Shoryu opened its twelfth restaurant, their second outside of London, on 12th December which seems very fortuitous. I happened to be in town a few days later, doing some Christmas shopping and mid afternoon decided the sun was definitely well over the yardarm and that a cocktail would be well deserved. However, several of the bar/restaurants on the terrace were busy with parties and so it seemed an appropriate time to try out the new kid on the block.
First impressions – the Shoryu website is somewhat luxurious in feel whereas the interior and decor is not. There are separate tables as well as communal dining with very high chairs – not great for a short arse like me! There’s an open kitchen with an eating bar in front and a double glass expanse giving passer-bys full view of you slurping and dribbling your dishes. The bar is at the end with bar stools around but it doesn’t have the grand feel I was expecting, more of a modern canteen feel.
Having been welcomed, a drum was sounded and all the staff shouted something which I assume was a greeting! Nice to start but a little invasive as more diners arrived. I’d gone off the idea of a cocktail by now so ordered a half pint of Kirin Nama draft beer which was served apparently Japanese style, in a chilled glass with lots of froth. Expecting to be joined by a hungry husband, I ordered a selection of small dishes including char siu pork belly buns, wagyu beef skewers, chicken karaage and fried tofu.
Service was a little lacking considering how quiet the restaurant was and whilst I’m used to food arriving as it’s ready, there was too much delay for some of the dishes to arrive, over an hour spent there in total. The steamed buns arrived cold and with the pork inside cold – I should have queried this but assumed this was their way of serving. The wagyu beef was honestly nothing special, the chicken karaage was hot and crispy, the tofu was flaccid and lacking in flavour. At that point I was pretty disappointed, felt that I’d paid too much for what I’d received (approx £46) and unexcited by my scheduled return a few days later.
However, their PR team had extended an invite for us to go and try it and so four days later I was back with Hannah. Recognised by one of the waiters I was asked if I’d enjoyed my previous visit and I had to be honest and say that I had been underwhelmed and disappointed. They hoped to change my mind on that visit and I have to say, to some extent they did.
We started off with ordering Berkshire Black pork belly and takoyaki, octopus balls. The balls came beautifully presented and were crispy hot spheres of smooth potato with chunks of octopus studded throughout. A drizzle of Japanese mayo and bonito flakes, dried and fermented tuna added to the different textures and added an intensity of flavour.
By contrast, the pork belly arrived ungarnished and was fairly substandard. No depth of flavour from either the meat or seasoning, it could have been any slice of pork anywhere.
Onto the ramen, the main dish at Shoryu. For those unaware of what ramen is, it’s essentially a noodles in a broth, topped with a choice of meat, vegetables, eggs, pretty much anything. Shoryu make theirs with a pork broth simmered for twelve hours to produce a rich, meaty flavour before adding noodles, char siu barbecue pork belly, a soft boiled egg, kikurage mushrooms, spring onions, sesame, ginger and nori seaweed. Tonkotsu ramen which is what Shoryu serve is a version of ramen originating from Fukuoka in Japan and is known for the length of time the broth takes to prepare.
That’s the basic dish! You can then choose from over ten variations including vegetarian and vegan options. I went for full on vampire killing mode by choosing the Dracula Tonkotsu, emboldened with caramelised black garlic mayu (oil) and garlic chips. The mayu adds a smoky depth to the broth and isn’t as overpoweringly garlicky as you would think – but you will have pungent breath for a little while!
The combination of textures, from the soft meat to the slippery noodles, crunchy beansprouts and that wonderful broth come together to make a good, filling and warming dish. It was certainly much better than my previous visit but for me, ramen is just too big a dish and I wasn’t quite able to finish mine.
We did ask to try a little of their special broth which is cooked longer and produces an amazingly intense broth and that I could have drunk on its own all day long.
The miso ramen ticked the same boxes, full of flavour and we both commented on how good their noodles are.
For the purpose of this review, we ordered desserts – yuzu cheesecake for me and a cherry azuki chiffon cake for Hannah. My cheesecake was good but a little lacking in the yuzu sourness that it’s known for.The cherry chiffon cake was a light finish to the meal with a delicate cherry flavour. As an aside, azuki beans flashed me right back to my teenage years when they were the key ingredient of my staple facial care – The Body Shop’s Japanese Washing Grains. Thankfully, this dessert had nothing else in common!
Overall, a good meal. Not quite what I expected but a considerable improvement on my first visit. And, at the time of writing their menu has changed so I look forward to returning.