Flesh & Buns

Rob Greig/ Time Out
Rob Greig/ Time Out
Rob Greig/ Time Out
Rob Greig/ Time Out
Rob Greig/ Time Out
Rob Greig/ Time Out
Rob Greig/ Time Out
Leicester Square
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In a capacious Covent Garden basement, brilliant Asian-inspired food with an emphasis on fill-your-own Taiwanese steamed buns.

How did food get quite so rock ’n’ roll? This summer London’s teeming with ‘gourmet’ fast food joints, rooftop pop-up bars, night food markets and street food vendors. This new wave of edgier eateries are changing the game for restaurateurs too – crisp tablecloths and prim service are out, industrial-chic décors and young, liberally pierced and tattooed staff are in.

One chef who’s at the fore of the latest trends is Ross Shonhan. His first solo venture, Bone Daddies, is a self-styled ‘rock and roll’ ramen joint that opened just last year. It’s still making a big noise, literally, with New York-style Japanese noodle dishes and the sound system cranked up loud enough to make conversation a challenge.

Hidden in a capacious Covent Garden basement, Shonhan’s second venture is no less modish. Once again he’s taken influence from the Big Apple for his East Asian eats, with a side order of loud rock music. As for the décor and staff: see above.

This time the focus of the menu is hirata buns. A US interpretation of a Taiwanese street food, the sweet and fluffy dough is folded then steamed before being brought to the table. Diners then stuff these pockets with their choice of ‘flesh’. These are the signature dish, and a must-try. Mustard miso and a few slices of subtly pickled apple were a perfect foil for tender pulled pork. Crisp-skinned grilled sea bass was also skilfully cooked and served with a fresh tomato salsa.

Small plates include sushi rolls, contemporary sashimi and tempura, but we skipped these to save space for the impressive desserts. The Flesh and Buns version of the North American camping treat, s’mores, is a hoot as you get to toast your own marshmallows on a Japanese table top brazier. These are then sandwiched between a caramely biscuit, with a slice of white chocolate laced with matcha green tea. The kinako doughnuts, made with roasted soya bean flour, were another highlight, filled with oozy black sugar custard.

If loud guitar music and DIY dining are not your idea of a relaxing meal, then Flesh and Buns is not for you. If, however, you’re a dedicated follower of the latest food fashions, then Flesh & Buns should be next on your hit list.

Venue name: Flesh & Buns
Address: 41 Earlham Street
Opening hours: Lunch served noon-3pm Mon-Fri. Dinner served 5-10.30pm Mon, Tue; 5-11pm Wed-Fri. Meals served noon-11.30pm Sat; noon-9.30pm Sun.
Transport: Tube: Covent Garden tube
Price: Main courses £13-£24

Average User Rating

2.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:3
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:3
  • 2 star:3
  • 1 star:6
1 person listening
Kate Samuel
1 of 1 found helpful

Everything we ate was delicious. The food came quickly but not too quickly. My personal favourites were the sea bass and the donuts.


Essentially they have taken a great simple dish and made it more expensive and bland. For the price of around £18 for a small to medium main with 2 buns i would expect more(That's just one person). We ordered the duck and the pork belly. The pork belly was the winner as it was actually quite tasty, but there there wasn't much of it. Deserts we tried the smores which was a nice fun concept and actually quite fun. Overall if you want some great buns, China town is right around the corner, where even the cheapest place will be tastier than this and you won't have to wait too long to be seated.


Starters were fine but the mains were mediocre at best - what a disappointment. Service was also weak and the overall environment was unduly noisy - I like atmosphere but my ears were ringing when i left the restaurant and all three of us were relieved. Best thing there was the cocktail.


Flesh & Buns have ruined what was meant to be a double wedding party by double booking us and then cancelling our plans less than a week before the event. The table was booked more than three weeks ago... They offered little to appease in the face of their stunning incompetence. Anyone else got a table for 10 this Friday?


