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.
Reviewed by Celia Plender