Expensive restaurants are nothing new but you’d be hard pressed to find one designed in pure neo-classical style as the Bacchanalia located in Mayfair. Housed in an old Porsche garage, the Greco-Roman inspired interior reportedly cost in excess of £75 million (~$138.9 million AUD) and the prices of the food reflect that.
As per Bacchanalia’s website, “This is not merely a restaurant, it is a breath-taking feast for the senses, a gathering place to feel moved, immersed in another world.”
Bacchanalia were Roman festivals of the god Bacchus (Greek Dionysus), the god of wine, freedom, intoxication, and ecstasy, which were based on the earlier Greek Dionysia. These festivals were shrouded in mystery during their time but some contemporary writers, particularly Livy, wrote that they often involved drunkenness, free mingling of the sexes and classes, accompanied by loud music. While this isn’t entirely accurate (being a mystery religion we don’t know for sure want went down), it does inform our modern interpretation of the word which often is used to mean uninhibited or drunken revelry i.e. a good time.
How does this inform the restaurant Bacchanalia?
The restaurant describes it as Bacchanalia “reimagined” with “Greco-Roman feasting, revived imaginatively.” The food and drink are all Mediterranean inspired and there’s a level of exclusivity reminiscent of the mysterious festival thanks to long wait times and a £400 (~$740 AUD) per person set menu.
The menu has been created by Greek chef, Athinagoras Kostakos who said, “The dishes are made with the most expensive ingredients. There are rare collections of caviar and also a lamb that I bring exclusively from Greece. In Bacchanalia I exhausted my creativity!”
Highlights, according to online reviews, include the pasta of lobster paccheri with black truffle, salt crusted sea bass, crab salad, veal cheek with saffron polenta and dry nuts, and a sea bream carpaccio.
The venue itself has actually stolen the show in its Baroque sense of maximalism. It takes all the best mythmaking aspects of neoclassicism with its white statues (which were coloured in both Ancient Rome and Greece) and renaissance style frescoes. In terms of history, it’s a little wide of the mark, but in terms of pleasing the senses, it may lead to sensory overload (in a good way).
Richard Caring of the Caprice Group is responsible for this project and has also worked on restaurants like Annabels, Scotch and Yve Club, and Sexy Fish.
There are several different spaces within Bacchanalia, all treated with the same level of opulence. Even the women’s bathroom used over 400,000 tiles to evoke an orchard inspired by the Garden of Hesperides.
The VIP lounge, Apollo’s Muse, draws inspiration from the Admirable Galley at Villa Albani in Rome and offers a personalised menu and range of experiences that will remain secret like the Bacchanalia of old, as photos and social media are banned.
If you’ve got cash to spend and a taste for the finer things in life, next time you’re in London be sure to hit up Bacchanalia, but make sure you book a few months in advance.