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COBRA: Episode 2

COBRA: Episode 2

Reading Time: 7 minutes

 

How Sky pitched this episode: Sutherland and the Team work around the clock as the blackout throws the nation into crisis. 

TL;DR recap of Episode 1: a geomagnetic storm threatens to wipe out technology (there’s a great episode of BBC’s In Our Time looking at the science of space weather). The last episode ended with the power starting to go off in London…

Is everybody ready for episode 2? Let’s do this!

POP QUIZ – What is wrong with this opening scene?

No! A Local Resilience Forum does not respond to emergencies. It’s simple.

Do you remember the acronym I mentioned in the first blog, METHANE? It’s a memory device to help emergency services give clear structured information about a dynamic situation back to their control rooms. That enables them to mobilise additional resources and responses.

It stands for:

  • Major Incident – declared?
  • Exact Location
  • Type of Incident
  • Hazards
  • Access and egress (translation: egress is the opposite of access)
  • Number of casualties
  • Emergency responders required

Here’s a quick video on how it’s supposed to work:

As you can see, it’s not really designed for assessing national-scale incidents, but just for fun, let’s see how it works for the information we’re bombarded at the start of this episode and what we know so far…

  • M – Yes, a Major Incident was declared in relation to the plane crash and we know that the Prime Minister has ‘activated’ COBR, the cross-Whitehall emergency coordination structure
  • E – 4 locations are mentioned as being particularly badly affected by the power cuts, north Wales, east Scotland, Cornwall and Northumberland. We also told that major cities including London are affected (but later they state major conurbations are less affected). And of course, we’ve got that plane crash in the north-east.
  • T – I find this bit tricky. It’s a geomagnetic storm, but at this stage I think there would still be a fair amount of confusion. How different incident types are labelled depends on how they are reported. We’ve heard about a vehicle collision, but would that immediately be connected with the space weather, I doubt it.
  • H – We don’t have much to go on here, but the loss of power and, consequently, interruption to telecommunications is a definite factor in shaping the subsequent response.
  • A – No specific information, but one of the news reports mentioned the government ‘limiting freedom of movement’ (we’ll come back to this I expect!)
  • N – So far, we’re only aware of 2 people who have been killed.
  • E – I’ve never really, properly understood this line of the acronym. Let’s ignore it for now.

What d’ya know, that actually worked out better than I was expecting it to! Right, so we’re all now have a common operating picture, let’s proceed.

The COBR team seem to have access to some specific data showing the affected areas. At 3 hours into the crisis, I’d say that’s probably optimistic. Information typically starts off quite general and gets refined as details emerge.

Oh dear. 4 badly hit areas. 3 spare transformers. Resource problems. Yes, that’s fairly typical. Tough decisions have to be made with limited information to determine the best use of assets. (You could think of this as identifying the ‘least worst’ option – clunky language, but essentially the idea that in some cases there are negative outcomes whatever the option. Also known as wicked problems).

Sidenote: Did you catch the mention of Puerto Rico? I suspect that’s a reference to the much-delayed support from the United States following Hurricane Maria.

Our nice Police friend is concerned about the ability of the hospital to keep running to care for the injured place passengers. Fortunately, the nice people in the Cabinet Office Briefing Room have arranged for a helicopter to bring them some blood and medical supplies.

In reality, if there was a problem, the line of communication would be between the NHS and Department for Health and Social Care. If appropriate (and after they had figured out their policy position and own media lines) they would relay that to COBR.

Overlooking that for a moment, we’re going to take a deeper look at the blood issue 💉 (although nobody has actually mentioned there are shortages).

The hospital is required to maintain it’s own stocks of blood (and blood products) and their own contingency plan. It’s likely there would be mutual aid (i.e. sharing) arrangements with other local hospitals and they would have support from NHS Blood and Transplant. It’s therefore unlikely that this would be the first issue that they would need national support with.

