So yesterday myself and Luisa-Christie of Eat Sleep Luisa Repeat shared a lovely candlelit dinner. Naked. Now before you get too excited, we weren’t taking our friendship to the next level – we were visiting The Bunyadi, London’s first naked restaurant, on it’s trial run.
Don’t expect this post to have many pictures because we weren’t allowed to take photos into the dining area, for obvious reasons.
So, what is The Bunyadi? And, well, why?
Pronounced bon-ya-dee, bunyadi is apparantly a Hindi word meaning fundamental, base, natural. Although I could only find an Urdu translation, giving it the meaning substantive. Both however, seem to get to the point that The Bunyadi are trying to make.
After serving over 65,000 Breaking Bad fans self mixed molecular drinks in the cult yellow trailer of ABQ, Lollipop have gone for something completely different this time – taking diners to “a beginning where everything was fresh, free and unadulterated from the trappings of modern life”.
The intention was to really go back to basics – guests are enveloped in The Bunyadi’s immersive Pangea-like world, free from technology (yep, that means no phones!), electric lights and even clothing.
The ingredients for the set five course meal are natural and home grown, and the wood-flame grilled meals are served on handmade clay crockery with edible cutlery. The only light in the dining area comes from candles, and the furniture is just tree stumps.
“We believe people should get the chance to enjoy and experience a night out without any impurities: no chemicals, no artificial colours, no electricity, no gas, no phone and even no clothes if they wish to. The idea is to experience true liberation.” Seb Lyall
I didn’t have much of a chance to chat to Seb, but my friend Alex did (he’s recently started up a new blog called Eat Play Pixels which I promise you will be all kinds of awesome), and you can check out his convo with Seb in his post about The Bunyadi here.
Now, I’m not allowed to tell you exactly where The Bunyadi is. The official reason being they want to keep it a secret and don’t want others to get involved. To the outside world it’s just a cocktail bar.
But I can’t help thinking it might have something to do with the hate mail Seb has received as a result of this new project (yep, HATE MAIL, and threats, from haters of nudity across the world). The Bunyadi has been covered by press in over 110 countries – and not all of them are as open minded as us Brits.
So I’m just going to tell you it’s an inconspicuous (to the point it is kind of obvious something’s going on, if you get what I mean), blacked out bar somewhere South of the river.
The venue is designed to be split into two sections (“pure” and “clothed”), and has a capacity of 42.
“We have worked very hard to design a space where everything patrons interact with is bare and naked. The use of natural bamboo partitions and candlelight has enabled to us to make the restaurant discreet, whilst adhering to the ethos behind it. No doubt, this has been the most challenging project for us yet, which makes us very excited about it” Seb Lyall
Once you’ve made it past the bouncers at the door, you step into a dark bar area – so dark that it takes a while for your eyes to adjust to the soft lighting. When they do, you feel as though you’ve stepped into some kind of secret, exclusive spa – guests around you are dressed in white towelling robes, sipping on cocktails and sitting on tree stumps.
This is the ”non naked area” – where you wait to get changed before the experience, or come after for some drinks while still gowned.
The bar is the focal point of the room (I imagine it’s a permanent fixture in the venue as it doesn’t quite fit the aesthetic). We were a little early so we grabbed a couple of cocktails. They were great, really fresh. and our bartender was fantastic – so friendly and happy to substitute vodka for gin in my chosen cocktail.
While we sipped on our drinks, we read through a list of rules we were handed on entry. There are lots of rules.
When one of the changing rooms became free, we were led down the ‘path to purity’ (an unlit corridor) into a very small room with some lockers and a curtain for privacy. Inside each locker was a towelling robe and some slippers (which you can keep). You leave EVERYTHING in your locker – when you leave the changing room it’s just you, your robe, slippers and a key.
So we got into our robes and returned to the bar area until it was time to dine.
Once again walking down the path to purity, we were greeted by a very attractive, very pert, almost naked waitress. By almost naked I mean she wore a flesh coloured thong with some leaves decorating it.
I was taken by surprise – when I’d read that clothing was optional and diners could remain in their robes, I had expected the servers to. But nope, we were treated to lots of lovely boobs. I mean there were male servers there too, but meh, boobs.
