Published on May 29th, 2015 | by Rebecca Anne Milford0
Beer and Buns Pop Up, Shoreditch
Summary: Delivers an authentic Izakaya Japanese drinking den experience in London
The Far East has arrived in East London – in the best possible fashion. Bringing Japanese beer and Hirata buns to an uber-cool popup above K10 in Appold Street, the appropriately named Beer and Buns is a real find. Its aim is to deliver the real Izakaya experience to London – and before you say ‘bless you’, Izakaya is actually a Japanese drinking den that also serves food. Sounds good to us – especially when we heard that Beer and Buns has the largest selection of Japanese craft beer in the UK, and accompanies these beverages with pillowy soft white buns stuffed with all manner of Asian delights. Bring it on.
So how to find this magical place? It’s not something you might naturally come across, although keep your eyes peeled for the red neon sign emblazoned in the window of K10 Sushi bar, a brisk stomp from Liverpool Street station. Pass the conveyor belt of raw fish, up a dimly lit staircase, and find yourself moving from delicious smells to even more mouth-watering aromas. The passageway is made darkly dystopian by the black paint on the walls, covered in scrawls of chalk writing. But never fear, there’s no Shining-esque creepiness – in fact joyful (and perhaps slightly pissed) customers have left helpful quotes such as ‘Suns out, buns out!’ and ‘I’m a responsible drinker – I make sure I always leave the bar drunk’.
This pretty much sets the tone for a night out here – fun, informal and generally a good laugh. It doesn’t surprise us when the cheerful manager Jon informs us they held an impromptu beer pong tournament the other night, or when Dave ‘the Beer Guy’ challenges us to Sake Bombs at the end of the night (we trounce him). Perhaps part of the draw is that the staff are all the kind of chaps you’d like to spend an evening getting merry with.
The space is also completely conducive to this laid-back, party vibe – it feels more club-house than dining room. Imagine a bitching treehouse, complete with neon-zinging arcade games, a glowing popcorn maker, Margarita slushies, and flattened Asahi boxes decorating the walls and tables. There’s more black paint in here, and lowered blinds, so you do feel a bit like you’re hiding from the outside world and the responsibilities that come with it. Escapism at its best – why go to work when you can play foosball and quaff another craft lager?
So, Beer and Buns – let’s get onto the actual components that give the place its name. The drinks have all been specially selected from breweries for their unique and exciting tastes. Some of the suppliers are tiny – for example, Beer and Buns have the whole stock of a special Niigata Espresso Stout. The menu is arranged by brewery, but Dave will guide you through with expertise, advising on the best drinks to start and then the best to end.
We began with a 500ml bottle of Echigo Koshihikari – the most expensive on the menu at £9.95, and yet still a very good price given what competitors are selling for elsewhere in London. Crisp and refreshing, this golden straw coloured drink is a rice lager literally harvested from the backyard of the Echigo brewery.
Now, for someone who is usually a little wary of lager, I was absolutely gobsmacked. There was no gassy finish, no bitterness – just a lovely delicate flavour and ultra smoothness that made it lovely to simply sip alone. Next up we tried one of the selection of ‘Owl’ beers (see the too-cute labels). The one we tasted was the Hitachino Nest White Ale. It was definitely more complex than the first, having layers of flavour that definitely incorporated the citrus zing of orange peel, which the tasting notes suggested. For my beer-loving droning partner, this was a favourite.
Another surprise of the night came in the form of the Coedo ‘Shiro’, a smooth white beer, slightly more cloudy, with the kind of gold colour of beaten egg yolks. Dave had instructed there was a banana flavour to be had, but I wasn’t ready for the burst of flavour that accompanied the first sip. Probably one of my favourites of the night, it had a sweet fruitiness that was balanced by a slight spice and crisp finish.
By this point the booze was beginning to take hold, so food was needed. Luckily this is something Beer and Buns do like pros – unfussy, unpretentious, but with the kind of flavours that will knock your socks off. We tried one each of the buns – duck with pickled cucumber and a harasame sauce (like a pimped up version of the Peking wraps you get in Chinatown, with each bite reminiscent of spending an evening wandering those steamy streets); crispy chicken karaage with a creamy and decadent Japanese slaw that seeped into the soft buns to make them even more of a velvety texture; Chashu Pork belly (basically a piece of rich, gloriously fatty meat wedged into the bun and smothered in mustard mayo; and a very tasty veggie option of deep fried aubergine with a miso dressing and refreshing, zingy salsa. Each bun was a new taste sensation, with the complex flavours working fabulously.
And then there are the chicken wings – ridiculously sticky; covering fingers, hands, mouths, elbows – everything – with an unctuous, vivid sauce that was akin to a flavour bomb going off in our mouths. The combination of buns and jumbo wings will have your mouth and stomach feeling like they’ve experienced some kind of intense taste explosion that leaves you a little numb, wondering if you’ll ever be able to eat bland, normal food again. Luckily, we had a rather delicious Coedo ‘Ruri’ to accompany the salty food, with its balance of hoppy bitterness.
When we had finally eliminated most of the sauce from our chins and fingers, and the food had settled, it was time to play a bit of pinball and lark about on the foosball. More merry patrons laughed at another picnic table, and a couple on a date shared their buns (whey hey). Dave came over and we necked Sake Bombs – not as daunting as they sound, and very good fun – and generally there was a feeling of happy repleteness. I was rather sad to say goodbye, actually.
But then this is the beauty of Beer and Buns – like the cool kid at school that never had to try, it draws you in with a magnetic charm. I’m already planning my next trip with friends, and am crossing my fingers that this is one pop-up that puts down roots – because it’s already become a firm favourite with me.
Beer and Buns, 3 Appold Street, EC2A 2AFShare This Post