Is an Emergency Department waiting area is the best place for the police to be on the phone to COBR? I think not! Also, given the reported issues with mobile masts, how are these telephones working?

Anyway, let’s not get distracted; we shall press on…

Tired People make bad decisions” Yes. This. Getting people to rest, or sometimes even to take time to eat, during a response can be a significant challenge.

The Chief Constable has turned up at an immigration removal centre where staffing resources are 30% down.


A slight detour…

Is it weird that a plane crash and an immigration centre were the subjects of a recent episode of Silent Witness?

Like METHANE, Step123+ is a device used by the Ambulance service to consider their response to potentially hazardous substance incidents. It basically says

  • if there is one casualty then use normal precautions,
  • if there are two casualties then there could be something going on, use caution
  • if there are three or more then something is amiss

I find myself using Step123+ in everyday life. Like…when two TV shows show both use a plane crash and immigration centre as a plot point….my mind instantly thinks, “is that the beginnings of a pattern?”

Anyway, back to the main event…


Back to Whitehall and the COBR folks are discussing where to send 3 generators. There was a (well researched) conversation about getting supplies from Germany and recognition that as other countries are having similar issues international supply may be limited.

How would you decide who should get the generators?

  • Do you send it to the area where it will benefit the most people?
  • The areas that it’ll be quickest and easiest to transport to?
  • Would you, as Prime Minister, also be thinking about ‘if we don’t support a devolved administration, what are the implications in the longer-term’?

The Chief of Staff has gone into a hotel. Everyone is using a real candle. There’s not a single torch. Won’t somebody think of the fire risk?! The Concierge mentions that electronic door systems are not working. Now, unless this is a super fancy hotel using the latest systems, most hotel door locks are battery operated so this is unlikely to be an issue*.

I hope all the kids have got enough juice left in their phones to take insta-worthy pictures of the Aurora!

Sky News has clearly got a generator, they’re still broadcasting. But with national blackouts and likely loss of transmission, it’s not clear how many people would be watching.

Sidenote: The writers have done a phenomenal job of writing the Home Secretary to be the most awful person in politics. I suppose they have lots of source material. 🙊

Meanwhile, over at Royal Northumberland Hospital…we’ve got a crowd control issue (as people try to charge their phones using the hospitals emergency generator power) and escalating trouble at the removal centre. A colleague on twitter pointed out this actually happened in Lancaster in 2015.

You know that fire risk I mentioned earlier…well the hotel is now on fire. Without a functioning alarm system, it seems to be down to the Chief of Staff and her one night stand to alert the occupants.

I’d estimate that the fire puts around 80+ people in need of temporary accommodation. In the first instance, this would be the hotel’s responsibility, but I imagine their processes for finding available rooms is compromised, so the responsibility for emergency accommodation would fall to the local authority, compounding the issues the council will already be dealing with.

My concern has shifted to the personal safety of the Police Chief checking on the escape from the deportation centre in his uniform. I’d imagine high levels of anger and fear from the people at the centre towards the Police (although I think it’s actually UKBA responsible for the centres?). In any case, my advice to him would be to remove/cover his uniform.

Yes, as suspected, the escaping people weren’t happy. Thankfully (as he’s the only policeman outside of London) he managed to get away to continue doing other people’s jobs.

It continues to go from bad to worse in Northumbria, as high-security escapees have attacked students at the university. Quite what the motive for that would be is a bit unclear, but we’ll have to wait until episode 3 to find out!

 

 

* it turns out my initial view here might not be right, one to research further!

** for more info about this blog-along check out my introductory post or head straight to Episode 3

 


Post Script: Emergency Planners unite! It’s not just us that feel the COBR/COBRA debate. I present some evidence:

 

 

COBRA: Episode 1

COBRA: Episode 1

Reading Time: 9 minutes

 

How Sky pitched the episode: Robert Carlyle stars as the UK Prime Minister, forced to scramble an emergency committee when a huge crisis strikes. 

