Flesh & Buns
41 Earlham St, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9LX (map)
My first Flesh & Buns visit was a solo affair. However Head Chef and owner, Ross Shonhan, tells me that Flesh & Buns is designed to be an ‘Izakaya’, best experienced with a big group of friends tearing meat from a communal plate…
Hence this time I returned along with 12 others to experience the difference.
“An Izakaya (居酒屋) is a type of Japanese drinking establishment which also serves food to accompany the drinks. They are casual places for after-work drinking”
– Source: Wikipedia
Our thirteen strong group was seated in one of the banquette booths running along the side of the restaurant with some extra chairs in the aisle. Unlike some other venues, there was ample room for waiting staff to pass.
As a group, we ordered starters in pairs with people offering an ‘ad-hoc share’ to others. Like my first visit, the soft shell crab with jalapeno mayo was excellent, this time I had also tried the Sashimi Salad with spicy lemon dressing which had a great citrus tang which cut through the fish flavour.
As a group we had ordered our main courses, however Head Chef Ross spotted our table and told us that he had a new item that will be coming on the menu soon. The XXL “Rib of Beef” Party Flesh. Which we took displacing our original choices.
Party Flesh XXL
This is the signature dish Flesh & Buns. The current menu shows two options, Pork Shoulder (Mustard Miso) or Lamb Shoulder (Kimchi Spice) for £62 or £75! On the face of it, they look expensive, however they are marked as a hefty 2 Kg with a warning “min. 6 people” which brings it down to a maximum of £10.33 or £12.50 per person. Considering that I had four of them that makes it £2.60 or £3.13 each. Comparable to London’s other hirata bun specialists.
Our table of 13 had 2 portions of the Rib of Beef Party Flesh for 2 x £75 = £150
This arrived as two huge plates with 1cm thick slices of beef served compete with an ‘amusing-for-photos’ decorative bone. Each plate was served with a triple stack of hirata-buns bamboo steamers and one with sliced cucumber, lettuce and pickles. Two sauces were supplied, including a BBQ version popular with our table.
I didn’t have a dessert on my last visit. This time our ‘sweet-toothed’ table ordered a selection of the popular donuts and s’mores. Donuts were delicously gooey and s’mores received the seal of approval from Kate Beard, the token American of the table qualified to vouch for s’mores authenticity. The s’mores presentation is very theatrical, a large communal toasting vessel decorated with Japanese calligraphy is placed in the middle of the table. Marshmallows, chocolate, matcha, biscuits and distributed on plates. From my understanding you toast the marshmallows, then slide them off onto the biscuits to make a gooey sandwich. Unfortunately I wasn’t fast enough to grab one, however everyone seemed to enjoy the pseudo-campfire experience.
Loud but fun communal dining – Although the huge cavernous venue does become quite loud when full it is still possible to have a conversation here, but this is not a place for a quiet evening out. It is a lot more fun eating here in a big crowd and the big ‘XXL Party Meat’ makes a great sharing plate.
Cost for 13 people = approx £33.43 a head including drinks. Not bad for Central London for a table of 13 ordering starters, mains and desserts with 10 drinkers.
NOTE: The staff, owners were not forewarned of our visit, however they were aware of our presence on the night. Special mention to Steve Cooper for organising. Many thanks to Ross Shonhan for his hospitality.