London's newest pop-up has a strict dress code — or lack thereof: Diners are required to don their birthday suits, and nothing else. Back in April, when Eater first reported that a new pop-up called The Bunyadi would be centered around dining in the nude, reactions were mixed. While most people might not be able to stomach the idea of dining naked around strangers, a staggering 46,000 people added their names to the waitlist. Were they all teenage boys? Members of a nude colony? Hippies looking to relive a more carefree youth? We sent a reporter to find out, and, honestly, she was nonplussed:
I left wholly unchanged. Somewhere in between the "forbidden fruit" pickles and walking past drawn curtains of a private table, I got bored of it all. A seemingly earnest marketing strategy is all you need to help justify an excuse to feel naughty, right? Almost everyone I spoke to that night was drinking the Kool-Aid, and one diner even said, "yeah it might be a fad but — who cares! This is so much fun!" I would've had more fun in a strip club — the intentions are clear, the buffet is stocked with warm lemon pepper wings, and voyeurism helps the money go into the pocket of the exhibitioner, rather than out.
Here are a few other takes from the hottest pop-up so far this year:
"How did we recruit staff who are happy to be naked? We didn't have to - we had people approach us," explains Seb Lyall, the founder. "We didn't make them get naked during interviews, though. We couldn't, really. If I asked people to strip and said: ‘Show me how you look before I present you in front of my customers,' then it's against the whole ethos of the restaurant. We don't want anyone to be judged on their bodies."
When the steak tartare with goji berry and cilantro arrives, my fellow diner and I gulp down the accompanying Argentinian Malbec and agree to get naked. And it does turn out to be curiously liberating. Mostly it's a relief. It's very warm inside Bunyadi and a thick toweling robe starts to become uncomfortable after a while. The darkness of the venue, the bamboo partitions and the strategically designed wooden furniture help maintain some dignity.
By now, it's stifling hot in the room, thanks to the thick robes and the lack of air conditioning. The three of us agree to take off our robes, and we count down, "3, 2, 1," before untying our gowns.
As well as a wave of relief from the heat, I feel hyper-aware of my nakedness. I make a conscious effort to sit up straight and hold my shoulders back. (It turns out, eating in front of people naked does wonders to one's posture.) I'm also now grateful for the darkness, which mostly covers me. Though I certainly can't forget I'm naked, I soon begin to relax and focus on the food.
Ahead of our meal, I note with relief that I don't have to worry about what I'm wearing, given that it will be kit-off. Although I do rather wish I had undertaken some sort of exercise regime in the last few weeks. As for grooming, I feel this is a matter best left to the imagination. Suffice to say, the thought does occur.