Ramen: it’s like soup on steroids. Bone Daddies, of course, is a well-established front-runner; its steaming bowls of noodly pork broth are a cornerstone of the unstoppable Asian street food trend. After opening branches in Soho and High Street Ken, and sister restaurants Flesh & Buns in Covent Garden and Shackfuyu in Soho, the BD crew has gone South and opened…a Saturday-only ramen bar in a storage unit. In Bermondsey.
Hmm. Hardly a locale fitting of Bone Daddies’ grungy but glamorous rock ‘n roll aesthetic. “We can’t be in the right place,” said Mike, repeatedly, as CityMapper led us around the back of SafeStore’s Bermondsey branch. Fortunately, management has left a trail of sandwich boards, Hansel and Gretel-like, to reassure dubious punters that they’re on the right track.
All was forgiven though, because the first thing we saw was an alcoholic slushie machine. The place was already doing a brisk trade considering it had only been open 20 minutes, and diners in comedy plastic bibs were sitting at high, industrial-style tables, cheerfully slurping down their lunch.
Captivated by the slushie machine’s mesmerising beauty, I started with a frozen yuzu margharita while we perused the menu, which is about half the length of the full-time restaurants. Frozen alcoholic drinks are my favourite, even in February, and these ones are so tangy and sour you don’t realise how much booze you’ve inadvertently sucked down until, whoops, it’s your third one and you almost fall over on the way to the lavs. Mike was feeling a bit delicate so stuck with Coke, but there’s a nice selection of sake and Japanese beer too if that tickles your pickle (or, indeed, pickles your pickle).
(Speaking of pickle, that little jar of garlic on the table there is for you and your dinner companions. I went to town on that sucker. Kissing is overrated anyway.)
Starters came out swiftly – God, I love short menus – and we were soon tucking in to Korean Fried Chicken Wings (£5.90) and Sweet Spicy Pig Bones (£8.00), which is apparently a sexy, rock ‘n roll way of saying ribs. That said, these bones by any other name would still taste as sweet: tender and meaty, with a thick, satisfying crust flecked with sesame seeds.
Alas, the wings, which came slathered in a thick, cloying sauce of suspiciously unnatural hue, didn’t quite hit the spot. They were just too much: too sugary, too artificial, and too soggy. And too messy – those bibs aren’t just for show. I pictured them being served up on space stations once Planet Earth has been totally devastated by mankind, their luminous orange glow doubling as emergency lighting in power outages.
And then the ramen arrived. I am a slag for soup, so I was very excited.
Though actually, comparing Bone Daddies’ ramen to soup is actually doing it an injustice of such a scale that, one day, Channel 4 will probably be inspired to make a documentary about it. Tonkotsu broth – piggy essence extracted from 20 hours of vigorous bone boiling – forms the base of most of Bone Daddies’ dishes, though mine was supplemented with fish broth, sesame oil and brilliant green little scrunchlets of crispy kale. The result tasted like an especially luxurious lobster bisque, glossy and umami-laden. I trawled the depths of my bowl to dredge up its sunken treasures: a soft shell crab, washed up on a thick bed of broth-logged noodles, and slices of succulent pork neck.
Mike’s Spicy Miso Ramen (£11.00) with pork neck, chicken broth and padron peppers had a bit of a kick from the generous slick of chili oil – pro tip: stir that shit up before taking your first spoonful, lest you spend the next three weeks without nose hair – and came with a gooey-bellied soft-boiled egg.
Neither of us could finish. Embarrassing, as Mike is the kind of man who orders two steaks at Flat Iron because “they’re only a tenner and I’m quite hungry”. The problem is everything is incredibly heavy, so this is not the place to go if you’re just feeling peckish. You need to be FUCKING STARVING. It’d be perfect, for example, if you’d just worked up a monster appetite at nearby rock-climbing wall The Arch, but it’s not for a light lunch.
That said, we couldn’t resist a couple of little Japanese mochi from Little Moons Bakery, tiny flavoured orbs of pounded rice flour filled with gobs of gelato. I have no idea how to eat these without freezing my molars off but the hazelnut one was like a creamy, frozen Ferrero Roche. The salted caramel – I really enjoy how much it looks like a mini chicken Kiev – is rich in flavour but light in texture. Perfect for rounding off a big meal (unless, of course, you’re so full it pushes you over the edge and literally causes you to explode violently all over the premises. Which NEARLY happened to us, but didn’t. Phew.)
Bone Daddies, 24 Old Jamaica Rd, London, SE16 4AW
Saturdays, 12pm-10pm only
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.