The ever evolving London ramen scene has seen a steady growth over the the past few years, but the quality in my opinion has ranged from dire (Cocoro Marylebone, Tonkoksu East) to mediocre (Ittenbari, Nagomi) to nearly there (Bone Daddies).. Nothing has quite yet hit the spot. The relatively new Cocoro in Bloomsbury (sister restaurant to Cocoro Marylebone) focuses on Ramen and curry rice at weekends, with a wider menu during the week. It was the nearest I’ve had to ‘real’ Japanese ramen in London to date, with a talented chef who has allegedly come over from Takumi in Dusseldorf, renowned by aficionados to be one of the best ‘serious’ ramen restaurants in Europe.
The Tonkotsu ramen (£10.80) was available in regular, light or kotteri (thick/rich) formats. I opted for the regular. The bowl appeared in a few minutes and had all the hallmarks of a quality bowl:
- Piping hot broth : Many restaurants fall down at the crucial first hurdle and serve lukewarm soup which brings down the satisfaction levels a few notches.
- Noodle texture : Perfectly cooked springy noodles - firm but not al-dente. Super satisfying .
- Oil : The soup was insulated by an oil slick of Exxon Valdez proportions. No-one can claim that ramen is a health food, but the wonderful garlic flavoured oil coats the noodles as you slurp, giving you unparalleled comfort and satisfaction. This is why it tastes so damned good!
- Depth of soup : a complex rich, porky broth was a cut above many competitors. Some serious care and attention has obviously gone into its preparation.
- Well made toppings including a ‘hanjuku’ boiled egg (glistening, gelatinous yolk) and lovely soft slices on char-shu belly pork along with nori, kikurage (wood ear fungus) and sweetcorn.
My wife had the miso ramen which was also pork based but had less of an oil slick and a full bodied, almost tangy taste from the fermented miso. There was also an Ume-shio which looked interesting too. (Japanese plum/salt ramen)
We were there about 4pm on a Sunday afternoon and the place was dead, which was a shame. It’s a purist, no frills kind of a place with very plain décor and clearly lacks the buzz of somewhere like Koya or Bone Daddies which seems more engineered to suit the London market. Hopefully the food alone is good enough to attract customers.
All in all, Cocoro (Bloomsbury, not Marylebone) can certainly put up a good fight against some of the higher ranking places in Japan, and it is without doubt a cut above many of its peers in London. Will be interesting to see how it compares with the daddy of them all – Ippudo, which is set to land on our shores imminently.