Shoryu Ramen is running a pop-up collaboration with Gudetama, a grumpy cartoon egg from the same stable as Hello Kitty, from until 14th October in its Oxford, Oxford Street and Manchester restaurants. You get a three-course meal with a drink, one of the courses featuring Gudetama himself in the form of an egg half with a nori grimace, floating in your ramen. It is ridiculous and very, very cute.
For the first course, I had a pumpkin croquette steamed bun. This was actually a big treat for me – I’ve been wanting to try a steamed bun for a while and been struggling to find a vegetarian option. The croquette was lovely, the crispiness in pleasing contrast with the sticky, pillowy dough of the bun, and served with a surprisingly delicious spicy sauce. A simple but satisfying starter. A pork bun was also available and looked great – it didn’t have the sauce, though, so I’d recommend the pumpkin. Both buns come with a jaunty flag featuring Gudetama’s bum stuck into them, which I would like all my food to feature from now on.
The main course was a choice between Shoryu’s signature ramen dish and a vegan option of white natural ramen. My vegan ramen was served without the egg (obviously) – a slight shame as it meant no cartoon theming on this course, but he was too cute to eat anyway. I was extremely impressed by this ramen – the broth is based on soy milk, miso and mushroom broth, and was pleasingly rich and moreish. It’s too bland without any extras, but the additions they give you to play with on the table are impressive – garlic to crush in and a sesame seed grinder, as well as the more usual soy sauce and chilli oil. I usually hate silken tofu and bamboo shoots, but both were delicious. This is the nicest high street veggie ramen I’ve had and I’d come back for it. Some carnivores I befriended said theirs was less impressive and pretty ordinary. Still, they got to devour a depressed egg, so swings and roundabouts there.
The meal also comes with a drink, served in a Gudetama cup and with a branded coaster you can take home. The choice is mango iced tea (good, not too sweet) and calpico, a yoghurt-based Japanese drink I hadn’t tried before. It’s delicious – much lighter and fruitier than I was expecting. However, there was way too much crushed ice in both the drinks, so the portion felt kind of stingy – especially if you put more delicious chilli oil on your ramen than you could really handle (oops).
To finish there was a choice of yuzu or matcha mini mocha ice cream. This is another Japanese delicacy I hadn’t tried – a ball of ice cream served in a kind of gelatinous skin, like an ice cream dumpling. Both flavours were vibrant and not overly sweetened – again, a treat I’d go back for. They were served in a Gudetama paper cup to carry on the theme.
I did wonder if the waits between the courses would be as long if it wasn’t a press event, as I felt that I was waiting around a little longer than was reasonable. To be fair, we were in a large group – but then, that’s surely the point of a set menu. Another negative was that every time someone enters the restaurant the staff bang a drum to welcome them. This is annoying, making Shoryu a bad place to take a grumpy person like me (or Gudetama). Additionally, I felt that at £22 this was a touch overpriced for what you get.
All in all, this is a charming idea – for a fan of the cartoon egg yolk, or of Japanese or cute cartoon culture, in general, this would be a wonderful treat. The set menu with drink, combined with the cartoon aesthetic, make this a pleasingly nostalgic experience, like a grown-up version of a children’s menu. Unmissable for fans of the character and a fun dinner option for everyone else.