Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Flesh & Buns: for goodness sake

Great fun, buns have room for improvement

Although it deserves a lot more, my enduring memory of Flesh & Buns is that Sake is disgusting. Mostly it reminded me of those horrid Strawberry Volvic waters, so weakly flavoured that there are more tannins that taste notes.

Still, far be it from me to dismiss a national drink out of hand (oh, OK then I will). I still drank a bottle of it and had a wonderful time while doing so. Flesh & Buns is a terrible name for a restaurant, and according to my limited knowledge of Eastern cuisine a slightly confused concept, but it's a great place to eat anyway.

Tucked underground on one of the thousands of roads that come off Seven Dials in Covent Garden, it has a lovely atmosphere with booths and great long tables that dissect the room, where everyone shares elbow space and conversations. It claims to be an Izakaya - essentially an aperitivo bar with Sake rather than wine - but if you had to wait 90 minutes to go to an aperitivo bar you'd be in the nearest pub eating pies before you could say "I hate the London foodie scene".

No, Flesh & Buns is about the food, as the silly name suggests. But it is pretty casual. You order your buns, order you meat, order your sides and then drink Sake and leisurely chomp your way through it. At least that's how it should have been. Instead, we ordered our buns, ordered our braised pork in mustard miso and ordered our yuzu mayo broccoli. The broccoli arrived first and was frickin' delicious - but a very strange form of starter. Given that we had waited so long to go in, we devoured it in moments. We then received our salmon avocado roll, again excellent, with wasabi that got RIGHT up your nose like you just snorted it. I am told I have never had great sushi, and I'm sure I will be told this wasn't it. But it was damned delicious.

We then waited, and waited, and waited. How long does it take to steam a bun? It would seem about 30 minutes, because I doubt they slow-cooked the pork in that time. The flavours themselves - the sweet pork and zingy miso, was perfect and the sweet sauce that I couldn't even begin to describe (the sake was getting to me) brought it all to life. However, the salad it came with looked like it had been emptied from a Floretti salad bag, and I'd be very, very surprised if that's how Hirata buns come it Taiwan and I feel little that the attention to detail (and margins) got a little squeezed here. The meat was also a little dry towards the edges, which meant more dipping was needed towards the end of the meal.

For pudding we went with a friends recommendation of S'More. Despite sounding like a mix between a Lord of the Rings character and a pound shop, it turned out to be a tabletop campfire with marshmallows for toasting. Joy! On top of that, you got some delicious green (essentially white) chocolate and ginger biscuits to make a sandwich. It really was special - but at £8 for two business-card sized sandwiches not so special you'd want to do it again soon. But by then I was too drunk on Volvic water to care.

For better fillings I'd go to Yum Bun, but Flesh & Bun has it's charms.. It's slick, clever and importantly very tasty.

Flesh and Buns on Urbanspoon   Square Meal

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