AnnieHall's Qype reviews
8 Victoria Embankment, London, London WC2R 2PN
AnnieHall wrote on 18 December 2008
After going to “Buddha Bar” for a friend’s birthday, I went online to read Jay Rayner’s (he serves as the Observer’s restaurant critic) review. He described the place as, “Clumsy, pricey and tasteless, Buddha Bar is enough to test the serenity of a deity” and unfortunately, I have to agree with him.
Recently opened, as other reviewers mention, the London Buddha Bar is part of an international chain. It’s situated under Waterloo Bridge and from the outside, this restaurant looks a little like a cheesy West End nightclub - complete with bouncers on the doors in black suits and earpieces - a little off-putting to say the least when you’re going out to eat!
We got the measure of this place as we walked through the heavy, dark doors - immediately we were directed to the cloakroom and told (rather than asked) to hand-over bags and jackets when actually, we would’ve liked to have kept them with us (especially as the bags in question had birthday gifts and cards and the jackets were light enough to leave slung over handbags while we were dining). The 3 or 4 girls who were immediately “in our faces” were “over the top” with their hospitality and left you thinking if they didn’t get a least one guest to put an item in the cloakroom, they would loose their jobs. No joke.
As you walk in, you are again “guided” to the bar (where our friends were sipping £8 cocktails), which is necessary as it’s difficult to make your own way (as previous reviewers have already mentioned!) because of the incredible “low lighting” - basically…it is dark! We are then to shown to seats opposite our friends and not left alone for one second…at one point I dribble my cocktail onto the coaster on the glass (I think it was glass - it was dark, so I can’t be sure!) table and a waitress is there, taking the coaster away and immediately replacing it with another. For many, this may be attentive, excellent service…for me, it was way too full-on, claustrophobic and an unnecessary invasion of quality time with friends.
Asian artefacts line your way from bar to restaurant. There’s elaborate Asian style chandeliers hang overhead. What strikes you before anything else in the restaurant is the gigantic Buddha statue, it’s striking, but as Jay mentions, would people not have an issue at the sheer offensiveness and exploitation of a religious symbol like this if there were a massive cross in the middle of the room. A good point.
We were seated at the opposite end of the restaurant to the bar with more lighting and a nicer ambiance. Our waiter (and waitress) are attentive, but definitely less “full-on” than the other staff we’d come into contact with which definitely made the best part of the evening (thank goodness for us and our birthday girl!).
The pan-Asian menu is large - the waitress offers to guide us through to choose dishes (which are mostly to share. Great idea for a birthday party of five - I genuinely mean that. It worked well for us). There were main dishes priced well outside our budget (one main dish to share comes in at just over £70!), along with horrendously priced wine and champagne - definitely aimed at a city trader’s salary before the credit crunch took hold!
Starters included - Wok-fried salt and pepper calamari and frog’s legs for £10 - I remember thinking just how pricey a starter this was! We noticed the sushi, but were told that as it was a Saturday night it would take a while for the kitchen to make this up for us, so it was best to opt for other dishes.
One of the main courses we opted for came in at £26, but it was a deliciously made Korean seared beef which was very tender, in a fairly rich tomato sauce. One of the other dishes we chose was a Thai-style red curry with shrimp served with rice (£16.50). Again delicious and great to share, but I feel with all the dishes, overpriced for the type of food on offer.
We thought we’d spotted some ex-big brother “stars” seated in the middle of the room and this really sums-up who you’ll probably expect to see in this restaurant in the future. Great if you’re in to “Heat” star spotting, but this place may not go on for much longer in the downturn if it doesn’t address it’s prices!