Aroma Restaurant in London is balancing old-world European charm with 21st-century technology. The elegant downtown restaurant is offering diners an opportunity to share a meal with family and friends around the world, using video-conferencing technology to connect people through the Internet over dinner or lunch.
At the same time, owner Felipe Gomes announced yesterday he will open a new lounge in his wine cellar and start offering horse-drawn carriage rides from the restaurant to Victoria Park this weekend. “I really look to the past and the future,” said Gomes. “It is an opportunity to not just make sure the kitchen is performing well, or the food is presented well, but it is also my desire to create and share new experiences.”
The video technology is certainly new, unlike anything being done in the restaurant business today, said Gomes. He has taken one private room, used for functions, and installed a projector and screen linked to a computer and webcam. Using Skype software, which can be downloaded free, diners in the room will be able to enjoy a meal while on the screen they will see and be able to speak with family or friends in a home anywhere in the world, as long as they also have Skype software and a computer and video card capable of handling that technology, and a webcam on their end.
“We are taking London to the world, with a dining experience,” said Gomes.
In fact, to demonstrate the new technology, Gomes linked to his sister in Portugal yesterday, literally dining with her over lunch, while never leaving London. The idea was born when Rick Pinheiro, partner in PrimeWeb, a London technology business, celebrated his parents’ 40th wedding anniversary in March by connecting with family members in Vancouver, who set up a webcam in their home. Both families dined at the same time and they saw and spoke to each other over dinner.
“It was flawless,” Pinheiro said of the evening. “We all enjoyed it immensely. My brother (in Vancouver) was joking around with me about what I was ordering. I have never experienced webcam like I did that day.” But Gomes is also excited about the wine cellar, having taken an old, boarded-up storage room and converted it into an intimate lounge that will seat 60 and will feature wines from around the world, he said.
“This wine cellar is Portugal, it is my heritage, it is my father sending me to the cellar to get a bottle of wine when I was a boy,” said Gomes. “Many times in London we want something different to finish the evening — a glass of wine and conversation, that is what this cellar will do.”