The ‘no bookings’ Soho branch of the famous Shoryu Ramen restaurant was buzzing with noodle-sucking enthusiasts. There was a queue of about 6 people ahead of us, but the staff were expecting us.
It was the last Monday before Christmas and the streets were heaving with shoppers searching for last minute gifts. Leaving the hustle and bustle of Soho behind us, my dining companion and I found ourselves in a different kind of hustle and bustle – and a rather pleasant one too. On entering this famously busy eatery, one’s arrival gets acknowledged by the staff beating on a Taiko, a traditional Japanese drum, and pronouncing the greeting “irasshaimase”. We were seated near the entrance, opposite the bar, and opposite the Taiko. Customers came and went and so did the sound of the drum, which was surprisingly very soothing. The atmosphere and the service, and I can only imagine, was as authentic as it can get – friendly, the right amount of hurried, polite, with a ‘nothing is a bother’ smile.
Mimi, the restaurant manager and a sake sommelier, gave us a detailed tour of the menu. We started with Gekkeikan Kyoto Junmai sake, which was warming and easily drinkable, and complementary to our starter of Shoryu Buns.
I had the Ginger Salmon Tatsutage, which was simply delicious. The fluffy buns are made daily in a bakery in London and have possibly topped my all time favourites list. The salmon was nicely marinated, with just enough spiciness and Japanese mayonnaise combination, every bite melting away in my mouth with minimal chewing effort. My friend went for the barbeque Char Siu Pork Belly Bun, and judging by the humming noises coming from her lips, this was also a success.
Mimi recommended we try the special Kirin frozen beer, words that needed no repeating. Two beers arrived with icy foam as promised. There is an extensive choice of cocktails on offer too, all made with sake or a traditional Japanese whisky instead of the usual spirits you’d otherwise find in your Cosmo, should you prefer.
Off to the main course, I opted for the Natural ramen (vegetarian broth), and my meat-eating friend had the signature 12 hour cooked Shoryu Ganso Tonkotsu one. These ramen should be listed under the ‘slurping, no slurping, I don’t care who’s watching’ category. Both were delicious and filling, with a generous amount of toppings.
I don’t tend to leave a restaurant without sampling a dessert, and I wasn’t going to change that now. We were happy to go with Mimi’s recommendation of Yuzu Rolled Cake and Truffle Mochi, both very tasty, and the rolled cake was in particular very delicate. We finished with a cup of light and refreshing Green Tea, which Mimi selects personally for the restaurant.
The queue outside continued to grow and we couldn’t help but feel a little guilty. We thanked Mimi for her hospitality and headed outside, but it wasn’t going to be without a bang. The drum rolled, accompanied by a harmonic “Arigatou gozaimashita” from the staff….arigatou gozaimashita indeed we thought! With a Monday happy hour on Shoryu Buns, there really is no excuse not to visit this perfect winter warm-up.
Shoryu Ramen, 3 Denman Street London W1D 7HA. Nearest tube: Piccadilly Circus. Other restaurants in lower Regent St and Kingly Court, and takeaway from Shoryu Go in Air St Soho.