Bunga Bunga – it can only mean one thing right? Sat on an unassuming street corner off Battersea Bridge Road, the blacked-out windows and red neon signage certainly tip a wink towards a certain sort of establishment. However, step inside and you’ll see the name is less homage to Berlusconi’s babes, and more an exuberant celebration of all things Italy (whether it could be considered tasteful is another question). So this isn’t an Italian restaurant, it’s an Italian-themed restaurant.
If you’ve come to eat a simple meal – pizza, pasta, antipasti, charcuterie, salads – rest assured, the food is good. These are Pizza Express prices but a better quality level. The zucchini fritters with basil aioli are guilt-inducingly good, with the aioli elevating flavours succinctly, whilst the combination of meat and sweet in the prosciutto & fig bruschetta complement each other well and although my companion and I both find it a little on the dry side, it’s nothing a little oil can’t sort out.
Our mains – the Artichoke “Heart Stealer” (artichoke, olives, anchovies and capers) pizza and Tutti Frutti (chicken, spinach, mozzarella and chilli) pizza have pleasingly thin, sourdough bases, and come in adjoining rectangles, rather than the usual 12” disc, making sharing much easier. The spinach on the Tutti Frutti is again slightly dry, but I enjoy my artichoke pizza immensely, and the generous portion size means that any hunger is swiftly abated, though service is a little on the slow side.
But unlike the country from which it takes inspiration, food is not the be all and end all here. Bunga Bunga is brash, bold and slightly surreal in a way that its food is not – twice during our meal, all the waiters stop, do a 30 second dance, then continue as if nothing had happened. The first thing you’ll note upon entrance is the lounge singer entertaining the patrons (who on the night was very good), bikes hanging from the ceiling, the faux-classical sculptures mounting the walls, and postcard scenes and posters everywhere. In case that wasn’t enough, there’s karaoke later on in the evening.
Nowhere is the cliché taken further than with the drinks. If you’re the sort who’s horrified by the thought of cocktails in novelty mugs then turn away now (ours came in Berlusconi and Mario mugs); likewise any easily-offended Italians – this place is pastiche and not for the purist. Attracting groups of yuppie Clapham-types and glamorous Chelsea inhabitants wanting to slum it south of the river, it’s an entertainingly odd place and was packed on the Wednesday when we went. If you’re after a quiet, intimate meal, well, bung-a pizza in the oven and save the party for another night; otherwise grab a group of friends, enter into the spirit of it and you’ll have a great time. (Words: Jane Duru)
For more info visit www.bungabunga-london.com