Nestled round the corner from Liverpool Street station is a hidden gem of a place, which is genuinely the closest I've come to experiencing a 'Cheers' bar in London, where everybody knows your name. A real rarity in this day and age, especially around The City where faceless corporate banks and charmless bars reign supreme. Not here however, I could not have felt more welcome.
Born out of frustration of not being able to find a decent bar that provides great beer and authentic food, Beer & Buns takes on a Japanese Izakaya - a kind of informal Japanese gastropub - to create a venue which offers the UK's largest range of Japanese craft beer and soft, pillow-like steamed 'Hirata' buns filled with a choice of delicious fillings. Oh, and the crispy Korean style jumbo chicken wings are to die for.
Arriving late on a Friday evening, my initial fear was that I had come upon a closed venue, however, it is located 'upstairs' from K10, a popular Japanese conveyor belt restaurant, which was just shutting up shop. Ascending the stairs to Beer & Buns, the music gets louder, the lights darker, and at the top I'm greeted by Frank, a man with boundless energy for customers and a genuinely contagious enthusiasm for beer. Even though I'm more of a margarita man, I was convinced to follow his lead and ended up on a fantastic journey through hops.
As for the food - the pairing is so well matched. The signature fried chicken wings (£4.50 for two / £7.95 for four / £9.95 for six) are marinated then triple fried to crisp perfection. The 'Tebasake Soy Garlic' are the option for those of us who tend to stay away from very spicy food - a succulent blend of sweet and umami, I kept going back for more. The 'sweet and spicy' variety certainly pack more of a punch than the seemingly innocuous name would suggest, and it reached the upper limit of my spice ability. I would only recommend the brave try the 'Korean Hot' variety. I guess that's where the beer really comes into play - to soothe a burning palate!
The light and fluffy pillow-like steamed 'hirata' buns come with a range of fillings, and are £3.95 each or £7.50 for any two. The vegetarian Aubergine Katsu with coriander salsa & miso sauce filling was a favourite, the Chashu Pork Belly with braised red cabbage & mustard mayo was a glorious combination of hearty rich pork and light vinegared counter balance. The signature bun is Chicken Karaage with Japanese Yuzu Koshu slaw combines breadcrumbed chicken and a creamy slaw to remarkable effect. The sides I tried include Sweet Potato Fries with Spicy Mayo (£3.50) and Edamame Beans with Malden Sea Salt (£2.95).
The venue has such a friendly vibe, and I can't urge you enough to come vist, and stay late. I indulged in the frozen margaritas later in the evening, which are served from a frozen slushie machine, and are the perfect sweet treat with which to end the evening. They are actually made with a blend of tequila, soju & yuzu juice (£6.60) which gives the classic drink a unique twist which works very well. For those with a more adventurous disposition I would recommend one of the 'Sake Bombs' - a 25ml shot of 'Junmai' sake, served with a glass of Asahi (£3.95).
I will certainly be back. The vibe is very special, and is in part late-night Tokyo bar, part friendly artistic club, and part drinking den. It's located 'Upstairs @ K10' 3 Appold Street EC2A 2AF (look for the flashing neon in the window!)
Beer & Buns is open Monday thru Friday, 5pm till late.
Also now open for lunches on Thursday and Fridays only.
Check out 'Happy Mondays' - any 2 buns or wings, plus a pint of Asahi Dry Extra Cold for £7.95. Also £5 cocktails all night, and free play Fussball & Pinball.
Also their Happy Hour offers 2-4-1 drinks from 5pm - 7pm each evening.