Ramen Run: Best ramen in London
Anyone that knows me knows that I have an unhealthy obsession with ramen. For the uninitiated, ramen is a Japanese dish of noodles and various different toppings in a broth of some kind: meat, fish, or vegetable. In the last few years especially – though I distinctly remember having ramen as a kid around town, too - this dish has become a bit of a food fashion in London and lots of new places have popped up around the city to try.
Currently, I have four of the most famous on my list, but please leave me suggestions for more to try. My favourite is without a doubt Ippudo, but first onto the others.
First up, Bone Daddies. Starting as a small place in Soho, it now has various restaurants across the city. As a deeply impatient person, I hate queuing for restaurants, and it really used to be the kind of place you’d have to queue for. The interior of the Soho restaurant is exactly what you’d expect; simple but trendy, with high stools and everyone sits on the same table. Not the kind of place you could sit for hours and enjoy a meal, but fine if you want tasty ramen. However, when I first went many years ago, the broth was far too rich and thick, to the point where it really became impossible to finish. Recently, I’ve had cause to go to that small Soho restaurant a couple times for lunch (mostly because it was across from Wah Nails where I was getting my nails done), and I’ve found the ramen to actually taste somehow wrong. It has a kind of washing-up liquid aftertaste, perhaps because it is burnt somehow. I tried a couple different ones; once the Yuzu Tonkotsu which I really wasn’t a fan of, but I put it down that time to the yuzu, and once the classic Tonkotsu. Each time there was just something fundamentally wrong with the broth itself, so either way it is easily my least favourite restaurant out of the four, though I can’t speak for the other branches.
Shoryu is certainly a step up from Bone Daddies, and in my pre-Ippudo life, it was a favourite. They have a number of different restaurants over London these days, though I always used to end up in the one in Kingly Court. When I first went, I was bowled over by the richness of the broth and its full-bodied taste, however, going back recently I found it actually to be quite tasteless compared to the final two in my list. Fine if you want to just pop in, but nothing particularly special, plus it is a little more on the expensive side. It’s probably the most stylish out of all of them, and does have more of a restaurant feel as opposed to a bar, though it may vary in different locations.
Kanada-Ya is another ramen bar that started with small premises – this time on St Giles High Street – that has recently opened a second restaurant (and I’m sure there will be more to come) in Piccadilly. Japanese founded, the bar has a much more authentic feel, and – not that I’ve been to Japan yet – seems to have much more authentic-tasting ramen, too. It is rich in taste, but not too thick or overcomplicated, and the menu is pared down. It is extremely popular, and the St Giles branch often has queues out the door. However, the service is super quick, which means turnover is high, and you probably won’t be waiting long. By super quick, I mean you can order and receive your ramen within about 60 seconds. Although I enjoyed my meal here, I had already been spoiled by Ippudo, which is over the road, never has queues and has (in my opinion) marginally better ramen, but I would like to go back to Kanada-Ya to try their famous Truffle-ramen, as I’m quite intrigued.
There’s something about Ippudo’s ramen which is just that little bit tastier than its counterparts, without being too rich. It is just across the road from Kanada-Ya, and is always a little less busy. The interior is nothing special, partially because it is in fact a chain imported from Japan, so it has slightly more of a soulless and less independent feel. However, it is bigger, and you can sit and stay for longer if you want as its less of a bar and more of a restaurant, meaning that for me it is preferable in that sense. I always go for the Karaka-Men, which adds a bit of spice to a traditional tonkotsu broth, though the Akamaru is also delicious and has a real depth of flavour.
So that’s the current standing of the ramen bars and restaurants in London that I’ve tried so far, but I always have my eyes peeled for the next place.