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Beer & Buns: superb Japanese Izakaya in London – Restaurant Review

24 July, 2015 — by Toni Ratcliff0

Beer & Buns: Ebi Katsu bun

Our house has a bit of a crush on Japan. My husband and I are both confirmed Japanophiles, loving everything Japan-based, although probably for very different reasons. For one of us it’s all about cutesy kawaii things and Hello Kitty (as I write this I am looking at a soft toy Hello Kitty dressed as Chun Li from Street Fighter II sat on our shelf, I shit you not), for the other it’s all about Kurosawa movies, 8-bit computer games and super weird J-Pop. I’ll leave you to work out who is who. But one thing’s for sure, both of us are hooked on the nation’s delicious food and craft beer.

So last week, to celebrate booking tickets to see one of Japan’s greatest pop sensations Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (if you haven’t heard her, I urge you to watch her music video for PONPONPON, she is absolutely not of this planet), we thought we’d mosey on past Beer & Buns to check out their take on Japanese… uh… beer and buns.

Beer & Buns opened as a temporary pop-up bar back in February 2015, upstairs above the K10 sushi restaurant just behind Liverpool Street station in London. According to their website they wanted to create their own take on a Japanese Izakaya – the kind of bar where the hardworking Japanese salarymen would go to relax after a VERY long week at work and unwind with gallons of beer, sake and meaty bar snacks such as yakitori, karaage or steamed buns. Hence Beer & Buns was born. And thankfully, it has been so popular they are now permanent.

The interior of the bar is fairly sparse, just filled with some picnic benches and oil drums serving as tables. But then, you shouldn’t really expect lavish sofas from a pop-up, nor would they suit the vibe. The walls are all painted with a black chalkboard surface and pots of white chalk are dotted around so you can write your own messages, thoughts, limericks, or general crazy shit on the walls, which is cool because it gives it more of a street-level community feel.

While we were there the jukebox played pretty much every Britpop and grunge song I grew up with from the ages of 15 through to 19 so I could sing along to 99% of the music that was on, and it was a refreshing change from being the only person in the room who has never heard ‘Uptown Funk’ before.

If you get bored of drinking beer and eating buns (not likely) then there are two pinball machines, one of which is ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’ and the other is ‘Tommy by The Who’ (which obviously made me Google the entire plot to ‘Tommy’ and remember how much it used to weird me out and give me nightmares as a kid), and they have a Fussball table as well so bring your pocket money!

But enough of that. Let’s skip to the best bits – the beer, buns and wings!

Korean Triple Fried Chicken Wings

What’s better than fried chicken? Chicken wings! And what’s better than chicken wings? Korean style triple fried jumbo chicken wings of course! And damn, they are gooooooood. We bought six chicken wings, two of each flavour, for an incredibly reasonable £9.95, and then proceeded to eat them all in about five minutes. The results went something like this:

Beer and Buns: wings and edamame

Tebasake Soy Garlic

This was my first encounter with a Korean style chicken wing and I was not disappointed. They tasted sweet and salty at the same time, and were lipsmackingly sticky – so sticky in fact that you cannot touch anything else as the glaze gets everywhere. (Probably not a great time to tuck your hair behind your ear).

The fact that they are triple fried means that they are incredibly crunchy on the outside but also really soft and moist in the middle. They were topped with little slices of spring onions which reminded me a lot of the kind of flavours you get in Japan or Korea.

Having only eaten one of these wings I already felt like I needed a napkin to wipe my hands on, but luckily we were given precisely four actual napkins and six lemony fresh handwipe packet things, which is the minimum requirement for two people and goes to show how messily delicious these are. They were quite simply fricking awesome! And the sauce was so tasty. I was in a pretty happy place while eating these.

beer and buns soya chicken wings

Sweet & Spicy

These were really spicy. I only had half a wing and my mouth was… well, not on fire, but definitely quite hot. I normally flatter my own chilli tolerance but these may be too hot for a normal person… or possibly I’m just a wuss pants (definitely a wuss pants – Editor).

They have some little sesame seeds sprinkled on top that you can’t really taste but they look pretty. Again with the crispy and the soft! And also the yummy and the sticky and the sweet and the greatness and the all round good times!

Beer & Buns: Wings and edamame

Korean Hot

I think maybe my mouth had given up the ghost by this point because I couldn’t really taste anything anymore, just chilli heat. But it was fine, not unbearable at all and I was still very much enjoying it. Once more we have super crispy skin, and the same delicious soft chicken quality.

Good stickiness (I pretty much can’t touch anything anymore and feel a bit like a character from a ‘hilarious’ scene in a movie where they get super glue on their hands and just keep getting stuck to more things). Other than the sheer yumminess, I like the way that all of the little chicken wings are the same shape and look a bit like hearts. That’s quite pleasing to me, and Japanese kawaii lovers too I imagine! Yum yum yum.


