Fresh and Buns is an on trend restaurant from the people behind another fashionable joint: Bone Daddies ramen bar in Soho. This time they are offering Gua bao (sometimes referred to as ‘hirata buns’) which are filled rice bun rather than noodles. Gua bao are essentially Taiwanese in origin but were made famous in the West by a version created by David Chang that is sold at his Momofuku Ssam and Noodle Bars- it contains pork belly with hoisin sauce, scallion and cucumber. These buns are rapidly becoming one of the next big food trends in London with another restaurant, Yum Bun in Old Street as well as stalls such as Boa and their arrival on other Asian restaurant menus.
Flesh and Buns is in a basement on Earlham St in Covent Garden, it plays loud rock music and seems to have a more Soho type vibe. There are quite a number of tables that seat four or more but the centre of the room was dominated by a large communal table that perhaps can sit up to 40 people, as there was only two of us dining this is where we were sat. The restaurant does take bookings and we had booked but there seemed to be quite a few walks-ins.
There is a large variety of starters that is split into both cold and hot sections. We decided to choose two from the cold section. Yellowtail sashimi, lime soy, green chilli, granita (£11) was a nice combination, it reminded me slightly of the Nobu yellowtail with jalapeño, the citrus was a good complement to a reasonable quality fish. Broccoli with yuzu Kosovo mayo (£5) was cooked well; the yuzu mayo had a rich citrus favour to it. We kept some of this to eat along with our mains.
The point of the main courses is to basically create your own sandwich using the components provided. We got two mains all of these contain a choice of protein that comes with two steamed buns, lettuce, cucumber as well different sauce and pickles depending on what you ordered. A main of Sirloin steak (£22) came with red onion pickle and two sauces, a peanut based one and an onion wafu dressing. The beef was cooked perfectly medium rare, as requested and was decent quality. The wafu sauce was the better of the two; it went with the beef well without overpowering it. The beef went well with the bun, having quite a strong flavour; I was wary to order a fish main as I feared fish may be too subtle to cope with the stronger flavours. A second main of whole baby chicken with a yuzu kosho rub and celery pickle was nicely marinated and the chicken (£16) was cooked well. A knife and fork had to be used here to work around the bones before the meat could be put in the bun. Although we did not do it on this occasion if I went again I would purchase at least one portion of two extra buns (available at £2.50) to go with two main courses.
We ordered one dessert the s’more (£8), this contained the make your own sandwich theme but was made even more elaborate by the pretence of fire. Here a burner is brought to the table and you are given marshmallows to cook on it- ‘campfire style’. The melted marshmallow is then placed between two biscuits along with some green tea chocolate, if you want to add it. This was a fun exercise that had a taste of childhood and it was quite pleasant but I don’t think I would order it again.
At the end of the day I did enjoy this meal but to be honest this was just slightly different, albeit pretty damn good, grilled chicken and steak sandwiches. Not that there is anything wrong with that but this place is not exactly cheap either and we were only there for just over an hour and that makes it very expensive by the minute! I still may come again though if I happen to be in the area, maybe it could be worth trying the pork as that is the meat that helped make these buns famous.
One thing to note, which makes Flesh and Buns a great choice for groups of friends out to grab dinner, is that the receipt is returned with the cost divided by the number of diners, meaning you can avoid frantic iPhone calculator action – extremely convenient. See my rant on Bills here.