Before the onslaught of Ramen bars in London, there was Shoryu, which first launched in 2012 from the team behind the Japan Centre. In case you are unaware of the cultural significance, there are specific noodle bars in Japan that specialise in particular noodles, particular soup bases and ingredients and they spend years honing their skills. The version at Shoryu is Hakata tonkotsu ramen, which uses fine, thin ramen noodles in a rich, thick, white pork soup base.
If you’ve been to any other branches of Shoryu, you might be in for a surprise when visiting the Covent Garden branch. Unlike their other branches, this noodle bar is bright, airy and certainly has a sense of humour judging by their wall displays. More importantly, it is very well air-conditioned, so you don’t have to worry about eating a hot bowl of noodle soup even in the height of summer.
In case you didn’t quite get the importance of how they prepare their intricate ramen dishes, they have a giant wall mural to emphasis the points. It carefully lists the components in putting together their classic bowl of Japanese delights.
Before the main act, there is the small point of their starters/side dishes. Their shoryu buns preceded the recent popularity of baos in London: my ideal pillow would be something along the lines of these fluffy buns. They could frankly put any ingredients in them and I would readily devour it, but it does help having tender, perfectly marbled, grilled wagyu beef inside with shiso, daikon and shimeji mushrooms. I don’t know if they’ve been working on a new recipe, but the buns are even fluffier than when I tried them back in 2016.
Their Hakata Tetsunabe gyoza are served sizzling hot because they come out in a cast-iron skillet, the only place to offer this in London. Although I would say they were slighty on the oily side.
For the main course, I tried their Hakata Shihou Tonkotsu which is exclusive to the Covent Garden branch. Immediately as soon as it arrives, you can see the creamy foaminess of the ramen soup. The pork soup is indeed a labour of love, this rich, creamy concoction takes over 12 hours to make. Whilst the noodles have just the right amount of bounce and chew; the staff actually ask how hard you would like your noodles before they start cooking them. The recommendation is generally hard, much like the fact that spaghetti should be al dente. With Burford Brown eggs, which has a gooey, orange yolk and utterly divine pork which has been simmered for 4 hours in sake, mirin, soy and sugar, it is hard not to develop an addiction to their ramen.
They have also been developing their range of offerings to include tempura, sashimi, yuzu cheesecakes and cocktails, so you can only see Shoryu developing from strength to strength.