Bo Drake

At it’s best you don’t notice service. It’s a seamless part of the dining experience, one you only remember in recollection. A good waiter will first of all know the menu and know what to recommend because they have tried it, not because they’ve been told to up-sell that dish. But most importantly, a good waiter knows when to leave you alone. It seems so simple, and yet so few restaurants get this part right. There’s fine dining restaurants that seem so eager to justify the service charge that they do everything except wipe your arse for you. Then there’s the restaurants with staff who pull up a chair and ask you so many overfamiliar questions that you end up checking your starter for their signs of their bodily fluids. And then you get the worst of them all. The waiters who are like incessant little flies, pestering you from the moment you enter, literally turning the table as you are still sitting there. Tonight, Bo Drake fell into this last rung in hell.

From the moment we sat down, we were given a menu and immediately asked if we were ready to order. No, we’d like to at least have a look at the menu first. Maybe some water. A minute later and he was back. We sent him away again, or rather he hovered three foot behind me waiting for the next moment I dared to open my mouth for conversation with my partner- a sure signal I had made my mind up. On the third attempt we gave in and ordered our dishes- which given how concise the menu is, was just about everything worth trying. Three minutes later the food came. Yes a whole 180 seconds from the waiter writing it down in his pad, to the order being passed to the kitchen, to the chefs cooking 7 different dishes, to it being put down on our table. This is no exaggeration. Needless to say not one of the dishes served was hot.

Having now ordered and been served, I could take the restaurant in. Bo Drake clearly took its design inspiration from what was hot last year- brown paper menus, matt-grey walls and exposed pipes. Minimal, cold, and drab- something between a prison cell and a pervert’s sex dungeon. With it’s menu and look, it is in the same vein as restaurants like Flesh & Buns and Pitt Cue Co, but it lacks their boozy basement buzz and the food doesn’t pack as much of a punch.

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First up KFC (Korea fried chicken) with soy garlic, grapes and rosemary (£8.50) which would have the Colonel turning in his grave over this poor pun on his classic. At their best Korean chicken wings blow your balls off. They’re red hot dirty finger food, something Flesh & Buns have nailed. Here the skin was soggy (maybe from standing pre-made on the pass for the last thirty minutes?) and they had no kick of spice. Bo Ssam was smoked pulled pork with kimchi (£14) that you forked into lettuce parcels, although it looked more like a can of cat food that had slurped onto the plate. The smoke was lacking and the meat was without that fatty goodness you associate with pulled pork. Smoked duck bao (£9) were tasty little bites, but not the best I’ve had.

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From the specials striploin beef served rare with truffled shiitake, tofu cream and shizou (£18) was a dish that you’d get in a restaurant like Zuma and happily pay twice the price. Cooked perfectly with good clean flavours, albeit served lukewarm, it showed that the kitchen can create moments of magic here. Only moments though, as a side of smoked aubergine with a miso and vine tomato water (£7) restored the order- it was like slurping down smokey slugs. Sweet potato fries with kimchi island dressing (£3.80) were better, but only because the pickled vomit flavour of the kimchi wasn’t coming through.

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It wouldn’t take an imaginative chef to pad out the dessert list. A choice of three was cut to two as the most appealing one- passion fruit brulee- was unavailable. At 7.30pm on a Friday? Maybe it had melted on the pass having been prepped three days before? That left a choice between sesame soft serve ice cream or apple tarte tatin (which really didn’t fit with the rest of the menu). It was a tarte tatin cooked by a Korean kitchen. Uninspired and out of place. A dribble of soft-serve vanilla ice cream did nothing to lift it.

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Having now eaten there, I can see that Bo Drake is an after work place where you go for a quick bite and a few drinks. Had I gone expecting this, I might have been more forgiving for being rushed through a meal in 45 minutes. I know London restaurants like to turn tables, but less than an hour is really pushing it. It was all bang on-trend with the decor and style of cooking, but food like this should be vibrant and punchy that makes you want to drink. The only thing making me want to drink more here was the shite service.

