The Bunyadi review: I checked out London’s naked restaurant and now I’m converted to eating in the nude

Living in the frenzied times that we do, dining naked and without smartphones is surprisingly pleasant.

Christopher Hooton
Saturday 11 June 2016 16:47
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After the farce that was last year’s ‘owl bar’, I had a pretty healthy skepticism for novelty London pop-ups as I headed down to The Bunyadi, a restaurant centred around nudity both in terms of the food and the diners.

Located in a disused pub south of the river (the organiser asked me not to be more specific, presumably fearing some kind of naked flash mob), the vibe was very much ‘spa at a luxury hotel’ as I walk in, with guests in bathrobes lounging in a dimly lit bar that is all tree trunk tables, bamboo and candles. After changing and putting our clothes in lockers, my friend and I are led by a similarly naked waitress into the restaurant space, which is a winding hallway with little circular booths branching off, some shared, some private, depending on your level of comfort. Neither of us are particularly fazed by being naked around others (we say we’re good to share a booth but end up on a table for two) and frankly in 2016 it seems pretty childish to be, but the nudity aspect really isn’t that overwhelming - the space being so dark that passing figures are mostly silhouettes.

My overriding thought heading into the experience was ‘of all the fun things to do naked, eating has got to be at the bottom of the list’, accompanied by visions of myself wolfing down a stew and then, as a food nap approaches, my nakedness making me all the more corporeally aware of my own gluttony. Sensibly, though, the menu is light, consisting of rounds of raw food - lots of vegetables, flowers, and pickled and smoked meat and fish. All food is served in clay and there is no cutlery bar the odd stick or edible spoon, emphasising the whole ‘getting back to nature/the first days of man’ theme. The wine is served in clay goblets too, making you feel like Dionysus himself as you knock it back.

Bamboo booths separate the naked diners

It’s midway into a very bloody delightful goji berry and coriander steak tartare that it dawns on me that the set-up isn’t the gimmick I feared but actually really works. It’s not even the nudity that makes the experience different/refreshing, but the total ban on all electrical items. My friend excuses herself to go to the bathroom and for once I’m not able to immediately get my phone out and start aimlessly scrolling through feeds. I just sit, pleasantly full and half cut and contemplate. There really is an interplay between nude bodies and nude food too, it almost subconsciously making you more aware of your food having come from the soil and how you essentially have too.

Admittedly, there are moments when you catch sight of a fire exit sign and are reminded that you're sitting naked in a pub in Borough and the inherent absurdity of this, but, on the whole, The Bunyadi works.

The waiting list for the restaurant was supposedly over 30,000 at one point and in these body and sex positive times there’s no limit to the activities that could successfully have a little nudity interpolated. Naked bars? Naked pillow fights? Naked ball pools? If you’ve got the capital to make it happen you should, because London clearly wants to shed its clothes.

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