There are four varieties of Ramen; Miso, Shio (Salt), Shy u (Soy Sauce), and Tonkotsu (Pork Bone). All of which you can now find easily across the city due to a recent explosion of Ramen restaurants across London.
Okay. So what is Ramen? Where did it come from? The best way to describe Ramen is Japanese soul food. It has a 400-year history, first being sold in China by Japanese who had settled there. However, it wasn’t until the 1980s that Ramen restaurants opened and chefs began to experiment with it. Which is partly the charm of the dish, it’s all developed especially for each person rather than just being wheeled out.
The recent openings has been transformed from Japanese noodle soup dish to a trendy wintery lunch dish. So we set out to investigate one of London’s newest restaurants, and Pints & Plates local; Ippudo.
Known as Hakata Ippudo in Japan, Ippudo was one of the restaurants to export Japanese Ramen to the rest of world. With branches across the world, it claims celebrities like Jessica Alba and Anne Hathaway as some of its fans.
European domination is next for the chain. Apparently Ippudo is apparently looking at over thirty new sites across Europe, including another London site.
The team that run the London site underwent special training to learn the language and the Japanese food culture, which shows. Each member of staff has a strong knowledge of the dishes and can talk you through the dishes and help your order.
On top of that, as you enter, each member of staff greet you as you walk past them with, ‘Irrashaimase’ – welcome in Japanese and bid you adieu in a similar excited fashion. Hate to work there with a hangover…
The 80-cover restaurant is walk in only, with seats people downstairs and upstairs on a mezzaine area. We waited for 10 minutes for a table, which is nothing too extensive but there was a few moments when we thought we’d been forgotten about.
The menu is small and simple with four different mains; two Tonkotsu dishes and two vegetarians and several starter/side dishes.
The Hirata buns were the best starter, with the bun being so incredibly soft that it actually got passed around the table with people commenting on the softness. Not too bad to eat too.
Between the three of us, we pretty much ate the entire menu of mains. The massive bowls of steaming hot noodles and broth arrived and the waiter talked us through how best to eat the dishes. The first few mouthfuls of broth were hot, warm, reassuring on a blustery cold British afternoon. Although maybe too hot? Still what you need and want at winter.
The accompanying noodles were thin, light to counteract the heaviness of the broth.
None of us finished our mains but it was so filling that we all felt like we’d eaten well and had a hearty meal.
It may be because we went at lunchtime but none of us could envisage the idea of Ramen as being a dinner dish. Worth visiting if you’re in the area and feel like a hearty lunch but not worth planning your visit around.
*Apologies for a lack of interior and exterior photos. Sadly, ours weren’t good enough and Ippudo haven’t been forthcoming with any. Take our word for it though. It’s a pretty restaurant.