AUTHOR’S NOTE: So, stay with me here, all future posts will have much less text. This one because of the lack of cameras allowed into the space and the interest into what goes on felt like it should be longer. I promise though, this is a image first, text last blog.
Welcome to Eat Play Pixel’s first real post. And yes, I’m going to lay it all bare here today.
(Brace yourself, there are puns to come.)
As mentioned, I’m Alex, the Community Director for Yelp in London. It’s a job where I get to explore London and do some excellent things, from creating London’s first Micro Pig Picnic (adorable) ?, behind the scenes looks at great theatre ? and setting up London’s only Ice Cream Festival ?.
Sometimes, though, the things I do don’t fit onto Yelp. For instance, I never review soft openings there because they’re not quite ready for a real review.
But they are ready to be talked about… And here we are!
A week ago, I was invited to the trial run of London’s First Naked Restaurant: The Bunyadi. Named after a Hindi word meaning “natural”, this is a stimulating invite if I’ve ever had one. And of course the answer is, “Yes.”
So a few days before the dinner, we started to get instructions for our journey to a top-secret southeast London location, which included items like:[box]
- Please bring as little personal belongings as possible.
- Please arrive at least 30-45 mins before the time of your booking. This will allow smooth running of the changing area and give you enough time to change into your gowns and slippers, which are provided by us. Late arrival will cause delays for everyone.
- You should not wear anything underneath these towel gowns when you change. The gowns are yours to take home with you.
- You are NOT required to de-robe when in the dining area. It is purely clothing optional
- We will also provide you with lockers where you can keep your belongings and clothes safe.
- No phones, cameras or anything else is allowed in the dining area. Just you, the gown and the slippers.
- Respecting fellow dinner is our rule number one. If any guests cause nuisance to anyone else in the dining area or don’t respect the rules of the house, they will be escorted out of the venue without any ifs or buts. [/box]
- Please don’t mention to anyone in the local area the concept of the place. We like to keep it a secret and don’t want others to get involved. For the general public it is a cocktail bar. [/box]
Fair enough, don’t want to alert the neighbours to adorable naked Londoners eating in their backyard. We come across a building and chat with the guards outside, who confirm we are who we say we are and usher us into the dark.
This is the first thing you notice about the spot. It’s very dark, lit only by soft lighting hidden behind fake bamboo that climb the walls and an epic bar that fills most of the room…
… Well, actually, the first thing you notice are the people walking around, sitting, and drinking in stark white robes. And they are beautiful robes, big, fluffy and warm. Robes you could fall asleep in. Ah, the robes.
(And did you read that you get to take them home at the end in case you want the nakedness to never end? Because you do and it is glorious.)
We were checked in at the desk and brought to the small changing rooms in the back. Only one in at a time, which gives you more privacy than you have in any other changing room. And then lockers where you find those robes and slippers and a key to lock your things away.
I exited back into the bar/lounge area feeling exposed and nervous. But you’re not actually naked (just feeling that way) and everyone else is dressed the same.
Still, I pulled my robe a little tighter around my waist… just because.
We ordered a drink, hung out, and eventually are brought to our table. And this is where my pics end, because cameras are not allowed in the second space, so no food porn from me (and, it goes without stating, no real porn either. I can’t state this enough: The Bunyadi is not a sex space, just a spot for happy naked foodies.)
The actual Bunyadi is in a second room, a place that’s even darker and warmer than the room you walked into. The tables are lit only by candles and the space feels like a sauna. So if anything will make you disrobe, it is this heat.
And here’s the surprising bit: privacy. And lots of it. I think the assumption is that all the naked diners would dine together, but in fact, you get your own bamboo-walled space, complete with tree-stool seats and a beautiful small carved wooden tree-tables for you to share with your guest.
(If you’re feeling very cheeky, you can peek between the shoots to sort of see the diners next to you, but I imagine it’s frowned upon.)
Welcome, friends, to the heart of The Bunyadi: Getting back to nature. No clothes, no cell phones, light jazz music playing, and raw naked food. And of course, the waiters, who seat you and serve you while topless, with just tiny grass skirts covering anything downstairs.
And I must implore: Everything served is beautifully raw. It’s a five course meal with an amuse-bouche of the most natural food you’ll eat all year, in the most natural state imaginable.
You have a choice of a meat or vegan menu and we sampled both. Again, the food is some of the most raw and delicious eats I’ve had in London. Small plates packed with surprises, from the English garden starter with an apple soup and edible flowers that made your mouth tingle, to the Goji-Berry, coriander steak tartar main. Mmm. And you end with a fresh black berry, coconut and chia mousse pudding with raw crumble.
Plus, even the spoons are made of bread, creating fun edible cutlery.
It was a little strange that they had a full bar (with cocktails) in the lounge area, but only served wine or water inside the restaurant. God help you if you want a Diet Coke.
But really, in the end, the meal was fresh, flavourful and filling, but you still walked out feeling light – like you’re wearing nothing at all.
At the end, my lady and I got changed, carrying our white robes back to the tube station. It was a freeing experience, and I loved every minute of it.
This restaurant does go against the current London scene, where everything has to be beautiful, photo-worthy, instagrammable. Here, you’re not allowed pics. You’re not not even allowed your phone. At the end, if you’re going to share anything, it’s going to be the story.
And what a story.
If you ever are traveling through East London, and you see people carrying white robes under their arms and sharing a secret smile – I promise you, they’ve just had a much more interesting meal than you.
The Good: Most of London’s naked restaurant was a blast. Fun, welcoming space with friendly half-naked staff and seriously amazing raw food – some of the best I’ve ever had in the city. Also, there was way more privacy for a naked restaurant than I had expected.
The Bad: The heat, which is sauna-level stifling. Perhaps some natural wooden fans for people to use at each table? The lighting, which is very dim and we could barely see our food in front of us, despite having two candles on the table (which, again, adied to the heat.) And the lack of drink choices inside the restaurant: only bottles of wine or water, when there were lovely cocktails in the lounge. But these are small complaints for such an interesting and delicious meal.
One Conversation With Restaurant Creator Seb Lyall:
Alex: “So why open a naked restaurant?”
Seb: “Well, three reasons:
One. Everyone should eat naked food. Not food, naked, but food that is source to plate. Not cooked. Raw. Natural ingredients combined together to create flavours.
Two. Everyone shout eat without access to technology. Technology on dinner tables is a sign of boredom. We bring you to a place where we give you the fun and no boredom.
Three. Everyone should eat in a space where they can be comfortable about their bodies. They say, ‘You can’t be in public naked because you’re fat or you’re thin or you’re not ‘Beach Body Ready.’ And this fights that. This is almost a social experiment, not a restaurant.”
Alex: “But it’s still good food?”
Seb: “Of course. Wait till you try it.”
The Bunyadi opens this Saturday and, according to Seb Lyall, is expected to run for threeish months. You can apply for tickets here.