And while I’m talking about boobs, maybe this is the time to emphsasise the point that The Bunyadi is not a sexual experience. Remember rule number one – No indecency or nuisance or any sexual activity of any kind is allowed.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the female form. Anyway…
The dining area, which is the ”naked and pure” area was a lot more private and a lot less intimidating than I had expected. Each dining table is hidden behind bamboo partitions – you can have a little peek through and make out what’s going on around you if you like, but in our little kind of cubicles, with the soft candlelight, I actually felt quite comfortable. Not what I’d been expecting at all.
In my head, a load of naked diners were sitting at tables in one big room. Just like a regular restaurant but no clothes. The reality was actually rather pleasant.
It was starting to feel like a spa. Or a sauna. It really was overly warm in there.
The tree stump furniture wasn’t comfortable. And I’m glad I had that robe because, y’know, splinters. Which would have been very bad.
We were served five courses (naked vegan or naked non-vegan) over around 90 minutes. It was perfectly timed – leisurely but not slow. Service was fantastic (as well as easy on the eye) – our waitress was lovely, knowledgeable about the food and the experience, and seemed to really enjoy telling us about the inspiration behind each dish.
Although the food claims to be cooked on a wood fire, I’m pretty sure everything I ate was raw. But that was okay because it was all surprisingly delicious.
You have a choice of naked vegan or naked non-vegan menus. Although only courses two and three actually differ.
I went for the naked non-vegan. Luisa, of course went for the naked vegan and you’ll be able to read about that on her blog very soon.
I’m a recent convert to raw food (after the lovely afternoon tea I had at RAW La Suite West) and I really enjoyed the food at The Bunyadi. I had been concerned that the food may be sub-par, with the emphasis on the experience as a whole, but this is not food to turn your nose up at.
It was all really fresh, well thought out and beautifully presented. These were quality ingredients and exciting combinations. Edible flowers made an appearance on several occasions.
The highlights for me were the coriander steak tartare main with goji berries and basil and nettle oil, and the dessert of chia mousse with blackberries and raw crumble. If it were a regular restaurant I would return and order these. Probably a few times.
And the raw veg first course, with it’s serpent like spice filled skewer of cucumber and a dressing which was a kind of appley, cucumbery soup, was surprisingly enjoyable. This one was inspired by the Garden of Eden, and I couldn’t help but smile at the enthusiasm our waitress showed when telling us all about it.
You can take a look at sample menus here.
The bar in the non naked area served a variety of classic cocktails, wines, lagers etc, as well as some signature cocktails which perfectly fit with the theme. I went for the Jal with watermelon, berries and agave, substituting vodka for gin. It was a good cocktail, worth the £9.50 price tag.
Now one thing that was a slight annoyance – in the dining area you could only order wine (by a half or whole bottle), or drink the rather lovely cucumber water from the pitcher on the table. If you want a cocktail or other drink you have to get it in the bar area, and take it through, decanted into a ceramic cup as your glass isn’t allowed in. You can’t order more once you’re in there.
You can take a look at the cocktail menu here.
What did I think?
Well, as a blogger, I’m one of the worst culprits for photographing everything I do, tweeting during dinner… you get the picture. Without access to our phones, Luisa and I actually focused on each other, which was actually quite lovely.
I really enjoyed the food and the experience – I had been sceptical beforehand. It isn’t something I’d do again, but that isn’t criticism and the intention of The Bunyadi isn’t for it to be a regular evening out.
As a one off experience I would recommend it. If it’s within your budget. Once you’ve paid for the meal and a couple of drinks you’re looking at around £100 per head.
So how do I get to go?
The Bunyadi will be open from this Saturday for around three months. It’s priced at £68.99 which includes the 5 course meal, a robe and slippers (although if you visited ABQ you can purchase tickets at a reduced price of £49).
You can sign up to go on the 40,000 strong waiting list of people wanting to buy tickets and make a booking here.
If you go, I’d love to hear what you think!
*Although the meal was provided free of charge by The Bunyadi, this has not affected my opinions or the content of this post.