past minutes had been dedicated to our smartphones as we all wanted to
record how we were being taken up, but now, it was time to lift our
heads to take in the magnificent view of the sun setting over the South
China Sea on Hainan island. As the table slowly rotated to allow every
guest a 360 degree view, I was also able to see Raffles Hainan Resort,
the organizer of our Dinner in the Sky event, from above. Its tropical
landscape and lush gardens along the white sand beach provided a great
backdrop for the view.
It was stunning, and knowing that very few
people have been lucky enough to enjoy a similarly exciting dinner gave
me just one more reason to be amazed.
Dutchman David Ghysels who
was running a PR and marketing agency first came up with Dinner in the
Sky about 10 years ago. Quote literally, he intended to take the F&B
experience to a new level. Ghysels got German crane expert Stefan
Kerkhof on board. Kerhof hails from a family with three generations’
experience in the crane business. While Ghysels had the dream, Kerkhof
was responsible for realizing it. Safety was of utmost concern. Kerkhof
decide to use a large crane capable of hoisting up to 120 tons for
lifting the platform, 22 guests, three chefs and one security inspector,
all together weighing about a quarter of the maximum weight.
experts at TÜV Rheinland gave the project a German safety
certification, and thus the pie in the sky was within reach. After the
world premier in Belgium in 2007, the duo received phone calls from
across the globe. Demand to recreate the “most unique dining experience
in the world” was overwhelming, and Ghysels and Kerkhof decided to
franchise the project.
Today, Dinner in the Sky has traveled to
more than 50 countries across the globe, and has been an attraction for
adrenaline junkies in cities like London, Dubai, Lisbon, Cape Town,
Istanbul and Las Vegas. Product launches, press conferences, board
meetings and weddings are now also part of the franchise.
year, Dinner in the Sky debuted on mainland China at Shanghai’s Four
Seasons Hotel Pudong — a major success, said Damian Niesel, managing
director for Events in the Sky’s Asia operations.
“Dinner in the
Sky is an exclusive experience. After Shanghai at the Four Seasons, we
had a lot of inquiries,” he said. But instead of choosing Shanghai as a
permanent location, Niesel said that the company was looking for a place
that would allow for year-round operations. “We want to be very
selective to provide our customers the best venue, the best environment
and the best catering experience. And of course in winter, north China
is very cold, so Hainan was a natural choice. Raffles Hainan turned out
to be the most extraordinary venue for us,” he said.
customers’ requests, the resort can arrange for the table to be hoisted
in the sky up to five times a day — breakfast, lunch, high tea and two
dinners are available through the end of February. The price ranges from
999 yuan (US$161) for breakfast to 3,999 yuan for dinner.
in the Sky is frequently listed among the world’s most unusual
restaurants and has been described as a once-in-a-lifetime experience,
making it the perfect event for Raffles to set the resort apart from
other hotels in Sanya, where competition for luxury guests has become
Before we started, some among our group voiced concern
over the height, and we were reassured that the table would be taken
back down if someone should really feel unsafe or unwell. But the
combination of the unique view over the tranquil beach of Clearwater
Bay, the subtle music and the food accompanied by a great selection of
wine and cocktails put all of us at ease, and a vivid conversation soon
centered around the dishes.
That the five-course, Italian-style
dinner was precooked and only received a finishing touch in the sky was
barely noticeable. The beetroot salad with walnut dressing and homemade
goat’s cheese, the tomato gazpacho with caviar and the ham with codfish
were excellent in taste and choice of ingredients.
Raffles Hainan’s general manager, said that Raffles was proud and
delighted the Dinner in the Sky is available for its guests. “This
unique lifestyle concept offers our guests a truly memorable experience
during their stay and will also go further in promoting Hainan,” he
As most Dinner in the Sky experiences are set in bustling
cities, Niesel said that he was also pleased with the beautiful beach
location, which set it apart. “Here you can swim like a fish in the
morning and fly like a bird in the evening,” he said.