Sometimes all you want in life is a hot bowl of noodle soup to make everything better. When you realise that the plastic-wrapped brick of grocery-store noodles in your kitchen cabinet just won’t cut it, it’s time to visit the experts. Ramen has officially achieved trendy status in London, with steam-filled noodle shops popping up all over the city, but few are more elegant and refined than the newly-opened Ippudo London. This buzzing spot in Bloomsbury will convert any ramen skeptics among your friends with delicious food that’s as beautiful as a work of art, so drop by for a few bowls of the good stuff on your next group outing and experience the Japanese version of comfort food.
Ippudo is new to the U.K., but it’s been knocking out bowls of savory, hearty noodles in Asia for decades, and has an established New York presence as well. True to tradition, Ippudo’s staff all shout a hearty “Irrashaimase!” welcome to everybody who walks in the door — the unexpected greeting draws a surprised laugh from your friends, but you’re feeling right at home in the sleek space.
Don’t let the queue of people by the entrance put you off. You and your friends can wait for your table at the freestanding, noodle-adorned bar, snacking on addictively salty edamame and washing it down with a pint of ice cold Asahi beer. The black, white, and dark-red walls (decorated with lines of ramen bowls, appropriately) and the ’80s playlist keep the setting high-energy, and the communal, buzzing crowd has your group especially animated. You’re all eager to start slurping some noodles, but the appetiser menu is deliciously distracting. You share the perfectly glazed, juicy gyoza (dumplings), and the soft Hirata buns filled with chicken, as everyone raves about the spicy sauce and mayo. And why not order some sake to get you pumped up for the main event? You all want to do ramen right, after all.
The Shiromaru Hakata Classic is Ippudo’s signature ramen, and it is a joy to behold. The homemade tonkotsu soup is made by boiling pork bones for two days, which gives the broth an incredibly rich flavour and silky texture, made even more delicious by the oodles of perfectly cooked, thin noodles inside. The dish is finished with pork loin, mushrooms, bean sprouts, and spring onions — and ordering the seasoned boiled egg as a topping is a must.
If you want a ramen that’s even more flavoursome, order the Akamaru Modern instead – this comes with fragrant garlic oil, cabbage, and miso paste. If you want spicy, top it with a curry ball. By now you’ll be feeling the warmth and glow that only a proper noodle soup can give you. As you’re leaving Ippudo, you’ll hear every member of staff shouting “Arigato-gozaimashita!” “No,” you’ll respond, “Thank you.”