Few people can resist the ramen served by Bone Daddies. It takes a very strong person to say no to its seductive hot pots filled with luxuriously rich broths and zesty ingredients. My guest is one such person. That is, until now. Because, spoiler alert: although having never previously frequented the famous Japanese street food restaurant, even my dinner date mate, unofficially one of the fussiest eaters known to man, was singing its praises before the mains arrived.
As we walk up the stairs of Kensington High Street’s Whole Foods, the excitement to taste Bone Daddies’ delectable dishes is mixed with a little apprehension. Why? As of November 2014, this newly opened sister venue of the Soho flagship is in the Whole Foods food court. Not exactly the setting you’d expect for the mid-range ramen bar. But within the first few minutes, the cheery, knowledgeable wait staff help to eradicate any thoughts that perhaps this Bone Daddies is better reserved for express lunch time visits.
Passing a chef’s island on the way to our seats, the Kensington High Street location is a little more industrial in aesthetic than the Peter Street counterpart, with the principal difference being the amount of space. Yet this is a pleasant contrast, however, considering when you dine in Bone Daddies Soho you’re lucky if your elbows don’t end up dipped in someone else’s tantanmen. Set out on thin steel legged wooden tables is a box of essential utensils and condiments – plastic splash bib included. Perusing the menu to a rockabilly-themed soundtrack, we order a Frozen Yuzu Margherita (tequila, yuzu and lime juice, agave syrup and triple sec) and Sour Ginger (lemongrass sake, whisky, ginger and bitters), both £8.50. Their punchy tang is just the thing to whet our appetites.
On the menu is a range of typical Japanese starters – including the staples, sashimi and edamame – where we share the Chicken & Prawn Gyoza (£6.50), Soft Shell Crab (£8.50) and Korean Fried Chicken Wings (£6). The latter entrée is decadent to say the least; the crisply fried chicken wings’ thick, sweet-and-zingy sauce reminds you this dish errs more towards ‘guilty pleasure’ than ‘guilt-free’. A little lighter (and a lot less calorific), the beautifully folded gyoza serve somewhat as a palette cleanser, owing to their lovely sour side dressing. But it is the soft shell crab that is the victor here, because its gentle tempura batter and hot green chilli sauce form a winning combination.
For the main event we opt for the Tonkotsu Ramen and T22. At £11 and £10 a piece, respectively, their size alone makes these generously-portioned bowls incredible value for money. While both are prepared with a Clarence Court free range egg, bamboo shoots and bean sprouts sitting on a bed of springy ramen noodles, they possess vastly different flavour profiles: the Tonkotsu Ramen’s Chashu pork, spring onion and 20-hour pork bone broth providing a strong honey, soy and ginger taste, and the hearty T22’s trademarked cock scratchings and chicken bone broth achieving a salty-sweet umami taste. (Though, it’s soy, mizuna, onion, nori and chicken constituents irrefutably contributed to the indulgent result.)
When it came to pudding, Bone Daddies’ selection is limited to say the least. But what they lack in quantity they definitely make up for in quality. With only two desserts listed on the menu – Chocolate Fondant & Green Tea Ice Cream (£7) and Mochi Ice Cream (£4) – it’s clear the emphasis is on the savoury meal options. However both choices exceed every expectation ten-fold: the fondant warm and gooey, with an ultra oozy molten chocolate interior; the gelato-like hazelnut, mango, and strawberry ice cream balls sealed in a subtly sweet, gelatinous mochi encasing. Despite the particularly filling previous courses, making room to sample these is certainly advisable.
So after a delightful evening of Eastern fare, what is the verdict for Bone Daddies’ Kensington High Street? Well, Bone Daddies’ About Us reads, ‘Come for ramen noodles, get a lot more!’ Let’s just say the proof is in the pudding.
Bone Daddies Ramen Bar; 1st Floor, The Barkers Building, 63-97 Kensington High Street, London W8 5SE; T 020 7287 8581 for general enquiries, Bone Daddies operates a ‘no reservations’ policy; bonedaddiesramen.com