Wherever we go in the world, we always try to search out unique travel experiences.
But perhaps our biggest passion of all, and the thing we’ll go to the ends of the earth for, is an amazing dining experience.
Some personal highlights were the sky dine experience in Vancouver (eating dinner while you dangling from a crane), eating a fantastic meal in front of the Bellagio fountain in Las Vegas, or pretty much any food in Japan!
Finally, a local food experience
More often than not, we find ourselves travelling for a unique culinary experience. Banff has great restaurants, yes, but finding something you won’t find anywhere else has always been a challenge.
No dining experience in Banff has ever really been described as a ‘destination’ or a reason to travel here (aside, perhaps, from the Eden restaurant, one of Canada’s three 5 diamond restaurants).
But that may finally be about to change with the introduction of the 360 Dome dining experience at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.
We recently experienced it for the first, and hopefully not the last, time during our stay at the Banff Springs, and were absolutely blown away. It was so good that we felt like it deserved a whole post of its own.
The 360 Dome Dining Experience
What is the 360 Dome experience?
Where to begin with this epic dining experience in Banff? Well, first of all, let me explain what it is in more detail.
The 360 Dome is a separate dining experience in the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel that takes place in a custom made glass dome outside the hotel. It’s currently located on the croquet lawn in front of the Vermillion Room, and (we’re told) there will soon be several more domes appearing in the future.
Inside the dome, you’ll find a single table set out for you and your dining party, surrounded by luxury decor. The door closes and all sound from the outside immediately vanishes. A speaker is set up to play your favourite music, and thankfully, AC or a heater can be switched on to set your perfect temperature.
This is where you’ll spend the next few hours, experiencing 7 fantastic food courses with your own private server. That’s right, for the evening you’ve booked, the server doesn’t wait on anyone else. That means you’ll be treated to the most amazing service, surpassing even the normal amazing bar that the Fairmont sets.
What’s the food like in the 360 Dome?
So obviously, if the food isn’t great, the experience is never going to live up to the hype. But in this case, the food is the real highlight of the evening. We went for the 7 course dinner (marketed as a 5 course, but it’s really 7), which includes all sorts of amazing treats and a big variety of dishes.
We had scallops with thick cut bacon, wagyu carpaccio, bison tenderloin and a few other treats. The carpaccio was one of my favourite dishes, and the scallops were unbelievable. This is a special menu put together for the Dome experience, but I believe you can also find the carpaccio in the Rundle Lounge.
By the time the dessert came out, we were pretty full, but we still managed to make room. It was all so exceptionally good that it was hard to leave anything on the plate. I would definitely recommend visiting with a healthy appetite!
What are the drinks like in the 360 Dome?
For the drinks, you have access to all the cocktails in the Rundle Lounge, as well as the complete wine list and champagnes. We had a few cocktails, some wine and icewine. We’re not usually big drinkers, but having a few drinks helped us slow down the courses.
To really enjoy this evening, you want to make each course last as long as possible!
The other reason we ordered so many drinks is because there is actually a minimum spend with each reservation. We’ll discuss this more later, but basically, whatever size your group is, you still need to spend $800.
At $200 per person, we had to find a way to spend at least $400 on alcohol!
As we don’t typically drink too much, our server was very helpful when it came to choosing a bottle of wine to pair well with our meal. Her expertise made choosing the right drink a little less intimidating!
How much does the 360 Dome cost?
So back to the cost. There is a staggering $800 minimum spend to use the Fairmont’s bubble, with each person’s meal costing $200.
So for 4 people, you can get away with spending $200 per person and not having to spend too much on drinks. However, if you’re thinking about doing this as a couple, bear in mind that, like us, you’ll have to figure out a way of spending $400 on drinks.
$400 on drinks was a daunting prospect for people that really don’t drink that much, but we’re never ones to shy away from a challenge. However after having had cocktails, wine and icewine, we were sadly told that we were still way off our $400 target.
But it seems that there’s a solution to this, and our server had us covered. Just as she was bringing out the bill, she also brought out two bottles as well. One bottle of Veuve Cliequot Champagne and one of the Fairmont’s blue Rundle Bar gin bottles.
Sending guests home with a couple of party favours is a great way to make the best use of the tab, and we were so happy they didn’t make us sit there and drink instead!
When is the 360 Dome available?
The 360 Dome is available in Banff year round, and looks particularly magical in winter. Fortunately they have heaters blasting inside so you won’t lose any fingers or toes.
It’s also available for other meals aside from dinner, and you can book a charcuterie seating from the Grapes bar, or book breakfast in there instead.
One thing I would say is that I imagine it gets incredibly hot on a hot day. The small AC unit probably wouldn’t have kept up with the heat on one of the 40C days we had this summer. If it was up to me, I’d probably pick an evening meal in the summer to make sure I’m comfortable.
What other dining options are there for the 360 dome?
- – Sunrise Breakfast, this is a great option at the start of the day! 7:00 am – 9:00 am. $75/person.
- – Family Style Brunch, including make your own mimosa ingredients!! available daily from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm. $125/person
- – Grapes Experience, featuring a cheese and charcuterie board paired with Canadian Wines, available daily from 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm.
- – 5 Course Dinner, available daily from 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm. $200 per head,
- – Late Night, featuring cocktails & bites from Rundle Bar, available daily from 11:00 pm – 1:00 am.
Our experience in the 360 Dome
Our evening in the Banff bubble was easily the best dinner I’ve had in Banff, in terms of the food, the drinks and the overall experience. It’s unlike any dining experience I’ve had before, and really is the ultimate private dining experience in Banff.
It’s probably one of the best meal experiences I’ve had anywhere. Period.
Having said that, the only downside I can think of is that the dome is completely transparent and draws a lot of attention from the visitors wandering around outside, or having a drink on the patio.
Expect a lot of people not-so-subtly taking a good long, hard look at you/photos. If that makes you uncomfortable, then I would suggest having a few cocktails in the Rundle bar before you begin!