"Instead we have punters perched on stools around communal high tables, the walls feature posters of gurning Japanese pop stars and the radio is tuned to Absolute Classic Rock - poor Michael Winner would have hated it!"
There's a lot of macho posturing going on at the moment in the London food scene: the streets of Soho, Brixton and Hoxton have become the gastronomical equivalent of Venice Beach, as the next new burger, steak, barbecue or fried chicken joint competes to load their customers with more fat, more calories and more cholesterol than their neighbour.
Unlike our forefathers, whose touchstone dishes were Pierre Koffman's pigs' trotters stuffed with sweetbreads and morels or Le Gavroche's cheese souffle, my generation will go to our graves waxing lyrical about the dead hippy burger at Meat Liquor and the French dipped brisket at Pitt Cue Co.
To this list of heart attack inducing dishes du jour, we can now add that Japanese staple, ramen. This is essentially a soup made with either pork or chicken stock and served with wheat noodles and a variety of meat, egg and vegetable based oddments. Three new ramen joints have opened in London in the last year or so to add a bit of eastern flavour to our US dominated dude-food scene.
The hippest of these three is Bone Daddies in Soho, which opened late last year. As the name suggests, this is no stereotypical eastern temple to food; instead we have punters perched on stools around communal high tables, the walls feature posters of gurning pop stars and the radio is tuned to Absolute Classic Rock - poor Michael Winner would have hated it!
Obviously they don't take bookings, but we turned up just before seven on a chilly Thursday evening and managed to bag the last two spots at one of the high tables. Ten minutes later though and we'd have been left outside, where I would have complained incessantly about the sub-zero temperatures, had an argument with the girlfriend and gone off in a sulk to Wagamama's for a deeply unfulfilling time!
Because the hipsters can't go more than forty-eight hours without consuming deep fried flesh, as well as edamame and sashimi, the starters list also features fried chicken- or, as it should be known in this type of place, chicken karaage.
My mother's fried chicken on a Saturday night was one of the reasons I carried a few extra pounds as a teenager and I haven't really had it much since. But Bone Daddies' version shows what I've been missing out on! The batter was light and crispy and the chicken both juicy and packed with plenty of flavour. Eaten au natural or enlightened by a spritz of lemon or slick of chilli oil it was, in a tribute to MW, historic!
The reason we were there though was the ramen, so less about the chicken and on to the main event. Now, I can't really comment, as I've never had a night on the smash in Kyushu, but ramen is apparently the Japanese equivalent of a doner kebab. Something to soak up the booze at the end of an evening when you've had one too many Asahis. You can picture the scene: a seedy back street bar, with rows of Tokyo salarymen, hunched over their bowls of ramen slurping down the noodles, as the pork broth spills down their polyester suits.
Prince among ramens is tonkotsu, which Bone Daddies make with a base of 20 hour cooked pork broth, noodles, sliced roast pork, egg, bamboo and bean-sprouts. Obviously therefore we had to try a bowl of this, which was contrasted by the tantamen - a spicy soup made with chicken stock, sesame, chilli, chicken mince and, as a sop to the cardiologists, some bok choy.
At first slurp the tantamen was a like a combination of a hug from your mum and dose of crack: strangely thrilling, yet warm and comforting at the same time. The tantamen glistened with a slick of chilli oil and the fat from the broth, adorned with a just boiled egg and a pile of minced chicken.
Like one of those tropical plants that tempts in the unsuspecting insect with a display of gaudy colour, then traps it in a sticky web, the tantamen had me transfixed by the savoury, fatty broth and chilli heat and I guarded it jealousy against VD's rampaging spoon. On the other side of the communal table, the tonkotsu was similarly comforting, just without the kick up the backside from the chilli, and in comparison I found it rather monochrome.
So far, so good. The bill came in at £20 a head, which for two bowls of ramen, fried chicken, some excellent pickles and a couple of drinks isn't too bad I suppose. So I coughed up the dough and headed back out onto the Soho streets. But that is not where this story ends...
There are good reasons why my digestive system isn't quite as robust as yours, but my god, all that fat can't be good for you. Soon after leaving my stomach started making odd noises and rather weakly I vetoed the option of a post dinner drink in favour of the tube home and a lie down!
Stronger specimens than me (the date was fine) will be able to cope with bowl upon bowl of fatty ramen, but as enjoyable as it was I won't be going back in a hurry. Like a night with a Bangkok ladyboy, Bone Daddies feels great at the time, but afterwards you could find yourself in a whole world of regret!
Bone Daddies, 31 Peter Street, London, W1F 0AR
020 7287 8581
Open for lunch seven days a week and for dinner Monday to Saturday. Closed on Sunday evenings