Flesh & Buns, Covent Garden
You can forget Oliver Dabbous or Tom Sellers*, the chef that hungry Londoners should be most thankful for is Ross Shonhan. First he brought us Bones Daddies, with its hearty, rich and fat-spiked ramen noodles, a Soho joint that we’ll queue outside of for a full hour with not a whisper of complaint. And then he added Flesh & Buns to the mix, a Taiwanese fast-food joint in a Covent Garden basement, with the same Rock n’ Roll inspired deco, the same good-looking punters and the same Big Apple buzz. But it’s bigger and it’s about the buns, sweet and fluffy hirata filled with slow-cooked, well marinated, grilled to perfection meats. There’s no such thing as an awkward date here. The communal tables keep it informal, the food keeps it exciting, the work on your part is minimal.
Buns, you fool. The top flesh picks are pork belly with mustard miso, crispy duck with sour plum sauce and grilled sea bass with coriander miso. It’s quite a lot of food for one each but then you don’t want to miss out so order two different ones to share anyway. Accompany that with the softshell crab and some edamame to start. Drink pomegranate martinis or white wine. The famous house dessert is the S’More – marshmallows, chocolate, matcha and biscuits- a traditional US campfire treat that arrives with its very own stone hearth. It’s fun to play with and tasty to eat but you’re sadly likely to be a bit full by the time you get to it. Don’t force yourself, it’s a date dude.
Covent Garden dating can be started early and dragged out far into the night. Tonight’s theme is New York livin’. Meet straight after work and head to Mischkin’s Jewish deli for a Cucumber Martini or Gin Sour in an artificially informal, but nevertheless charming, setting. Then head to F&B for an 8pm sitting and prepare to be welcomed by staff who are all grins and Yank enthusiasm. Position yourself at a sharing table and take stock of the couples either side of you – hopefully they are loud and funny enough to provide eavesdropping fodder for any silences. If you picked the restaurant, you do the ordering, both the cocktails and the drinks. Natter away about the concept until you’re relaxed, then enter into a warm phase of conversation, unpretentious and a little silly, peppered with gags and rolled eyes about your neighbours. One cocktail will suffice, this isn’t a drinking marathon. Then pay up after less than two hours and welcome the cool outside air. Stand around for a bit and suggest a coffee for the road, leading them to transatlantic Balthazar for a decaf Americano. Sit on a snug, crazy-romantic two-man table near the window, vibe off the setting, and chat till you’re tired. Then walk them to the last tube, kiss merely on the lips outside and part ways. Text to see if they got home OK and suggest you try Bone Daddies next week ‘just to balance things out’.
The booths could be cosier.
2. It’s about food and camaraderie. However, if you switch that post-meal coffee for some beakers of wine at Pix you’re sure to change the direction of things.
*26 year old superchef behind Story
Photo credits: @wilkes888, wilkes888.wordpress.com