None of the Ramen bars beat Tonkotsu.
Last year I went through phase of eating Ramen. More accurately London did, but I followed. I gave up the burgers, steaks and good beer and started trying to drink stock from bowls using chopsticks.
Distressingly it seems I shouldn't have made such a leap. I should have landed halfway, with a ramen burger...
Still, by the time I realised my mistake, I was kind of hooked on downing soup using wooden sticks. I'd also discovered that they usually give you a spoon. A really BIG spoon. A ladle in fact. I was wowed by Tonkotsu several times, semi-wooed by Shoryu and thoroughly mistreated by Koya (although like a cheated-on naive teenager, I'll probably give them another chance). But then ramen got a bit less trendy. The explosion was more of a seepage, and I was distracted by my first-ever good kebab. And my first-ever sober kebab.
So I was surprised as anyone to find myself sat down in Bone Daddies, our Western bastardisation of Ramen – with added rock music, craft beer and eastern European waiters – hoping that this would attract the people who regard a McChicken Sandwich as something a bit different. So I took an instant dislike to the place. I had to sit on a stool, with my legs dangling like a school boy in the headmaster's office. I was so close to my neighbour I got splash back from his stock. And the music was too loud.
Still, I am a food blogger, and I'm currently only doing the latter. Our starters were super – soft-shell crab with chilli and ginger; crunchy chilled tenderstem broccoli with fiery yuzu mayo; and... well... beans. The broccoli in particular, which you can get at their sister restaurant Flesh & Buns, was brilliant. That mayo is just off the scale – spicy, sweet, sour, creamy, spiky. All the things.
And so to the ramen. For direct comparison I went for the tonkotsu, which is essentially a super thick, marrowy pork broth – a dish that 12 months ago I would have been cynical about. Now I love the stuff – salty, meaty and filled with sweet crunchy veg and a gooey Clarence Court egg. Bone Daddies was slammed with stuff in contrast to its rivals. The broth was cloudy like the Shoryu ramen, while Tonkotsu's is clear (if anyone wants to explain that to me...), and comes in second, mostly because while Shoryu and Bone Daddies insist on using dry meat, Tonkotsu use lovely moist roasted pork that's so much more satisfying than the stringier stuff, which belongs on a Sunday roast.
So if you're feeling the January blues and need some hot stock to perk you up, you could do worse than Bone Daddies. But you could do better, and go to Tonkotsu. But maybe stop off for some broccoli on the way home.