THR Spends an Evening Undressed in London's Only Naked Restaurant
The Bunyadi, a pop-up "natural dining experience" where clothing is actively discouraged, opened its doors earlier this summer. A birthday-suited THR joined the nude party, had a food fight, knocked over a table and laughed rather a lot.
As is the generally perceived stereotype, Brits are renowned prudes; conservative, stiff-upper-lip sorts who are rightly ashamed of their pale, un-Bond-like bodies.
So when The Bunyadi, a pop-up restaurant where clothing is actively discouraged, announced it would be opening up for three months of nudity in London this summer, few expected demand to be so high.
But within weeks, almost 50,000 eager exhibitionists were on the waiting list, not bad for a "natural dining experience" that can only house 42 people at a time.
Following a "soft opening" (pun very much intended) in June, the doors finally opened earlier this month. Wanting to check out what all the fuss was about, The Hollywood Reporter sent one of its more open-minded correspondents (and a companion) on an undercover, and underdressed, operation.
This is what she saw:
Outside, you’d have no idea what it is. It’s a discreet black building, like a pub that has been blacked out completely. There’s a big bouncer at the door, who was really sweet, with a pink silk rope, but that’s it. Oh, and it’s right opposite a mosque, which I found quite unusual.
But inside, the second my partner and I walked in, everyone’s naked! You go from the street to absolute nudity. It’s totally bonkers.
On the website it looks like a kind of hippy place. And the actual restaurant part is, but the bar is like a swingers club, or a nudist colony meets a swingers club. It’s like a normal pub but with bamboo around the edges, and pretty small. There were about 20 people, of whom only three probably had robes on. People are standing up naked, sitting down naked, walking around naked. And visibly checking each other out. I just got the giggles straight away.
On the left hand side as you go in there’s this beautiful hostess in a black evening dress. She was very androgynous — very striking and really lovely. She’s talking to you but you’re really aware that everyone else around you is naked. I was trying to look at her and not laugh. I’m in hysterics in my head. I couldn’t stop laughing. But she took it well. “It’s OK, it’s normal," she said, reassuringly.
You are given a robe to wear, but we didn’t get ours for a good 15 minutes, so we were in there fully clothed — jeans and a jumper — standing around with naked people everywhere. All shapes, sizes, ages, races.
My partner and I just locked arms and tried really hard not to cry with laughter. So we perched ourselves at the bar and chatted to the barman, who was a fantastic, very friendly guy, which helped diminish some of the awkwardness. He was clothed, reportedly for health and safety reasons. When they opened the restaurant they were actually asked that by the authorities – will you be preparing the food naked?
The cocktails were out of this world, and really strong, which I assume is because they want you to release your inhibitions. So after about 15 minutes we were both slightly drunk after just one cocktail.
After a while, this woman walked up in a black dress and asked if we wanted to get changed. We were led behind a black curtain, where there were lockers and the tiniest space in the world. It’s like a cupboard. We’re standing, literally knee-to-knee, getting undressed. There’s no space. It’s not sexy.
But on the other side, there was a group of young, drunk girls. We’d seen them before in the bar, where the barman took a group naked photos of them. All completely nude. They were changing back into their clothes and one was screaming, “I’m so horny I want to go to a swingers club.” It was hilarious.
Back in the bar, we were wearing our robes, but they’re open, so you can obviously see ... stuff.
We had arrived for our 9 p.m. reservation, but it wasn’t until 10:20 p.m. that we got to eat, so we had over an hour just drinking and watching everybody.
Eventually, they invited us into the dinner area. And it in there it’s totally different, very spa-like and civilized. It’s very discreet in there, with high bamboo screenings around each table. Everyone is naked, but you can only see glimpses of them. There’s no electricity either, so it’s really dark. We were taken to our seats, which were basically just tree trunks. Rather small tree trunks at that. I was ferociously uncomfortable. And the table is really low so you can actually see all of each other.
The actual table is also a giant tree trunk slice, very rough, and all the plate and cups are earthenware. There is no cutlery, or salt and pepper. Although you do get edible spoons for a couple of the courses.
The waitress came over to discuss the food. She was topless, with the tiniest pair of flesh-colored knickers I've ever seen. She is also stunningly beautiful. My male partner didn’t notice, because at this point he was too busy thinking about the food.
There are five course in total. We both went for non-vegan, but I swapped my main for vegan because I didn’t want meat.
The first course was pickled cucumber, which you eat with your fingers, which is kind of messy when you’ve got fake nails
For second course we had cured salmon, which was very nice. Nothing is cooked in there, it’s all completely raw. Then my partner had a massive plate of steak tartare, while I had a zucchini dish with sun-dried tomatoes, which was extremely delicious.
Then, disaster struck. After the main course, I was, frankly, feeling a bit amorous. I made a slight move toward my partner, but when I put my hand on the table to pull myself up, the table flipped over because it’s just a tree trunk on another tree trunk. The earthenware glasses went flying into the air, coated us in red wine and smashed to bits.
So there we were: naked, absolutely drenched, and laughing hysterically. Naturally, this caused a small scene. Everybody around us stopped talking because there had been this massive crash. The waitress came running in to check that everything was OK and said, “Wow, that’s a lot of mess.” We were given new robes and then moved us to a different table in a different section.
At this point I was more than a little bit drunk. They’d just served dessert — chai pudding, which I thought was horrible. Since I had no interest in the pudding, and inhibitions were running at dangerously low levels, I playfully threw some pudding at my partner. He then returned fire with his own dessert. And so we had a small food fight. We were both covered in chai pudding and the waitress came back to ask if everything was OK. “Sorry, we’re just having a food fight.” She took it well.
After we finished and washed the dessert off ourselves, we put our robes on and headed back into the bar. By this time it was about 1 a.m., and we were some of the last people there. So we just put our clothes back on and left. All the staff kissed us goodbye — the hostess, the barmen. They were so friendly.
One final detail: There was an extremely drunk middle-aged man who had to be dressed — the staff had to literally sit him down and dress him because he simply couldn’t function. He ended up staggering out with one shoe on and the barman running after him with the other.
The whole thing was bonkers. But hilarious. I’d definitely go back.