Flesh & Buns

Restaurants , Japanese Covent Garden
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 3 out of 5 stars
(44 user reviews)
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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
Contact:
Address: 41 Earlham Street
London
WC2H 9LX
Opening hours: Mon-Tue noon-3pm & 5-10pm; Wed-Fri noon-3pm & 5-11pm; Sat 5-11pm; Sun noon-9.30pm
Transport: Tube: Covent Garden tube
Price: Main courses £13-£24
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Average User Rating

3.3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:10
  • 4 star:11
  • 3 star:11
  • 2 star:4
  • 1 star:8
LiveReviews|44
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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.

B Cul
tastemaker

Absolutely loved my first visit to Flesh and Buns and will be going there again as soon as possible! 


We ate the roasted cauliflower and calamari to start, then a few different steamed bun dishes. We only had two mains between three girls and it was more than enough with two buns each. If you're super hungry I'd suggest ordering a double order of the buns per person as there is more than enough meat on each main to fill them!


After reading the reviews below I now want to return for bottomless brunch!

Deon Pillay (theindependentfoodie)
tastemaker

Flesh and buns my new favourite place to do brunch, fabtastic sushi, amazing soft shell crab and unlimited prosecco. What more could a boy ask for. Today I had the pleasure of accompanying my American posse to this fantastic venue, but part of the bone daddies group this place holds its own its unlimited small plates, sushi, calamari, chicken wings , broccoli and the soft shell crab had my taste buds going crazy. Amazing service, quality food makes this place a Sunday retreat. Ok I admit it despite my steak and steamed bun tasting a bit strange, those small plates of moorishness will see me taking a few friends back to enjoy what I would call Londons best Asian fusion brunch #bring it on. I will leave the dessert and Camden councils warning on the toilet doors for you to discover. Get booking as Sunday's will never be the same

Rosanna N
tastemaker

Forget Eggs Benedict, forget pancakes and dare I say it but forget avo on toast. Flesh and Buns Sunday bottomless brunch is where it's at.


I have a few tips for approaching this Asian feast.


1) Bring more than two people. The more people you have the more food you can actually try without both of you getting full up. 


2) Choose the more expensive menu. It's not that much of a price difference and you get ALL THE FOOD. From both menus.


3) You can have a choice of unlimited prosecco or red/white wine. Prosecco wins because there is more food room. 


4) Don't order the same main. The first time I went we all had the steak. Big mistake. We were already full from the endless supply of starters (who knew sashimi could be so filling) so it also meant we all left half a steak nearly. Get different dishes and share some more!


5) Check out the toilets. Pretty awesome. 


Now for the food:The deal includes sharing starters, a main each, a sharing dessert, unlimited booze and a cocktail on arrival.


You can choose an unlimited supply of starters so we basically had everything. The mixed sashimi was a clear winner as was the yellowtail sashimi served with green chilli. Softshell crab was another contender and we ordered a few of these once we knew we were onto a good thing. Remember you can order from BOTH menus so don't be sidetracked by one side.

Both times I went I had a variety of steak for my main, but my guests had the duck leg which was cooked to perfection. They come with Asian buns but I couldn't fit them in after nearly eating the kitchen's worth of sushi. 

For dessert we chose the s'mores and chocolate fondant. Found room for those bad boys.

You leave drunk, full and very very happy. They do warn you not to order too much because of  food wastage but I don't think they were expecting my foodie family. We ate everything. 







elladacas
tastemaker

I have no complaints where flesh&bun is concerned.. They delivered!!!

I passed through for dinner and I was spoilt for choice as they had a few good deals going on so defo look out for that! You could save a few £'s

I opted for the crispy duck which was just simply device.. Crispy on the outside and mouth wateringly soft all the way to the bone! Just thinking about it makes me desperate lol

Oh and for some random strange reason they have Japanese porn in the toilets ... *shrugs*

Anh H
tastemaker

A nice place to share food and try different things with friends. For a lunch time trip, the place had busy hum and service was satisfactory. Buns are soft and the meats were cooked very well, but the menu isn't that exciting. Most things on the menu have been done elsewhere before, nonetheless still done just as well.

Yelly G
tastemaker

A good selection of dishes on their menu, from ceviche to the hirata buns (the steak is awesome!). My particular favourite dish that I order every time is the Korean fried chicken wings. Messy but amazing - I've seen people order seconds!

