Shoryu Ramen Soho

Ramen noodles are all the rage at the moment. In the last year or so London has seen the opening of such ramen houses (or ‘ramenya’ as the Japanese like to call them) as Bone Daddies and Tonkotsu. I can’t work out whether these openings have either fuelled the ramen craze or were in response to the craze, but competition can only mean standards remain high and that translates to good news for the diner. Another addition is Shoryu Ramen which is owned by the same people as those who own the Japan Centre on Regent Street. Now these people know a thing about Japanese food, and the success of the first branch of Shoryu Ramen on Regent Street has led to the recent opening of their second branch, Shoryu Ramen Soho.

It’s a no reservation restaurant but there were no queues when we popped along on a Monday night. It’s a lovely little space, modern and comfortable with nice thoughtful touches such as the wicker baskets placed under each of the tables for ladies handbags. And in addition to the condiments on top of the tables, there’s also a basket brimming with fresh garlic and some garlic crushers should you choose to enhance the flavour of your tonkotsu broth.

Garlic to flavour your broth

Garlic to flavour your broth

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John Salt

Note: Chef Neil Rankin has now left John Salt.

Ben Spalding cooked some amazing food when he was at Roganic. But a year or so into his tenancy he parted ways and headed to the kitchen of John Salt. I would have loved to try the creations Spalding came up with during his time at John Salt since his cooking was sublime. But this was not to be, as he didn’t stay on for very long. Hard to say what happened, but he seemingly did not part on good terms. Anyway it matters not because new Chef Neil Rankin has come into the kitchen with all guns blazing to create an electrifying menu with a Korean twist. Chef Rankin use to be the head chef at Pitt & Cue, receiving rave reviews in the process. I never got to try his cooking at Pitt & Cue on account of being deterred by the queues, so I was really looking forward to this experience.

John Salt has a punchy vibe to it. The restaurant use to be a bar, and the long bar area on the ground floor remains with some tables dotted around. Upstairs on the mezzanine level there is a quieter dining area. The restaurant has an industrial feel to it and the space suits the boldness of the menu.

We started with a cod with foie gras sauce and blood orange (£7) that was beautifully cooked. The sauce was wonderfully rich and smooth, even if it was a little salty. The blood orange added an interesting citric twist to the dish and worked really well in binding all the elements of the dish into something harmonious.

Cod, foie gras sauce, blood orange

Cod, foie gras sauce, blood orange

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Caravan King’s Cross

The shabby area behind King’s Cross use to house the late night clubbing set. But in recent times this has been regenerated into something unrecognisable. Gone is the dinginess, and in its place is a rejuvenated Granary Square laden with fountains and a reinvigorated Granary Building. A Grade II listed structure; the Granary Building plays home to the Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design as well as Caravan King’s Cross, the second branch of the Caravan restaurants (the original being on Exmouth Market).

The interior of Caravan King’s Cross is as gorgeous as the luminous façade of the Granary Building. It smacks of industrial warehouse glam and is modern and striking. The airy ceiling space gives it a heightened sense of chic, and the restaurant does well to create the promise of an edgy New York dining experience. It’s the kind of place that immediately draws you in as you walk through the door. But where the restaurant comes up trumps in terms of design, it conversely falls short on the food. The menu possessed hints of creativity but unfortunately the cooking was left somewhat wanting.

A starter of mackerel fillets (£6.50) was nicely cooked and moist, albeit a little salty. It came with a creative combination of seaweed, cucumber, sesame and a moromi miso dressing, but it too, was over seasoned. Shame really as this could have been a rather nice dish.

Mackerel fillet

Mackerel fillet

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Bone Daddies

Oriental noodle dishes are all about the broth. There’s no doubt that noodles are an important facet, but the flavour comes from the broth, and chef-proprietor Ross Shonhan champions this fact with his noodle house Bone Daddies where he serves up noodles in bone-cooked broth as is typical oriental tradition. Shonhan has spent some time at both Nobu and Zuma so Japanese-inspired flavours are old hat for him.

From the starters, a soft-shell crab (£8) was meaty, nicely cooked and very tasty. The spiciness in an accompaniment of chilli and ginger sauce was great, and it added a sparkle to the shellfish. The batter wasn’t thin in a tempura-kind of way, but it really worked with the crab.

Soft-shell crab

Soft-shell crab

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Brasserie Zédel

The latest addition to Jeremy King and Chris Corbin’s ever-growing restaurant empire is Brasserie Zédel, their third restaurant after The Wolesley and The Delaunay. Like its older siblings, Brassiere Zédel has been decorated in the style of a grand Parisian café with high ceilings and lots of marble. Millions was obviously pumped into its design.

Brasserie Zédel occupies the space that was previously The Atlantic, right in the heart of Piccadilly Circus. With its Central London location, what is most surprising about Brasserie Zédel is its prices, which are exceptionally reasonable. The restaurant is housed in the basement, right next to the Bar Américain. There is also a café at the entrance to the restaurant on the ground floor.

Parfait de foie gras (£8.75) tasted predominantly of chicken liver. It was tasty if a little salty. The accompanying sauterne jelly was bland, and consequently this dish lacked for some acidity. Saumon mariné à l’aneth (£6.50), cured salmon with chives, was decent.

Parfait de foie gras

Parfait de foie gras

Salmon

Salmon

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Bill’s Produce Store – St Martin’s Courtyard, Covent Garden

Bill’s Produce Store and Restaurant in Covent Garden has a lovely spot overlooking the chic St Martin’s Courtyard which houses a string of shops and restaurants such as Dalla Terra. Bill’s is a darling restaurant full of charm and warmth, but on a sunny day, a table outside overlooking the courtyard is particularly pleasant.

Bill’s might be a restaurant, but serves a dual function as a produce store with a range of products available for sale lining their shelves. There is something wonderfully endearing about this restaurant, and best of all, the prices are low, with most mains hovering around the ten-pound mark.

We shared three starters including a hot smoked Scottish salmon (£5.65) that was beautiful, fleshy and full of flavour. The accompanying peach salad with red chicory and pomegranate, honey and mustard dressing worked well with the fish and was a successful combination.

Hot smoked salmon

Hot smoked salmon

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Choccywoccydoodah

Choccywoccydoodah cake

Choccywoccydoodah cake

Choccywoccydoodah specialises in a highly stylised bespoke cake service, offering cakes that are hand-sculptured from chocolate. The cakes resemble high art, and a visit to the shop on Fouberts Place near Carnaby Street (there is also a store in Brighton) is well worth it to ogle at the skill of the craftsmanship. Hard to believe that these are cakes, and that the icing designs are sculpted from chocolate.

Choccywoccydoodah cake

Choccywoccydoodah cake

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Burger and Lobster

Lobster

Lobster

The concept at Burger and Lobster is really simple. Serve a limited range of dishes which ensures freshness and speedy delivery. Overheads can be kept lower due to less wastage and purchasing economies of scale. These savings can then be passed onto the customer in the way of very affordable meals. This in turn draws in the crowds who know that they are getting a good deal. Add on a no reservations policy so the crowds will have to order drinks at the bar while they wait for a table. Genius! I just wish I had thought of it.

Brilliant business model aside, Burger and Lobster really does offer up a good thing. The owners are the people from the popular steakhouse Goodman, and as you can tell by the name it only serves burgers and lobsters, all of which are priced at £20. There is no menu and the lobster comes as either a lobster roll or a whole lobster, steamed or grilled, and with a choice of two sauces. And if you are particularly hungry, an extra £10 affords you a 2 kilo lobster rather than the standard 1.5 kilo option. All meals come with salads and fries.

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