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Top 10 Turning Points of Revolving Restaurants

PhilW . . . Comments

Surely the greatest controversy of 2011 surrounds the decision not to reopen London’s only revolving restaurant for the 2012 Olympics. The BT Tower will stay resolutely still. So can we learn anything from its history, and a few tales of other spinning food emporia?

Revolving restaurants are one example of a weird set of medals which a city feels it must accumulate to show it has “arrived” (modern art museums and aquariums are other examples, perhaps the basis of another top ten). Cities in emerging markets are still utterly beguiled by these (mostly) clockwise wonders. In the US, many have faded away after a rush of them in the 70s, but this number is outweighed by restaurant openings in the Far East. There are still around 150-200 (though many old ones no longer spin). This provides very rich pickings for a list. Let’s start with ten and see if you’re interested.

Also, look out for some really abysmal puns.


Top of the Tower


The last fruit cocktail left the Butlins-run Top of the Tower kitchens, in 1971, when the IRA bombed it, specifically the gents (playing to the “at least they narrowed down the list of suspects” comedy angle) at 4:30am. While there were no casualties, the restaurant never recovered and closed completely when Butlins’ lease expired. There was talk of reopening it in time for the London Olympics, likely driven by the Olympic Committee’s surprise that no one took them to the local revolving restaurant, which surely happens on Day 1 in every other city they visit. For reasons unknown, the idea has not taken off and the space remains a BBC outside broadcast studio, and a location for non-spinning corporate events. Discussing revolving restaurants seems to involve a lot of double-takes, so let me assure you that you did read “Butlins” (for those of you unfamiliar with Butlins, save time by imagining any company unlikely to run a high profile national treasure).



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Many of the first flood of Western revolving restaurants have taken their place in history, victims of a sad, slow demise driven by the popular realization that such establishments trade on spinning, rather than cuisine. A typical example would be Equinox in San Francisco. Despite a venerable two decades of first dates, family meals and fabulous views of the Golden Gate Bridge, it stopped rotating in 2007 (and is now a stationary nightclub). As one furious online reviewer noted, the Sunday brunch buffet “DID NOT INCLUDE TOAST” – a crime apparently so heinous, the manager felt compelled to allow the entire family to eat for free. Take heed, other revolving restaurant owners. Either get some toast, or get a manager with a backbone.


International Saddam Tower

800Px-Kiowa Over Baghdad

We don’t know whether the man himself often frequented the “International Saddam Tower” Restaurant, in Baghdad, though doubtless his many doubles were dispatched often. Saddam commissioned it in 1994, as a 207m one finger salute to the world after a previous TV tower was destroyed in the first Gulf War. By the second conflict, it clearly had something going for it. First, the invading forces avoided bombing it in case it toppled onto surrounding residential areas, showing a bit more decorum than the previous assault. Second, the foreign troops and locals were so impressed by the food that they didn’t loot it, and it survives under the unimaginative but innocuous name “Baghdad restaurant” – reflecting a recent global trend in giving revolving restaurants names which advertise the marketing concept “The people who own this place really could not give a toss about naming restaurants.”




The Star-Plucking Restaurant in Taipei, opened in 2000, and balanced on top of the Beitou garbage incinerator. Yes it did, and while we might surmise it could have been better translated as “Touching the Stars”, that’s not how local press translate it. According to coverage of the launch “More than 7,000 people rushed to the restaurant, which can seat 120. Luckily, an official was on hand to confirm that “the dioxin rate of the incinerator is far below the standard rate” while another told a TV station “Diners can enjoy the view of Taipei and also examine the cleanliness of our garbage incinerator”. Time must have flown by that day for the 6,880 people in the queue. This restaurant is still in operation, raising the possibility that some of them are still queuing. Actually, jokes aside, this was a really good idea and I’d love to eat there. There, I wrote it.


Ryugyong Hotel


Kim Il Sung was a huge fan of revolving restaurants, though history does not record how he felt about the huge fans of revolving restaurants, or whether he liked to see a huge fan in a revolving restaurant. Or something. At one point he was aiming for seven in North Korea. Few will feel sympathetic that he died a year too early, missing the first rotation of the sole completed restaurant in Pyongyang, in 1995. More notable for our purposes, however, is the restaurant at the top of the 105 story Ryugyong Hotel, which began construction in 1987, then halted in 1992, due to lack of raw materials (such as food for the construction workers). There followed a 16 year lack-of-tea break until work resumed, in 2008, after a Middle Eastern multinational offered to take on the task. So, once again we can look forward to two people in neighboring revolving restaurants in a country where many are starving, waving across the void as they circulate their separate ways. Clearly a poignant message for all of us, though I’m not sure what it is.


