When trying to find the best Japanese ramen restaurants in London, you need to actually eat ramen! Unfortunately, due to our national lockdown, all restaurants were closed for dining until April the 12th. This was the day when restaurants like Heddon Yokocho with outdoor seating finally opened their booking calendars.
You may say a ramen restaurant might not have been the right choice for an outdoor dining experience. Luckily we picked a sunny day and the weather forecast was spot on!
Location and Interior
Heddon Yokocho is technically located in a side street in Mayfair but feels more like Soho. Yokocho means alleyway in Japanese and Heddon certainly has that retro Yokocho vibe to it with bright red lanterns and nostalgic Japanese signage and décor you might see in an izakaya (gastro pub or dining bar).
Upon arrival, we joined what appeared to be an orderly sit-down street party in the pedestrianised street. After sitting down at our table across from the upscale Italian restaurant Piccolino, we took a few minutes to settle in. It was a strange sensation to be back at a restaurant! Once we returned to the business of ordering food, we found pleasing touches like the Japanese text “osusume” (recommendation) in our menus. As this was my first restaurant ramen of the year, I ordered a classic Tonkotsu ramen after checking the options. You can choose from a staggering nine regional ramen at Heddon Yokocho! This include regional specials such as Hakodate Shio, Sapporo Miso and Tokyo Shoyu. Then there are two London Vegan ramens proudly sitting on the menu – Vegan Napoli (tomato based) and Vegan Miso.
Time for that Heddon broth!
One reason I suggested Heddon Yokocho to my friend is because the Japan Centre operates it. I assured him that we could be confident in their ingredients and authenticity. My additional fear that the broth might get cold due to the al fresco setting was also unfounded. The broth was served hot and stayed that way long enough for us to finish our ramen. Taste wise the Tonkotsu broth was decent although we would have preferred a slightly richer flavour. In addition, I thought mine was a slightly oily but perhaps I was being super critical. The last ramen I ate in a restaurant before Bone Daddies was Kanada-ya, and that is not easy to follow!
Noodles and toppings
The noodles had the right bite and texture to them, and the toppings were great – three generous slices of Cha-shu (pork belly), spring onions, ginger, and beni shoga (picked ginger). One thing I have to say. I felt the yoke in my egg was overcooked for a ramen “nitamago”. As an extra topping, we got the menma (braised bamboo shoot slices) and these were an excellent addition.
Heddon Yokocho also does other sides like Gyoza dumplings, Chicken Karaage (Japanese fried chicken) and buns (this is not what you would expect in a ramen restaurant, but I realise it is a crowdpleaser). When it comes to drinks, they have a good selection that includes Shochu (a type of distilled Japanese spirit), Umeshu (typically made with shochu infused with Ume plums) and Sake.
The Yokocho sake selection
Gekkeikan (a famous historic Kyoto manufacturer of sake) is all over the menu although this is not a surprise since it is one you see often at the Japan Centre. If you order the Sake flight, you will see it consists of three different types of Gekkeikan sake! To be fair, this is a very well-known sake manufacturer in Japan. We opted for the Gensen Sozai (a dry but full-bodied sake) served in a carafe (how al fresco) and went straight to the custom of pouring glasses for each other.
All in all, it was a truly an authentic Japanese ramen experience and I’m definitely keen to go again and try out the other ramens that are rare in London. My next choice would probably be the Hakodate Shio or the Tokyo Shoyu.
If you’ve been to Heddon Yokocho please do feel free to comment and let us know your experience.