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.

IMG_2324

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.

IMG_2316

IMG_2321

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.

IMG_2320

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.

IMG_2317

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.

IMG_2322

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.

IMG_2323

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

Square Meal

Flesh and Buns on Urbanspoon

Advertisements
Standard

Balthazar

When I tried to get a table a few weeks after Balthazar’s eagerly anticipated opening last year, I felt like Patrick Bateman trying to get a reservation at Dorsia. Not a chance was the response I got. Not this weekend, and not for any of the weekends in the foreseeable future. They might as well have let out that shrill laugh down the phone. Well almost a year later with the hype having cooled off, or rather people realising it really didn’t deserve half of that hype in the first place, my perseverance has paid off and I managed to land myself a table.

With it’s huge premises just off the central arcade in Covent Garden it has the feel of a destination restaurant, and so it was the ideal place to take visiting family from Newcastle who wanted a taste of somewhere grand in London. Inside it is easy to see just where that £14 million investment went. A lot of effort has gone into making this feel autentic. Whether that’s authentically French, or authentically New York’s imitation of French, it is difficult to say.

IMG_1932

IMG_1933

The clientele reflects the location, as it seemed to be filled up predominantly with people attracted to the area rather than actually caring too much about the restaurant. This is obviously a wining formula given the endless stream of people who pass through Covent Garden, and given that the competition isn’t strong, it was no surprise to find the restaurant full on a Sunday night.

IMG_1935

Once we were seated in a booth with a great view of the dining room it was hard not to be seduced by the place. The warm glow of the lighting, the French jazz playing and the infectious buzz of diners really gives it an infectious and romantic atmosphere. Our waiter was quickly on hand to bring us wine, and throughout his service was professional, without ever really being personal. Many grand brasseries have a similarly impersonal approach, with the staff rushing between tables giving it the feel of a well-oiled machine. It is the top brasseries like The Delaunay that can work on this scale whilst still offering perfect service.

To start things off a plate of Langoustines (£24 for 6) served on ice with a Marie Rose dipping sauce, reminded me why I don’t usually go for langoustines. They are the Russian Dolls of the crustacean world- they seem so big to start with but as soon as you start to peel away the outer shell, you end up with a tiny little bite. And £4 a mouthful is a little on the steep side.

IMG_1941

The Onion Soup (£9) was as rich and fattening as you could ever wish for. It quite easily could have been labeled a cheese soup, which is only a good thing.

IMG_1937

The Escgarots (£10.50) were not overloaded with garlic butter and this allowed the lovely nutty earthiness of the snails to shine through.

IMG_1938

The Saffron Risotto with Scallops and Roasted Courgettes (£11) was cooked perfectly and a generous portion for this price. More saffron would have been appreciated though, as I was hoping for that lovely burnt red colouring in the rice.

IMG_1939

For main course, the Duck Shepherd’s Pie (£19) took French food being rich to the extreme. It was so rich that it was difficult to enjoy more than just a mouthful.  The sauce was had the darkness and sweetness of hoisin sauce. A side of Pommes Frites (£5) were criminally soggy and under-seasoned.

IMG_1944

The Beef Fillet Stroganoff (£19) was also incredibly rich, but there was enough saltiness from the bacon to cut through and give a balance to the dish. It was a good stroganoff, although admittedly there was a lot more sauce than beef.

IMG_1942

The Grilled Var Salmon with Spinach and a Walnut and Lentil Salad (£18) was easily the most disappointing of the mains. Firstly, it didn’t come pink as asked for and instead was cooked right through. The main problem was the sauce/salad dressing that it came with, which was far too sweet and didn’t work at all with the fish. It tasted like a sweet honey glaze and wasn’t at all pleasant.IMG_1943

The Moules Frites (£15) were another let down. A dish this simple and this much of a French classic should be routinely good. The fries were again soggy and the real disappointment was that the sauce which was in desperate need of some more garlic and white wine. The best part of this dish should always be mopping up the sauce at the bottom, but this was just too bland to even tempt me.

IMG_1945

For dessert, the Apple Tarte Tatin and Vanilla Ice Cream (£8) looked boring and flat sitting in the middle of the plate. The caramel had a lovely richness, but there just wasn’t enough apple or pastry to really call this as a Tarte Tatin.

IMG_1946

The Profiteroles (£7) had vanilla ice cream wedged in the middle instead of cream. The chocolate sauce came on the side and and there was no denying its dark intensity, but it was just a shame that it was cold, as a hot sauce here would have worked brilliantly with the ice cream.

IMG_1948

After eating here it is difficult to see just what all the hype was about. It certainly couldn’t be about the food, which after the strong starters, was all a bit of a let down. And it isn’t exactly the most impressive of grand brasseries in London, I’d leave that to The Delaunay which is only a few minutes walk away. I had expected this to be a really high-end meal, but instead I saw it for what it really is, a fairly solid restaurant in Covent Garden that is a step-up from the crap tourist traps surrounding it. This isn’t enough to merit going back, and at over £60 a head for three courses with wine, it rules out nipping in for a quick fix if you are in the area.

Food: 6/10

Service: 7/10

Atmosphere: 8.5/10

Value: 6.5/10

Overall: 6.5/10

4-6 Russell Street, London  WC2B 5HZ

Balthazar on Urbanspoon

Standard