When the original Soho based, Peter street, Bone Daddies opened in 2013, it was during the great ramen rush that was the Summer’s craze. London had just discovered ramen and everybody wanted some. Along with Koya and Shoryu, Bone Daddies was on every food blogger’s latest post, ramen enthusiasts’ hit list and you can bet that noodle porn splashed across Instagram in a big way.
At £7-12 a bowl, Ramen was affordable. It was filling. People loved it. And each of these three ramen big boys had a different vibe; Shoryu was friendly, Koya was authentic, and Bone Daddies? Bone Daddies was rock and roll.
That was their voice; loud music, poor lighting, enclosed space; rustic, worn, delicious.
And they were popular. Their walk-in only policy meant that there were often queues fully formed and lining the pavements any time after 6pm- not unlike Bao nowadays.
And so, what happened? The popularity of the brand led to the launch of Shackafuyu and Flesh & Buns; two sisters each focusing on Asian cuisine but with a twist, branching off ramen but staying in the area. Again, two successful creations from Ross Shonhan who, it will come to you as no surprise, worked at Nobu and Zuma before launching his own Bone Daddies brand.
And it is a brand; their second opening of Bone Daddies in 2014 took the space above Wholefoods in High Street Kensington. The perfect money maker with the rich and uber-rich living near by and thinking nothing of ordering take out from a quality restaurant five times a week.
And so two years on, it’s the third Bone Daddies to open, and this time the location is Old Street. Just off the magic roundabout and behind the famed Shoreditch Grind, the site is ultra modern and all glass windows and high stools and open space. And maybe that’s where it starts to go wrong.
The lighting and new fixtures are sparkling, every wall is seemingly made of glass; it’s the perfect place for local businessmen to grab a quick lunch or hold a semi-formal business meeting. But it’s a far cry from the authenticity of what ramen should be; crowded, bumping elbows with strangers, filling up on a rich, steaming bowl of ramen for £3 and then drinking the thin and meaty stock.
The menu is somewhat pretentious in that it offers no explanations anywhere as to what the items are. The names are all Japanese- as they should be- but to have a name and nothing else is inconsiderate to your staff and your diners. Whilst dining I hear two other guests on different occasions having to ask a passing waiter what an item is. I, myself, resort to a quick Google.
There’s their usual selection of starters as well as a large choice of Kushikatsu- that is to say, various fillings breaded and deep fried on a stick. My partner and I order three; Salmon & asparagus, chilli chicken & spring onion, and Iberico & roasted onion. The winner is without a doubt the Iberico which is delicious, but the salmon & asparagus is left half eaten. It’s seems strange to cook and deep fry a soft fish- there’s no chew, just the crunch of batter and then softness.
Afterwards, I opt for the Crispy Duck Aburamen which is a new offering. It’s a dry ramen that has been fried, but the first half is too dry. Only when you get to the dregs at the bottom is their enough moisture for it to be delicious, if not incredibly greasy. The pickled padrons which accompany the dish are sweet and spicy and delightful.
My partner chooses the traditional Cha siu Tonkotsu. It’s made with 24 hour broth which was the original Bone Daddies’ claim to fame, yet here? It’s disappointing. The noodles are a great firm yet bouncy texture, the egg yolk molten… but the broth is heavy. Overly creamy and slick with oil. It separates before the first spoonful is taken. It’s certainly not the stock I remember from Bone Daddies one all those years ago.
Dessert options are limited. Like Shackafuyu, there is only one item on the menu, although here you are given flavour options: Ice cream mochi.
We choose three to sample; mango, salted caramel, and hazelnut.
They vary in quality. The salted caramel is icy and hard and awful, the hazelnut creamy, the mango delicious. The concept however is a novel one and I’m still deciding as to whether there’s a place for ice cream wrapped in a glutinous ball.
As we visited during the soft launch (which it no doubt needed because service was a mess), our bill came with 50% off. It’s fortunate because at full price this would have come in at over £40 and there are better and tastier options available to you in central London.
*Cough Flat Iron. Cough*