[LONDON] Great Ramen @ Cocoro Bloomsbury
The ever evolving London ramen scene has seen a steady growth over the the past few years, but the quality in my opinion has ranged from dire (Cocoro Marylebone, Tonkoksu East) to mediocre (Ittenbari, Nagomi) to nearly there (Bone Daddies).. Nothing has quite yet hit the spot. The relatively new Cocoro in Bloomsbury (sister restaurant to Cocoro Marylebone) focuses on Ramen and curry rice at weekends, with a wider menu during the week. It was the nearest I’ve had to ‘real’ Japanese ramen in London to date, with a talented chef who has allegedly come over from Takumi in Dusseldorf, renowned by aficionados to be one of the best ‘serious’ ramen restaurants in Europe.
The Tonkotsu ramen (£10.80) was available in regular, light or kotteri (thick/rich) formats. I opted for the regular. The bowl appeared in a few minutes and had all the hallmarks of a quality bowl:
- Piping hot broth : Many restaurants fall down at the crucial first hurdle and serve lukewarm soup which brings down the satisfaction levels a few notches.
- Noodle texture : Perfectly cooked springy noodles - firm but not al-dente. Super satisfying .
- Oil : The soup was insulated by an oil slick of Exxon Valdez proportions. No-one can claim that ramen is a health food, but the wonderful garlic flavoured oil coats the noodles as you slurp, giving you unparalleled comfort and satisfaction. This is why it tastes so damned good!
- Depth of soup : a complex rich, porky broth was a cut above many competitors. Some serious care and attention has obviously gone into its preparation.
- Well made toppings including a ‘hanjuku’ boiled egg (glistening, gelatinous yolk) and lovely soft slices on char-shu belly pork along with nori, kikurage (wood ear fungus) and sweetcorn.
My wife had the miso ramen which was also pork based but had less of an oil slick and a full bodied, almost tangy taste from the fermented miso. There was also an Ume-shio which looked interesting too. (Japanese plum/salt ramen)
We were there about 4pm on a Sunday afternoon and the place was dead, which was a shame. It’s a purist, no frills kind of a place with very plain décor and clearly lacks the buzz of somewhere like Koya or Bone Daddies which seems more engineered to suit the London market. Hopefully the food alone is good enough to attract customers.
All in all, Cocoro (Bloomsbury, not Marylebone) can certainly put up a good fight against some of the higher ranking places in Japan, and it is without doubt a cut above many of its peers in London. Will be interesting to see how it compares with the daddy of them all – Ippudo, which is set to land on our shores imminently.
Had the tonkotsu ramen a while ago and it was ok but not particularly exciting. The broth was indeed oily as you described, and nicely aromatic, but not as flavoursome in a porky sort of way. The charshu could also have been a little more tender. But this was around the time it opened, so glad to hear that they've hit their stride.
I will have to try it out even though some of my Japanese friends were complaining about something on their last visit.
For me, Takumi is easily the best ramen I have had in Europe, beating anything London has to offer by a mile so it would be interesting to see how it fares.
Alternatively, I may just wait until I go back to Japan as I have been disappointed too many times with the ramen offerings in London.
Still not managed to make it.
I did go to Ittenbari last week for a bowl of miso ramen and gyoza. As it was just to get fill my stomach, I had no expectation and therefore wasn't let down... Wasn't great, wasn't bad.
Now I really want to try Sasuke noodle on Gt Windmill Street. The owner used to run the noodle bar at Mitsukoshi apparently?
Been twice to Sasuke, liked the first time a bit more.
Gyoza is very good, thin skins, crispy surface, nicely seasoned filling.
Chicken karaage is served on a skewer with a wedge of lemon and mayo on the side. I liked the light puffy batter and the very moist succulent chicken.
Had the shio and miso ramen. Shio broth was appropriately light, with a nice slightly shrimpy flavour. The noodles were of the thicker egg/wheat variety (yellow in colour) and had a slight bite to them. Charshu was fine, and I upgraded the noodles to include egg and nori (wish that was default). The egg was nice but the soy sauce egg at Cocoro (Bloomsbury) was superior (btw, had a second meal there and was much better than the first, probably opening blues)
Miso ramen had a rich broth with a layer of oil, flavour was very nutty, but with less umami. They provide toasted sesame seeds to grind at the table, which adds to the nuttiness. The sweetcorn was fresh tasting. On the whole I preferred the shio ramen more, will probably try the shoyu next.
Would this be at 25 Coptic St? I'm relatively new to London & want to try the right location. I've loved a couple of the ramens at Shoryu on Denman better than the one I had at Bone Daddy's or Tonkotsu... it's all personal taste I realize but want to check out all that I can! Thanks.
I Finally made it in, foreignmuck, and thank you for your rec!! Actually, I went last week but because of major train delay, I puffed up to the door for lunch after almost running from Holborn station just at closing time :(.
Since the tonkotsu ramen is only available in regular, light or kotteri styles on weekends, I ordered spicy tonkotsu ramen lunch set, which meant for £1 more I chose “spicy minced pork don” out of 6 selections. Lovely polished grains of really nice rice like that I remember having in Japan half filled a bamboo section of about 4”, topped by tasty minced pork, a little spring onion, & a squirt of white mayo across the top. While their idea of spicy & mine differ by a LONG shot, it was tasty comfort food that I’d really enjoy as a middle-of-night snack when tummy grumbles hungrily on sleepless nights.
The spicy tonkotsu ramen had a DELICIOUS rich, deep-flavored broth with dark garlic oil just as you described; not particularly spicy but gave a nice light glow. Garnishes included a leaf of nori, couple tablespoons of corn kernels, thinly sliced green onion, dark strips of kikurage, 2 good-sized circles of delicious pork not overly salty as were so many in Japan. I was surprised to find small pieces of Napa cabbage in the bottom and really liked that flavor addition to several mouthfuls.
Unlike the other ramen spots I’ve tried in London, there are no condiments such as extra garlic, sesame seeds to grind, chili oil, etc and none was needed for the ramen was sublime as served. As it cooled, the creaminess of the miso was more pronounced but not overly heavy at all, perfectly comforting. Delicious little dark specks of ground caramelized garlic dotted the edges of the bowl along with some beige sesame seeds. I know batches vary in flavor but this one was top notch. I confess I didn’t care for the loud music much of the time being loud and discordant noise. I'll Definitely return!
Interestingly, I had Karaka Tantan ramen just the previous day at Shoryu Ramen, Denman St, but it was for the first time disappointing; broth was not piping hot, noodles were a bit tough, & the minced pork about half that of previous servings - other toppings a bit sparse as well. Still it was tasty; everyone has an off day. Thanks again for the recommendation! Anytime anyone would like to meet there for lunch, please just let me know.