Ooof.

Let’s just take a minute to read that again, shall we? A whole profession (in 2014 I estimated there are at least 7000 Emergency Planners in the UK) works around the clock to ensure that emergency committees are prepared, trained and rehearsed so that should a crisis occurs people are not ‘forced to scramble‘!

Right, deep breath…*presses play*

MAYDAY!! The series opens on a plane in trouble, some tense conversations with air traffic control and then…a flashback.

The Prime Minister is a smoker?! Bad optics scene reminiscent of ‘disposable cup gate’?

Someone is asking for ‘immediate updates’ about panic buying at petrol stations. Let’s think about that for a moment; what defines ‘panic buying’? 5% greater demand than normal? 10%? 75%? Is there a government minister telling people to fill up Jerry cans? Does the retail fuel sector have the information system to provide this analysis in real-time?

In reality, obtaining this level of information from anything other than media reports would be incredibly difficult. And then it would be patchy based on media coverage.

Oh. My. Goodness. They have spelt COBR correctly! Any preconceptions I had about this show are dismissed.

COBR (or Cabinet Office Briefing Room) is the “dedicated crisis management facilities…activated in the event of an emergency requiring support and coordination at the national strategic level’. It does not have funky recessed lighting (but does have wallpaper that your nan would be proud of)!

In the event of activation in real life, the media 99.99999%* of the time refer to it as it’s phonetic pronunciation, COBRA. It’s a source of serious eye-roll from emergency managers, me included. We should get out more!

Gosh. 8 minutes in they are “informing all Gold Commanders” (and for dramatic tension it’s not clear what they are being informed of). Exciting stuff, but in reality:

  • the introduction of JESIP, the Joint Emergency Service Interoperability Principles, should have phased out the Gold/Silver/Bronze terminology from 2013.
  • forgive the semantics for a moment, but what do they really mean? Who are Gold Commanders? If we work on the premise that all emergency responder organisations have a strategic lead you’d be looking at thousands of people to be alerted. What alerting system would they use for that?
  • I expect what they actually mean is alerting all Police services, which would be done by the Home Office via the National Police Coordination Centre or other national coordination structure, rather than by the Cabinet Office.

I have questions about whether that JESIP rebrand was worth the effort. Gold/Silver/Bronze has a nice familiarity to it. You get to use these emojis 🥇🥈🥉. A picture paints a thousand words, right? Personally I find it easier to conceptualise gold/silver/bronze than the more anodyne terms to which they relate, strategic/tactical/operational.

“We’ve gone to significant threat” and we haven’t had the title sequence yet! I feel like they want people to think it’s terrorism, but I think we’re going to be surprised!

Oh, shall we take a look at the titles?

I think that’s a map of the UK, with the circle over the Liverpool area, could that be significant? It reminds me of those pictures from space of lights at night…

I reckon this is definitely a sign of things to come.

We have confirmation; we’re concerned about a ‘Solar Threat’. My interest is piqued. Although I think the language that would actually be used would refer to a ‘space weather event‘ but that sounds less gripping! Are we in Carrington Event territory? Oh, they actually mentioned it!! Not gonna lie, I feel a bit smug that I predicted that! Can I get a job advising the script on these kind of programmes?!

The debate they are having about the risks is one (actually, more likely 20) that I have actually participated in. They’ve held a seminar and (with any luck) had some nice sandwiches. Meteorologists had one view, industry had another. Non-specialists in either field just felt bamboozled. My Anytown methodology was an attempt to help non-experts understand complex interdependencies.

Uh oh, you guys, a high-speed plasma eruption is heading towards earth. I sense things are about to get bad!

Sidenote: This Home Secretary is, unfortunately, very well written. *eye roll emoiji*

I like the amount of precedent being provided by the people around the COBR table. We’ve had Carrington, a downed French flight, Ash cloud…this is the availability heuristic in action; a quick ‘this looks scary, but remember we’ve dealt with something similar before, you got this’. Also a very helpful way of shortcutting lots of information.