New Village

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“New Village in the Sky”, Asia’s largest revolving restaurant, is to open in the village of Huaxi, two hours North of Shanghai. This village of 2,000 people is completing a 74 story tower, and the restaurant will doubtless feed some of the 3 million Chinese tourists who visit the, somewhat Swiss-looking village, each year to understand how it became so wealthy. (By living the Chinese dream of cuckoo clocks, private banking and fondue?) Merely building the tower has increased the footprint of the village by over 30%, while increasing the number of local revolving restaurants by considerably more than this.


Kazakhstan Revolving Restaurant


The aptly named “Kazakhstan Revolving Restaurant” in Astana, is a revolving restaurant in Kazakhstan. The name may be defensive positioning, given that it is at the top of the local “Beijing Palace” Soluxe Hotel, a tiny island of China in the steppes. Or the name may be another incident of the global “Couldn’t give a toss about the name, really” brand alignment typical of today’s revolving bistro.

This place has the unfortunate distinction of being the only revolving restaurant “outed” by Wikileaks. In one diplomatic cable we can read that it “provides a spectacular panorama of Astana and the empty steppes beyond, but it seems to revolve at varying speeds and sometimes can be a bit too fast on a full stomach and after a few glasses of wine.” Despite these alleged mechanical glitches, it is claimed to have been a regular venue on the diplomatic circuit, noted as the place where the US Ambassador requested Chinese support for a supply route to Afghanistan (and the Chinese demurred).



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Of all the revolving restaurants discussed here, this one seems to have a history of managers/owners with a flair for business. They partly funded construction of this beautiful mountaintop cafe by inviting the production company behind James Bond movies to furnish the interior and build a helipad, in return for filming climactic scenes for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – it’s arch-villain Blofeld’s “Allergy Clinic”. They are still wisely milking this today: one of the most popular menu options is the James Bond Breakfast, which actually would not be very good for people with common allergies at all (“More gluten, Mr Bond?”). In a further effort to control costs, this is the first solar powered revolving restaurant, raising the possibility it will still be quietly spinning long after humans have given up on Earth and gone elsewhere.


Turning Train


Not all revolving restaurants afford a panoramic view. Reflecting on potential uses for two carriages sat on an obsolete train turntable in a South Indian train museum, the owners had two ideas. The first one, quoted by a local official was, “We can have an LCD TV in here!” The second idea proved to have more long-term potential – it’s a spinning canteen. According to one hobbyist “The movement is a bit wobbly, but only serves to heighten the pleasure, making you feel as though you are moving along in a slow train trundling along the track”. Daily train commuters, perhaps especially in the UK, will ponder why the hell anyone would think this was a good idea. On the other hand, if they ever got around to buying that LCD TV…


Dynamic Tower


Finally, we leave food far far behind us, probably as a result of motion sickness: The Dynamic Tower, a proposed building in Dubai (where else?), moves us to a new plain. Who wouldn’t love an 80-story tower where every single floor rotates? Proposed in 2008 (and still under wide discussion with developers), this is a breathtaking plan, involving as it does the longest consecutive circular taxi drop-off point in history. (“Here! … No, here! No wait…”)

I don’t know how you feel about hubris, but let’s quickly review some of the plan. Among other claims, the building will be another solar-powered one, but with this one generating enough power to fuel five similar buildings. Supplementing the solar panels will be wind turbines between each floor. Furthermore, the technology used for in-flight refueling of aircraft would pass clean water between floors. As the building will be modular and prefabricated, it will take less than half the common number of skyscraper construction workers to build it. And each floor would be a restaurant of a different cuisine (all right, that’s not true). Also, it will be possible to align all the floors and create the exciting illusion of a building that is not revolving at all (actually, that might be true)!

Without wishing to discredit some rather fabulous ideas, does this sound credible? Notably, architect Richard Fisher did not “say where the tower would be built, […] because he wanted to keep it a surprise.” Also, the answer “it will be solely built in my imagination” is not very compelling.

  • craigydonson

    this is funny

    • category fail #?

      This is “Food and health”, not “Travel and Leisure”.
      Mortal kombat is “Travel and Leisure”, not “Entertainment”.
      Strong Human Fears is not “People” but “Miscellaneous”.

      I love ListVerse but apparently it is redefining category meanings as we know it…. ;)

    • Drew

      I liked this list a lot. Travel-oriented lists are always engaging.

