What’s not to like about noodles in soup, especially when little pieces of deliciousness bob happily around in the swim, giving delightful pops of spice, texture and flavour to what is essentially the ultimate in comfort food.
No wonder ramen has become so popular of late with restaurants specialising in this Japanese dish popping up at an alarming rate all over London. United Ramen, or UR as it’s more succinctly known, is one such establishment, having opened just a few months prior to our visit. But what sets it apart from the other young upstarts is its unique take on ramen – taking, as it does, the traditional base, but then adding inspiration from Korea, China, India, Britain and the United States. As UR readily admits, it’s the ultimate mash up, and it makes for a fun and vibrant menu that is totally devoid of pretension, very similar to the restaurant itself in fact, which we decided to visit one wintry Sunday afternoon.
Having enjoyed a lengthy stroll along the river we arrived at UR with our cheeks rosy and our appetites well and truly intact. Indeed, my children, Kit and Natasha, were by now complaining about their rumbly tummies. The restaurant’s interior is bright and colourful, with an almost cartoonish like feel that immediately appealed to my children’s aesthetic and felt very indicative of UR’s Japanese roots. We were cordially greeted and shown to a table beside the window where we had a clear view of the bustling kitchen and the huge steaming bowls being served.
My children’s initial excitement was cranked up several notches upon spying bubble tea on the menu – something they’ve been eager to try since hearing about its merits from various friends. Our waitress, a lovely Japanese lady, was more than happy to elaborate and advise on the assorted permutations of this popular Asian beverage whose unique selling point is chewy tapioca balls that you suck up through a chunky straw.
Unsurprisingly Kit and Natasha hurriedly jumped in with their drinks order, while my husband and I opted for the more conventional and more adult tipple of beer! Suffice to say when the teas arrived the children were besides themselves, slurping up the black gummy bear-textured balls with evident gusto. Us adults, however, attempted to show a little more restraint with our drinks. Well, one can but try!
Our food order in, we didn’t have to wait long, thankfully, for our starters to arrive – Asian BBQ Spare Ribs (sprinkled with sesame seeds in a piquant sauce and meltingly tender) and Handmade Pork Gyoza (gelatinous half moons of piggy gorgeousness).
Then it was time for the main event. A drum roll would not have been out of place as the bowls were placed on the table and we peered over the rim to see what wonders they contained. Inside Natasha’s and mine was the UR equivalent of a roast beef dinner, appropriately called British Bulldog Ramen, complete with thick slices of rare sirloin and mini Yorkshire puddings. It might sound incongruous, but by Jove, it worked! Meanwhile, Kit had veered towards Korea with the Spicy Salmon & Kimchi Ramen (“Just try it Mum, it’s fantastic.”) while my husband had gone all Stateside on us by opting for a Yankee Doodle Ramen Noodle (BBQ pulled chicken, spinach, sweetcorn and bacon, and declared a definite winner).
Finishing our bowls was no mean feat, but being a family of gluttons, we just about managed. At this juncture we should have called it quits, but when the waitress suggested we try the Trio of Mochi for dessert, we couldn’t resist. These sweet dumplings filled with chocolate ganache and mango & chilli and raspberry ice cream slid down shockingly easily and were the perfect end to a perfect lunch. After which we decided to walk back home along the river in what can only be described as damage limitation exercise.
For reservations and enquiries call 020 7183 3433 or visit www.unitedramen.com