“Pizza or curry” Now that is a familiar and important emergency response question! (Also, never trust anyone who orders anchovies on pizza).

Emergencies are strange beasts. They are certain, but predicting their detail is impossible. Therefore it’s about simultaneously operating comfortably and appropriately in an information vacuum and finding ways to rapidly gather reliable information. A mixture of an art and a science. So far I think the programme is doing a good job of reflecting the balance that has to be found between ‘we need more information’ and ‘take some action’.

As is standard practice, the local Police are shown taking the lead. This is known as ‘primacy’ and happens in most situations. However, decisions are made through consensus, which requires…a multi-agency coordination structure.

Would you believe it, the police have just requested a ‘Gold Command’ to be established at a hospital (we’ve already talked about ‘gold’, I’ll come back to ‘command’ later!) In my experience this is pure fiction; there’s no way the police wouldn’t host a meeting on their territory. Unless it was the end of the world…and even then!

Colleagues on Twitter also had things to say about this suggestion. They didn’t seem too impressed; although this isn’t the partnership-working vibe I’d encourage!

I’m making an assumption that what we’re seeing is a Police internal coordination meeting, but it’s not clear. They wouldn’t have had time to alert partners and for them to assemble. It’s great that they are listing objectives, ensuring all parties are working to a common purpose, but if it’s a police meeting the objectives seem a bit odd:

  • Maintaining healthcare
  • Ensuring protection for the vulnerable
  • Safeguarding key sites and fuel supplies
  • Maintaining law and order

Adding to the mystery about what kind of meeting this is, one of the attendees is reading A Councillors Guide to Civil Emergencies. Blink and you’d miss it, but I fought with the pause button and got a screen grab…

Why would they be using this at a Police meeting? Police and Crime Commissioners, do they count as Councillors? Is that why that person is reading it?

Notice the different logo and font – I wonder if it was a TV licencing issue that meant they had to recreate a slightly different version of this LGA document?

(Also, the idea of people actually opening a plan, that’s fun! 😂)

Meanwhile back in London, they are talking about convening Local Resilience Forums. That’s just lazy script editing, surely everybody knows that the LRF is a planning, not a response body. They teach this stuff at school don’t they? (They should!)

“I want secure video link to all Gold Commanders”. Easy, not a problem at all. Everyone uses compatible technology, there is never an issue with wifi and we all know what sequence of buttons to press to get the tech to burst into life. Oh, wait, no, there are actually very few standards in the technology that organisations use which often means there are practical and user issues when trying to use the shiny video conferencing kit.

The good news is that I’ve seen this slowly changing as more organisations move to mass-market solutions rather than proprietary technology. Skype (and Microsoft Teams) has been a game-changer.

We’ve cut now to air traffic control talking to the plane that is in trouble, keen to establish how many ‘souls’ are onboard. That sounds like really dramatic language, but actually it’s super helpful. When time is tight, getting accurate info is essential. Part of that accuracy is the shared language that organisations build up. One role of an emergency manager is to be able to speak multiple organisational languages. Emergency managers are able to translate that the aviation (and maritime) sector uses ‘souls’ because:

  • It’s an umbrella term for passengers and crew,
  • Young children without a booked seat wouldn’t be counted as passengers,
  • Dead bodies are transported by air, but wouldn’t count in the incident statistics (although they would present other challenges)

Sidenote: Misogyny in the most senior levels of government, lovely. Sadly, also accurate.

Right. Hold on a moment. Why on earth are COBR identifying alternative landing sites for the plane? Absurd. I cannot even bring myself to talk about how wrong that is.

We’re now back with our senior Police Officer friend (because despite there being hundreds of thousands of police officers across the country, we’re only allowed to get to know one of them). He’s just witnessed a jumbo jet crash land on a motorway. He’s about to have what we’d call ‘a bad day at the office’.

