You’d be forgiven for missing Bone Daddies as you turn off Brewer Street, as I almost did even with Google Maps in my hand; casting light on my perturbed expression which effectively doubled as a projection of “TOURIST” right across my forehead.
Its incongruous presence entirely at odds with Soho’s ultra-sensory barrage – the all black exterior and hairdressers’ typeface offer no clues to what awaits inside, and if you tried to be clever and use your powers of observation to look through the window at what was going on inside, you’d still not get the whole picture. Serves you right for trying to be clever.
You’d deduce that it’s a ramen bar from the telltale signs – big mismatched bowls, communal seating, trendy young beautiful people, and those big spoons which evoke memories of your wacky mate at sixth form, drinking out of unconventional apparatus at house parties (“A pyrex jug! I’m mad, me“) – but the moment you step inside and get punched in the ear by Black Sabbath’s War Pigs, you realise you’re a long way from Little Tokyo.
Bone Daddies is a Rock & Roll Ramen bar, and with all of the adrenaline and OTT stylisation I’d be tempted to describe it as a Tarantino-esque restaurant; except it’s so cartoonish it makes Kill Bill look like Rashomon. It’s a lot of fun, and serves almost as a caveat to the dining experience; if you’re not into this, then you won’t enjoy what’s about to happen in your mouth.
The one modest thing we ate was Tenderstem Broccoli (£4.5) steamed and served naked, with a Yuzu Kosho Mayo on the side for dipping. The waiter informed us that Yuzu is a Japanese citrus, and along with some other unidentifiable flavours gave the dipping sauce a unique flavour. Making light work of the broccoli, I dipped the stalks in floret-first to try and collect as much sauce as possible – daubing our table in the process, like Bob Ross painting a masterpiece in mayonnaise.
Seeing the mess I made of the broccoli, I decided to take up Bone Daddies on their generous offer of a plastic bib, provided on each table. My reason for doing this was two-fold:
1. I’m a grown-ass man, and I don’t care who sees me wearing a plastic bib in a restaurant, and
2. I’m a grown-ass man, and I don’t want to be walking around with Yuzu mayo all down my shirt.
Mrs. Cous Cous Bang Bang helped herself to one of the hair-ties that are thoughtfully provided to prevent hair falling in your soup/flick at your dining partner.
The other starter was at the other end of the spectrum; Pork and Corn Croquettes (£5) – the impossibly moist filling tumbling out of a satisfyingly thick, seasoned panko casing. Each one about twice the size of my thumb, which is only a useful way of gauging their scale if you’re familiar with the dimensions of my thumb.
The Sweet 3 Miso Ramen (£10) appeared in front of me resembling a delicious swamp, complete with a “clarence-court egg” (stained with tea and soy sauce, and boiled just past runny), great morsels of chicken, charred corn, and with additional Cock Scratchings (Because I’m a grown-ass man, remember, and ordering cock scratchings is hilarious B). These scratchings were small, chewy/crispy shavings of cooked chicken skin which lent incredible richness and exciting texture to anything they came near.
There were noodles in there as well but unfortunately they were hardly noticeable in the mélange. If Bone Daddies prided itself on the art of soba, then this would be a huge disappointment, but the real star of the show was always going to be the broth, and it far surpassed anything I’d tasted before.
My dining partner’s Soy Ramen (£9) almost looked like a diet meal in comparison. A far more simple looking dish with its components instantly distinguishable from one another. The broth in this meal seemed like a distant cousin to what formed the base of mine; very light and clear, not having been given the butter and cock scratching-treatment.
Occupying the first position on the mains menu, you imagine it might have been put there as an entry-level dish to wean people onto Bone Daddies way of cooking, and it serves the purpose well, while being a delicious bowl of ramen in its own right. In the surroundings though, and when compared to the exuberance of my Sweet 3 Miso dish, it did fall a bit flat.
It’s testament to London’s embarrassment of riches that they have to further sub-categorise restaurants which would elsewhere be considered niche or speciality, and I’m extremely jealous. You wouldn’t get a Rock & Roll Ramen bar anywhere other than the capital, and you won’t get ramen like this anywhere other than Bone Daddies.