I arrived earlier and ordered the 'not quite so bramble' (a non alcoholic yummy blackberry concoction of some sort) and the soft shelled crab with a jalapeño mayo dressing while I was waiting because I was starving. It was really crunchy and the dish was delicious. My partner then arrived and we had the tuna tataki that the waitress recommended as well as the pork bones. The tataki didn't hit the right spot for me, I've had much better executed ones elsewhere. The pork bones on the other hand was ah-mazing. I expected little soft bones but these were ribs. They were very tasty with shallots and a barbecue sauce. We then had the spicy beef rice served in a hot stone bowl and the grilled sea bass bun with pickles. The spicy hot stone beef rice is a nice twist from the traditional korean bibimbab, I'd definitely go back for it. The sea bass didn't go well with the pickles, the miso sauce was a tad salty for me and I wouldn't order it again if I were to revisit. Overall, the service was pretty good, although it seemed a little haphazard at times because despite the abundant staff on the floor, it still takes a while for anyone to notice you at your table. Having said that, the waitress who served us was very attentive and patient. She took us through the menu after knowing it was our first time to the restaurant, if anything I was slightly impatient because it was late- 9:30pm by the time we ordered, and my stomach was churning!!! We had too much and didn't get to try the desserts. It was roughly £60 altogether for the two of us. It's worth a visit but I would stick to ordering the meat dishes in general.


The staff were very nice and service minded. The venue was also nice, a communal table in the middle gave the venue an interesting look. However, the drinks were awful, we tried three drinks, and two had way too much alcohol. It felt like a bad home made drink. The food was ok, but nothing particular. The ribs were quite good, but the fried squid was just boring. After two dishes we left for another place to finish our Friday dinner.


Im sure the food could be great but we never got that far. If the girl at the door tells you there's not much of a wait, she's lying. We waited over an hour, not really my definition of "not long at all" If she told the truth from the beginning at least we'd have been prepared. We gave up when it became obvious that the hordes of people around us waiting were not just made up of drop ins like us, but also people with delayed reservations. Arrived at 8, left at 9.20, when the couple next to us said they were still being fobed off about when they'd get to sit down for their 9 o clock reservation.


I’ve been waiting patiently for this place to open for a while. It’s no secret that I’m a stark-raving-lunatic fan of Ross Shonhan’s original restaurant, Bone Daddies – so ever since the first whisperings of a second venture my taste-buds have been tingling in anticipation. The foodie rumour mill promised a Japanese izakayas style venue dishing up steamed hirata buns and specialised sakes. In English? A pub, serving meat in a bun and plenty of booze. Konnichiwa! I rock up to the Covent Garden restaurant feeling pretty smug after managing to bag a table for myself and some friends for the Saturday of opening week. Unfortunately, when we arrive it’s empty with the exception of a few dispersed tables and my cockiness at nabbing a shit-hot reservation quickly disappeared. Perhaps they are easing into the first few days? Perhaps we arrive between sittings? Either way, a hell-of-a-lot more bums on seats were needed to create a decent atmosphere (and up my cool-cred). A raised communal table ran the length of the basement dining room and provided the focal point for the windowless restaurant. Leather booths are tucked into corners and provide a more secluded alternative to the traditional Japanese long-bar. It’s sleek, with a tough edge and although large the room retains an intimate feel owing to its low ceiling. The food concept du jour is sharing, and Flesh & Buns unashamedly champions this ever-popular trend. The menu showcases a selection of raw, hot and cold ‘small dishes’ that includes a tantalising selection of the usual Japanese favourites; sushi, sashimi, yakitori and tataki. Beef Tataki was tender and seared to perfection, yellowtail sashimi had a punchy zing and salmon sushi rolls were fresh and light. The soft shell crab’s ‘jalapeño mayo’ deserves special recognition – the rich, garlic-spiced cream was perfect for dunking a lightly battered crustaceans leg into and maybe even a sly finger when no one was looking. But this isn’t what I came here for. I came for the buns, the hirata buns. Now, if you’re a hirata virgin (firstly, where have you been?) these are soft Chinese-style baps, stuffed with a fleshy filling (get it?) and packed with pickles or salad. Street food purveyors, Yum Bun fed me my first over a year ago and it was like nothing I had tasted before; as fluffy as a cloud and crammed with crisp, melt-in-the-mouth belly-pork. You could wrap me up in those doughy cushions forever and I’d die a happy woman. There’s a selection of fish and meat available at Flesh & Buns to fill up your DIY hirata. The braised pork belly with mustard miso fell apart effortlessly and had a superbly-sweet glaze offset with pickled apple. Although full of flavour, the grilled seabass with tomato salsa became lost once sandwiched between the thick buns and tasted rather bland. My advice? Stick to the meat. Flat iron steak, duck leg or baby chicken would have been a much wiser choice. Enough buns to finish the ‘flesh’ wouldn’t have gone a miss either, each plate is served with two steamed buns and pickles but in reality many more are needed and extras come at a rather steep £2.50 a pop. I finished the meal feeling rather hungry, I’m unsure whether the advising waitress or my abnormally large appetite was to blame – either way I felt unsatisfied. Don’t get me wrong the food is great I just needed much more of it. Flesh & Buns is the ideal destination for big-group dining, perfect for a party of mates looking for a couple of cocktails (of which they have a great selection) and a bit of hands on, innovative Japanesey tapas. I don’t doubt this restaurant will be a smash-hit, just make sure you grab a burger on the way home.


