By Katy Salter
Bone Daddies ramen bar is hidden down one of Soho’s seedier streets. The atmosphere is buzzy – rock music pumping from the stereo and a young crowd filling up on noodles before a night out. Perch on a stool at one of the high counters that wrap around the room, and order a warming bowl of ramen, Japanese noodles simmered in a rich chicken or pork bone broth. The tonkotsu ramen broth is simmered for 20 hours and comes with slices of soft pork, spring onions and a soft-boiled egg.
Bone Daddies, 31 Peter Street, London W1F 0AR. Enq: 020 7287 8581, bonedaddiesramen.com
Bar Shu is a Sichuan restaurant on the fringes of Chinatown. It's not a noodle bar exactly - the menu is full of fiery, tongue-tickling specialities from the province, including a dish of fragrant chicken which is smothered by chillies - but it's the place to go if you want to try London's best Dan Dan noodles. Traditionally, this Chinese noodle dish was sold on the streets of Chengdu, Sichuan’s capital, by vendors who would balance a shoulder pole carrying baskets of noodles and sauce. At Bar Shu the small but filling bowl of mahogany broth and noodles contains pak choi and is scattered with golden, crunchy garlic.
Bar Shu, 28 Frith Street, London W1D 5LF. Enq: 020 7287 8822; bar-shu.co.uk
The stretch of Kingsland Road that runs from Shoreditch towards Dalston is nicknamed ‘Pho Mile’ because of its abundance of Vietnamese restaurants. If you’re craving a bowl of Vietnam’s famous pho noodles, head to Song Que at the northern end of the ‘Mile’. This no-frills canteen is always heaving – the paper-cloth covered tables are jammed together, there’s invariably a queue and the waiters can be brusque. But it’s all worth it for the beef pho. There are around 24 varieties of this rice noodle dish on the menu – try it with slivers of rare steak. The meaty soup is enlivened with star anise and comes with a big plate of fresh herbs, chillies, bean sprouts and lime.
Song Que, 134 Kingsland Road, London E2 8DY. Enq: 020 7613 3222, www.songque.co.uk
Like Bone Daddies, Tonkotsu is a new noodle bar which specialises in ramen. The small kitchen is in the window, so you can watch the chefs stirring the cauldrons of broth as you wait for a table. Once seated, you’ll find service is quick because, like ramen joints in Japan, there’s a small menu. Try the Soho ramen, an intensely savoury pork and chicken broth topped with smoked haddock, pak choi and half a seasoned, soft-boiled egg. Addictive.
Tonkotsu, 63 Dean Street, London W1D 4QG. Enq: 020 7437 0071, www.tonkotsu.co.uk
Koya’s udon noodles have had a cult following since this Japanese restaurant opened a few years ago. In fact, it’s so popular the owners have just bought the restaurant space next door. Once you’ve navigated the queue, duck through the blue curtain at the entrance into the minimalist room (plain walls, communal wooden tables) and choose from a menu of hot or cold noodles dishes. Koya’s toothsome udon noodles are famously ‘foot-made’ – the dough is kneaded, hygienically, with the feet. If it’s your first visit, try the Kinoko atsu-atsu – a vegan noodle dish made with mushrooms and a miso paste and walnut puree, which you stir into the hot soup.
Koya, 49 Frith Street, London W1D 4SG. Enq: 020 7434 4463, www.koya.co.uk