Tucked away down a side street off Covent Gardens famous Seven Dials, in what appears to be an (albeit large) former wine cellar, is the latest venture from the people behind ramen experts Bone Daddies: Flesh & Buns, an Ikayaza (a casual Japanese drinking establishment) restaurant serving informal food and drink.
Before we go any further, lets get one thing straight: do not let the name put you off. See past the dreadful pun and you will find a canteen-esque venue full of mouth-watering sharing plates waiting for you in the heart of Londons Theatreland.
So, let us begin. To start, we bypassed the sake (Im not its biggest fan) and went straight for the cocktails. I had a deliciously zesty Pink Grapefruit Negroni (gin, Campari and sweet vermouth with a pink grapefruit twist), while my companion plumped for the Frozen Yuzu Margarita (deemed one of the best margaritas Ive ever tasted).
Suitably refreshed (read: pretty tipsy. It was my birthday and Im a total lightweight), we ordered a few sharing plates to accompany the venues signature dish, the flesh and buns, aka meat and steamed buns. The mixed seafood ceviche was delicately prepared, the mixed sashimi fresh and succulent, and the softshell crab and jalapeno mayo my dream bar snack. However, the real standout dish was the Korean fried wings: hot and spicy and sour, they were moreish morsels to be grabbed with both hands and eaten with relish and complete disregard to how you look while doing so (diners are handily provided with hand towels to wipe down their faces after scoffing).
Our small plates were followed by the main event: the flesh and buns. They are recommended for two people, so we opted for the crispy piglet belly with mustard miso and pickled apple. What arrived was something akin to a duck pancake that you assemble yourself, only minus the duck and pancakes. We layered moist pulled pork and crispy skin into light, doughy buns, topping them off with shredded cucumber and sauce.
Somehow, we managed to find room for dessert, going for the Bone Daddies Sundae: a layered confection of matcha ice cream, blueberries, jelly, honeycomb and cream. It was nice, but I couldnt help envying the neighbouring table. Theyd gone for Flesh & Buns signature pudding, the smores a classic American sandwich constructed of marshmallow, chocolate and biscuit that you build and cook yourself.
In a way, the dessert sums up what Flesh & Buns is about: fun, tasty, affordable food and drink. It's not reinventing the wheel, but if you want a fun, relaxed night with friends then its definitely worth a visit.
The ELLEuk Score
Style of food: Contemporary Japanese
Good for: A relaxed evening with friends
Prices and Other Details at Flesh & Buns
Address: Flesh & Buns, 41 Earlham St, London WC2H 9LX, 020 7632 9500
Opening times: Mon-Tue 12pm-3pm & 5pm-10.30pm; Wed-Fri 12pm-3pm & 5pm-11.30pm; Sat 12pm-11.30pm; Sun & Bank hols 12pm-9.30pm
Average price per person: small dishes start at £5, mains from £7 (for two sharing flesh & buns)
Price per bottle of house wine
House red: Cantina Cevico, Sangiovese Merlot, Italy 2012 - £4 glass/£16.50 bottle
House white: Cantina Cevico, Trebbiano Pinot Bianco, Italy 2012 - £4 glass/ £16.50 bottle
Price bottle house champagne: Perrier Jouet, France - £9.70 glass/£55 bottle
Set menu: No
Private dining: No
Garden/al fresco dining? No
Best table? The booths are the place to be
Bar? Yes, theres a bar to drink at while you wait to be seated
Who goes? Theatre-goers, students from nearby Pineapple Dance Studios, young professionals, couples
Nearest tube: Covent Garden