Beer & Buns Review
If you’re looking for something a little different and a bit more relaxed than your usual London eating haunts, we recommend you have a look at what’s on offer at Beer & Buns on Appold Street, East London.
Located upstairs of the K10 sushi restaurant, a stones throw from Liverpool Street station (handy for you commuter Joes), Beer & Buns is a pop-up Izakaya that offers the UK’s largest range of Japanese craft beer and steamed ‘Hirata’ buns filled with a choice of delicious fillings. Not only that, they make crispy Korean style jumbo chicken wings as well.
We went down to take a closer look and, more importantly, taste…
For the less travelled Joe (myself included), a Hirata bun is soft and chewy Asian-style bap that encases any sort of delicious filling you can think of. Originally from northern China, these buns have become a Taiwanese streetfood delicacy that the locals call Gua Bao.
At Beer & Buns, they deliver these pillows of loveliness with a choice of four fillings: Chicken Karaage with Japanese Yuzu Koshu slaw; Chashu Pork Belly with braised red cabbage & mustard mayo; Pulled Duck leg with pickled cucumber, caramelised spring onion & harasame sauce; and Aubergine Katsu with avocado salsa & miso sauce. Naturally we had to try all of them.
Our favourites were the Pulled Duck and the Pork Belly, both of which had meats that melted in the mouth and were complimented perfectly by their respective sauces. The Aubergine Katsu is the only vegetarian option on the whole menu, and while I enjoyed the bursts of Asian flavours, some might find it packs a little too much heat. This is also true of the Chicken Karaage. The Hirata bun itself is light as a pillow and has the texture of one too. Don’t be fooled by its size either, these buns are filling – two should be enough per Joe.
The Korean wings were not as successful. While they were undoubtedly crispy and the sauces packed a punch, they were just too messy. Again, fine for us, but you may find even the milder Tebasake Soy Garlic flavour too hot to handle.
This is where Beer & Buns comes into its own with the largest selection of Japanese craft beers in the country. We obviously couldn’t try everything but we tried our best and these were some of the best craft beers we’ve ever tasted. Our two recommendations would be the Hitachino Nest Japanese Classic Ale – an Indian Pale Ale style beer slowly matured in Cedar casks – and the Echigo Koshihikari – a rice lager that uses a super-premium short grain rice called Koshihikari, which is harvested literally from the backyard of the Echigo Brewery (Japan’s first ever micro brewery). Both were stunning. If you want something really different, the Coedo Beniaka is made from sweet potatoes!
But this isn’t only for beer lovers. Beer & Buns serve Japanese style margaritas and daiquiris as well as a couple of wines. As its roots lay in Japan, it’s also not a surprise they serve sake. A great way to end you evening, though, would be with a ‘Soju Bomb’. Soju is a South Korean drink made from ethanol and water and is considered “Korea’s most popular alcoholic beverage”. It tastes similar, but cleaner, than vodka and we had a 25ml shot of ‘Jinro’ soju balanced over a glass of Asahi on some chopsticks to add some theatre to proceedings. One beat of the ‘Soju Bomb Barrel’ and the shot drops into the glass to be downed in one.
Beer & Buns won’t be for everyone. As with most pop-up kitchens, the vibe is very relaxed with no allocated seating. The staff are very friendly and knowledgeable but don’t wait on you hand and foot, and leave you very much to your own devices. All orders are taken at the bar and you’re given a nifty gismo that flashes when your glorified bar snacks are ready.
This is very much a place set-up to spend an evening in. With pinball and table football, Beer & Buns might even be considered a drinking haunt first, a kitchen second. Personally, we loved the whole feel. It was dark and dank with some early 2000s indie floorfillers being dropped like a student union, and the walls were covered in chalk and flattened Asahi crate boxes just to emphasise the point.
One of Beer & Buns biggest problems is its location. It is East London, just the wrong part of it. It’s tucked away behind Liverpool Street Station and you’d rarely pass it unless you worked in one of the City offices next to it. This is probably why, up until now, Beer & Buns has been closed at weekends. Had it been further into Shoreditch or Hoxton, this place would have daily queues going round the corner. That’s not to say nobody uses it – we went on a Friday night and word has clearly got around – but its location above a quiet (audibly) sushi restaurant won’t help its success.
Price-wise we think the food is pretty reasonable. The buns are £3.50 each or £6.50 for two. As we said earlier, they’re pretty filling. The wings are big and ideal for sharing, so at £9.95 for six, we won’t be complaining.
The booze is where you can come unstuck. A pint of Asahi is £4.50 which is what you’d expect to pay in London, but the craft beers are rare and the price reflects it with our favourite Echigo Koshihikari rice beer coming in at £9.95 for a 500ml bottle. Something about expensive tastes… Most of the other bottles come in around the £6 mark so again aren’t cheap. But as a rare payday treat, we think it’s fully worth pushing the boat out.
Overall, we had an excellent Friday night out at Beer & Buns. The menu isn’t vast but we liked that. It won’t be to everyones taste, but if you want some of the best craft beers that can be sampled and something truly delicious and different to eat, Beer & Buns is the place to be. Check out the full menu and opening times on the Beer & Buns website.