London's Millennium Dome, so prominently featured in the worldwide New Year's Eve telecasts, is a one-year wonder that will close as a tourist attraction on the last day of this year; would-be new tenants (including a sports team, a Chinese cultural center, a convention center, and others) are juggling for occupancy rights, with the winning bid to be announced in July.
Sort of a cross between EuroDisney, an educational fair, and the Cirque du Soleil, and set on the south bank of the Thames near Greenwich, its limited-run cachet edges it into the must-see category for those passing through London this year. Since tickets can cost as much as Â£20 (about $34) per person—there are discounts for students, children and larger families available—it would be a shame to waste paid-for time scouting around nearby Greenwich for decent wining and dining.
The majority of the food venues in the Dome, à la Disney, are alcohol-free, plus a few pubs with beer and spirits, but we checked out the Dome's restaurants in March and found, after a bit of searching, some acceptable fare and worthwhile wines. Our expectations were raised by a supposed "Champagne Bar," the Orange Terrace, which is set just above the central show arena seating area; tables and chairs have a good view of the performance going on below and passers-by. There are 14 wines on the list, eight of which are available by the glass. Sadly, most are nondescript, including the only per-glass Champagne. But they do have the very nice 1999 Seppelt Molyton Chardonnay from South Eastern Australia, at a reasonable $5/glass or $17/bottle; or, if you have money to burn, Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque is available by the bottle (about $135). The light menu is moderately priced: blinis with smoked salmon, smoked salmon sandwiches, crab cakes, meats, bread and olive plates, all in the $6.75-$8.50 range.
Seabar, on the ground level of the Dome's outermost ring, has a trendy see-and-be-seen café plus a serious raw-bar area. There's a good selection of fresh local seafood, plus soups and salads. Per-person prices range from about $6.50 to $30. Arguably the best wine on the 10-bottle list is the Cape Mentelle Cabernet-Merlot from Western Australia ($6.50/glass, $38/bottle); while none of the white wines are scintillating, a flight of four four-ounce glasses of international whites (an English wine is included) costs about $29.
The top restaurant at the Dome (and one flight up from Seabar) is Acclaim, which seats 200 in several sections overlooking the exhibits. Like Seabar, it brings in guest chefs periodically. Here the menu specializes in English fare, albeit not of the traditional bangers-and-mash sort; you can choose from grilled Cornish fillet of mackerel with leek risotto, crispy belly of Gloucester old spot (a kind of pig) with sage-mashed potatoes, herb-roasted chicken, truffled parsnip and potato soup, and more. Prices are $20 for entrée only, $30 with either starter or dessert, and $37 for three courses. An assortment of British cheeses are rotated through the five-
variety cheese plate, which can be purchased on its own for about $14. While the British patrons favor Port with the cheese course, a few of the milder cheeses were interesting with a 1998 Brouilly from Louis Latour.