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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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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La Bodega Negra

La Bodega Negra is the London outpost of NYC’s La Esquina, a swanky Mexican café-taqueria from New York nightlife design maestro Serge Becker. Utilise a sex shop as a frontage for a restaurant, give it the pretense of a speakeasy den, and you have the trappings of the latest ‘IT’ venue.

The restaurant can be accessed from Old Compton Street. There’s not a sign in sight to guide your way other than the big number 9 on top of the entrance, so as you enter through the sex shop doors there is an air of the seductive unknown about it. The fashionable dressed maître’d reassuringly lets you know that you’re in the right place, after which you check your coat and then make your way downstairs to the den of exoticism. La Bodega Negra is an upstairs downstairs job, with a ground floor café around the corner on Moor Street.

Cocktails were tasty, but there were many minus points. A supposedly frozen margarita (£8.50) had completely defrosted by the time it reached us, and a passion fruit margarita came out in the tiniest glass imaginable and with so much ice it smacked off being a rip off.

The tostadas in a serving of sesame tostadas with guacamole (£5.50) were very crunchy and really well done. The guacamole yielded a creamy, smooth texture, but had been blended to dilute the flavour of the avocado. The portion was disappointingly tiny.

Sesame tostadas with guacamole

Sesame tostadas with guacamole

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Cinnamon Soho – Sunday Lunch

Cinnamon Soho is the latest restaurant from chef Vivek Singh, the man behind the much-loved one star Michelin restaurant Cinnamon Club and its sister Cinnamon Kitchen. In contrast to the chic elegance of Cinnamon Club which caters more to politician types from its location in The Great Westminster Library, Cinnamon Soho exudes a more urban feel to it from its home in the trendy Carnaby Street area.

Cinnamon Soho has a good value Sunday brunch/lunch menu where £25 will get you a three-course menu with a side dish. The evening a la carte prices also seemed reasonable with starters at about the £6 mark and mains ranging in price from £11 to £17.

We kicked of our lunch nicely with a sweet lassi smoothie (£4) which was wonderful – icy cold, creamy and not too sweet, this was one of the nicest lassis I have ever tried.

Stir-fried shrimp with curry leaf and black pepper was exceptional with the prawns being well cooked, firm and juicy. The spices used included cardamom, fennel, turmeric and cumin, and the way in which they had been combined was incredibly well done to not only give the dish heat but also elegance.

Stir fried shrimp

Stir fried shrimp

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The Wright Brothers – Soho Oyster House

As its name suggests, The Wright Brothers Soho Oyster House is a seafood restaurant with a predominant emphasis on oysters. Located on Kingly Street in the Carnaby area, it is well located for the shopping pleasures of the independent boutiques and designer brand shops of this famous area. Carnaby also plays home to a string of other tasty restaurants such as Dehesa and Cinnamon Soho, and the boutique cake shop Choccywoccydoodah.

Wrights Brothers Soho Oyster House is arranged over three floors with a lovely inviting atmosphere. There is an open plan ‘raw bar’ on the ground floor that looks over Kingly Court, banquette seating upstairs and a communal dining area on the lower ground floor.

There is a decent range of oysters at The Wright Brothers, all of which are sourced from the Duchy Oyster Farm on the Helford River in Cornwall and other farms in the British Isles and France. Colchester oysters (3 for £6.50) were fat and intensely irony. In contrast, the Lindisfarne oysters from Northumberland (3 for £6) were milky and creamy. Wrights Brothers also offer a choice of oysters with toppings, one of which was caviar and crème fraiche (3 for £12). Using the Carlingford oysters from County Louth, Ireland, the combination of the topping with the creaminess of the Carlingfords proved a good match. All the oysters were delicious.

Oysters & prawns

Oysters & prawns

Oysters & caviar

Oysters & caviar

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Ceviche

Peruvian food was a barely known cuisine in London until a few months ago. All that seemed to change when half-British, half-Peruvian Martin Morales opened Ceviche back in March, a Peruvian restaurant and pisco bar on Frith Street in the heart of Soho. The restaurant is named after the famous Peruvian dish (ceviche) of raw seafood marinated in lime. Since its arrival, Ceviche has created the kind of hype that seems to suggest Peruvian food is the latest craze in old London town. In the months ahead, Morales plans to open two more Peruvian restaurants, and with that, Peruvian food seems here to stay. About time I say. Craze or no craze, as far as international cities go, London is behind the times. New Yorkers have long embraced Peruvian (fusion) food and their association with it goes way back, even before I was living in NYC more than 10 years ago.

The food at Ceviche isn’t just about ceviche. The menu is split into lots of different sections with nibbles, grills, salads and classic favourites (but sadly no guinea pig). From the nibbles, we tried the deep-fried tequeños fritters (£3.75) filled with a delicious mix of chicken and chilli. I adored the accompanying ají amarillo chilli dipping sauce which was moderately spicy and moderately sweet. However the fritter effect would have worked better had the wrapping been a little less soggy. A little bit crispier and the tequeños would have been spot-on.

Tequeños

Tequeños

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Quo Vadis – Visit # 2

Quo Vadis is something of an institution on the London restaurant scene. It first opened its doors in 1926 and has seen Marco Pierre White amongst its owners. It now belongs to the well-known restaurateur brothers, Sam and Eddie Hart, who also own Fino and Barrafina. Much noise was made about the glam factor and kudos that the brothers brought to the restaurant when they purchased and refurbished it in 2008. Now, noise is again being made about the arrival of Chef Jeremy Lee who was previously at the Blueprint Café and was responsible for its well-received cooking for the best part of 16 years.

The glam factor has not dissipated since Lee’s arrival and the décor still has that same classy, elegant feel to it. But the menu seems less fussy than the food that I ate during my previous visit (for that post, click here). It makes for a scrumptious read and offers good variety, with a pie and braise of the day, small bites and sandwiches, grills and a range of à la carte options. The theatre menu, which is available all day, has been designed to beat any recessionary blues with two courses at £17.50 and three courses for £20.

To kick start my meal, I couldn’t pass up the chance to try a gull’s egg. These eggs are available only during the spring and have an incredibly short season of about 3 weeks. The egg had been perfectly cooked and was runny to accentuate the richness of its lovely yolk. The accompanying celeriac salt worked well with the egg.

Gull's egg

Gull's egg

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Mele e Pere

Mele e Pere, the recently opened Italian trattoria on Brewer Street, means “apples and pears”, which goes a long way in explaining the fanciful collection of glass apples and pears in the restaurant’s eye-catching front window. But the window is slightly deceptive as to reach the restaurant one must head downstairs to the basement. Despite this, Mele e Pere has made good use of the basement space as the dining room feels reasonably spacious. It is quirkily decorated, and the lovely contrasting tiles and wooden floors have given the trattoria a relaxed modern feel.

I booked Mele e Pere on a TopTable offer of three courses and a glass of wine dinner special for only £17.50. I usually have some reservations about most TopTable dining offers, after all you get what you pay for. But the man fronting Mele e Pere is Andrea Mantovani, who was previously the head chef at Arbutus, the one-Michelin starred restaurant on Frith Street. His pedigree helped to deal away any hesitation I might have had.

A generous starter of green bean salad with a cottage cheese dressing was delightful. The dressing was rich and creamy and oozed with garlic-y goodness. The beans were well cooked with a bite to them, and the use of crunchy croutons and nutty parmesan shavings added flavour and lots of lovely textural contrasts.

Green bean salad

Green bean salad

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