Will Bunga Bunga restaurant survive Berlusconi's demise?

Bunga Bunga in Battersea is extraordinary.

I went a few weeks ago, with a friend who was intent on reviewing it for a newspaper. Sadly because his keenness to see the place outstripped our ability to plan the evening, we hadn't booked. So we had to make do with a seat at the bar, from where there was a good view of the place and its goings-on, and my lugubrious, Italy-loving friend went back another evening to try the food.

Bunga Bunga is owned by two friends of Kate Middleton (Duncan Stirling and Charlie Gilkes, below). But it's noteworthy for other reasons too.


It's a bar and restaurant themed around the Carry-On exploits of Silvio Berlusconi, where you can drink a cocktail from a vessel modelled on the Italian prime minister's fake-tanned head, or the Colosseum, or the leaning tower of Pisa. Yum. Oh, and "Bunga Bunga", in case you need reminding, is a reference to Berlusconi's sex parties, populated by women young enough to be his grand-daughter.

Apparently the pizza's quite good, though I didn't get to try it. Perhaps the venue was a bit rowdy - there were very large groups of people - but then I was hungry and slightly irritable.

And the decor boiled down to a theme-park view of Italy, which could have been constructed after watching Newsnight, Up Pompeii, The Italian Job, The Sopranos and some adverts for Cornetto and The Three Tenors.

But thinking about it later on a full stomach - there's a Pizza Express over the road - there's a kind of justice in implicitly criticising the whole of Italy for its choice of prime minister through a medium that the country actually cares about (since it's apparent from the fact that Berlusconi remains PM that they long ago gave up on politics). Food and drink.

So Bunga Bunga is clever because, like warfare, it's the continuation of politics by other means. In this instance, by restaurant.

But will it survive the political demise of Berlusconi?

On Friday I was going about my 24hourlondon duties, which include ringing ten venues daily to check that the app still has their correct opening hours, and I rang the number for Maggie's club in Fulham.

Now, Maggie's is a club themed around the 1980s where the speeches of Mrs Thatcher play on a loop in the lavatories. Crucially it's owned by the same people who own Bunga Bunga.

So while I had them on the line I thought I'd ask what they plan to do when Berlusconi departs the political landscape? Would it lead to a rethink?

I got one of the managers, Brooke Hitching, on the telephone.

"It's a very, very loose association with Berlusconi," he said. "The point is to celebrate Italian culture. It wouldn't be my decision what to do when Berlusconi goes, but it's just a fun name at the end of the day: it's all about the food and service and the concept is tongue in cheek."

Smooth answer, but why not?

After all, Maggie's is still going strong, with its Spitting Image branding holding up well, even as our national battle axe herself fades from the political landscape.

The test of Bunga Bunga's prospects is probably, as the man suggests, whether its food and service makes people want to return. Because even when Berlusconi's gone, he'll be a hard phenomenon to forget.

His legend will survive to beat Italians with for decades.

So why not a restaurant?

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