4/10 (££)

6 Greek St, London W1 4DE

Bó Drake Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Similar: Flesh & BunsPitt Cue Co

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Flesh and Buns

Located in the touristy maze of Seven Dials, I had heard more about the toilets at Flesh and Buns than the food. All I knew was that it was from the same guys behind Bone Daddies, my favourite ramen joint right in the heart of Soho. If Bone Daddies soothes hangovers with its steaming bowls of molten porky bones, then Flesh and Buns is the cause of those hangovers with its fiery Asian junk food that go perfectly with plenty of pints of ice cold Asahi.

Set in a dim basement with raw walls this won’t be for everybody. It opened right in the middle of this paired back back, industrial (oh how very New York) trend that us Londoners shoot our load over at the minute. But packed with the din of drunk punters on a Friday night it’s hard not to love the buzz. This probably isn’t the best place for a casual night with the missus, more a place to come after work or with a group of pals looking to kickstart a big night.

The first thing I of course did was check out the toilets. These have caused so much outrage that they’ve had their very own article on the Guardian’s website. Obviously they were clutching at straws for what to write about that week, because they aren’t worth half the scandal. So there’s a bit of anime on the walls. The person who called it hardcore porn obviously has been visiting the wrong sites. All I could think, is who really gives a shit? Ok so a cartoon schoolgirl with her titties on show is getting penetrated by an octopus. But it kind of fits the vibe. At least they don’t serve octopus on the menu. These people who complain are the same ones who write into the BBC when there’s a swear word before 9pm. There’s plenty of other places in London they can all group in, so they should jump down off their high horses and give Flesh and Buns’ porno bogs a rest.

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Now to the food. To kick things off we had some Chips and Dips (£6) which had a half decent guacamole but not worth the price. They were over before they started and were little more than an average bar snack. The kimchi balls got things properly rolling though, and were bloody addictive.

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Then came the Korean fried wings (£5) that were slathered in a red hot sauce. Damn these were fine. They were made for a cooling pint of beer. They are about the best snack I’ve had in London in a long time.

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The soft shell crab with jalapeno mayo (£9.50) needed more spunk, but was decent enough. No match for the soft shell crab served up at Roka. Nothing has come close to knocking that from its perch.

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Then came the flesh and buns part of the meal. It’s a great little invention, basically the Asian equivalent of a chip buttie. What’s better than cramming food into some stodge and shovelling it down. The crispy piglet belly (£14.50) came with a mustard miso and pickled apple and crammed into those buns was absolutely delicious. Just as good was the Flat Iron Steak (£16) with a good BBQ sauce and pickled onions. The steak was surprisingly tender and had plenty of flavour. The buns come at an extra £2.50 for two, which I feel should be included. Especially given you inevitably run out and have to order 2 more each.

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The Bone Daddies Sundae (£7) was also pretty good, especially the Matcha ice cream that gave me a false burst of healthiness at the end of an deeply indulgent meal.

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Apart from the service which was completely shite- they’d slam dishes down without even looking at you, and were firing out the food at indigestion pace- this is a real fiery dungeon of a restaurant, one where you can’t help but indulge and enjoy yourself. The bill came out at bang on £100, which is a bit top heavy for what is essentially Asian junk food. But I’ll still be coming back. It’s the Asian equivalent of Spuntino, a place you come when you’re in need of a guilt ridden meal, which after all are the best kind.

Food: 8/10

Service: 4/10

Atmosphere: 9/10

Value: 6.5/10

Overall: 8/10

41 Earlham St, London WC2H 9LX

Square Meal

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Bone Daddies vs. Tonkotsu: The Ramen Battle

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Tonkotsu: 7/10

63 Dean St, London W1D 4QG

Bone Daddies: 8/10

31 Peter St, London W1F 0AR

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