      PS – Dynamic Tower = scary.

    • eumesmopo

      this is very funny

    • Its the punny title that captured my attention. :)

      • john Von Krouch

        this list disgusts me. almost as much as eskimos disgust me

  • Stu Miller’s Gust

    To every list, turn, turn, turn
    There is a season, turn, turn, turn

  • Chineapplepunk

    All this revolving at a great height stuff makes me queasy :(

  • Arsnl

    The only revolving restaurant i know is the television tower in Berlin, tallest structure in Germany and built by communists but sadly it didn’t make the list. . These people sure loved their revolving restaurants.They must have believed that revolving food enhances one’s love for the party. That feeling of dizzyness and vomiting means you are a socialist deep inside, comrade.

    I dont get the the author’s aversion to revolving restaurants? Does he have a bad memory related to those tea cup rides and now any revolving chinaware gives him a cold sweat and tremor :-)

    I have to say that the taxi joke was by far the best one.

  • swapie

    We have a revolving restaurant in Cape Town.

  • NeesahD22

    No ome cares. Yet again an usless list. Stupid.

    • Start

      No one cares. Yet again a useless commenter. Stupid.

    • OddJobb

      Yes, no one cares. NeesahD22 is a useless commentor. Stupid

    • Spaz

      Just because you didn’t like the list doesn’t mean everyone else thinks the same thing. I learned something from this list so it wasn’t useless and I liked it.

      BTW – Such a short comment but with many typos. Maybe the commentator should change his name to Stupid NeesahD22.

    • LOL

      Typical. There’s always one on every list. Like anyone f***ing cares at ALL that you’re a retard who not only read or skimmed an article you have no interest in, but then took the time to comment afterwards. Where’s your list? No published list? GEE WHAT A SURPRISE.

  • Pathologic

    Wow, I’m surprised there was no mention of the CN tower.


      Agree. Especially with the addition of all the new LED fixtures. Plus, view of toronto at any time of the day is amazing.

  • omg lemonade

    *looking at pictures* number 2 “dumb” number 1 “holy @#%&!!”

  • speechless

  • As odd as this list was I enjoyed it. Well written Phil.

  • oouchan

    My sister got proposed to at the one in Canada. She had loved the view and kept watching out the window. She had put her drink down next to the window and about 5 minutes later, noticed it was about 5 tables down. :)
    Not sure if I’m a fan of this list, but it was interesting to know there are more revolving restaurants than I first thought.

    An ok list.

  • vanowensbody

    This list left my head spinning. Great list.

  • Auburn Tiger

    The author of this list was pretty funny. I like it. This made what could have been a very unexciting list into a recent favorite. Well played.

  • Rob

    I found this website about two weeks after it kicked. Been coming here first thing with my coffee ever since. The last few months, the content has been SO poor, and not what I have come to expect. I think I shall stop frequenting…

    • Da Philth


  • Lifeschool

    Alices Restaurant revolves on my turntable!. Ok list, some good choices and many I had never heard of before.

    • bigski


  • gs

    but isnt it that these restaurants rotate rather than revolve?

  • skin2win

    LOVE the writing

  • Chris Speight

    The BT tower does turn every now and again. I have been in it when it started turning once; none of this slowly building up speed just a whacking great lurch and we were off! That was about three or four years ago and it was quite some view I can tell you!

  • Zagging

    As a Seattleite, I must point out the omission of the Space Needle.

    • gav

      I too am disappointed by the lack of Space Needle and its spectacular view. But i’m sure it’s because the writer wanted to appear “continental”. Still, a structure straight out of “The Jetsons” certainly deserves some comment (that and the Wheedle)

      • coffeegirl

        especially since it actually exists, and the food is actually good and worth the price these days.
        what i want to know is why a structure that doesnt exist or have a potential location is on here….

  • Armadillotron

    Can someone tell me why Saddam Hussein liked to name things after himself? He had Saddam International Airport, Saddam Beach and now it turns out he named a Tower of all things after himself. I don`t get it.

    • mom424

      What, megalomania isn’t on your list of personality traits? Damn good thing you don’t get it.

      • Armadillotron

        No Saddam wasn`t a megalomaniac, he was just a dictator. Megalomaniacs are people like Hitler who want to conquer the world. he`s more like his old mate Mad Dog Gaddafi. Where IS he anyway?

  • Ako

    I Love Dynamic Tower!

  • OddJobb

    Let’s not forget the Stratesphere hotel/casino in Las Vegas. Not only a resteraunt, it has rides up there as well (at one point a rollercoaster).

