Stepping into the cool darkness of Buddha bar out of the fading sunlight of Knightsbridge (we had walked from Victoria) was the first of several pleasant surprises. Walking to our table overlooking the busy street my eyes adjusted to the low light. Lucien was our waiter, and what a waiter he was.
The service was superlative, everything came quickly, and Lucien was easy to talk to, but also knew when to dissapear. Enthusiastic about doing his job, but not to an annoying or imposing degree, our waiter was genuinely happy to be there. Either that, or he deserved an Academy award for “Best Job Satisfaction Faker”. In short, he was a real pro, and he and his team-mates made us quite comfortable.
Then the food came. Ravenous after a sweltering walk across Belgravia, I fell first upon the Buddha Bar London duck salad – the house speciality – followed by noodles and Wok fried beef, washed down with miso and sake. This was good.
After the meal we drank varieties of sake (precisely two: citrus and regular) and enjoyed dessert, by far the best course. Salted caramel with sesame seeds and a variety of crème brûlées made me reconsider my attitude to sweets.
The blinds came down and plunged the place into purple, red, and yellow darkness, an ambiance that was perfect for a date (there were several in progress when I was there), party, and whatever bankers and executives do after work.
Bee the Assistant Restaurant Manager showed us around, and we discussed décor, famous and infamous guests, the Buddha Bar philosophy, lighting, private bookings, and the rest. Fitting for the delicious extravagance of Knightsbridge were the two Swarovski crystal dragons formed of hundreds of individual glass beads suspended above the staircase underlit with deep blue light.
A print of Buddha on a canvas stretched across the lower landing; this was actually a shadow of a stretch of wire mesh beaten intricately into the shape of said prophet. It was lit in such a way that the shadow formed on the canvas was exceptionally sharp and focused (see photograph below), giving the impression of a printed image from the view on the landing, a clever piece of decoration created by a genuine modern artist whose name unfortunately escapes me.
So: if you’re a businessman looking for a more than decent lunch in Knightsbridge, a young lad trying to impress on that first date (the prices are pretty reasonable; she’ll love the experience and your wallet won’t be empty by 10 o’clock), or need to hire a private dining area with beautiful interior design, Buddha Bar is just about perfect.