Naked Dining, From London to Tokyo and Melbourne
Once upon a time "au naturel" dining described simple cooking with little fuss. No more.
These days it means dining naked in restaurants from the UK to Australia, by way of Japan. The London naturist outpost - with a £69 ($100) five-course menu of raw food - says it received more than 46,000 inquiries before opening June 11, and the owners are already looking at venues in France and the U.S.
In Melbourne, the Noble Experiment was home to a nude night hosted by two disc jockeys. They put 50 bums on seats, according to Yahoo. In Tokyo, tickets for the naked nights at The Amrita next month are selling out, although the overweight won't be admitted. Neither will the over-60s or people with tattoos.
Luckily there's no such restrictions at the Bunyadi - or "fundamental" in Hindi - at a secret location in south London.
Diners first gather in a bar, before moving to a changing room and donning a bathrobe. The area is so warm it feels like a sauna - but that may just be all the fluffy white robes.
It was a good-looking crowd: I was the only one who would have fallen afoul of any overweight, overage rules here.
Once in the dining room the young wait staff wear only flesh-coloured knickers and a flower-wreath on their hips. The room is lit by candles, the tables surrounded by bamboo screens for privacy.
You don't have to disrobe, though most do. The layout and lighting mean you don't see a lot of flesh, but there is a buzz. Phones are banned, and yes there is etiquette for naked dining.
The naked theme follows through to the food, which is raw, vegan or non-vegan.
Carnivores start with salad, followed by cured salmon, seaweed salad with whipped spirulina mayo; goji-berry steak tartare; sweet-and-salt seasonal forage; blackberries, coconut & chia mousse, raw crumble. Vegans are served asparagus, salted almonds, pickled red onion & melon; sundried tomato-stuffed courgette flowers, cauliflower couscous & seaweed flakes.
While you probably won't come for the food, the dishes are balanced, light and attractive. The wines start at £5.60 a glass and are £24 to £37 a bottle, unless you go for the £68 Moet Brut Champagne. The service is charmingly attentive.
Bunyadi grew out of a collective called Lollipop, which creates unusual experiences.
It was founded by Seb Lyall, whose previous success was with ABQ, a bar where guests cook cocktails in a RV based on the meth lab of Breaking Bad. ABQ has now moved on to Paris.
"We launch a concept," Lyall says. "And if it works, we scale it."
Bunyadi accommodates 42 guests at a time. There are three seatings a day, six days a week. Lyall says he expects to sell out the three-month run, and after that it will probably become permanent.
Or until the birthday suit goes out of style.
Article by Richard Vines, chief food critic at Bloomberg.