Personally, I think it took him longer than it should have to report what he’d seen. However, he was quick to declare a major incident! Another emergency manager mantra – if in doubt shout it out. We didn’t see him undertake a dynamic risk assessment or provide a METHANE message, but the episodes are only 50 minutes, so some editing is unavoidable.

“We’re the ones who have to make decisions whilst others talk about them in pubs”. I’m stealing that. It’s going on my business cards (joke, we don’t get business cards).

Strategic COMMAND Centre? What he really means is ‘coordination’. What’s the difference you ask, well let us turn to the UK Civil Protection Lexicon which defines each term as

  • Command – the exercise of vested authority that is associated with a role or rank within an organisation, to give direction in order to achieve defined objectives
  • Coordination – the integration of multi-agency efforts and available capabilities, which may be interdependent, in order to achieve defined objectives.

Again though, don’t forget that this is drama; we need more authoritative-sounding terminology to keep the tension. The byproduct of this through, is that it probably builds a level of public misinformation, which it can then be hard to challenge in the heat of the moment.

My geography of the northeast isn’t the best, but it also seems like some weird cross-border stuff happening here. The plane crashed on the A1 somewhere around Newton Aycliffe, but the proposal is coordinate from a different police service area in Hexham (see map below)?

It’s interesting how people see things differently.

Conversely, I don’t think it’s too bad. Easy to pinpoint the location using a motorway marker. Clear access and egress routes. Lots of space to set up temporary facilities. Overhead lighting (for now at least!). Easy to control and limit onlookers.

The Civil Contingencies Act has got a mention. I probably check something in the detail of the Act once a week, I’d love the see the statistics for the webpage!

It is totally unclear clear what exactly the Prime Minister is “asking the Queen to authorise”.

In my mind, since 2010 there has been doubt about how Part 2 of the Act (Emergency Powers) would be implemented because of the removal of Regional Civil Contingencies Committee. I’m also not sure Part 2 would be used in advance of something catastrophic on a national scale. The law allows for it, but I just can’t see it.

“Worse than our most pessimistic forecast” it’s exactly because of things like this that use of Reasonable Worst Case Scenario seems too arbitrary. I’m not alone, a review of the 2009 Influenza Pandemic (remember ‘Swine Flu”) by Dame Deirdre Hine reported “unease about the reasonableness or the reasonable worst case”. Risk is a complex curve not an arbitrary point on a matrix. I have lots of views about this, now is not the time.

I see from the discussion on Twitter there was an ‘outcry’ of mourning for HL11 (the code for an old national risk assessment considering railway accidents). That risk assessment was the bane of my life for 5 years, I feel no sense of loss.

The episode ends with the lights going off across central London. I’ve seen this once before, on a much more limited scale, in 2015 following an electrical incident just off The Strand. Here’s a comparison of what was on telly and then what actually happened. Eerily similar! 

And so episode 1 ends. It was pretty far off from what I was expecting, but I broadly enjoyed it.

Helen is right, there are lots of avenues to explore with the scenario in terms of impacts and recovery considerations, but as a dramatic device, I think not having a ‘bad guy’ might make this a harder story to tell.

Hopefully, I manage to make the live-tweet of the second episode and stay tuned for the next blog instalment.

 

 

* this is not an actual statistic!

** for more info about this blog-along check out my introductory post

***already ready for COBRA: Episode 2?

COBRA: a multi-part blog-along

COBRA: a multi-part blog-along

Reading Time: 2 minutes

My career in emergency management started 15 years ago this year.

The London bombings had happened the previous year and one of (many) themes in the profession at the time was about ‘citizen journalism‘. People, actual real-life 3-dimensional members of the public, had taken pictures on their Nokia 3210’s and sent them to the BBC newsroom. It was a paradigm shift in how the media could report breaking news.

