Flesh & Buns, despite the somewhat off-putting name, is a delicious eating experience and a testament to the growing popularity of hirata buns first introduced to London by Yum Bun. The Bone Daddies Boys (B(D)ad Boys?) have now set up shop in, or rather under, Seven Dials to serve up a range of dishes with one main standard component – the steamed bun.
Walking down Earlham St, F&B can be identified by the massive screen showing clips of various anime series. It’s a bit of an odd thing to see, but it does set the tone for the restaurant and keeps it light. I was meeting some friends to test out the new place and overall I think we were pleasantly surprised.
It just so happens I was! But I was late so missed the pre-dinner drinks. That being said, if you are better at the whole getting there on time thing, you might want a place to hang out while your group assembles.
Here you are spoilt for choice to be honest. In Seven dials alone you have places like Kopapa or just pop over to Covent Garden to either London Cocktail Club or Covent Garden Cocktail Club. Or, if you really want to stick to the Japanese theme, Mizuwari is a Japanese whiskey bar and is located under Bincho Yakitori in Soho.
The menu is fairly extensive and you have a choice of hot and cold starters, various sides, about a dozen mains, and of course dessert. The cold starters are your typical Japanese ones – salads, sushi, sashimi, and tadaki. The hot starters follow suit with an array of fried squid, chicken yakitori, and so on.
We opted for both of the beef and tuna tataki (lightly cured thin slices of meat), the broccoli (cold), and some grilled asparagus (hot). The tataki were excellent with the meaty flavours being enhanced by the crispy onion ponzu and the melt-in-your-mouth tuna punctuated by tiny balls of puffed rice. One of our friends had raved about the broccoli being the best he’s ever had. I’ve got to say that he wasn’t far off on that claim as the tender long-stemmed Chinese broccoli was perfectly cooked and served with a creamy and spicy sauce. I don’t normally say this about veggies, but I could have done with more of that!
Our mains took the form of duck confit, pork belly, sirloin steak, and fried sole. Each was served with four buns, a bowl of veggies to be included in the bun, and a different sauce for each dish. Now I know there has been some contention with the number of buns served, but we got 4 buns per dish without asking so I’d hope that was the norm. Four buns seems to be the perfect amount for all but the pork belly and if you really need to, you can always order a few more (albeit for £2.50 a pair).
The standout was the duck confit with its tender, juicy meat and crispy skin. I’d easily eat more of that in a heartbeat and there was a bit of a kerfuffle over who got to gnaw the bone for those last few bits. The fried sole was also excellent with a flaky flesh that came apart at the lightest touch. I would have liked a crispier batter those as on the whole it felt a bit limp.
The pork belly and steak, while good, felt more like filler than anything else. I can’t pick much that was wrong with it (other than the fat was missing from the pork belly – healthy yes, delicious no) but they didn’t excite any of us. What was exciting was the hot stone rice (aka bibimbap) which was full of flavours, nicely spicy, and had plenty of crunchy rice crust from the hot stone. By far the best I’ve had in London to date.
Despite stuffing ourselves on Flesh & Bun’s…well…buns, we decided to opt for dessert. The s’mores looked tempting as they come with a bowl of fire so you can toast the marshmallow yourself, but we were warned that they were far too small for the price. We opted instead to share a crispy banana with a yuzu mojito sorbet and the Bone Daddies Sundae. The bananas were three tiny pieces which couldn’t have made up more than half a banana altogether. While the yuzu ice cream was nice, it didn’t make up for the epically small portion. Of banana. Surely the cost isn’t so bad that for £7 you can only afford to serve up half a banana right?
The sundae on the other hand was brilliant. Matcha ice cream with blueberries, blackcurrant jelly and honeycomb presented in defined layers made for a beautiful dessert that tasted even better than it looked. At £7, it was about 10x the size of the banana dessert and tastier to boot!
So much flesh, how about something to wash it down?
Being such a diverse group, we promptly copied each other on the drinks. The guys got a yuzu frozen margarita and the girls opted for the ginger & honey nectar drink. The ginger drink was very refreshing with a spice root’s burn tempered by the sweetness of the nectar. However, the yuzu margarita was just brilliant – the bold citrus taste of the yuzu blended easily with the bite of the tequila and matched the food excellently.
Worth the dosh?
Ah, here we come to the one real issue I have with F&B – the price. For £40pp, the meal above wasn’t outrageous, but felt a bit overpriced. The atmosphere is casual (and a bit loud) so you expect prices to be easier on the wallet. I think this would be a place I’d come to once in a while, maybe with a visiting friend, but I can’t see it being a regular recommendation like Bone Daddies.
Find Flesh & Bun here
41 Earlham St.
Seven Dials, Covent Garden
London, WC2H 9LX