Had a slightly cold reception from the waitress after we didn't follow her recommendation of a couple of small plates and 2 flesh and buns, and instead we went straight in and ordering 3 flesh and buns. After all that is what we had come for. 2 buns per person wasn't enough and we had to wait 15 mins for extra buns to arrive, by which time the flesh was cold. Buns were very nice and the flesh was tasty. Donuts are very nice, but the smores are a bit gimicky. Overall, service a bit rubbish, food was nice but quite expensive for what it is.

Naomi Scott

Nom nom nom, eat, eat some more, try something new. Soft fluffy buns and donuts like no others, do yourself and favour and venture to this Covent Garden eatery.


On arrival the place was buzzing & certainly not a place for a romantic dinner a deux or for conversation. We started with drinks at the rather small & cramped bar , but service was prompt. Good range of saki if they is what you like. Rather long wait for table (well 2 seats opposite each other on bench) 45mins after booking. Food arrived promptly, delicious starters of squid, crispy no rubber at all. Interesting rice crackers with a oriental takeon guacamole & salsa. Then the mains pork .& steak . Pork absolutely gorgeous. Could have done with more than 2 buns though, far more meat than you could stuff into 2. Very tasty, however only 4 star as waited too long for table & drinks expensive. Also felt 15 years too old (I'm 42)


This all looks great, but how is it that "street food" in these new places are SO expensive? Street food in the countries of origin would never cost this much....so much for an authentic experience! Also excludes people who are not that well off. Pity.

0 of 1 found helpful

The waiters were lovely to me, but their recommendation of how much food to order doesn't actually come to that much, the portions are either quite small or more like snack foods than something you'd expect in a restaurant.

More than being pure anything, there seems to be a bit of a mix of Asian flavours rather than pure Japanese; some of which were great but for people who eat fish and not meat like myself it can be a bit off putting if all that's on offer as 'flesh' is pork and steak when I went there - although this has since been updated to include a few more options, including salmon. I subsided on appetisers. The dishes are also expensive for what you get, extremely overpriced for what you're getting, which makes me slightly wary although the food wasn't too bad in itself. The sushi however was quite good, with well mixed sauces. The jalapeño crab rolls in particular were nice, as were the prawn tempura rolls.

There's also a nice atmosphere, the music is quite fitting for the style of the restaurant and it's quite nice to go somewhere that isn't constantly playing the chart top 10. It's much more fun eating to this than it is to ill advised tween bopping music, and you can actually have a conversation and enjoy the experience.

However, like many people here I was also disappointed by the bathrooms. I think there's a time and a place for that sort of decoration, and this restaurant isn't it. Whilst I wouldn't call it 'pedophile porn' as I know where the art originates and the illustrative style of some manga and anime and this seems more than a bit harsh, I don't find it very tasteful in a restaurant when I'm using the bathroom to have to look at this. It's more than a little disappointing.

Overall, I might go here again; but only if the bathrooms are altered and some more meat free options are available. It's very uncomfortable to have to see that style of art in a restaurant, and while I appreciate I now have the choice of salmon or aubergine, it's more than a little expensive for what it is. I'd much prefer to spend my money elsewhere, where it's more for less and I don't have to see that kind of display.

0 of 1 found helpful

You got to mention the loos. I am told that the ladies loos have pornography daubed on the walls. Really nasty stuff. If so, I can hardly take a first date there can I? She would storm out and rightly so.