It all started with the Japanese ramen bar, Bone Daddies. Following the success of their very first ramen bar in central London, apart from opening multiple branches of the ramen bar across the city, they have also expanded their establishment with another two restaurants that specializes on a different aspect of Japanese cuisine. All of these restaurants have gained a huge popularity in no time. One of them which really rose to the spotlight is this Izakaya pub-style restaurant called Flesh & Buns.
Flesh & Buns is conveniently located right at Covent Garden. With its popularity, I highly recommend you book in advance before visiting to avoid disappointment, especially if you want a booth table. We visited on a Wednesday evening for dinner and it was really busy inside. They are also well known for amazing brunch sessions on the weekends . However the concept is more about boozy brunch.
In a nutshell, Flesh & Buns is said to be the first restaurant in London dedicated to steamed buns and Japanese drinking food. Their menu offers a range of small dishes and rolls, and of course the meats and fish (i.e. the “flesh”) which can be served with their famous gua bao (i.e. steamed buns, and hence the name “Flesh & Buns”).
Korean Fried Wings
We started off with one of the most popular items on the menu – the Korean Fried Wings. The food arrived really quick and three massive fiery-looking wings were in front of us in no time.
Don’t feel intimidated by the fiery red colour of the wings though, the sauce was only mildly hot and actually carries a hint of sweetness. It was more tangy than spicy and it was absolutely finger-licking delicious. The meat was juicy, tender and succulent and the skin was fried to this perfect crispy texture. The wings were in general pretty saucy but at a perfect amount where it has enough to have you licking them off your fingers but never too messy.
Visually they were stunning. Smaller-sized crabs were used, hence resulting in this attractive visual of having a whole crab being battered and fried to a gorgeous golden colour. The tempura batter was crispy, light and non-greasy to taste. It was nicely seasoned to highlight the crab flavour without overpowering it. It was served with a jalapeno mayo which was an excellent complement to the tempura crab. I really enjoyed that mild kick from the jalapeno in the mayo – nothing too strong, just a nice little tease to your taste buds and acting as the perfect condiment.
Veggie Hot Stone Rice (with mushrooms and sesame butter)
We then ordered this to share among the two of us. This was technically a veggie Bibimbap. I must say it was incredibly aromatic. It was all presented nicely in this sizzling hot stone bowl. Before I can take a picture of it though, the waitress already started mixing the rice and the toppings for us. The sesame butter really elevated the flavours and of course added so much fragrance to the dish. It was particularly alluring when mixed with the perfectly cooked rice. The mushroom and other vegetables were all shredded and it was really easy to mix everything altogether with the rice. Not only were the flavours in this rice dish absolutely on point, the very best part of hot stone rice is the crispy burnt rice on the sides. This is only applicable to rice that’s cooked to perfection – if it’s damp rice, it definitely wouldn’t serve the effect. It was perfectly crispy, with this mildly burnt caramelized flavour. The sesame fragrance seemed to be elevated even more on these burnt bits!
After that we moved onto desserts. We did not actually try the “flesh & buns” dishes as it was out of our typical week-night dinner budget and we wanted to save our stomachs for desserts. We did have a clear view of all the dishes though because we were seated right next to the kitchen counter and we were at a long table where we can see everyone else’s dishes. All of the dishes we saw circulating around looked absolutely amazing. The steaks and fish dishes looked particularly spectacular in my opinion. Though I wasn’t aware of it being on the menu, I heard the chef mentioning serving a Wagyu steak – which instantly caught my attention and shame that it isn’t halal!
Chocolate Fondant with Matcha Ice Cream
For desserts, we first had my most favourite dessert item in the world – the Chocolate Fondant. This has to be made fresh so it requires about a 15-minute wait. After the little wait, a box of ice topped with the chocolate fondant and a side of matcha ice cream was served in front of us. That is most certainly one stunning and perhaps dramatic presentation to have on the table. As for the cake itself, it was very rich and gooey. That heavenly melty centre is exactly how a perfect chocolate fondant should be. The matcha ice cream was not too sweet. It actually carries a very subtle hint of the natural bitterness from typical green teas. This makes it an amazing complement to the rich chocolate fondant.
Kinaki Donuts filled with Black Sugar Custard
Another dessert we ordered is the Kinako Donuts filled with Black Sugar Custard. This is not just any other doughnut you can find on the streets. “Kinako” means roasted soybean flour and it is often being used in Japanese sweets. This being said, the doughnuts have quite a different texture and flavour from the usual doughnuts we see. It apparently has more of a soy flavour and it goes extremely well with the black sugar custard. In terms of texture, I find it relatively tougher than the usual doughnuts but in a good interesting way. After getting past the exterior, the inside remained nice and fluffy like normal doughnuts are. The black sugar custard was very smooth and velvety, and it was not too sweet either. I’m not sure if it is the pastry or what, this was actually quite filling to be frank.
All in all, Flesh & Buns definitely offers a very different side of Japanese cuisine to the public and it feels great to see something different but authentic being introduced to the restaurant scene in London. I really liked the concept of small dishes where you order a number of them to share among the table. I must say though, the food comes in threes, or at least the ones we ordered were like that, which actually makes it a bit difficult to share between just two people. Regardless, this is certainly a place to watch out for and remember to book in advance!
Only chicken is halal
Tel: 020 7632 9500
Closest underground station: Covent Garden