What: A secret, Covent Garden den of meat and steamed buns, Flesh & Buns was opened by Ross Shonhan as part of the Bones Daddies Collection, bringing London a taste of the Izakaya – the Japanese pub culture.
New: Flesh & Buns originally opened back in 2013, specialising in gua bao – those sticky, fluffy Taiwanese buns we all can’t get enough of, long before the craze really took over us, in comparison, Bao didn’t open their first permanent site until 2015. Now four years later they’ve had a temporary closure this July whilst they update the restaurant.
Where: 41 Earlham Street, Covent Garden, WC2H 9LX, www.bonedaddies.com
On the Menu: According to their website, the menu is ‘The Ultimate Japanese Drinking Food’ – food to pick at whilst drinking a beer or to counter balance one too many glasses of sake. Of course, it’s mainly about those fluffy, white buns, but the menu also features snacks, raw dishes, rolls and small plates. You’ll find the likes of beef tataki with walnut ponzu and yamagobo; fried squid; kale and avocado salad with beansprouts and honey ponzu and prawn tempura rolls with yuzu mayo, avocado and tobiko.
The Look: The redesign of the large, underground cavernous restaurant comes from B3 Designers (Lyles, Sakagura, Gymkhana), there’s a larger bar, where ten drinkers can now make themselves at home and ‘noren’ screens made of draped fabric to create intimate booths. However, perhaps the biggest change is that the much-talked about X-rated anime loos (Google them if you did not see them before, they’re quite the eye-opener) have been traded in for something much more subdued and minimal – wooden panelled walls and grey muted tones. The main restaurant is dark with deep reds and low hanging pendant lights, the sort of place that will leave you blinking when you reemerge into the street, were you to go for lunch.
What We Ate: We started with the special of Duck Harumaki – that’s duck spring rolls wrapped up with fresh pickled green papaya and a subtle chilli mayonnaise. Softshell crab was excellent – crispy, moreish and perfect dunked in a little jalapeno mayonnaise. The humble corn on the cob is given the Flesh & Buns makeover with shichimi and a lime mayonnaise glaze – mayonnaise in its many variations features heavily on the menu. The main event being the glutinous, soft, Taiwanese buns, we chose to fill ours with crispy piglet belly and mustard miso and apple pickle and a beautiful, flaky grilled cod with rendang miso made from cucumber and carrot pickle.
Pudding was a spectacle, we were also a spectacle eating it – build your own s’mores, a flaming stone was place on our table for us to toast our own marshmallows before sandwiching them between crackers and melting dark chocolate. There’s a lot of fun in making them but the passion fruit marshmallows were more sickly than sweet, plain marshmallows would had the spot.
What We Drank: Being a Wednesday we of course had to toast the fact that we had made it through the hardest part of the week and it was plain sailing from here on in, granted we didn’t need it to be Wednesday to drink, but a reason makes you feel more justified, and our drink of choice was the frozen yuzu margarita. Made from silver tequila, yuzu, lime juice, agave syrup and orange liqueur finished with salt –fuzzy heads the next morning were a testament to just how drinkable they were. Alongside cocktails you’ll find sake, an extensive Japanese whisky list, spirits and wine.
Final Word: Flesh & Buns is just fun, it’s noisy, it’s loud and you’re going to make a mess when eating. That said the cocktails are excellent and the buns – well there’s a reason they became such a hit.
Flesh & Buns: 41 Earlham Street, Covent Garden, WC2H 9LX,