Ask most people in London what their favourite ramen haunt is and nine times out of ten their answer will be “Bone Daddies”. The name comes from the rich bone stock that forms the base of this noodle bowl, and the brains behind it is the impressive Ross Shonhan (ex-Zuma and Nobu). The ramen bar has now landed, unsurprisingly, in Victoria’s brand-spanking new Nova Complex and offers more than just their signature ramen – particularly lucky for my companion whom I’d dragged here during, yep, you guessed it, their soft launch despite her dislike of the dish!
Although Nova feels like somewhat of a Canary Wharf next to a railway station, the site has transformed Victoria into more than just a thoroughfare for an onwards commute. Timmy Green, which makes the best sweetcorn fritters in London (see here), deserves a mention, as do the classy breakfasts at The Rail House (see here) and the best pastries outside Denmark at Ole & Steen. Just FYI, their Cinnamon Social Slice is a must, as well a general wander past the counter where generous samples are ALWAYS on offer.
Back to Bone Daddies, although a chain, what I like about their restaurants is that each one delivers a distinctly different ambience. Whilst their Soho branch is, I hear, somewhat “rock’n’roll”, the St. Christopher’s Place site – which I’ve written about for Just Opened London (see here) – is a welcome haven post shopping on Oxford Street and has an extraordinary range of vege food. What is unique to their Victoria branch are the maki rolls (which the diners next to us ordered and looked amazingly dressed in a yuzu mayo, competing with nearby Sticks’n’Sushi’s versions – see here) and curry katsu dishes. Pleasingly, Victoria also serve a good range of sake (including sparkling sake available by the bottle) and cocktails – their signature Yuzu Margarita is a must.
Suitable for the Nova complex, Bone Daddies’ décor felt wall-to-wall hip and young; it feels very much like a Tokyo ramen bar. Although the seating was pretty snug and communal – on benches and stools – after a 20 minute queue in the January cold, we were just relieved to be inside and warm.
Whilst, as explained, Bone Daddies is primarily a noodlemesiter, none of us actually ordered ramen but instead fell for their refreshing poke bowls, with sides of sea salt Edamame (£4) and Padron peppers (£6) to share.
My Fresh Tofu Poke (£9.40) was accompanied by an array of beautifully cut vegetables: cherry tomatoes, tenderstem broccoli, edamame beans, pickled cucumbers, roasted corn cernels, pickled carrot, as well as sushi rice and crispy ramen noodles. On top of this all was guacamole, tomato jalapenso salsa, nori and sesame. There was a lot going on and boy, was it filling. All of us struggled to finished our bowls, though I couldn’t resist leaving any flavour or texture.
It was punchy, had plenty of energy and although I hate the use of this diametric word to describe food, it felt very “clean”. After a good drizzle of the soya sauce at the table, left alongside an accroutement of condiments for diners to play with – including garlic with the appropriate crusher, a fiery chilli sauce and a sesame grinder – it was full of flavour.
The poke bowl also made me appreciate how the Japanese culture of tidiness and organisation is reflected in its food. Organised like clockwork orange, with each food compartmentalised around the bowl, it looked like it had been handcut and crafted by an artisan. May be a work of Marie Kondo?
Though busy, service was pretty quick and appropriately informal. It would be a great place for a quick dinner en route home post-work when you can’t be bothered to cook, aren’t fussed about finding more of an independent/intimate restaurant, and are looking for food full of flavour.
Bone Daddies makes Japanese food – and all its forms – accessible. We can finally set aside Wagamama, where they write your order on placemats, so that they don’t have to remember; where you are forced to sit on long benches next to strangers as if at a modern-day canteen/boarding school; where they explain that “The food will come at different times, because it cooks at different speeds.” I know that food cooks at different speeds, many restaurants have devised ingenious strategies for dealing with this. Welcome to Nova, Bone Daddies!
Bone Daddies, 9 Sir Milton Square, SW1E 5DJ