Making my way up darkened, dimly lit stairwells lined with walls of black paint and chalked motifs I find myself on the top floor of London’s K10 building, in the pop-up craft beer bar, Beer and Buns.
It’s a Friday night and many folk have a been lured by the buzz of this pop-up to settle in for an evening of Japanese craft beer and street-styled food. The concept of Beer & Buns follows that of traditional Izakaya, an informal place to drink with a selection of food to match. Take that traditional concept and attach a modern aesthetic, Japan’s best craft beers and some incredible buns ‘n wings, and you’ve got yourself one of London’s hottest new pop-ups, Beer & Buns.
I’m joyfully greeted by John, (B&B’s manger) and he pulls up a large barrel and a couple of tall stools and presents the menus- one multi page menu of Japanese beers, and one single, simple food menu. He runs through both, highlighting some of the more intriguing brews on offer. Each beer has a generous description outlined with a bit of background on the brewery or particular brewing process involved; a nice detail, especially since many of these beers are rarely seen in your average boozer or craft beer bar.
I start with the Koshikari, a speciality rice beer using premium short grain rice that’s essentially harvested from the brewery’s own back yard. Ordering at the bar, I opt to try the chicken and pulled pork buns to start. The B&B signature bun, Chicken Karaage with Japanese Yuzu Koshu slaw, is incredible, a succulent mix of breaded chicken and fruity/peppery ‘slaw nestling within a pillow-soft Japanese bun. But it’s the Chashu Pork Belly with braised red cabbage & mustard mayo that steals the show, the pork belly melting in the mouth as it mingles with the sweet and lightly spiced cabbage.
I move on to a selection of the sticky jumbo chicken wings. These are hands-down the best wings I’ve eaten. Triple fried, the skin is perfectly crisp, like chicken crackling, housing juicy and succulent meat, all smothered in bold, sticky marinades. The garlic marinade proving an incredible match with the Niigata Pale beer as rich plum-like flavours are revealed in the marinade.
Simple food, but done incredibly well. It matches the ethos of the place perfectly. I look around the room I’m sitting in and take in the atmosphere. I’m surrounded by 20 and 30 somethings, all unwinding with mates over some quality food and drink, playing on the pinball machines or at the foosball tables with a decent soundtrack playing in the background (Radiohead, RATM, Blink 182). Put simply this is restaurant quality food and exciting Japanese beer served in a casual yet upbeat and vibrant bar that has the feel good factor; a place to hang out rather than ‘eat and go’.
It all makes sense off course, consider Japan’s culture for a moment, one of heritage and long standing traditions sitting alongside ground breaking technologies and, let’s face it, the more bizarre phenomena such as Pokemon. Add to that an influence from the West (e.g KFC is a BIG deal, as are Kit Kats- see here) and you’ve got the perfect place for a movement that has one foot in tradition, the other foot in modern thinking & creativity, to establish and grow – such as beer production.
As far as the beers are concerned, Beer & Buns has an exciting array on offer from more traditional fare through to the more experimental (a quirky yet brilliant sweet potato beer makes an appearance on the menu), and provides excellent opportunity to broaden beer-tinged horizons and drink some brews that are little bit off the beaten track. And what I take away from my evening (besides a can of Niigata Pale) is the feeling that Japan are producing some very exciting beers, playing with European styles and coming up with some truly unique brews that are worth tracking down.
Track them down at Beer & Buns. Catch it whilst you can, this pop-up has the potential to continue ‘Upstairs @ K10’ or at other venues, but for now it’s open until June. Find out more on their website: www.beerandbuns.co.uk **UPDATE** Beer&Buns is now a permanent feature of the London food scene, and now with an extended beer list too!
Many thanks to Samphire Communications for booking me in and to John and the team for their fantastic hospitality.