Tasty cocktail menu at around £9 a drink, as well as beers, wine and sake.

The black sugar custard doughnuts are a perfect way to end a meal - a small but indulgent portion.

Mustafa K

Staff are extremely rude, the food was salty and overpriced.  The music was so loud and the drinks were awful.  You might want to skip this one it is just overpriced and extremely loud. 

Katie F
Tastemaker

Really good evening. Great ambiance, good service and good food, although I have to say that it's on the pricier end of the fast-dining spectrum which was the only downfall for me. We had the sashimi platter to start which was fine but nothing particularly special and quite expensive, but the roasted cauliflower was delicious as was the softshell crab which is a bit of a specialty. For our main flesh and buns experience we chose the lamb neck and the duck, both of which were very tasty with rich, flavoursome sauces and pillowy white buns to make your own bao.


Perhaps the highlights of the meal were the doughnuts for dessert, seriously, don't miss them. And the cocktails which were really quite delicious. As a couple, we sat on the long communal table which runs down the middle of the restaurant which seems to be the couples table - some people seem to have an issue with this (one couple saw their seat and walked out...fun Saturday night for them) but it adds to the fun, buzzy ambience and doesn't detract from any comfort or intimacy. Definitely recommend for any and every occasion.

Rosa P

Myself and 3 other friends came here for the Sunday brunch which is bottomless. WOW! I had never been before and I enjoyed every second. Great value for money, so much food and so tasty! 

Alex Plim
moderatorStaff Writer

Too much flesh, not enough buns.


The whole point of Flesh & Buns is that you chose a meat dish, and then you have to buy the buns separately – a bit like ordering naan or rice to accompany a curry in an Indian restaurant. This is fine, but you'd have thought a single portion of buns would be enough to cover a single portion of flesh. It's not.


This minor complaint aside, the food at Flesh & Buns is pretty good. The buns are nice, but if you've ever eaten at Bao you'll find them to be inferior. The meat, on the other hand, is excellent.


The biggest problem with Flesh & Buns is the price: it's not cheap. And when there are so many other places doing similar food nearby for a fraction of the price – again, I'd point to Bao as an example here – it's difficult to stomach. That said, they do an excellent meal deal on a Monday night which I highly recommend.

Jenni D

As a pescatarian, a restaurant called Flesh and Buns made me fear I'd be going home hungry. But I'm pleased to report that everything was delicious (from the blackened Salmon to the many many cocktails I drank). Great place to take mates or dates. The bill at the end was a bit of a shock, but I probably took my eye off the ball during the many many cocktails! 

Dee
Tastemaker

Another brilliant restaurant from Bone Daddies. You can make your own Bao from the ingredients you are served like Sirloin steak, greens, pickles and vegetables and they have the BD classics like hot stone rice. The Matcha sundae was a spot on dessert to finish off a very good meal.

Sarah J
tastemaker

My friends and I came here for a Sunday brunch. The food was great but I think it was overpriced given the service. We were informed of the 2-hour table turnaround, but were disappointed when they resituated us from our table to the bar in a hurried fashion and hours later there was still no-one that had taken our table. We had to try to make eye contact with staff to request more food and drink top ups, and some dishes even came after about 40 minutes which by then it was almost too late as we had to give up the table. We chose the £46 menu which offered us the choice between a kimchi bloody mary or bellini on arrival, chips and dip to start with, unlimited hot and cold side dishes, a choice of flesh dish served with steamed buns, and a choice of dessert. My favourites were the calamari, the fried chicken and the sirloin steak (flesh choice). It was an enjoyable experience - I would recommend booking a late brunch as I think it's so packed around midday / before 3pm the staff are really stretched thin.

Lilli
Tastemaker

A great hideaway in busy Covent Garden! Be brave and go with the recommendation of the waiters. Most likely they will recommend the steamed buns which are delicious and different. Get some other bits to share as a starter - everything I've had so far has been great. The location and atmosphere is fantastic too!

Kemi O

This is a cute place to eat, it was very buzzy with a great vibe. Myself and some friends went here recently and it was my first time. I had some lovely crispy chicken wings, and the lamb was great. I just wasn't a huge fan of the buns..  


