Thursday 28 August 2014

flesh & buns

Hot, sticky flesh. Pillowy soft buns. Deep dark basement. Orgasmic faces...
In the words of the Essex lot - #NAWTY.
And that's exactly how I felt after being utterly seduced by the brilliant Flesh and Buns in Covent Garden. Nawty. But nice.

Tucked downstairs in a cosy basement space on Earlham Street, opposite Belgo's and round t'corner from Urban Outfitters, it's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it den of deliciousness. The offspring of ramen joint Bone Daddies, I knew I was likely in for decent Japanese fodder at F&B's. And having sampled the yumminess of the small but on point Yum Bun, I also knew I liked BUN. (For those of you not aware of the delights of BUN, where have you been?) Oblong shaped soft steamed buns, which you can fill with meat, fish, veg and sticky sauce and stuff in your gob in an Asian inspired kind of fluffy doughy taco. Messy but satisfying. So I was more than happy to be handed a menu that was chock full of yummy bun fillings along with a fantastic array of other dishes. The fact I found it hard to choose, when usually I'm hard nosed and ruthless, is testament to the great range on offer - as well as the ubiquitous buns, there's other types of ceviche, tempura and sushi type tastiness. Everything is for sharing, with the main, more expensive 'flesh' courses enough for two to three people, and the menu suggesting two buns (£2) per person. We found two starters and two main dishes more than enough for the three of us.
While we waited for our main course to arrive we nibbled on 'chips and dips', crisp rice crackers with avocado shiso and tomato jalapeno dips, Japanese versions of guacamole and salsa. We also played chopstick fights over crisp fried squid chilli spiked with pepper and lime.

Then the buns arrived, fat and friendly in their steamer tower, along with perfectly cooked fillets of salmon teriyaki with pickled cucumber and a juicy crispy duck leg with sour plum soy sauce and beetroot pickle. Shredded succulent flesh, with crisp salad, crammed into buns and washed down with warm sake. Comfort food at it's best. 

we bun tings
We were all set to leave, when the table next to us were presented with a flaming fire pit. Like moths to a flame, all eyes were on the fyah. The waitress informed us that this was the S'mores dessert - big rectangular marshmallows on sticks (one each), with thin slices of green tea chocolate and buttery biscuits. Those who know me, know of my love affair with the Barrica choc ice. Well this is the choc ice's dirty cousin. OF COURSE WE WANTED IT! Salivating, we waited. And it did not disappoint. Mallows toasted over the fire, then sandwiched inbetween choc and biccie to make the most utterly sinful, gooey gorgeous dessert sandwich. A real treat to round off a superb dins.

the good stuff
Service was friendly, prices reasonable, and on the printed bill they even handily split the price for you between the number in your group, making it easy to pay and away; rolling like happy fat buns off into the wilds of the city. Flesh and Buns is up there as my favourite meal of the year thus far. Quality cooking, and fun to boot. Just make sure you book. And leave enough room for those heavenly S'mores...
For more Japanese amazingness I can recommend Suzu in Hammersmith and Brilliant Corners in Dalston. Neither do steamed buns, but the former does great sushi classes and the latter does decent tunes and mezcal. Konichiwaaa.


Friday 1 August 2014

coppa, london fields

As London's skyline get higher, and evenings stretch longer, summertime rooftop drinking and eating has never tasted so damn GOOD. There's a plethora of places to pick from in the big smoke, from Netil House's glorious 360 roof terrace in Hackney to the refined insouciance of Boundary in Shoreditch to Kensington's tropical luxe Roof Gardens.

Coppa Bar & Rosticcerianestled on high between the London Fields railway line and the fields themselves, is a little big gem with a mahoosive sparkle, that definitely deserves winkling out ASAP. Open Thursday - Sunday, serving a mixture of Italian charcuterie, meat, salads, cocktails and wine, it's the ideal locale for a long boozy sunset supper. (It's also got a canopy for any pesky showers that may threaten to rain on your parade).
With a mixture of long bench tables spread with red and white checked tablecloths, and cute intimate beach style huts to sit in, coloured fairy lights twinkle overhead as hungry Hackneyites laugh, jape and chow down on strong Italo BBQ cookery...

Summer nights call for summer punch and we set the pace with some bang tidy fruity Amaro Mule cocktails (Melletti Amaro, ginger beer, lime). The Rosemary Julep and Stella Spritz didn't go down quite so well with my companions, being a bit punchy for our tastes, so we ordered in a bottle of chilled red to go with our feast.

And what a feast it was! Opting for the set menu at a very reasonable £25 a head, the courses just kept on comin'... Here's a tip - arrive hungry.

Kicking off with a beautiful mix of pillowy chewy ciabatta, toasted almonds, plump juicy green olives, creamy buffalo mozarella, thick cloudy quality olive oil and thinly sliced meats with pickled samphire, it's fair to say we guzzled that antipasti like nobody's business. 

When the tender BBQ chicken (roasted in Nduja and Rosemary & Lemon) turned up we had to slow the pace, and do our best to do justice to the meat and the four generous, fresh and zesty salads which came with: grilled radicchio, fennel and orange, potato and bean and panzanella. There were even patatine fritte, or salty fries, with ketchup & mayo to go with - an essential in my book.

A zingy little pot of lemon sorbet at the end of the meal was an unexpected but welcome surprise. And as we all know, there's always room for dessert.

Although the end bill was higher than we intended (our fault - those cocktails) the amount of lush food for dollar and good vibes atop that roof was well worth it. We were stuffed like pigs by the end, but the cooking is clean, tasty and healthy - which means you can drink more, right? And you could always come for balmy evening boozing, with a smattering of snacks to go with, rather than the veritable banquet we opted for.

You can't book unless you're a group of six or more - but as long as you arrive early you should be just fine. Or do what we did and book a table for 6, then turn up with 3...naughty.

With just the right mix of charm, cool and credible cooking, Coppa feel of some Italian rooftop action quick smart before the cumulonimbus inevitably come rolling back over...