NAME: Flesh & Buns
WHAT IS IT?: The second branch of the popular Izakaya restaurant from the people behind Bone Daddies. A bit bigger, a bit more Peruvian and with Pisco’s on demand.
MY PICKS: Crisp Piglet Belly (£15.20), Wagyu Rump Steak (£28.00)
CAN I TAKE MY VEGAN FRIEND?: Yes – but only if they don’t mind their food sharing a grill with non-vegan ingredients, otherwise they’ll be stuck with steamed rice!
HOW MUCH DID WE SPEND?: £320.70 between 8 including alcohol (before discounts and service charge)
WHERE IS IT?: 32 Berners Street, London, W1T 3LR
CLOSEST TUBE: Goodge Street/Tottenham Court Road
I’m a sucker for a soft launch, and for Japanese cuisine, so it’s no surprise that I jumped at the chance to book a table with seven of my girlfriends at the new supersized branch of Flesh & Buns in Fitzrovia while it had 50% off food.
A couple of us were already fans of the original Flesh & Buns in Covent Garden which, if you aren’t already familiar, is a Japanese Izakaya style restaurant from the people behind Bone Daddies.
Japanese/Peruvian fusion Nikkei is my absolute favourite and this new Fitzrovia branch, while keeping some of the old Covent Garden Favourites, such as Crispy Piglet Belly with Pickled Apple and their S’mores, has more of a Nikkei influence, with the likes of ceviche and tiradito dishes making an appearance.
Not only that, but they have a brand new bespoke wood smoker which has resulted in charred meat and other hearty additions to the menu. Of course, served with those fluffy bao buns they’re known for.
Our group were half meat lovers, half vegans, with one person with extreme food allergies thrown into the mix. We did let the restaurant know well in advance of our booking, and they were able to accommodate the dietary requirements, although options were slightly limited.
It’s worth a mention that the only thing truly vegan on the menu is steamed rice – as the rest of the dishes share cooking appliances with animal products. Fortunately our vegans weren’t too worried about cross contamination – but I’m sure that plenty would be! Definitely an area that Flesh & Buns need to work on.
As a large group, we were seated in a intimate private dining room opposite the open kitchen. It was a beautiful space, separated from the main restaurant with slatted wooden dividing walls, and oriental curtains at each entrance.
The large chabudai (one of those low Japanese dining tables) took centre stage. Although the intention was for us to sit on the floor cushions, there was a cut out in the floor beneath the table, so that you could sit ‘normally’ if you preferred. We did have to take off our shoes though!
As for the food, it perhaps exceeded my expectations – with only one dish falling slightly short (the Crispy Duck Leg with plum sauce, £14.60 – not a bad dish exactly, it just didn’t wow us).
I started with a favourite dish of mine, one I order almost always when it’s on the menu – Yellowtail Tiradito, £12.30. Now, I know this is meant to be a sharing dish, but I wanted it all to myself!
Flesh & Buns has quite a selection of tiraditos on the menu, and the yellowtail version with pickled kumquat, anato oil and rocoto leche de tigre I picked was exquisite. Six generously sized pieces of fish, in a delicious citrusy dressing.
We did share a small plate of Smoked Pork Ribs, £12.90. I rarely order ribs, as they are usually unremarkable – but these, with a honey glaze, were absolutely delicious.
I also tried a little of my friends Octopus Ceviche, £11.30. Now octopus is something I’m still a little unsure about, but this wasn’t bad at all! Maybe not one I’d reorder though, and that was the general consensus.
My small dish of Grilled Broccoli, £5.90, arrived with the starters, although I saved it to have as a side with my mains – a bit silly of me as it didn’t stay that hot! My friends and I order broccoli wherever we can, it’s a few of ours favourite vegetable! This broccoli, in orange miso and sesame with lotus chips, was particularly good. I just love a citrusy sauce with my vegetables.
For mains, we perhaps ordered a little too much! Between the three meat eaters, we tried the aforementioned Crispy Duck Leg, the Crisp Piglet Belly, £15.20, and the Wagyu Rump Steak, £28.00. With two buns each, £2.00 for two.
The Crisp Piglet Belly with pickled apple and mustard miso is my favourite dish from the Covent Garden branch of Flesh & Buns. The crackling is perfectly crisp and the meat just melts in your mouth. I’m not a fan of mustard generally, but I want to put this sauce on everything! This whole dish is faultless, in my opinion.
The piglet is fantastic, but the Wagyu Rump Steak really is something. Now, having just come back from Dubai, I’ve eaten a lot of Wagyu lately, and at a fraction of the cost, this £28.00 steak is up there with the best of them. Perfectly rare, as per my request, and heavily seasoned in a very good way, I ignored the accompanying Korean steak sauce and just enjoyed it as it was. I didn’t even put it in the buns! The 200g portion was the perfect size.
We enjoyed the ‘flesh & buns’ so much that we didn’t notice that the Burnt Ends Hot Stone Rice, £9.90, we ordered was late to arrive. In fact it came just as we were about to admit defeat on the food we already had! But of course we tried it, and it didn’t disappoint.
The rice arrives in a hot stone bowl, and is mixed up by the server at the table – where they scrape the rice from the bottom of the bowl, mixing these crispy bits in with the rest of the ingredients. The flavours were nice and smokey, perhaps my only criticism is that there didn’t actually seem to be a particularly generous amount of meat .
By this point we were all stuffed and sadly had no room for dessert. But I’ll be back next week for date night, so I’m going to make sure I leave room for the delicious S’mores then!
As for our vegans, they were left pretty satisfied! I didn’t try their food but they all said it was delicious! They started with edamame – both salted and spicy, £4.60 per portion – apparently the spicy was a top pick.
They shared a sushi platter to start – with Miso Avocado Rolls, £6.50, and another type of roll which had been made up especially for them, containing sweet potato I think?
For mains they shared two each of the Miso-grilled Aubergine, £9.90, the grilled Celeriac from the smoker, £9.00, with two buns each and the Veggie Hot Stone Rice, £8.50.
Of course, we all had cocktails! The cocktail menu is just to my taste, with plenty of my favourite ingredients (peach, yuzu, shochu…) making an appearance. We particularly liked the Frozen Yuzu Margarita, £8.50 – it’s not badly priced either!
Did I mention the ‘Press For Piscos’ button? Press the button and a trolley will be wheeled to your table where Nikkei-inspired piscos will be mixed right in front of you.
There’s a choice of two from the trolley, both priced at £10.00 – classic ‘The Peruvian’, or ‘Shiso & Green Apple’, which is the one we all went for! They were able to make a vegan version.
All in all, we had a truly fantastic evening at Flesh & Buns, Fitzrovia. I think they’ve really got it right – the ambience, the food, the drinks, the service. I’ll definitely be back!
*All food and drink paid for by ourselves, although we did receive 50% off food as we dined during the soft launch.