I love East Asian cuisine and London is certainly full of options in this area, but all too often you are in a stuffy, over lit sushi bar or a pricey, fashion spot. But fear no more, in the heart of the Square Mile there’s a new addition, and it’s here to stay!
Japanese beer house
Beer & Buns can be found upstairs in the well-established K10 on Appold Street, near Liverpool Street Train Station. It began life as a pop-up back in February 2015 and has since attracted a lot of attention and some great reviews (we’re not about to break that pattern either).
Walking up the stairs to Beer & Buns, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’ve accidentally ended up in the store cupboard or a staff only area. The walls are adorned with black chalk paint and messages and doodles are scrawled in every available space. But alas, at the top of the second staircase, you stumble upon a fabulous little hangout that manages cool, retro and welcoming without the pretentiousness of the usual Shoreditch pop-up.
There’s a fun feel in here. The tables are bench-style with broken down beer boxes as placemats or barrels with high-stoools – not what you’d call comfy but it still manages to be welcoming, kind of like a home-style bar (reminiscent of the one we built on the back of my garage in my youth). Scattered around are retro games such as pinball and fussball, which often gather crowds of rowdy guys letting off steam after work. The black chalk paint also continues in the main bar area and there are chalks available for those feeling a little creative.
The food is largely based around Japanese and Korean specialities, with a wide range of hirata buns and chicken wings forming the main menu. This is complemeted by a range of tapas/side style dishes that again span these two regions. All of the food is easy to eat with your hands, goes well with a beer and is served up in plastic baskets with paper – so don’t pick here if you want glamour and fine China.
Here’s an overview of the food on offer:
The Buns (£3,75ea or £7 for 2)
In principle this sounded a bit dubious to me – slushy veg in a stodgy bun. But I was so pleasantly surprised, the aubergine is coated in the traditional katsu crumb, which has been deep fried so goes pleasingly crispy. Although it’s a coriander salsa (those of you who are regular readers will know that coriander is my worst nightmare), it isn’t too strong or overpowering as is often the case in Japanese and especially Vietnamese foods. This is kind of like the ultimate Japanese veggie burger and probably my favourite of the buns (gee, did I just go for the veggie option again – what’s happening to me?).
The chicken wings (£4.50 for 2 / £7.95 for 4 / £9.95 for 6)
Premium jumbo chicken wings, marinated and then triple fried to crisp perfection. Choose a single flavour or go half & half.
These wings are perfect in texture and taste. They are tender in the middle, completely crispy and crunchy; exactly as they should be. The sauce has the perfect balance of flavours – sweet, tangy, spicy and fresh but be warned as they are extremely hot!!
Sweet and spicy wings
These are still pretty spicy all things considered but the heat is cancelled out slightly by the sugary sweet taste at the front of the palette.
Tabasake Soy Garlic
These are also quite sweet. The sauce is thick and sticky soy, not how you’d traditionally think of it. Spring onion slices scattered on top helps to cut through the sweetness and add another depth of flavour.
And the rest
Th rest of the menu is made up of small dishes which are perfect to share.
These chunks of chicken are the Japanese equivalent of chicken nuggets, only way better! The meat is incredibly tender and has a beautiful fragrant taste of ginger. This is definitely the best of the extras.
The slaw isn’t coated in mayo, which in principal is really great because it makes it fresh and not claggy, but it doesn’t have such a cooling effect as if it did – which you kind of need after the wings.
Sweet potato fries
Sweet potatoes are pretty big in Asian cuisine but obviously not normally in the form of fried. These are completely non-traditional but a great addition and help to fill you up nicely.
This wasn’t the softest squid I’ve had by far, but interesting flavours – the spice hits the back of the throat but the flavours carry on tingling your tongue.
Edamame with black bean
The black bean gives a real depth of flavour to the edamame and take you to another part of Asia – suddenly I’m in China. These are great to snack on while you have a beer or as a nice way to get in vegetables to your meal.
The only thing about all of the above is I was craving some condiments – sweet chilli sauce, teryaki sauce etc to dip all of the yummy fried stuff in.
I know that in most restaurants with a specialist cuisine you suffer from a lack of good alcohol, but things are a bit different at Beer and Bun – note the drink even makes it into the name! There’s an extensive list of beers, soft drinks, cocktails and Japanese and Korean spirits.
As far as lager goes Asahi is pretty great! It’s light and easy to drink and goes brilliantly with the food here (no surprise there as it’s a Japanese beer). They even serve up an awesome extra cold version here. But for once the lager isn’t the star of the show here, there’s a number of pale ales, bitters and stouts. The best thing to do is head on down and try out as much of the menu as possible, but I can definitely recommend the Coedo Benika (£6.50) which is a Japanese premium lager but is made from sweet potatoes. The unique ingredients give it a dark colour and a sweet smoky taste – so worth a try!
If you aren’t a beer fan then have a try of the frozen cocktails (£6.60). There’s a couple of flavours on offer based on traditional mixes but with an Asian flare. First up is the Frozen Yuzu Margarita – this blends tequila, Korean spirit soju and East Asian citrus fruit yuzu. It’s sweet but has a good punch and is fresh and fruity. Or, if you prefer something sweeter then go for the Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri; a mix of rum, soju, strawberry puree and yuzu juice.
Ready for something stronger?
If you’re here for a bit of a party then you’re going to want to order either a sake bomb (£3.95) or a soju bomb (£4.20). The shot of spirit is served up with a glass of Asahi as opposed to the Red Bull in a regular ‘bomb’, which isn’t as sickly or heavy-going as the classic club drinks. They also add a touch of drama – the shots are served up on the barrel tables, balanced on top of the glasses of beer. The way to drink them is to bang the barrels so the shots jump in the glasses and you down them as quick as possible. Ready?
The staff here are fantastic. Totally laid back and there to make sure you have a great time – genuinely. While food orders are taken at and collected at the bar, so there isn’t too much in the way of service, they will still do anything for you and will help you make some great food selections too!
Address: Beer & Buns, ‘Upstairs @ K10’, 3 Appold Street, London, EC2A 2AF
Phone number: 07724 548859
Opening hours: Monday-Friday, 5pm til late / head down on Mondays and Tuesdays for deals!