Last Thursday, Le Bun returned for its second hotel residency following its successful stint at The Zetter at the end of last year. This time it comes to Leicester House – right at the heart of every Londoner’s favourite tourist zone of Leicester Square and Chinatown – living life Le Bun Vivant. Trudging through the crowds may not seem appealing, but my goodness is it worth it.
I visited Le Bun several times during its Zetter residency and was bursting with anticipation when I saw that it was returning, complete with a new menu which had been developed during a cross-American road trip at the beginning of the year. The 50% off food offer further added to this excitement, and frankly shame on Londoners for not forming a queue around the block (but also thank you Londoners for making it so that I didn’t have to queue around the block).
Once inside, Leicester House feels to be a perfect venue for Le Bun. It doesn’t quite fit as much of their Americana paraphernalia as The Zetter, but there are still a few odd board games and other knick knacks to punctuate the neon-bathed room as you watch tourists and angry Chinese shoppers bypass the window, all to a mesmerizingly well-curated soundtrack (I identified Wavves and Animal Collective, and was all too proud of myself for doing so).
“This feels so LA” my friend kept saying. I agreed. Neither of us has ever been to LA, but this should definitely be taken as a positive acclamation. He was slightly drunk.
We had the Super Skinny Bitch – vodka, soda, ginger, lime and mint – which we were told is zero calories but vodka has calories so this seems a dubious claim. It had a kick to it, and each sip came with different waves of flavour profiles. I like to be taken on a journey with my drinks, and this certainly does that, albeit not as much as their Cheeseburger Bloody Mary, a spicy throat-fuck of a drink which most definitely does not have zero calories.
Onto the food. Firstly, and most importantly, Le Bun does the best burgers in London (that I have come across, I suppose I should add, but I have tried many). Le Duck Frites Bun is the standout for me, with the richness of the meat coupled with the sharp slaw and crunch of the frites creating a phenomenal flavour and texture profile, though Le Bourguignon Bun and Le Truffle Double Double also blow most other London burgers clear out of the water. So indulgent is the food that it leads to my main complaint about the restaurant: a startling number of diners eat their burgers with a knife and fork; savage food should be eaten savagely.
The Pigeon & Foie Gras Sliders, apparently the favourite of the friend and family tasting the day before, fit well within their existing oeuvre: a deep, decadent, messy bun that will surely make the animal rights people flinch. Plus a side of buttery, smooth pomme puree.
Any seafood lover (or actually anyone that doesn’t actively dislike seafood) should try the Shrimp & Scallop Po Bun. The scallops are damn near the best that I have ever tasted, and the bisque and the samphire which coat both Po and Frites seem to contain the very essence of the sea. This is one of their fresher (as opposed to ‘richer’) dishes, and I would say a welcome addition to the menu.
But the star of the new menu is undoubtedly the Hot Chicken. I’m generally reluctant to order chicken as it often comes too dry or too bland, but this has made me see it in a whole new light. The meat was tender and succulent, and the fried skin was crisp without being greasy, somehow melding with the brioche to almost seem part of it. And the sauce. The hot, smoky, Nashville Hot Butter sauce. Simply astonishing. Like nothing else I have ever tasted. I ordered additional sauce on the side and would recommend that everyone (that can handle order as much of the sauce as possible. It is almost a shame that this dish was so good as, within two bites, it made the other perfectly tasty menu items all but forgotten. (I am now even more reluctant to order chicken as once you have seen heaven, the fall to earth is all the more crushing).
For dessert we had the (apparently) only tarte tatin that they sold that night. Again, London, get it together. It was a great tarte tatin, again showcasing that Le Bun is a restaurant that really understands the importance of both flavour and texture: crisp, rich and sweet. A waiter told us that the owner/head chef just spends his days at home trying out new recipes, which sounds like an ideal way to live and, as dinner proved, is a completely valid way for him to be living his life.
We loitered until close and were given free wine as they had “opened some bottles which need to be finished”. Indulgent, all of it is just so wonderfully indulgent.
Catch it while you can. Le Bun Vivant is at Leicester House until 22nd May.
Le Bun Vivant, Leicester House, 1 Leicester Street, WC2H 7BL