NIGHTLIFE

Review: Buddha Bar: Zen and the art of tea-drinking

Walking past bright murals in the entry hallway, I descend down carpeted stairs. At the bottom await a low-hanging arched brick roof, air dimly lit with a rainbow of colours, and a placid pitbull terrier who seems to be smiling at me.
I sit down and read the two menus, one covering the gamut of bar drinks from wine and whiskey to beer and borovička, the other exclusively for teas. Zuzana, my waitress who has sparkles on her face and is wearing a T-shirt reading 'Rump Shaker', sits down across from me, lights the candle on my table and asks what I would like to drink. "Body & Soul", I respond. She smiles and nods knowingly, then floats across the room to prepare my order.
Welcome to one of Bratislava's newest - and finest - night spots: Buddha Bar. Located on the fringes of the Old Town, the bar was opened in February by a group of close friends who had studied hotel management together. Aiming to create a relaxed "living room culture" which would also reflect their spirituality (Zuzana is a believer in reincarnation), they have created an establishment noteworthy for its friendly and sedate atmosphere.


Brightly painted walls greet visitors to the bar.
Ján Svrček

Buddha Bar

Address: Medená 16
Open: Mon-Fri 12:00-22:00, Sat-Sun 15:00-22:00
Food: No
Reservations: Yes
English Menu:No
Telephone:0907 234 930
Rating: 9 out 10

Walking past bright murals in the entry hallway, I descend down carpeted stairs. At the bottom await a low-hanging arched brick roof, air dimly lit with a rainbow of colours, and a placid pitbull terrier who seems to be smiling at me.

I sit down and read the two menus, one covering the gamut of bar drinks from wine and whiskey to beer and borovička, the other exclusively for teas. Zuzana, my waitress who has sparkles on her face and is wearing a T-shirt reading 'Rump Shaker', sits down across from me, lights the candle on my table and asks what I would like to drink. "Body & Soul", I respond. She smiles and nods knowingly, then floats across the room to prepare my order.

Welcome to one of Bratislava's newest - and finest - night spots: Buddha Bar. Located on the fringes of the Old Town, the bar was opened in February by a group of close friends who had studied hotel management together. Aiming to create a relaxed "living room culture" which would also reflect their spirituality (Zuzana is a believer in reincarnation), they have created an establishment noteworthy for its friendly and sedate atmosphere.

Despite the second part of its name, Buddha Bar bears little resemblance to other Slovak bars. The wait-staff is easygoing yet prompt, the clientele sharply dressed yet non-judgemental and relaxed. The music is a pleasing hybrid, a fusion of George Harrison's sitar hymns with the pounding house rhythms of Fat Boy Slim. Even the kaleidoscopic bathrooms are impeccably clean and aesthetically pleasing.

Buddha specialises in tea, although the offering is not as extensive as one might expect: the tea menu lists five kinds of green teas, three black, three fruit and two herbal. But the relative simplicity of the menu is, after all, in keeping with the principles of Buddha, who teaches that suffering comes from our minds, from thinking too much. "We human beings have too much understanding, we have too many problems," writes Zen Master Seung Sahn in The Compass of Zen. "If we have only a little understanding, then we have only a few problems."

Bearing this in mind, visitors to Buddha should understand that the two herbal teas are the highlight of the menu. The first, Body & Soul, is an alchemy of fruit leaves and cinnamon. It has a strong fruit aroma, a light rose colour and a gentle and sweet flavour.


Lamotta, one of the owner's dogs, succumbs to Buddha Bar's "living-room culture".
Ján Svrček

Buddha's crowning tea is the La Pacho, which according to the menu is an Incan brew concocted from ingredients collected from trees in the Andes. The tea "flushes out and strengthens your internal organs, and wonderfully increases your immunity", claims the menu. Indeed, on my last visit to Buddha Bar May 15, I was fighting a cold and a fever. I'm not sure what the La Pacho did to my internal organs, but the next day I felt fitter than I had in days.

Buddha is still somewhat of a secret in Bratislava, although its popularity is steadily increasing. On Fridays and Saturdays the bar is often packed, as it is when they have their 'DJ parties', which are announced by a sign out front and include a disk jockey dressed as Buddha himself.

And although not every member of the wait-staff speaks English, foreigners will have no problem enjoying Buddha bar. The only Slovak you need to understand is lúhovať (to soak): when ordering the tea, check how long you are expected to let the tea leaves soak in the hot water. At 20 minutes, La Pacho requires the longest wait. But, like the bar itself, it's worth every minute.

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