  • frenemy

    Omg. I’m having a headache just looking at one. That will be my number 1 place not to go to. Hopefully it’ll be somewhere other than sheik zayed rd so I don’t have to see it.

  • mom424

    Goodish list – didn’t realize there were quite so many revolving eateries. Surprised that neither the CN Tower in Toronto (ex-tallest building in the world) or the Seattle Space Needle were mentioned. Thought they were the epitome of revolving restaurants. Guess I was wrong. Still good effort.

  • Lizzie

    Reunion Tower, in Dallas, TX has been on of my favorite buildings since I was a kid. I’ve never been in it, but it’s on the bucket list to eat in the revolving restaurant and see a panoramic view of the city I was born in!

  • FlameHorse

    Phil, this is a masterpiece.

  • Well written, sir, however not a list I can say I enjoyed. The fault lies not in the prose but in the composition. A for effort.

  • Carlos Estimbo

    I used to take 1st dates to the Spindle Top here in Houston. My dad always said I had champagne taste on a hamburger budget.

  • Bonnie

    I would love to see a list of the best Zoos around the world. Some of note that I’ve been to are San Diego, Berlin, Minneapolis, Valencia… I’ve heard Singapore has a very cool zoo… Would love to hear about more of them!

  • I suggest that someone do up a list of “The top 10 stupid and boring lists in Listverse from the past two weeks”.

    I’m sure it would be just as boring as the topic it’s covering.

  • some guy

    “Surely the greatest controversy of 2011 surrounds the decision not to reopen London’s only revolving restaurant for the 2012 Olympics.”


  • JWynter

    I really want to visit the Bond restaurant now. What exactly is in the James Bond breakfast anyways?

  • sackboy

    Given the tone of the rest of the list, he’s pretty clearly being sarcastic with that.

  • Someone

    Is it just me or does that last concept image of Dynamic Tower on the right remind anyone else of a Jenga tower?

  • You forgot about Hank Kingsley’s “Look-Around Cafe”.

  • LOL WUT?

    The chef who makes the James Bond breakfast: Does he need a License to Grill?

    • Triptastic

      Ok- that made me laugh!

  • Jeff M

    #11 Pearl Tower Restaurant – Shanghai

  • OmegaMan

    Well done.

  • nas

    are there any thing best than mother nature? nature is the nature n any one can not build some thing beautiful than natural things.

    visit n see how the nature make our mind cool.


  • gabriel lee

    Wtf is up with listverse now? What happened to that Jfrater dude? These list…are dumb as shit.

    • haters = jealous

      Where’s your list then?

  • ruby

    this is great but needs the country/ location in the title

  • p1t1o

    I liked this list but would like to see more lists with a definite heirarchy between the one and the ten.

    Oh and someone do that “medals for cities” list please :)

  • moopersoup

    I wish they’d get around to building number 1. Dubai needs to get back on its feet and become a wonder-land again.

  • poodles

    i ate lunch once in the revolving restaurant in trondheim, norway. it’s ca 120 meters high and the view was great, but i’d never do it again. it was nauseating :(
    the list was very funnily written though

  • Michael Kohler

    If anybody watched the Larry Sander’s Show, how can you forget Hank’s Look Around Cafe.

  • Lisa Marie

    Some folks are so closet minded! I love this list! Hilarious

    We have a spinning restaurant in the Caribbean as well, Crowne Plaza. It used to be the Holiday Inn, and the restaurant is called 360 degrees. I never ate there because at $41 USD brunch on Sundays, I can eat for less than quarter of that and still have left overs.

  • fendabenda

    There’s a revolving restaurant in Tampere, Finland. The Näsinneula Tower restaurant.

  • Hoppip

    “Turning points” of revolving restaurants?
    I see what you did there.

  • hhhrvrrr

    That one in Pyongyang – the top 5 floors were going to rotate. That’s how they were going to get to 7. It will only be the top one now.

  • cock

    funny and interstingly written, i like your jokes, especially about solar powered Dynamic Tower =D =D =D

  • Anne S.

    I am too! We ate there after it first opened up in ’76. The food was great and you really couldn’t tell that it was rotating either. But the day we were there it was a cloudy day and the sun was not out. At that time it was the tallest free standing structure in the world. At the time for a dollar more you go to the very top.

  • tony m

    What about Tasmania’s Wrest Point Hotel Casino.

  • Naomi Sarah

    You didn’t mention the Kuwait Towers :(