Ramen bars isn’t exactly on trend right now but for some reason, I’ve developed a bit of a craving for ramen of late. Such is the rich bowl of deliciousness that has come to dominate my thoughts that I’ve inadvertently found myself on a quest to find my favourite ramen bar in London. So first stop: Ippudo in central St Giles.
Ippudo is a Japanese spot for Hakata style ramen in a casual dig. It’s a chain so it’s got a couple of locations around London but for this visit, I stopped off in their St Giles location which is a short walk away from Tottenham Court Road.
I’ve always thought ramen bars as a small, busy and minimalist affair. If so, then Ippudo has well and truly stuck two fingers at the norm and gone all maverick. The interiors are sleek with dark wooden tables, benches, and shelves everywhere plus an open kitchen for those keen to check that it isn’t the instant ramen so many of us survived on at uni. It’s surprisingly bigger than it looks from the outside too.
You’ll be spoilt for choice at Ippudo. A quick google of all the ramen bars menus tells me Ippudo offers much, much more than the average ramen bars in London – buns, gyoza, salad, rice bowls and more. The guy next door to me went to town on the buns and side dishes. It looked a banquet with not a ramen bowl in sight.
I went for lunch and from the lunchtime set menu, I had Akamaru ramen (a modern twist of the ramen apparently) chicken karaage and a chilled green ice tea. All things totted, my meal came to £14.63 including service charge. Bloody good value if you ask me. The best part about any ramen (for me anyway) is the broth. As expected, the broth here was bold and flavourful having been simmering away in meat for an eternity.
I was, however, a little disappointed by the quantity. Three pieces of pork was a little too sparse for such a large bowl of noodles and there was no egg (surely they come standard in Japanese ramen?) You can personalise your ramen with extra toppings and noodles. You can even choose how hard you want you your noodles. But this comes at extra costs.
Lunch time is the best time to go. It’s busy but not so busy and you don’t wait long to be seated. Also, there’s a lunchtime menu which offers great bang for your buck as mentioned above. If you’re having a bit of a shit day, it’s happy hour on beers till 17:00 too.
It’s a casual dig so go with anyone be it family, friends, or spouse for a casual night in. If you’re thinking of pulling a Romeo on Juliet, forget it.
Staff were lovely and even though interactions were at a minimal, they were welcoming and keen to make sure that your visit was pleasant.
Ippudo earns good marks all round. It may be my first stop and time will tell if this will become my favourite ramen bar but so far, my ramen journey has taken off on a good start.