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Best ramen noodle in London? “Chew-off” part 1: Bone Daddies Ramen Bar

Have you caught the 2012 flu already? No, not the type that rids you in bed (or even worse, makes you go to the office all the same, minus the teary eyes, stuffy nose and killer headache). I mean the “ramen fever” which seems to have taken the London scene by storm in the last few months.  After bloggers flocked en masse (including yours truly) to Tonkotsu- which followed pioneer Soho neighbour Ittenbari - even Zagat asked in September “Are ramen noodles London’s next big food trend?“. Then Bone Daddies opened on November 2; then it was Shoryu’s turn, still doing dry runs; and finally even (I am going to say it diplomatically) “Asian- inspired” chain Yo!Sushi introduced ramen in their menu. So without being a trendspotter or futurologist by profession, I feel quite confident to say YES, ramen is big in London right now and I am going to see for myself if the hype is to be believed.

best ramen london bone daddies vs shoryu ramen

Pushed by post-holiday noodles withdrawal symptoms, I have just visited the Bone Daddies, and here’s my review. Well, opinion. Or maybe “non-expert opinion”. Which still, on the aftermaths of #Bosigate (which has seen critics and chefs allied against normal people daring to express an opinion on restaurants without proper knowledge), could potentially be a dangerous attempt, but hey- I love risk and I’m not even famous. Oh no wait, the Bosigate guy wasn’t even famous either (nor could he write in proper English- sorry you have to read this brilliantly named post, I cannot pass on something called “The Penis Mightier than The Sword”). Well whatever, I’ll take the risk. Do I know about Japanese ramen? Am I the best person to judge if the type of noodles is “the right one”, if they are springier than Momofuku’s and to dissect the perfect combination and amount of topping? Not really – you can head to Souschef’s very well documented interview to Ross Shonhan, Bone Daddies’ chef, for the finer details. I have sadly never been to Japan and I am learning about ramen through its present London incarnation. But I have definitely got the noodle bug, so after giving up my ramen virginity to Tonkotsu, I am now looking to…ehm…perfect the experience. Practice makes perfect etc.etc. you know. Today is Bone Daddies’ turn as I couldn’t get to Shoryu in time- they’re doing a soft opening with 50% off and reduced hours till November 24, so expect a queue but also a very cheap meal, which sounds like an acceptable trade off.

Summing it up: my visit to Bone Daddies left me full of very good ramen and only marginally poorer, but not overly impressed with the place and the service.

bone daddies t22 tonkotsu ramen

Bone Daddies Ramen Bar has a good Soho location and a clearly well thought interior design,  but a major shortcoming in my eyes. It’s VERY dark. Now, low lights can be atmospheric and romantic and maybe without my knowledge noodle bars have become THE first-date (or second-date, or whenever that is that the average person gets laid scores) typical venue, and I don’t know ’cause I’ve been out of the dating game too long. To me, not being able to see my food is a major problem- even if I don’t have to take pictures (sorry for these crappy ones, not really doing justice to the feast of colour and texture in our bowls); and I was sitting at the window counter, which gets some harsh light from the street  as well.

Bone Daddies’ menu follow the compulsory theme of typewriter fonts on recycled paper, clever logo, etc.etc. and could use a bit more information on the noodles, the broth etc. for those who, like me, are suckers for details and only get curious when they see “20 hours cooked broth”. But then, the staff is there to give you a bit of background, right? Erm..not in this case. Maybe we were unlucky, but our waitress wasn’t able to give any additional info (example “What is Tantanmien?” [I guess it’s a spin on Dan Dan Mien] got a baffling  “It’s Tantanmien” in reply, followed by reading the ingredients from the menu, probably assuming we weren’t able to read them in the dark). Not really a big problem, as I had been reading blogs and tweets about the place and got advice from other visitors – but a bit funny anyway.

bone daddies soho location

The tonkotsu- which I felt I had to try to compare it with the eponymous restaurant- had almost no liquid, as the broth was so thick (even before the famous fat pipette) it effectively stuck to the noodles. Stellar tastiness, I dubbed it “liquid porchetta” on the spot and haven’t found a better word since then. Not for the faint- hearted as it is properly porky – I loved it, including the sliced pork on top and the delicious, perfectly cooked eggs (although I still think Tonkotsu’s egg has some special secret to it, not just soy sauce marinade).

The T22 (to which I added some ground chilli pork- did I mention I love pork already?) was equally good – chewy noodles, tasty broth, good amount of garnishes and plenty of meat- a truly filling dish. We also had a go at the fried chicken, which was OK.

My taste for tea has been growing after Ben Spalding’s tea pairing lunch and got out of control in China, and tea is just what you need with ramen to offset the greasiness and clean your palate. Annoyingly, a small glass of Oolong tea was £3 – and no refills, which is common in London except maybe for Chinatown, but it’s nonetheless cheeky as if you use proper Rare Tea Company tea (as written on the Bone Daddies)  menu, you can brew the leaves a couple times with no extra expense. The bill came up at little over £36 including service.

I popped in the kitchen and had a short chat with the cooks- a very friendly and enthusiastic guy asked my opinion about the food (I told him the broth was a bit on the salty side- if Bosigate has taught me something is: get some balls and play with them…not sure what you do if you’re a girl- guess you play anyway) and told me they’re still working on it, which is laudable.

The verdict? I don’t want to give it a mark in numbers – I’d be putting myself in a trap, as I don’t have a scientific rating method with coefficients, equations and PhD-level mat, but very simply put to me is :

  • food: very good, room for improvement (I like my stuff salty but my fellow diner and I guess most people found it too much so)
  • service: please teach them something about the menu, it’s a pity that the passion and commitment which you see in the kitchen doesn’t get out to the diners
  • atmosphere: I like the concept and the details, so I think being able to see more of them with better lighting would be really great *expects furious email by uberfamous architect studio who’s done the interiors*

bone daddies ramen vs shoryu

Here’s my Bone Daddies Ramen review- now I’m even more curious to try Shoryu, Ittenbari and other places! The bar has been set high food-wise and I can’t wait to chew on some noodles again. What’s the best noodle ramen in London for you? Let me know in the comments…
Bone Daddies on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

Summary
Reviewer
Serena Mariani
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Bone Daddies Ramen Bar, London
Author Rating
3
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2 Comments

  1. I knew nothing about ramen noodles! Now I know a little bit :)

  2. Hi there,

    Thanks for linking your blog review to SquareMeal.co.uk.

    Congratulations! We’ve approved your review and it now appears on the restaurant pages.

    With many thanks and best wishes

    The Square Meal Team

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    Twitter – @SquareMeal

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Best ramen in London? “Chew off” Part 2: Shoryu Ramen | The F- World - [...] (a widely subjective title, I know, ever more elusive than “most authentic”) have been Bone Daddies  and Tonkotsu, it’s …
  2. All I want for Christmas is…food | The F- World - [...] quite cut it- I mean a proper place with an option for insanely porky tonkotsu broth like Bone Daddies, …
  3. New year, old food obsessions- Shoryu ramen news…and a fast diet | The F- World - [...] You can read my reviews by clicking on the names- in order of opening – Tonkotsu, Bone Daddies and Shoryu [...]

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