Do you remember when you were, say, nine or ten years old, and you and your playground friends would look up at the clouds above you and speculate how amazing it would be to be able to live in a cloud? (Then, of course, your attention would be rapidly drawn to the game of Stick in the Mud or British Bulldogs at hand and all such cloud-talk would be forgotten…) I don’t recall ever considering what it would like to eat a cloud – until I popped down to Flesh and Buns yesterday evening, and was served up the amazing cloud/pillow-like buns that they’re famous for. So I now I know what it’s like to eat one…and it’s divine.
Deciding to review Flesh and Buns, I chose to dine on a Wednesday evening, thinking it wouldn’t be that busy. I was wrong. For, of course, Flesh and Buns is so popular that it’s probably immediately full one minute after opening every day. Without having made a prior reservation (dang, some restaurants still let you reserve?) we propped ourselves up against the bar for some Asahis. The full-page sake list and the cocktails looked superb – but better to not get too into drinking mode whilst you’re waiting to eat, yes?
Around about 45 minutes after entering (which is the time that we were told a table would be free) we were indeed seated on the long, central canteen-like table that dominates the room. You are of course in quite close contact with stranger diners to your left and right, but it makes for a lively feel. Just try to politely ignore any chopstick failures. (Flying food?)
Our waitress came to help us with the menu. Not necessarily with the selection – that’s pretty easy – but how to choose from each section. We were told that for the two of us, three starters and one main would suffice, possibly two starters and two mains. Being the greedy pigs that we are, we chose two starters and two mains, neither of willing to budge on our “flesh” selections.
Flesh and Buns is clearly a great place to come if you’re in the mood for a sharing kind of meal. Which is an odd concept for me – I never felt more at one with Friends than when the cry “JOEY DOESN’T SHARE FOOD!” went up in one episode. Many of the small dishes and hot and cold starters – squid, prawn tempura, sashimi, salads – lend themselves to multiple people diving in with their chopsticks. And the mains couldn’t be more share-y. With a large plate of meat, some sort of vegetable garnish (beetroot, cucumber) and a sauce, you assemble your meal yourself with the aforementioned steamed hirata buns. Each main comes with two buns – you WILL need to order more.
We tried the crispy duck leg, which came with a plum soy sauce, and the ever-so-naughty-but-quite-frankly-who-cares-it’s-delicious piglet belly. The latter was crispy, juicy, delicious, fatty – everything you could possibly want. If would have been rude not to devour it as quickly as possible.
Desserts, oh desserts. Flesh and Buns famously offer a S’More dessert, of marshmallows, chocolate, biscuits and more, decorated with sparklers. It seems to be a “must do” choice, although after stuffing myself with my main I couldn’t eat a bite more. Maybe sharing food’s not so bad?
As much as I talk up Flesh and Buns, I can’t recommend it for the purposes of this site, however! It’s really not a budget kind of place. With most of the mains ranging from around £15 to £20, and starters around the £10 mark, it’s easy to get the bill and think…”That much? How did that happen?”.
But for a special treat, and to get a true slice of the trendy London new restaurant scene, you can’t really go wrong.
Flesh and Buns
41 Earlham Street