Bone Daddies. Bona.
As I stride down Brewer Street, past the various sex shops which line the route to my destination on Peter Street, I wonder how many other managing partners of law firms do this sort of thing at lunchtime. I think I probably know the answer to that.
There are quite a number of places that I want to try, where to go in the evening is to encounter THE QUEUE. As I have mentioned on numerous occasions, it’s not my thing. Too old and too impatient, there will always be somewhere else, somewhere that takes reservations. So a little lunchtime foray makes it possible for me to try all those hyper-popular places that I would otherwise avoid.
And I might yet avoid them, were I the shy type, as I am invariably two generations younger than the other diners, but quite frankly, I don’t give a damn. I have vague memories of going to these sorts of places when I was younger and looking pityingly at that sad woman on her own. Obviously now that I am that sad woman, I see it rather differently. Except I am not sad, I am inordinately happy, because I have had the best ramen noodles of my life.
And when you don’t look like any of the other guests, the staff tend to treat you very nicely. As if they don’t quite know what to make of you. Have you been here before they say? No, I haven’t. Do you know what ramen are? Yes I do.
I asked the very lovely happy smiley chappie what I should have from the menu. Obviously I had heard of the Tonkotsu ramen, with spring onion, chasu pork and the 20-hour pork bone broth, but happy smiley chappie tells me to ignore the fact that this is their bestseller and instead to order the Tantanmen.
This is described as noodles with sesame, chilli, pork mince, bok choy and chicken bone broth.
Whilst I was waiting, I checked out the shelf in front of me. Chopsticks, toasted sesame in a strange implement that grinds it (and which I must obtain for my own purposes), soy sauce, chilli, some very odd thing that looks like black string, which I forgot to ask about and whole cloves of garlic, with your own garlic press.
Because I have to work in an office with other people, I showed unusual restraint and didn’t go for the whole garlic extra. Next time.
And I could have ordered cold or hot sake, or beer or indeed cocktails with unrecognisable ingredients, but I knew I had to go back to the office and do that thing that I had been putting off all morning and I am nothing if not boring and diligent, despite all appearances to the contrary.
Oh my God. It is like you have eaten burgers from Wimpy’s all your life and then been given the Ari Gold from Patty & Bun, such is the leap from ramen we have all eaten previously, at a place beginning with “W” to this.
I was a bit worried with the first spoonful, because the mince was cold. Oh dear, I thought it’s going to be lukewarm. Until I dug into it, and burned the skin off the roof of my mouth with the boiling hot noodles below. Noodles dangling attractively out of my mouth whilst I let them cool down a bit, I was thankful that I had come on my own.
But they were fantastic. This dish has it all. Texture, flavour, hot and cold, sweet-and-sour, a big umami hit of richness, with a stock that fills you up, before you are halfway through.
Obviously I finished it all, because who knows when I will be able to have this again and really, this isn’t the sort of thing that you leave.
Whilst eating, I glanced sideways at the daily menu and I noticed, to my horror, that they had on that menu padron peppers. As you know, if you are a regular reader, if padron peppers are on the menu, I will order them. I had, however, eaten three-quarters of my dish and it was physically impossible to contemplate eating any more than was left in the bowl. Even for me. Padron peppers. What are they doing there? How could I have known?
Happy smiley chappie had told me that I would prefer the Tantanmen to the Tonkotsu Ramen and if he was wrong, he would buy me a cat. Given that I already have four, and would never knowingly say no, this was a rash promise. Not only that, but it means that I have to go back, to see which is really the best.
And after eating such good soul food, I was so full of food kindness that I went to Selfridge’s to buy two massive cakes for the office. It was only fair.
Do not be put off by the children, happily eating their Ramen and listening to loud music. Do not be put off by the fact that you have to sit at communal tables. Do not be put off by the fact that this is not the sort of restaurant that you would normally go to. It is wonderful. It is cheap. It is the best £11 I have spent in living memory.