Liverpool Street doesn’t have the best reputation for fun drinking establishments. Sure, it’s got some great restaurants but sometimes the bars just feel a bit corporate and stuffy. Here to end that problem is Beer & Buns, a fun Japanese themed “izakaya” – Japan’s answer to the after work drinks spot/gastropub.
Once you wind your way through the downstairs café and upstairs to Beer & Buns, it’s anything but corporate and stuffy. When we arrive on a weekday evening the place is thriving – there’s classic rock music blaring in the background (10/10 for the playlist), plenty of groups having fun and lots of loud banging on steel barrels (which would later transpire to be groups challenging each other to Japanese drinking games). There’s arcade games at the back and immediately you forget you’re in the heart of the City.
There’s a really impressive Japanese beer and spirits menu. I’m not a big beer drinker but the Japanese stout and pale ales we both had were delicious and there was a really wide selection including a super cold beer served at -2c which is only served in a few places in Europe. On top of their beers they have an inventive Asian-inspired cocktail list. I tried a yuzu Bellini (which I found a little too perfumed; £6), and a frozen yuzu Margarita (£6.60) which was lovely and much more enjoyable for me. Their warm/mulled Sake was also well worth a mention and was somehow less heavy than traditional mulled wine – definitely would return for that.
The dining is very casual with a mix of standing tables/barrels and bench seating. You order and pay at the bar and collect your food from the counter when your buzzer goes off. The food arrived quickly and there was a lot of it! We ordered a bit of a mix of everything and shared the lot.
The Korean cheesy fries (£4.50) were saucy, messy and everything cheesy fries should be.
Now for the bun part… There was quite a few different steamed buns to choose from – the Chicken Karaage signature bun was my favourite (£3.95 or £7.50 for 2), closely followed by the Bulgogi beef with Kimchi (£4.50 or £8.50 for two). Both were pillowy soft and packed with flavour and fillings. The buns were fluffy and sweet, the freshness of the yuzu slaw in the chicken one, and the kimchi in the beef one went well with the sticky buns.
The deep fried chicken Gyoza were very moreish and would be the perfect pub snacking food as they were easy to pick up and not too messy if you’re mid-conversation, unlike the fries and buns!
We’re both big fans of wings and it was a pleasant surprise that the wings were great big wings, as opposed to the tiny ones you get with not much flavour and more bone than meat. We tried the soy garlic ones and the sweet and spicy ones. The soy and garlic were definitely full on in soy flavour but a bit too salty for me, the sweet and spicy ones were everything they promised and we much preferred them.
If there’s one thing you must do when you visit Beer & Buns, it’s save room for dessert. I will admit that I wasn’t that wowed when I saw the two choices on the dessert menu initially, but oh how wrong I was. Dessert was the highlight of my meal (and frankly, week) and if I don’t end up back there solely for dessert sometime very soon, I’ll be surprised.
The chocolate brownie with the miso and butterscotch sauce and peanut praline was a revelation. Unbelievably rich and an amazing combination of salty, nutty and intense chocolate flavours. To top it off the cinnamon coated fried bao was equally incredible (both a very reasonable £4.50). I repeat: if you go to Beer & Buns, you absolutely have to save room for dessert. The chocolate brownie was a very, very close contender for my Top Plates of 2017 post.
Stephen who welcomed us and talked us through the menu had so much energy and enthusiasm for the food and everything about the place, that it was infectious. It was so inspiring talking to him about his love of Japanese culture and how Beer & Buns has grown from a pop up to a permanent City hotspot.
He even got us and the lovely Belles of Brunch, who were also there, doing Sake bombs. This involves balancing a shot of Sake on chopsticks above a glass filled with beer (though I’m sure he said ours were actually prosecco!) and banging your fists on the barrel below chanting “Sake Sake bomb bomb” (or something to that effect – we were a few drinks down by this point…!) causing your Sake to fall into your drink which you then down. This wasn’t too successful as we were a bit overenthusiastic with the banging on our barrel and ended up with more drink on us than in our mouths – very fun though and you could hear it was very popular throughout the night with groups.
Beer & Buns is a great place for after work drinks, casual meet ups with groups and everything in between. The food is great and really reasonably priced considering the area and there’s enough on the drinks menu to keep everyone happy. We had a brilliant time and will definitely be returning.
Nearest tube: Liverpool Street
We were lucky enough to be guests of Beer & Buns but as always the opinion is 100% mine and honest.