Japanese izakaya spot from the chef who brought us Bone Daddies
A short stroll from Covent Garden’s Seven Dials and down some steps in an industrial-style basement space, Flesh & Buns is cavernous but warm and buzzing.
After phoning shortly before and being told they couldn’t reserve us a table we walked in late-ish on a Thursday evening with our fingers crossed and were happy to be given a spot in one of the comfy booths surrounding the restaurant’s never-ending central communal table.
Our waitress (who let me try a couple of different wines before choosing – always a winning move) was the perfect combination of friendly and knowledgeable, talking us through the menu and advising us on the right amount of food to order. Rather than letting us choose too many dishes she assured us we could always ask for more if we were still hungry.
Being a izakaya place, where food is traditionally more an accompaniment to drinks (particularly sake) than the main event, Flesh & Buns’ menu has a good selection of small dishes. We shared a couple: good California rolls (£8.50), which didn’t skimp on the all-important avocado, and chicken yakitori (£4.50) – little skewers spiced with shichimi pepper which were really flavourful and just the right side of hot for a wimp like me. The only complaint was that we were given five pieces of sushi – California rolls aren’t really designed to be cut in half but we managed it, so Mark and I both got our fair share and World War III was avoided.
Then it was time for the main event – the flesh and buns. We’d wavered between flat iron steak, teriyaki salmon and crispy piglet belly, finally deciding on the latter (£14.50). I suppose I can’t say this conclusively without having tried the rest of the flesh options (yet), but I’m pretty sure we made the right decision. Served on the bone, the belly was indeed perfectly crispy, giving way to beautifully tender flakes of meat that, once we’d done a bit of slicing and dicing at our table (it’s served as one piece of belly), were perfect for piling up in the fluffy buns.
The piglet was served with a stack of wafer-thin pickled green apples, adding sweetness, sharpness and crunch to cut through the richness of everything else. Pour over a generous drizzle of the mustard miso sauce and you have yourself a rather lovely self-assembled feast.
By the time we’d polished off the pork (with the aid of a second helping of buns swiftly brought to the table in their bamboo steamer) we were too full for pudding. I soon regretted this though; while we waited for the bill the people next to us were served their wonderfully over-the-top pudding – another self-assembly job, this was Flesh & Buns’ signature s’mores, complete with a little fire (a fire!) right on the table.
I’ll definitely be back soon to sample the cocktails and as much of the rest of the menu as I can – the only challenge will be leaving room for the s’mores next time.