Flesh and Buns, Covent Garden
Another weekend, another excuse to drink prosecco all day and call it brunching. This time we tried something a bit different and went to Flesh and Buns, an outpost of Soho's ramen based Bone Daddies, serving what Jay Rayner has called 'Asian junk food' and he is right; typical Japanese this is not. Situated off Seven Dials, Flesh and Buns is a basement filled with glossy red tones, dark wood and the standard industrial style lighting, completely removing any concept of time and reassuring customers it is completely OK to be mainlining the delicious strawberry bellinis or Japanese style Bloody Marys that are served as a welcome cocktail for their brunchees. We were reassured also, as one of the girls who was not 20 minutes late like me, managed to overhear the pre-service pep talk from the manager to the staff whereby the words 'the drinks are unlimited... that means UNLIMITED'. That's what I like to hear in a brunch service.
Accompanying these are huge Japanese rice crackers (a bit like a prawn cracker without the prawn), edamame, an avocado dip and a tomato and jalapeno salsa. I do not know enough about this, but there was a definite South American influence running throughout the food, like the fusion style you get at SushiSamba of Brazilian and Japanese. One of the girls mentioned that Peru(?) has one of the largest Japanese populations outside of Japan, but I dont know how this would translate here in reverse... Do email if you can shed any light or just completely disagree with me.
The Sunday brunch offering at Flesh and Buns gives the table two slightly different priced menus to choose from: for either £29 or £36 you can enjoy an unlimited selection of small hot and cold starters, followed by one 'Flesh' each, all washed down with neverending prosecco. I immediately set my sights on the crispy piglet belly that was only an option on the £29 menu and luckily we were all happy with this one.
The concept is 'small plates' so we started off with a mixed seafood ceviche (again with the South American) and followed it up with a huge platter of fairly average sushi. The waitress recommended we order some of the Korean fried wings with sesame and these were indeed really very good - sticky, messy and packed with sweet, spicy flavour. Another favourite was the salt and pepper squid with chilli and lime - the tiny little rings were perfectly crisp and not at all greasy, as is often the way of deep fried battered goods. We also managed to pack away some super chicken yakitori, some odd mushroom skewers, some chargrilled corn and some zingy broccoli with yuzu.
By now we were very full indeed but still the best was yet to come: the crispy piglet belly arrived and oh my goodness it was a thing of absolute beauty. The pork flesh was like it had been confited like at Churchill's Port House it was so incredibly tender and so so naughty. I want to eat it again now just thinking about it. I've scoured the internet to try and find a pic to do it justice, nothing can, but this lady's photos come close. The mustard miso accompanying it was also a revelation in itself.
The other mains were 1/2 a very fragrant lemony little chicken (ok), crispy duck leg (surprisingly not actually crispy enough) and salmon teriyaki (really beautiful). All were excellent inside the cloud like 'buns' of joy - a bit like its chinese steamed pork bun dim sum counterpart - with their appropriate sauce.
There is an automatic dessert for the table of sesame creme brulee with mini doughnuts, so we forced a bit of this down too and were pleased that we did as the doughnuts emitted something deliciously saucy (though not as saucy as the pornographic Japanese anime decorating the loos).
Sunday brunch at Flesh and Buns is insanely good value. I don't see how they can do it, but I suppose the publicity they will get from jumping on the brunch bandwagon is worth it alone, and I for one am very glad about it. I'm not usually bothered about going somewhere 'novelty-ish' like this twice, but I am already plotting my next visit. Loved it.
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