None of my friends like fish or sushi, so when Gemma came down for the weekend, there was only one type of cuisine we were going to be having! There are so many Japanese/sushi restaurants on my list, but having had memorable meals at the Prague and Budapest restaurants, I wanted to go for something special and so, booked a table at the Buddha Bar in Knightsbridge. Even though I had left it late to book, I was pleased to find my requested time of 7pm still available.
Buddha Bar specialises in pan-Asian cuisine and the menus at each restaurant are fairly similar. If you’re not into sashimi or sushi rolls, there are plenty of other options including wok-fried meats and vegetables, rice and noodles and curries.
I was so surprised by the size of the London restaurant and think I read somewhere that it seats 450. There’s seating around the bar, as well as the main dining area and booths. There’s even a private dining room. The decor typifies the franchise, with dragon motifs adorning the walls and giant Buddha statues. The lighting is fairly dim, which makes it perfect for that intimate experience – perfect for an occasion or date night, or in our case, mate night.
I’ll begin with our drinks at the bar – the mixologists are amazingly talented! It was definitely worth waiting 10 minutes for our cocktails to be brought over. I always feel awkward watching while the ingredients are shaken and blended. I chose the Kiwi Kukama: citroen vodka and bitter lemon, with elderflower liqueur, fresh kiwi and cucumber. It was a lovely pastel green colour and went down far too easily. The fruit and cucumber added a crisp freshness. Gem went for Bubble Wap (I’d had this before so can vouch for her when she says it was amazing!) – a fruity concoction of strawberry and raspberry purees, vodka, champagne and elderflower liqueur, with the slightest dash of rose liqueur to finish it off. While we sipped our luxe cocktails, we spoke to the sommelier who asked us about our preferences, before recommending a wine to order with dinner. We were even lucky enough to sample this before ordering a fresh bottle later on.
To eat, we began with a couple of starters: crispy duck spring rolls and beef satay. The beef was so tender and cooked to perfection; it was like actual steak on skewers and served with a beautifully nutty, but spicy dipping sauce. I could have easily eaten more than two skewers. The spring rolls were equally as good, packed with duck and cucumber – and the hoi sin was so moreish.
We also shared a few main dishes between us – which arrived on the same platter, garnished with pickled ginger and wasabi. The varying colours made the plate look appetising and I just couldn’t wait to dig in. The mixed cucumber and avocado maki rolls were light and fresh, the perfect dish to begin with. I love vegetable rolls, but had never had the two combined in one before – they were so good. The signature Buddha Bar rolls (pictured in the middle) were wrapped in cucumber, rather than seaweed and topped with the tastiest tangy sauce. Each roll contained a mixture of salmon and tuna and I’m sure there was crab in the middle, it was so succulent. Rainbow rolls are one of my favourites and the ones at Buddha Bar are unreal. Each one was topped with sashimi and caviar – the bright green, orange and black made them look so pretty and almost too good to eat. They tasted better than they looked – but unfortunately we couldn’t eat them all. 20 rolls between two was definitely too much, especially after having starters as well.
We didn’t have room for dessert and instead, relaxed with the last of our wine. Even though you are allocated a time slot, the staff never rushed us and we didn’t feel as though we needed to leave straight away. The service throughout was excellent, from the moment we confirmed our reservation, to sitting with our drinks at the bar and the waiting staff who looked after us so well. My only complaint for the whole evening would be that service charge was added to our drinks bill, which seemed a bit unreasonable given we were also eating at the restaurant. This meant that two cocktails came to over £40, which is a bit silly.
I will definitely be returning to Buddha Bar, after all, there are so many more varieties of sushi I need to sample!
Love, Lucy xx