If there’s one person qualified to tout the benefits of dining in the nude, it’s Seb Lyall.
The London restaurateur, known for opening some of the city’s most innovative dining concepts, eats his breakfast bare-bottomed each morning – assuming he’s not cooking with hot oil.
“It’s liberating,” he told The Washington Post. “It’s fun and sometimes the neighbors watch – fine, whatever.
“It’s my home and my space, and that’s kind of the space we’re trying to create in the restaurant – our own little space. It will be fascinating what the response is.”
The space he’s was talking about is the Bunyadi, a clothing-optional, pop-up restaurant scheduled to open in London in June.
The response, Lyall said, has been overwhelming, with a waiting list more than 16,000 names long. Lyall said he expects the number to soar in the coming months.
The idea behind the restaurant sounds simple: Create a dining experience that is stripped of modern, industrialized impurities, such as artificial colors, chemicals and gas, metal and plastic in the kitchen and electric lights, smartphones and clothing in the dining area.
Lyall calls his Luddite-inspired dream “true liberation,” one that is designed with body positivity, and acceptance, in mind. He maintains that the restaurant is not a bunch of guys trying to create naked dining for attention, but more of a nudist social experiment that aims to give people a space to challenge their assumptions about nudity, modernity and what kind of behavior we consider natural.
In essence, he claims, consuming food in public sans clothing is “an act of rebellion.”
“When you get a chance, you take your clothes off,” he told The Post. “When you get in bed, you take your clothes off. When you go to the beach or a sauna, you take your clothes off. It’s natural.”
“There is a whole business of victimizing people based on body image, but we are making a business out of correcting it,” he added.
But stripping basic modernity from the modern world quickly becomes a complicated task, which explains why refining, and later designing, the concept took months, Lyall said.
Photography is banned.
The cutlery will be edible, and patrons will be given access to a changing room with a locker before they arrive at their table.
To avoid contaminating seats with their nude bodies, diners will be asked to sit on their robes.
The kitchen staff with be clothed, but waiters will have minimal covering for hygienic purposes.
“Every table that you sit at is designed so that the sight is obstructed between other dining parties,” Lyall said. “The restaurant is partitioned or there’s bamboo or you only see someone’s back or a silhouette or their shadows from candles.”
“It took us, as you can imagine, some time to figure this out,” he added. “I’d like people to understand the attention to detail that the concept demanded.”
Immersed in candlelight, surrounded by bamboo and wicker and reclining to wood-hewn furniture, guests will be treated to a five-course meal for around $80 to $90 (plus you get the keep your robe).
He said he hasn’t had trouble finding chefs willing to use a spatula made out a tree branch.
“This is a dream for a chef,” Lyall said. “They get bored in a traditional kitchen.”
In addition to vegan options, Bunyadi will offer “wood-flame-grilled meats served on handmade clay crockery and edible cutlery, in a space void of the industrialized world’s modern trappings,” a press release states.
The concept comes from Lollipop, a company behind several other unconventional dining experiences, such as drinking a smoothie with an owl and ABQ, a “Breaking Bad”-themed cocktail bar that invites guests to manufacture their own drinks in an RV using raw ingredients.
If overly voyeuristic patrons show up to the Bunyadi and make things uncomfortable, which Lyall doesn’t expect to happen, he said the staff will escort them out.
After creating the “Breaking Bad” bar, Lyall said his latest offering was not nearly as difficult to pull off. That, he said, as well as the increasingly long waiting list, is why he’s feeling confident.
“We provided chemicals and fire and dry ice that can blow up and kill people,” he told The Post. “We’ve done that for the past year. As a concept, letting people make their own cocktails is way more complicated than a restaurant where you can take your clothes off.”