There is no better cure for a hangover than a bowl of steaming ramen. It’s the Japanese Alka-Seltzer. I discovered this trawling through Soho on a miserable afternoon when my hopes for my normal remedy of a burger had been dashed by the hour minimum queues for Honest Burger and Burger & Lobster, and so I had ventured through the rather uninviting black front of Tonkotsu.
Inside the classic Soho run-down reigns. Anybody else getting bored of bare walls and dim industrial lights? Why is it so many of these places seem designed to get you in and out with as little comfort as possible. At least the food looked good.
The menu is simple- a few Gyoza, some basic Japanese sides and Ramen. I was in no mood for fiddly little dumplings, and so it was straight to the main event. Soon sitting in front of me was a steaming bowl of richly coloured broth. The smell and sight alone was enough to lift my spirits. Chopsticks and a wooden spoon were presented to me, but neither would really do for this dish. As Tonkotsu say on their website- ‘You’ll find that devouring your bowl of ramen using the traditional Japanese method of slurping will make it highly pleasurable experience’- and so this is exactly what I did. Food splashed all over my face and the table. It was lucky that I was eating alone. There’s something so satisfying about letting all manners disappear and going hell-for-leather at food. The slow-cooking has taken away the chore of chewing for you. All it required of me was to simply slurp and swallow it up- ideal for any hangover when this is the limit of your capabilities.
The pork belly and soft-boiled egg are all wonderful little additions, but there is no mistaking that the stock is star of the show. It is the type you will never make at home, and you would be stupid to even try it. Every bit of those pig bones has disintegrated to make this a creamy and intensely meaty juice. The house chilli sauce is also great, and a few heaped spoonfuls had the alcohol sweating out of me. I left Tonkotsu feeling not full and greasy as I would have done after a burger, but instead like I had just had both a sauna and a massage. Yours for £11.
Tonkotsu was the regular Saturday haunt for a while, and then Bone Daddies came along. This is a much hipper and more Soho version of a ramen joint. A large open window ensures that is brighter and with trendy music playing and a bustling hipster crowd this is for a different type of hangover. If Tonkotsu is designed to soothe and ease you into the afternoon, then Bone Daddies is the hair of the dog.
Again I went for the tonkotsu ramen (£11). It is a much deeper orange than Tonkotsu and after loading it up with more chilli and sasme seeds from a fun little grinder that distributes most of the seeds to everywhere but your bowl, I tucked in. The flavour is intense. It’s the daddy of ramen. The effect it had one me was so warming that the only thing it is comparable to is having a cup of Bovril at half time during the match in the winter months. I doubt too many football stadiums will go to the lengths of cooking their stock for this length of time though. So good was this ramen that I found myself ordering a pint of Asahi midway through it. It had done it’s job.
Both places dish up excellent ramen, and it’s likely I’ll split my time going between both. But Bone Daddies does just edge it.
63 Dean St, London W1D 4QG
Bone Daddies: 8/10
31 Peter St, London W1F 0AR