Arriving at Heathrow airport on a cold foggy London morning was quite the contrast from the 82-degree heat we had just left in Houston. By lunchtime we needed something warm and nourishing to keep us from succumbing to jet lag. A bowl of ramen seemed like the perfect solution.
The Ippudo story dates back to its founding days in Japan in 1985. Moving internationally in 2008, the chain now boasts 120 stores and counting in Australia, Korea, Singapore, China, Taiwan, US and now the UK.
“Ramen has become soul food in Japan with a wide variety and easy availability. IPPUDO brings the true and authentic ramen with much effort being invested on producing the highest quality soup, noodles and other ingredients in every place it operates”.
There are two London Ippudo restaurants. Our closest location is by the Crossrail Station in Canary Wharf. Opened in 2015 this store is nestled towards the middle of a row of restaurants that seem popular with the locals and tourists alike.
Ippudo does not take reservations. Groups will only be seated once all are present. The restaurant offers a counter area adjacent to the open plan kitchen, close to the bar, and in front of the windows. Seems as though this type of seating is popular with the single diners. There are also small tables with banquette seating along one wall.
The restaurant design is very sleek and modern. The walls are mainly painted black and adorned with the red and white spoons in symmetric designs. Tables are light wood with red and white chairs.
Ippudo is known for its Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen, meaning pork-based. The menu offers diners the option of classic Hakata-style or the modern version that offers a variation of seasoning such as garlic oil and their secret house spicy miso paste. There is a vegetarian option that uses an umami-packed seaweed and mushroom broth and topped with tofu.
While I do like ramen, I’m not a connoisseur so I was happy to see a menu with quite detailed descriptions, plus photos. The menu mentioned about selecting the hardness level of noodles but we didn’t get asked our preference when ordering. Perhaps our server could tell we were rather novices at this.
David decided to try the Karaka-men (GBP 12). The original tonkotsu broth with homemade noodles topped with Karaka spicy miso paste, pork belly chashu, bean sprouts, sesame kikurage mushrooms, spring onions, roasted cashew nuts, sansho pepper and fragrant garlic oil.
I selected the Akamaru Modern (GBP 11) A bolder translation of the original pork broth, enhanced with miso paste and garlic oil. Served with homemade thin noodles, pork belly chasu, bean sproupts, sesame kikurage mushrooms and spring onions. We opted for the combo addition (GBP 10) at the suggestion of our server. The two main dishes didn’t seem too different to us, but I have mentioned we are not authorities on ramen.
The bowls of ramen soon arrived at the table, shortly followed by a plate of additional ingredients to add to the broth (presumably the combo addition). The soft-boiled egg had been marinated in a special sauce that transformed its color from white to beige. I think this is a pretty hearty meal.
Piping hot broth with an abundance of fillings makes it somewhat tricky to eat. I’m told the way to do it is to hold the chopsticks in your right hand (if right handed) and use them to raise the fillings to your mouth. Ensure that your mouth is close to the bowl or this could get quite messy. Use the spoon for the broth and to help guide the larger ingredients towards your mouth. Don’t worry about slurping. Be careful not to let the food fall back into the broth and splatter you (can you tell I talk from experience here).
We had quite a late lunch at around 2.30pm and yet the restaurant had a steady stream of people coming and going throughout our stay. The servers are kept busy and do not stop by the table that often. Not really a problem, I guess I just notice this more as I spend so much time in the US where the servers are usually far more attentive.
We visited specifically to try the ramen but noticed plenty more on the menu that make us want to return. Lunch for two with no alcohol came to GBP 41 before gratuity. I guess I need to readjust my thinking to UK prices as I thought this was pretty steep for essentially a no-frills restaurant.
Address: Unit CR28, Level Minus One Crossrail Station, London E14
Phone: 020 3326 9486
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 11.30am-10pm, Sun & Bank Hols 11.30-9pm
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