After giving ourselves at least 10 minutes to digest all of that delicious wingy goodness and swilling down a few more beers (see further down) we then headed on to the second of our titular items: the buns.

As with their menu cousins, the buns here are also great value for money costing £3.75 each or you can choose any two for £7.00.  We plumped for the three below and I swear they were served quicker than you can say “delicious Hirata steamed Japanese buns.”

B&B Signature Bun: Chicken Karaage with Japanese Yuzu Koshu slaw

The buns themselves look beautiful, they are so white and perfectly formed. They look just like clouds, or a tiny rabbit duvet. They are soft and airy and provide the perfect blank canvas for the yumminess nestling inside. The chicken is crunchy of the outside and warm in the middle, with the slaw adding a really nice refreshing element. The whole thing tasted quite clean and fresh – Young, Fresh n’ New by Kelis springs to mind. Great stuff.

chicken bun beer and buns

Ebi Katsu with baby gem lettuce & spicy mayo

Another pretty white cloud, this time with what tastes like a massive round lump of scampi in the middle. Hell yeah! On the bottom there are a few leaves of crunchy lettuce and a some nice mildly spicy mayo. Pretty damn good. It was soft and light and but yet surprisingly filling at the same time.

Chashu Pork Belly with braised red cabbage & mustard mayo

A soft squishy cloud bun filled with strips of nice soft pork with crunchy fatty bits. There is a spicy braised red cabbage with flavours that remind you a bit of Christmas, and then a splodge of mustardy mayo on the top. These are super good, I could eat about 20.

beer and buns chashu pork belly buns


If you’re looking for an authentic Japanese beer then these are your fellas! Beer & Buns stock the largest selection of Japanese craft beer in the UK. The staff behind the bar are uber lovely and more than happy to explain to you the entire background of every single beer they stock, which is really nice as they seem to really care about what they do.

But as I am not really a beer connoisseur (I don’t think simply consuming a lot of it counts) I am going to pass the mic over to Christopher at this point who can elaborate further on this subject. Kay, bye then! 

Christopher: Oh by the might of Mount Fuji, I am in beer heaven here. The array of Japanese craft beer available in Beer and Buns is incredible, with many old favourites and obscurities mixing it up with some truly undiscovered gems.

Sure you’ll be paying an above-the-standard-pint-average for some of these beers, but as you can imagine the quality and ‘hard-to-get-hold-of’ nature of Japanese craft beer means that it will be more than worth it. If you’re looking for a bargain, swing by on Tuesday nights when Beer and Buns offers ice-cold draught Asahi Super Dry and frozen cocktails for 2-for-1.

However if you can’t resist the exotic thrill of some of the finest beers known to mankind, you’ll be spoiled for choice.

hitachino nest beer white ale bottle

I have fallen deeply in love with Hitachino Nest Beers, and every one of the owl-emblazoned little beauties is available here, from its sweet malty Pale Ale, to the complex roasted loveliness of the Espresso Stout. Also Beer and Buns is the only place in the UK to serve Hitachino’s sublime White Ale on draught. It’s an unbeatable Belgian style wit-bier that is genuinely one of the most satisfying pints I’ve had this year.

Last month’s guest beer was Baird’s Numazu Lager. Baird Beer is a husband and wife team based in the Northern end of the Izu Peninsula, an area famous for its hot springs. Their Numazu is an unfiltered lager that mocks every other lager in the world. It’s crisp and refreshing, while somehow being as rich and flavoursome as a full-bodied ale. Bryan and Sayuri Baird are basically geniuses and we definitely need to see more of their range over here as soon as possible.

And check out the beautifully painted label too…

numazu lager baird beer

Other highlights include the high quality range of Coedo beers, including the super-strong but fascinating ‘Beniaka’ which is brewed with sweet potato, and the Niigata Pale Ale that has an almost banana-like taste and is possibly the cheeriest little beer I’ve ever had in my life. Personally I would like to have seen a range of Japanese whiskys on offer too, as these are some of the best in the world and would compliment the experience perfectly. But then who could complain when presented with this little guy…

niigato beer can

So there we have it. Japanese craft beers? Check! Steaming hot buns? Check! The most god-damn tasty chicken wings I have had in my life to date? Check! Cool music and pinball? Check! And the nicest staff in the London? Check! We liked this place a lot. I think the fact that we have been back three times in the last two weeks should speak volumes. If you’re into good food and beer this should definitely be a place on your hit list

Still hungry? Find all the most delicious places to eat with our best London restaurants section, including this review of Rok Swedish Smokehouse, Shoreditch.

Beer & Buns, London

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