It’s hard to cast your mind back and remember exactly where you first heard of something, now seemingly quite familiar, but my very first encounter with ramen, many years ago, was in Thurrock Costco and it was the cheapest, bargain basement variety you could find, a plastic foil lidded pot containing noodles and some dust dry powder, just add boiling water. I thought it was the American knock off version of a pot noodle, which in fact, I suppose it was and that’s how things remained, fixed in my brain for quite a long time.
And then, a couple of years ago the Momofuku restaurant cookbook helped ramen once again shoulder its way into my consciousness. This was the real deal as served in the trendy New York restaurant and inspired by American Chef, David Chang’s time in Japan (ramen is a Japanese noodle dish, served in a broth, usually meat based). I was fascinated, it looked absolutely frigging delicious.
As is often the way, it wasn’t long before a few ramen joints started popping up in London with the intriguingly named Bone Daddies a clear favourite with just about everyone I know in London.
So, I know I’m a bit late to the party, Bone Daddies having been reviewed and loved to death already, alles uber da platz, but I don’t give a f*ck, I live in Bristol now, I don’t get back to London as often as I’d like. I ate there last week, I thought it was awesome, I’m going to write about it. Yeah.
Rocking up to the restaurant in Soho at about 9pm, I was initially disheartened to see through the windows that it was banged out inside and that there was a queue outside. Operating a no booking policy can be an utter ballache for the terminally organised and a gift from God for lazy bastards. Luckily a supermarket just down the road provided cheap alcoholic refreshment, which made the short wait for a space unsurprisingly bearable. In the end, it was no more than 15 minutes.
Finally inside, Bone Daddies was dimly lit, loud and extremely busy. Squeezing unsteadily up onto a stall (we’d been for a few drinks previously, obvs.) my mate Liz and I agreed to share a couple of snack size plates before cracking into a bowl of ramen each.
Chasu pork and corn croquettes were as you’d expect crispy exterior, squishy meaty interior, what’s not to like?. Chasu pork in case you were wondering (I was) is pork belly that has been marinated in soy and spices, and then braised.
Soft shell crab with green chilli ginger sauce was something else entirely. This blew me away, seriously amazing. Deep fried with the most intense, fresh tasting chilli and ginger sauce. I bloody loved it.
At this point, with time to kill whilst waiting for the rest of dinner, our attention turned to the table setting, some of it surprisingly mysterious. A pot of chilli sauce (very poky), soy, something in a grinder (turns out it was sesame seeds), bibs (we availed ourselves of these, despite looking decidedly unhip) and a mysterious jar of rubber bands (turns out these are hair bands so the luxuriously coiffured don’t get their lustrous locks dunked in their food). Fair play.
Our game of ‘guess what the hell’s that for’ was at this point interrupted by two steaming bowls of ramen.
Liz had ordered the Tonkotsu variety, containing spring onion, slices of the aforementioned choshu pork, a halved soft-boiled egg and various other bits and bobs, all merrily suspended in a 20 hour, pork bone broth. I’m no ramen expert but bloody hell, I tried a bit and it was ridiculously fine.
Meanwhile, I was slurping away at a bowl of Tantanmen, which Wiki tells me isn’t actually ramen as such but a related, Chinese influenced noodle dish (based on Sichuan dan dan noodles) – how appropriate – and often served in Japanese ramen establishments. Consisting of a chicken bone broth containing sesame, chilli, pork mince, a soft-boiled egg and bok choy. Yeah it was amazing. Stupidly-drunkenly I added too much extra chilli from the little pot on the table. Spicy enough as it was, it blew my frigging head off, but it was so delicious, so intensely rich that despite the fact my nose was streaming from the heat, I couldn’t leave it alone for even a second and ate the whole lot.
Taking a second to look down and appraise my ramen spattered bib, I saluted my own good sense in favouring practicality over fashion sense.
We were both too full to eat anything else so slunk away into the neon night glare of Soho, stuffed and well pleased with dinner.
I have no previous ramen experience to compare Bone Daddies against, I can’t tell you how authentic or inauthentic it is, all I can go on is how good it tasted and in that regard, it was bloody fantastic. Seriously good. Honestly, I want to go back and order everything on the menu, just to experience what’s on offer. It’s wasn’t even that expensive, if I remember right (things were a little hazy by the end) my half of the bill was £25
Thanks for everyone who recommended Bone Daddies to me. They were right and now I'm recommending it to you.
31 Peter Street
Telephone: 020 7287 8581