Have you tried: Extreme Dining?
Take a group of friends in evening wear, a four-course dinner, table, chairs and candelabra, drag them all across miles of difficult terrain to a remote location and then tuck in. Welcome to the world of extreme dining.
As Robin Smith takes his seat, a plate of marinated scallops and crab is served and the eight friends around the table raise their champagne flutes toasting “a fine location” before tucking into their starter.
This might not seem like anything unusual – except the candle-lit dinner is being held on the summit of a remote Scottish hill with views across Loch Lomond.
The imaginative and challenging alfresco dinner is part of a new outdoors adventure trend called extreme dining. The idea, founded by Robin, is to host a formal dinner party in as unlikely or extreme a location as possible. The destination is kept a secret from guests until the last minute.
Earlier this summer, the group of friends dined on a pontoon on a remote loch in the west of Scotland after walking for hours cross-country, then paddling a mile aboard inflatable swimming pool toys. Another dinner was held behind a large waterfall in the Campsie Fells near Glasgow.
The rules are simple: All guests must be dressed in formal evening wear (walking boots allowed) for the entire adventure.
As well as hiking across rough terrain to a mystery location, they must carry a dining table, chairs, white linen tablecloth and napkins, a silver serving dish, a candelabra and candles, cutlery, gravy dish and a four-course, pre-cooked meal that is reheated over a fire or barbecue.
Drinks should include wines, sherry and port or brandy. A camera is also required to prove the dinner took place.
Extreme Dining is similar craze for extreme ironing. Over the years, madcap challenges have seen adventurers ironing in a canoe, while skiing, on top of large bronze statues and underwater.
Gary Tompsett, a Scottish-based adventure race organiser, says: “People couldn’t believe what these guys got up to when it first came to the public’s attention. Around that time I was trying to plan a stag weekend for one of my friends. I wanted to do something a bit different and I suddenly thought that instead of ironing we should go for extreme dining.
Tompsett, 40, of Strathaven, South Lanarkshire, set about organising an extreme dining challenge on the Inner Hebridean isle of Coll.
“Everyone had to wear tuxedos or kilts and a black tie,” says Gary. “They also had to carry all the food for four full courses, a dining table, a candelabra and everything we needed for an evening of fine dining.
“It was a struggle for some hiking to the remote beach, but everyone had fun and enjoyed the challenge.”
Since then he has organised dinner parties on the summit of mountains, deep inside caves, on inter-tidal islands and in public places, such as a busy beach. “The public ones are the funniest,” he says. “Passers-by just can’t resist coming up to find out what is going on.”
He seems delighted that what he calls the sport of extreme dining is now taking off.
“I never bothered to make anything formal,” he says. “My extreme dinners were just for a group of friends, but it’s great to see other people making it more of an official adventure pursuit.”
Kathryn Townshend, 28, a clinical psychologist from Glasgow who has attended two extreme dinners. She says: “For me it’s like an extension of adventure racing. Extreme dining combines mental ingenuity with physical challenges, just like in any adventure race, but with the reward of a special dinner in an unusual location.”
Another extreme diner, Sal Moodie, 26, says: “Extreme dining is such a good adventure. It’s one thing to climb a mountain, but in a dress with a dining table on your head, that’s what I call a challenge.”
Is this an extreme kind of madness or just extremely good fun? I guess the only way to find out would be to become an extreme diner.
My article appeared in the Sunday Times in 2006.