22 Jul 2019
17th July 2019
Ippudo, Central St Giles: restaurant review
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The pitch: The UK’s most authentic tonkotsu ramen?
Review: The last time I sat down to a bowl of ramen in a branch of Ippudo was in the department store above Hakata Station in the middle of Fukuoka, where it’s one of the most famous chains. As such, while tonkotsu ramen (using a pork bone-based stock) is more popular anyway in the UK than shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce) or miso bases, my expectations were high. The signature Shiromaru Classic comes topped with kikurage mushrooms, in addition to bean sprouts, menma and sping onions. Reassuringly, I was asked to select the firmness of my noodles, but the star of the show was the tonkotsu broth. Creamy and deeply savoury without being cloying, if you’ve spent time in Kyushu this will be a taste of home. For £2, kaedama (a fresh helping of noodles for your remaining broth) is on offer – just as in Kyushu – rounding off a big portion for £13. At £15 with the ramen egg, it is perhaps a touch more expensive than average for London, but filling!
Unlike (if I recall correctly) in Japan a veggie option is available: this sports a seaweed and mushroom broth (which even has a milky tonkotsu-esque colour) infused with miso and topped with fried tofu in addition to the standard toppings. The gyoza with my lunch set were appropriately crispy and delicious. In summer at some branches, tsukemen (cold dipping noodles) are also on offer. Ramen can be a fiercely regional thing. I went with a colleague from Tokyo who always opts for his preferred shoyu ramen (despite several Ippudo outlets in Tokyo he hadn’t of it before coming to the UK): that he regularly goes back attests it must be up to scratch as well!
Point of note: These days Ippudo is a thoroughly international operation: as well as three outlets in the UK and its more than 20 in Japan, there are branches in 11 other countries!
Cost: £16 for Shiromaru Tamago lunch set (including kaedama) with Yaki Gyoza
Location: Three London locations
Photo credit: Ippudo website