Ruth J
Tastemaker

The best dessert I have EVER tasted. Chocolate fondant was beyond perfection with macha ice cream complementing it perfectly. The absolute show stopper though is the do it yourself Smores. Your own little fire arrives on your table so you can perfectly toast your passion fruit marshmallow. The mains aren't bad either, pork belly was a winner and the buns are filling enough to not want a side. Atmosphere was great and staff lovely. Only issue was that the acoustics were not great and we struggkled slightly to hear eachother. Usually I wouldn't mind but it was only 6pm. Would recommend again and again though!

Sohère R
Tastemaker

In the heart of Soho, in a loud rocky basement, you can get awesome Asian inspired food. Flesh and buns has the concept of Japanese buns that you fill with various fillings, from duck to salmon or pork. The food and drinks were fabulous, not too expensive (for central London) and the toilets were really funky!! The staff were also very efficient and accommodating. 

Vicky T

This basement restaurant is a must experience for those looking for something different when eating out. The industrial decoration and the cool stuff are just a plus to the great dishes. As a large party we ordered several kinds of flesh to fill our buns and all of them were exciting! Either for a celebration or a casual occasion this place can satisfy all needs.

louoflondon

I was so excited to visit Flesh and Buns and perhaps this got my expectations up a bit too high. The buns are beautiful, soft and warm and leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy like a hug for your belly. The flesh left a lot to be desired, I ordered the chicken and my partner in crime the steak. I had to send the chicken back as it came out with blood in the middle and the steak also went back as it was cold. The service was abysmal, the staff are difficult to get the attention of and quite frankly could not have cared less when we had to send the food back. The only saving grace were the frozen margaritas but even they're not enough to get me to return, sorry F&B you've left this gal's heart broken.

Samantha H
Tastemaker

Love Bone Daddies so assumed I would love Flesh & Buns too.....sadly not.  The staff were not interested in serving us, the food was ok but we just felt rushed the whole time.  Pricey for what you get in terms of quality and quantity.  There are better places to eat in Covent Garden...which is something I never thought I would say!  Such a shame....

Kailash M

This place was very good, the food was fantastic and service was quick...try the Crispy Duck Leg

Adam S
moderatorModerator

I really like this restaurant, despite the bathroom decor that other reviewers have mentioned (It's really not that bad!!)


The food is great, atmosphere is good and the service is second to none.


Tip: Try the crispy piglet belly - it's awesome!

Dan C

People told me that this was a great place to go for lunch and I was excited.  My initial thoughts when walking down to the restaurant was that I was walking into a strip club and actually that is what my guests were thinking also.  The restaurant was probably a bit dark and decadent for lunch but the staff were all very nice and the service great.  I felt that for the cost of our meal the portions were small and I left the restaurant hungry.  It was nice, it was different, it was not bad at all but when I left I was wondering if I had missed something and what all the fuss was about.

Phoebe T

You can always tell how good somewhere is by what the toilets are like. Judging by the loos at Flesh & Buns (which were very clean in case you were wondering), this place is a cheeky, comic book spectacle of a restaurant with lots to wow at. Definitely worth a visit (not just for the loos, but go check them out for the posters inside), the food is incredible - we shared five of the big dishes between four (the duck was the best) - and, although they suggest two buns per person, three is probably more realistic as you'll want to try everything on the menu.


Tom
moderatorStaff Writer

Just of Seven Dials, set in a basement, so not for those looking for something light and airy - good atmosphere which builds from early evening. Food was good but not great for the price - couple of beers and a few plates (including the pig belly which was really nice) ended up being £50 a head. The Taiwanese buns are the speciality - essentially you build your own bun - quite an unusual texture for a Western palette, but good to try something new

Esther J
Staff Writer

Beautiful dishes, in a cool downstairs venue. A slice of (almost) NY in London. I loved DIY stuffing of "flesh" into the fluffy light hirata buns and addling heaps of pickles for a tasty kick. A great joint for thoes that like to share!

Noel

"title"

Staff Writer

Staff were very friendly and nice, although overall service seemed a little confused. The food was great. Some great dishes not had elsewhere which means it was not just another of the same.

Eddy S

The lunch is very reasonable. Had the piglet  Although wish i went for the duck.

Phil

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.

CL

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.

Barry

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?

aiuue

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.

Camilla

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.

Chris

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.

fashionforfood

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.

Oiwah

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.

Cd1

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)

ngoat55

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.

Percie
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.



Barry
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.

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