In this part of Knightsbridge, the luxury restaurant competition is steep, and Buddha-Bar has gone a long way to set itself apart from the scene.
Walking in I assumed I’d come to the wrong address as interiors, music, staff and even my welcome indicated I was in a club, but no, I was led into the dark dining room with music blaring and seated with my guest.
I should have guessed this would be the case though, as this is the London outpost from the group of the same name that first opened its doors in the 1990s in Paris. The interiors are all Buddha walls, crystal curtains and plenty of alcoves lit scarlet red.
The split-floor restaurant (half bar, half restaurant) really makes you feel like you’re there for a party. No bad thing, really.
We began with a crisp glass of fizz which was the perfect accompaniment to cut through the Asian food on offer. The wine list offers great diversity and selection and the Sommelier team did an excellent job matching to the food, and importantly they communicated this well too.
I wasn’t expecting to like Buddha-Bar on first glance, but food, drinks and service were impeccable and the meal that followed was excellent.
Our waiter strongly recommended we order the Buddha-Bar Chicken Salad to begin, and I have since never felt so strongly that a dish needs a re-brand. When it arrived the succulent, five spice marinated chicken thigh was mixed with cabbage, crispy wonton pastry and a sweet sesame dressing and was absolutely delicious.
Completely surprising in its pretty presentation and fantastic flavours – we were really impressed. Next came a dramatically presented, decadent sushi platter with a huge tempura prawn running throughout the rolls.
The texture of the perfectly knobbly and crisp tempura batter maintained throughout the roll and the result was a tasty, impressive, fresh dish which was helped along with great quality ingredients.
Our mains were a lightly flavoured, modern approach to pad Thai and a deliciously spiced and sticky glazed chicken thigh dish. Both were excellent, generous and well presented.
The surroundings and the club feel made us assume, wrongly, that the food would be overlooked but real attention to detail was shown throughout the menu and although prices are quite high, the ingredients used completely reflected this.
It would be so easy to dismiss Buddha-Bar as I would any other themed restaurant, but that would be to miss out on some really impressive cooking.
Pan Asian food is not as applauded in the foodie community as many other cuisines, but the food here was certainly worthy of praise. Without a doubt that chicken salad is one of my favourite and most memorable dishes of recent memory. I just hope they rename it so others might be tempted to try it.
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