Flash forward to yesterday evening. Trains up the spout. I felt myself stressing about not being able to join a live tweet-along to a new series on Sky, COBRA. How times change, eh?!

Described as a “must-see thriller set at the heart of government during a major national crisis” this show is entirely up my street.

A selection of my incredible colleagues gave a great running commentary on Twitter.

So I was thinking about how I could take a different approach. So…strap in for a multi-part series of long-form blogs of each episode.

Like the rest of my work-related blogs, my aims are partly to demystify what the emergency management profession can sometimes over complicate, and to summarise how fiction compares to reality.

I want to hear your thoughts too! Agree/disagree with my ramblings? Let me know! @mtthwhgn.

And here’s a picture of me sat at the COBRA table…honest! 🤫

Now you’ve read the intro, get stuck into my thoughts, episode by glorious episode

Oh, and just a reminder for those at the back: let’s all remember that it’s an entertainment show, we expect (and encourage) a degree of artistic licence!

The Wave (2015) – an emergency planners review

The Wave (2015) – an emergency planners review

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Inspired partly by Parasite director Bong Joon Ho’s acceptance speech at the 2020 Golden Globes I decided to watch The Wave, a 2005 Norweigian film based on the Tajfjord rockslide in April 1934, which resulted in a 40m tsunami killing 40 people.

Before I even had to contend with subtitles, the first challenge was finding a way to watch it. At the time of writing, it’s not available via Netflix UK or Amazon Prime Video, but I tracked it down and watched on YouTube.

Like lots of disaster movies, and many real-life disasters, the warning signs were there from the outset.

The context is clear. It will happen again, but scientists don’t know when.

Well reader, I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler that I confidently predict something decidedly bad will happen in the next 90 minutes.

Cut to the present day.

Kristian is working his last day as a geologist, relocating his family to take a job with the dark side of the oil industry. Groundwater sensors embedded across the mountain indicate something is amiss but it’s dismissed by his colleagues. It takes time for Kristian to convince his colleagues that ‘something is up’, he abandons his children and they set off to find their hotel manager mother. A good rule of thumb based on most disaster movies and all horror movies that I’ve seen: do not split up.

Anyway, by the time the data is telling a compelling enough story, the geologists have slightly 10 minutes to save the town. Even in a town of just 250 people, arranging evacuation in 10 minutes is a tall order.There are signs that the situation has been planned for. The alarm is (eventually) sounded, people take to their cars, pausing to pack personal possessions. There aren’t many routes out of the town, but it’s all relatively well ordered.

Bucking the Hollywood trend, the film shows no scenes of looting. This supports a growing evidence base that people affected by disaster are typically pro-social. I found this really refreshing.

After the tsunami arrives focus shifts to Kristian’s attempt to find his family. He’s reunited with his daughter fairly quickly, but he has to mount a one-man rescue mission to find his wife and son. I don’t want to spoil the dramatic tension in the latter part of the film, but suffice to say that one scene, in particular, is reminiscent of Titanic.

Overall I really enjoyed The Wave. There were still some great action sequences but it was a different, slightly calmer take on disaster.

 

Ramen Resolution – Shoryu (2)

Ramen Resolution – Shoryu (2)

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Is there anything better than autumnal noodles? Cool crisp evenings juxtaposed with the comfort and warmth of ramen. Perfection.

And so I found myself with my friend Melissa gorging on ramen at Shoryu a few weeks ago back at the scene of my very first blog!

I arrived early and despite signs saying they would only seat complete parties, I was able to grab a table at the counter (my favourite noodle eating position) and order a cocktail (my favourite preprandial activity).

A Koyo was described as an ‘elegant blend of roku gin, apricot brandy and sake’. I think the apricot made it a bit too sweet for me, and perhaps I’d have prefered something a bit sharper. Melissa arrived and grabbed an umeshu sour, which tried and she definitely made a better choice.

