Flesh and Buns

Located in the touristy maze of Seven Dials, I had heard more about the toilets at Flesh and Buns than the food. All I knew was that it was from the same guys behind Bone Daddies, my favourite ramen joint right in the heart of Soho. If Bone Daddies soothes hangovers with its steaming bowls of molten porky bones, then Flesh and Buns is the cause of those hangovers with its fiery Asian junk food that go perfectly with plenty of pints of ice cold Asahi.

Set in a dim basement with raw walls this won’t be for everybody. It opened right in the middle of this paired back back, industrial (oh how very New York) trend that us Londoners shoot our load over at the minute. But packed with the din of drunk punters on a Friday night it’s hard not to love the buzz. This probably isn’t the best place for a casual night with the missus, more a place to come after work or with a group of pals looking to kickstart a big night.

The first thing I of course did was check out the toilets. These have caused so much outrage that they’ve had their very own article on the Guardian’s website. Obviously they were clutching at straws for what to write about that week, because they aren’t worth half the scandal. So there’s a bit of anime on the walls. The person who called it hardcore porn obviously has been visiting the wrong sites. All I could think, is who really gives a shit? Ok so a cartoon schoolgirl with her titties on show is getting penetrated by an octopus. But it kind of fits the vibe. At least they don’t serve octopus on the menu. These people who complain are the same ones who write into the BBC when there’s a swear word before 9pm. There’s plenty of other places in London they can all group in, so they should jump down off their high horses and give Flesh and Buns’ porno bogs a rest.

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Now to the food. To kick things off we had some Chips and Dips (£6) which had a half decent guacamole but not worth the price. They were over before they started and were little more than an average bar snack. The kimchi balls got things properly rolling though, and were bloody addictive.

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Then came the Korean fried wings (£5) that were slathered in a red hot sauce. Damn these were fine. They were made for a cooling pint of beer. They are about the best snack I’ve had in London in a long time.

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The soft shell crab with jalapeno mayo (£9.50) needed more spunk, but was decent enough. No match for the soft shell crab served up at Roka. Nothing has come close to knocking that from its perch.

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Then came the flesh and buns part of the meal. It’s a great little invention, basically the Asian equivalent of a chip buttie. What’s better than cramming food into some stodge and shovelling it down. The crispy piglet belly (£14.50) came with a mustard miso and pickled apple and crammed into those buns was absolutely delicious. Just as good was the Flat Iron Steak (£16) with a good BBQ sauce and pickled onions. The steak was surprisingly tender and had plenty of flavour. The buns come at an extra £2.50 for two, which I feel should be included. Especially given you inevitably run out and have to order 2 more each.

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The Bone Daddies Sundae (£7) was also pretty good, especially the Matcha ice cream that gave me a false burst of healthiness at the end of an deeply indulgent meal.

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Apart from the service which was completely shite- they’d slam dishes down without even looking at you, and were firing out the food at indigestion pace- this is a real fiery dungeon of a restaurant, one where you can’t help but indulge and enjoy yourself. The bill came out at bang on £100, which is a bit top heavy for what is essentially Asian junk food. But I’ll still be coming back. It’s the Asian equivalent of Spuntino, a place you come when you’re in need of a guilt ridden meal, which after all are the best kind.

Food: 8/10

Service: 4/10

Atmosphere: 9/10

Value: 6.5/10

Overall: 8/10

41 Earlham St, London WC2H 9LX

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Roka

With a new branch in Mayfair opening its doors, Roka is once again the destination Japanese restaurant in town. The famed robata grill and seductive atmosphere has long been pleasing the customers, but after going to the original Roka on Charlotte Street a couple of weeks ago, I felt it was lacking in that slick, buzzing city atmosphere that you associate with restaurants like Zuma and Hakkasan. But with the Canary Wharf and now Mayfair restaurant open, they once again offer the full package, combining the consistently excellent food with an electric atmosphere. Of course you are going to pay for this, and it’s always a worrying sign when prices don’t appear on the menu on the website, but after a couple of cocktails you’ll soon be too caught up in the seductive charm of the place to care.

The Canary Wharf restaurant has the same beechwood decor and open kitchen, but with views of neighbouring skyscrapers and a much slicker crowd it has a much livelier feel than the Charlotte Street restaurant. It still retains its warmer and more laid back vibe than the likes of Hakkasan and Nobu, which are a little too much like a nightclub both in their darkness and by the little outfits most of the women there are wearing, for my liking. There’s everything you would expect to see on a top Japanese restaurant’s menu, but the real star of the show here comes from the robata grill, which licks everything it touches with a mouthwatering charred flavour. With three friends down for the weekend all wanting a wild night in the big city, Roka is the ideal destination to get the party started. I lost count of the amount of times we waved to the waiter to bring another plate of something.

The soft shell crab was the star of the small plates. There was plenty of it as well, a much more generous portion than I’d had at Nobu, and with that fiery chilli sauce it was incredibly moreish, which meant we ordered 4 of them.

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The yellowfin sashimi with truffle was sensational, with just the right amount of truffle to not overpower the freshness of the tuna. A less experienced restaurant would have doused the dish in truffle to give the impression of grandeur, but here they had the balance expertly gauged.

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The scallop skewers with wasbi and shiso were plump little things with a good hit of heat from the wasabi. They went down dangerously quickly.

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Then there was the ribs except without the bones, and these were perfectly tender chunks of meat in a delicious sauce with a sprinkle of cashews giving an added crunch. The bits that had charred and crisped up had almost a sweet caramel smokiness to them, and were absolutely delicious.

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The black cod is less exciting to me now because it is on the menu at all of these restaurants and there’s little variation from place to place. Marinated in yuzo miso it really is as juicy and tasty a piece of fish you are likely to try. The fish cuts like butter and has a texture like no other seafood you’ll try. It’s also the price of gold, so be sure to let the person you’re trying to impress know that when they are enjoying it melting on their tongue.

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The lamb cutlets coated in Korean spices were big juicy pieces of meat with plenty of charred fat that had melted down from the grill.

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The chicken skewers were incredibly succulent for chicken, and there was plenty of meat to get your teeth into. A few vegetables options included thick spears of grilled asparagus coated with sweet soy and sesame seeds, and a similar fried eggplant version that had a lovely sweetness to it.

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There wasn’t a dish that failed to impress, which should be the case when you consider that we were paying £100 a head (that included a good amount of drink though). But when you think that other restaurants of this type charge the same, if not higher prices, and have smaller portions and inferior cooking, then Roka certainly is worth it. It is also much less filled with posers and those who are desperate to catch a glimpse of a celeb, and because of this is has the feel of a real top London restaurant, making it the best high end Japanese restaurant (on a par with Zuma) in the city. So if you want the full package and don’t care what the bill at the end will say, then this is the place for you.

Food: 9.5/10

Service: 7/10

Atmosphere: 9/10 (Canary Wharf), 7/10 (Charlotte St)

Value: 6/10

Overall: 9/10

1st Floor, 4 Park Pavilion, 40 Canada Square, London E14 5FW

37 Charlotte Street, London W1T 1RR

30 North Audley Street, Mayfair, London W1K 6ZF

 

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