The problem with being a militaristically-organised individual is that other people rarely adhere to your structured way of life. On far too many occasions, I’ve watched a hand grenade of last-minute alterations and reckless spontaneity get thrown underneath my carefully-crafted plans, and often, it’s Steak who’s holding the pin. Just last week for instance, I had planned for us to have dinner at Talli Joe, and it was only when we arrived at Covent Garden station that Steak decided to look me straight in the eye and say: “Let’s go somewhere else”.
Having happily blown my plan to smithereens, Steak strolled into the nearby MAC store without a care in the world, leaving me to stand alone in the bitter cold and search for another option. Thankfully, our restaurant map reminded me that “Flesh and Buns” was around the corner, and after making an impromptu stop at a tea shop (stick to the plan!), we settled in for a completely different meal to what my stomach was expecting.
Note: Only the chicken is halal. Alcohol and pork are served on the premises.
As a member of the Bone Daddies’ group, Flesh & Buns is orientated around a fun and modern interpretation of casual Japanese dining, with sushi, sashimi, and steamed buns forming the basis of its menu. We began our own meal with a portion of Korean chicken wings, which just happens to be one of the most popular items on the menu.
Thick and chunky in appearance, it was clear that the young chicken these wings had belonged to was the kind of chicken you’d see frequenting an East London gym, training nothing but arms and biceps, and biceps and arms. As we sank our teeth through the sticky and delicately crispy coat, the soft flesh of this particular bicep-bro simply fell off the bone, striking the tongue with an exquisite sweetness, and a subtle, mellow tang. Dare we say it, these may just be the best wings we’ve encountered in London so far – though I’m sure the “Chicken Connoisseur” would beg to differ.
Korean chicken wings (£6.50) *Must Eat*
Having suffered from a sushi craving for several weeks, I decided to order the prawn tempura roll, which did well to deter me from craving any more. The rolls were small in stature, rough in presentation and so flat and dull in texture and flavour, that one could easily have mistaken it for a sliced librarian. Uninspiring and unmemorable, I avoided any more of Flesh & Buns’ sushi for the night.
Prawn tempura roll (£8)
For mains, we had opted for a plate of salmon teriyaki and a basket of steamed buns. The soft and thick salmon possessed a deliciously crispy skin, whilst its balanced umami flavours paired well with the subtle sweetness of the buns. Texturally however, I didn’t feel that the salmon paired particularly well with the sticky, doughy buns, so you may be better off with the spatchcock chicken instead. (The blame here also lies with Steak, who deviated from my original plan to order the chicken).
Salmon Teriyaki (£15)
With such a vast array of interesting desserts on the menu, selecting one would certainly have been difficult, had it not been for the fact that just last week, my doctor had advised me to eat more fondant. (Or maybe he said fruit?). Served with a scoop of smooth and creamy matcha ice cream, the chocolate fondant was nothing short of a comforting delight. The crispy outer layer broke away to reveal a soft, gooey, molten chocolate core, and its rich, yet balanced sweetness did well to restore our satisfaction.
Chocolate fondant with matcha ice cream (£6.50) *Recommended*
Of the items we ordered, the Korean chicken wings cost £6.50 and the tempura rolls cost £8, whilst the salmon teriyaki and steamed buns cost £15 and £2 respectively. Together with the chocolate fondant (£6.50) and the service charge, this amounted to a total bill of £43. Generally, sushi and sashimi range from £7 to £12, small dishes range from £4 to £5, mains cost around £10 to £20, and desserts cost around £6 to £8.
Although these prices aren’t overly unreasonable for a Soho-based establishment, it must be said that some of the items simply do not warrant their price tag. The sushi items for example, not only cost as much as they would at a high-end Japanese restaurant, but arrive in smaller portions, and are of a far poorer quality and calibre. In comparison to other reasonably-priced items – such as their exceptional chicken wings, it simply makes no sense, and such inconsistencies call for a touch of caution when approaching the menu.
Whilst Steak is about as organised as a toddler’s play area, you’ll be pleased to hear that the staff at Flesh & Buns are a little more put-together. Service is both speedy and efficient, and despite the busy nature of the restaurant, it’s fairly difficult to be forgotten about by the attentive waiters and waitresses. The floor manager on the other hand, loses some points for brushing us off to a seat without so much as a hello or a smile. (Only miserable dentists like myself are allowed to do that).
Gracefully housed in a basement, Flesh and Buns is an “Izakaya” style eatery – a type of casual Japanese “gastropub”. As such, the restaurant you descend into is dark, dismal, and rather noisy. Inside, you’ll find a long communal dining table in the centre of the room, which serves as the primary dining space for those who fail to secure the smaller, isolated tables and booths that surround it. This in itself can create a less-than-completely-comfortable dining experience, as you rub shoulders with strangers, try not to encroach upon their territory (or their food), and witness the bewilderment in their eyes at the stone-faced brown man taking photographs. (No I’m not a tourist). In fairness however, this brash and rowdy dining environment is precisely what the founder was going for, and if I didn’t have the brain of a middle-aged man, I would probably have been able to find some joy in it. The restaurant can be found a ten minute walk away from Covent Garden station and public transport is advised.
Some would say that to compare Flesh & Buns to the calibre of a traditional Japanese eatery would be an unfair thing to do. After all, neither it, nor the other Bone Daddies’ restaurants aim to be a “traditional” or “authentic” Japanese eatery. I however, think that it would be unfair not to expect a similar set of standards – in the same way that I would expect Dave from Filing to use a reasonable amount of spices if he plans to call his homemade chicken jalfrezi by that name. Put against these standards, it must be said that Flesh & Buns doesn’t do quite nearly enough to justify its status as a “Japanese” eatery, and for those seeking authentic Japanese food (and sushi in particular), our advice would be to seek it elsewhere. If however, you wish to sample a light interpretation of it, or you have an inexplicable craving for Korean chicken wings and chocolate fondant, Flesh & Buns is the place to be.
Flesh and Buns – Bone Daddies
Address: 41 Earlham Street, London WC2H 9LX
Telephone: 020 7632 9500