Although 99% of my reviews are dinners with BW, I want to make it clear that we do have friends and do enjoy other people’s company too. Now, we do have a fairly meaningful age gap between us, which has yielded limited options in terms of other couples to hang out with. Thankfully, over the last three years, we have made some great friends and now find we always have good company at hand to join us on our halal food adventures. Due to last minute fretting on my behalf, we almost didn’t find a table anywhere but I luckily managed to snag a table at Buddha Bar for 6:45pm. Yes, ridiculously early!
I remember visiting Buddha Bar around 4 years ago whilst BW and I were dating. There were not many halal options back then, just the wagyu beef so we decided to stick to the sushi. Two years ago, all the meat became halal – with the exception of the duck – and everyone was loving the place! It had been way too long and so overdue for a visit so I was quite excited for dinner there.
Whilst we waited for the others to arrive, we ordered some spicy (these were hooottttt) and sea salt edamame to start.
A Buddha Bar London special: a maki (rice) roll that had been filled with spicy salmon tartare, topped with seared tuna chunks, rolled in crispies, and finished off with a zingy yuzu sauce. I liked the crunchy textural contrast, as well as the spicy tuna cutting through the otherwise fishy sushi roll.
A maki roll that had been stuffed with crispy prawn tempura (i opted for King crab to be removed), topped with slivers of mango, and drizzled with a creamy spicy sauce and red chillies. I absolutely loved this roll, from the sweet mango to the tangy sauce to the crisp tempura, this was my favourite dish of the evening.
Another hit; large slices of fresh hamachi that had been dressed with thai basil, and a tomato and ponzu dressing. The fish was great and of good quality, and the dressing just added a nice refreshing finish to it.
Small vegetable spring rolls that were forgettable.
A disappointing take on the popular Nobu rock shrimp. The shrimp was limp, with the enveloping tempura batter being too thin and unflavourful.
A meaty piece of black cod that had been dressed with a tangy lemongrass miso. The fish was fantastic and had been cooked well to achieve that familiar buttery taste and velvety texture.
A fillet of chicken that had been barbecued to a handsome smokiness and finished off with a sweet teriyaki sauce. The chicken was okay; I felt it lacked that punch in flavour as I expected with “five spices”, but I did enjoy the smoky taste from the barbecue.
As recommended by the waiter, a hot plate arrived with thin slices of beef that had been wok-fried with Thai basil, mixed peppers, and beansprout. I enjoyed the addition of the Thai basil as you could pick up on the fresh, liquorice taste of it in the sauce, as well as the sweet peppers, but the beef was quite chewy.
The waiter had exclaimed that this was a beautiful rack of lamb, with six pieces, served with a meaty gravy and a sweet potato galette with enoki mushrooms. Seeing that the other rack of lamb dish on the menu had cost £29.50, I thought why not. Unfortunately for us (and our wallets), the lamb chops were extremely disappointing. When we finally managed to get through all the chewy fat to the small strip of red meat, the meat was flavourless and quite lamby. Sure, it was soft, but the journey of getting through all the fat was too tedious to be worth it. And then, the bill came. You can imagine my dismay when I found out that the oh-so-special lamb chops were more than double the price of the regular rack of lamb, and came in at an eye-watering £72.00. Not. Worth. It.
A halved aubergine that had been chargrilled and slicked with miso and sesame seeds. Unfortunately, it lacked flavour as the miso was quite mild.
The total bill for 6 people came to £435 , including drinks (£8 per mocktail?!) and service (£50), so £145 per couple. An absolute killer of a bill, especially when the majority of the food was so mediocre – do not get me started again on those £72 lamb chops! The service was quite up and down, with the first waiter not understanding what “halal” was as well as bringing us drinks we had not ordered, and the second waiter being super attentive and helpful (his slip up was the £72 lamb chops). Such a shame given the halal hype around Buddha Bar, but for me, I found it overrated and overpriced. I can see the appeal as the vibe is buzzing, the crowd is good looking, and the sushi is great, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat at Buddha Bar again.
For the Buddha Bar website, click here.
For some good pan-asian, check out my Novikov Asian review.