Not wanting to make the same misordering mistake with food I examined the seasonal specials. None of them took my fancy though, so instead opted for the Chicken Katsu Curry Ramen, oh and two steamed buns becuase what is life without a starter?

In a double nod to autumn and #MelissasAmericanAdventure we went for the fried pumpkin steamed bun

This feels a little bit like blasphemy. To me, ramen is simple whereas curry is such a complex blend of flavours. Both are delicious but in purist terms, something about mixing the two felt wrong.

However, the noodles were delicious; the rich spiciness (warmth rather than heat) making them even more perfect for a cold night.  The toppings were more limited than in the tonkotsu options, but there was a swirly fishcake. I’m not entirely sure what they are (and about 99% sure I don’t want to know) but they definitely make a bowl more instagrammable. Oh, and I fully don’t remember that prawn being there?!

Look at those swirly things. Just look at them!

Is Shoryu my favourite place: no. It feels a bit like ramen by numbers. I’d like it to be grittier, edgier or adventurous.

However, is Shoryu a dependable option, somewhere you could take a first date or your mother? Absolutely. If you’re desperate for ramen, which I often am, you can make worse choices.

Ramen Resolution – Shoryu takeout

Ramen Resolution – Shoryu takeout

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Matsuri is the Japanese word for festival, and Sunday just gone saw Trafalgar Square taken over with all things Japanese.

The weather wasn’t great but stayed mostly dry and so was able to catch about an hour of the entertainment line up which included traditional dancing, some impressive hats and costumes, anime artworks and a man playing the koto (which is a bit like a lying down harp from what I could gather).

What better way to enjoy this than sitting down with a bowl of ramen and a freebie yakkult?!

I’ve been to Shoryu before, in fact, it was the very FIRST place I visited in my #RamenResolution adventure!

Dishing up noodles from a stall necessitated a more limited menu than branches of the restaurant; with just two options Tonkotsu or Spicy. Having had a spell of just regular tonkotsu’s recently I went the spicy route and wasn’t disappointed.

It looked like quite a meagre portion, but actually came away feeling full, which for street food is basically unheard of. In fact, with melt in the mouth pork and spicy but not blow-your-head-off broth I was really pleased. The only downside was the inability to properly slurp the soup.

Idea for a festival: RAMEN!! Just halls full of ramen. Yes please. Somebody make this happen!

Ramen Resolution – Koi Ramen IRL

Ramen Resolution – Koi Ramen IRL

Reading Time: 2 minutes

On a walking tour of London’s Glittering Soho™, the guide told us about the steep rise in popularity of pasta after the second world war; that Londoner’s went mad for spaghetti. That’s basically the reaction my dad had when he first tried Thai food a few years ago, he couldn’t get enough.

So, when he came down to London for the day I thought we’d introduce him to ramen, so off we set for Koi Ramen in Tooting Market (I’ve blogged before about their noodle home delivery service but this was my first time actually eating there).

Naturally, on the way I got the eye-roll-inducing moans of “£10 for a bowl of noodles” so to quiet him we stopped off at Graveney Gin first, plus I figured get him drunk and I wouldn’t have to pay!

The menu at Koi is super limited. I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. ‘Do a few things really well’ is a good philosophy, but as a first-timer, it can be a bit concerning to not see things you recognise. Thankfully he had me to guide him through his first ramen experience.

We both opted for the Tonkotsu, with an egg (because we all know by now that and egg should really be compulsory) and threw in a side of gyoza for good measure.

It’s always fun when you can see into the kitchen and watch the chefs work their magic.

After a few minutes, two steaming bowls of noodles were placed in front of us. Light milky broth, moist sweet pork, the richness of egg yolk and the ocean taste of nori. The noodles were the right level of hardness for me but the broth could have been slightly thicker and silkier.

My Dad was impressed with his first ramen experience and I think Koi was a great choice for authentic style ramen in the hustle and bustle of south west London.