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Future Leader Scheme: Module One

Future Leader Scheme: Module One

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Last year I was encouraged by my manager* to apply for the Civil Service Future Leader Scheme. I applied without expectation, was invited to a selection interview and heard I’d been selected towards in the autumn. And then…nothing!

For months there was a confusing barrage of messages, emails, virtual meetings and online platform messages, but little-to-no directed learning activity.

In part delays have been due to the COVID pandemic, and I suspect that wrangling 400 students and multiple levels of technology competence is no mean feat. But the course didn’t give me good vibes.

However, I’m writing this post on the train back from Coventry and can honestly say that it was one of the most stimulating courses I’ve attended in some time and a privilege to spend time with an array of people with massively interesting positions and unique challenges.

There were two consistent themes in the discussion for me, one about reflection and one about accountability. Which is why I’m planning to blog about my experience of the scheme; to force myself to reflect on the learning activities, organise my thoughts and set intentions, openly, about putting learning into practice. I can then come back and review these to see whether I have followed through on my intentions, and I welcome that challenge externally too.

As a group we agreed some rules, one of which was about confidentiality. Definitely don’t read this series of blogs looking for the latest scoop! They’ll be high level reflections rather than my verbatim notes and I won’t quote anyone directly. Where possible I’ll try to credit any intellectual property, but it’s not always obvious what is/isn’t IP! If I’ve inadvertently reproduced something without attribution or permission then I’d be happy to edit or remove.

Objectives and Overview of the FLS Module 1 course:

  • Outline the structure of the programme and define a working agreement.
  • Define critical reflection and explore links to self-awareness and leadership.
  • Reflect on values, biases and assumptions which underpin leadership.
  • Consider the impact of a leader’s behaviour on others.
  • Form an Action Learning Set and practice the skills needed.
  • Reflect on aspirations and outline steps needed to achieve them.

We were also asked, as part of the course to ‘share an image of leadership’. There were some great contributions and rationale given, and I’ve made a note to look into the pack behaviour of wolves as a result!

The image that I chose was of the part-submerged US Airways flight 1549, which made an emergency landing on water in January 2009. The pilot of the plane, Chelsey Sullenberger, said in a later interview that “it was comforting to me to know that [the cabin crew] were on the same page, that we were all acting in concert” and about creating the conditions for other people to perform their role effectively.

a plane, US Airways flight 1549, shown half submerged in water following an amergency landing in January 2009 on the Hudson River, New York

Things that I learned (sorry this is a lot of bullet points):

Reflection

  • Holding up a mirror to ourselves isn’t enough – mirrors can be distorted and we might need some constructive, objective feedback
  • A working agreement is a charter between a group which sets out the norms for how the group intends to operate. It helps to create a safe, supportive space.
  • Try to recognise where your feelings are (and label them – ‘name the demon’) before responding.
  • Reflection is a helpful diagnostic tool and way of embedding learning. We all do it differently and what works for one won’t work for another. Think about getting a better balance between mandated reflection (formal development conversations) and situational or spontaneous reflection.

Relationships

  • Are our relationships with people different, is knowing people different, as a result of the pandemic? What does leadership look like in that context?
  • The Johari Window wasn’t new as a concept, but it was the first time that I’ve seen it in this way, with the focus being not just on understanding where different traits sit, but what actions we can take through self-disclosure, external feedback and shared exploration.
  • ‘Knowing’ is not just what people tell you or is documented. There are things we know which it is hard to define or articulate.
  • Find ways to seek more information using open questions and strategically deployed silence.
  • We each have values, but those values exist in a hierarchy. Can also consider ‘anti-values’.
  • Where do values come from in a secular society?
  • Emotional intelligence varies, be aware of, accommodate and support neurodivergence.
  • Can also use empathy to find common ground and positives. Where does somebody get their energy from? Doesn’t always have to be a negative emotion/situation that is being empathised with.

Values and objectives

  • What do you want, and what are you prepared to do for it?
  • As you get more senior more people are looking towards you. It’s lonely at the top and you can trust feedback less. Find a tribe who can give the honest feedback you need.
  • Make one change at a time so you can determine cause and effect.
  • There are leaders and there are influencers. If they’re not the same people, find and connect them.
  • Consider the influence of culture on how you present yourself and how other people interpret you.
  • When the rate of learning > rate of change = thriving conditions.

Things I’ll (try) to do differently as a result:

  • Be more intentional about reflection – allocate a half day each week
  • Ask my team and colleagues for more feedback on how I work – including perhaps asking them to draw a picture of my leadership!
  • Review my personal objectives to consider where I can make them more values-based, which feels more natural and comfortable to me than what I see as destination-based goals.
  • Push myself to be more forthcoming at an earlier stage.

An activity that I enjoyed was to draw ‘our vision of a leader in the 21st century’. My contribution is below, without interpretation because I’d be interested in how this is perceived! Drop me a tweet or leave a comment (not about my artistic prowess please)!

drawing of a figure with brain and heart identified and linked with a green arrow, a series of connected dots, some of which are obscured by a dark shape and some are illuminate by light

The next module of the course isn’t until the summer, but there are virtual events and sessions interspersed so I intend to cover those in much the same way.

 

* I have a slight philosophical issue with ‘manager’ which I’d like to explore more some other time. To me, the idea of ‘managing’ carries a connotation of coping, rather than excelling and improving. For that reason, I’m more drawn to leadership than management.

Ramen Resolution: Panton Yokocho

Ramen Resolution: Panton Yokocho

Reading Time: 4 minutes

My Ramen Resolution ( to eat more ramen and blog about them) began life in 2017. Four years later, here I am still finding new noodles to devour!

For our work Christmas social we went on a treasure hunt around London’s glittering West End, and along the way we passed this incredible kinetic sculpture. I knew I would have to come back and find out more about Panton Yokocho!

advertising stand with moving noodles in a bowl

The original branch is in Mayfair (ooh fancy!) and I haven’t made it there yet, but another branch on Panton Street opened recently above the Japan Centre, which is really the ideal location, especially when you’re off the the theatre just around the corner!

From the outside it looks a bit like you’re just walking in to a generic Zone 1 office building. The moving noodles from December had been taken inside, so there really wasn’t much to indicate we were in the right place. However, stepping inside was like being transported to the hustle and bustle of a the Tokyo back streets (note: ‘yokocho’ translates as alleyway).

Think neon lights, colourful lanterns, retro signage and a banging j-pop soundtrack. A little like this…

mtthwhgn seated under lanterns at Yokocho

The menu concept is highlights of ‘regional noodle cuisine’, allowing you to sample different styles from across Japan.

I’d booked a table, but that seemed to confuse the staff a little, so I think it’s safe to say that walk-in’s are pretty popular.

To drink, we ordered a Matcha Detox (left, £6), which doesn’t appear on the online menus, so might be a special; and a Cedroni (right, £9), which is a take on a negroni, but made with tarusake rather than gin. I suppose this is to give additional woodiness, but to be honest I just enjoyed it and didn’t think too much about it. I was interested to try the sake flight, which seemed good value (£9) and the Blue Hawaii Melon Cream Soda, but they will have to wait for another day.

cocktails at Yokocho

The food arrived all together, which I don’t hate, but it does mean eating things in a slightly funny order so that the noodles don’t continue softening, and can mean that the side dished get a bit cold. But remember that ramen is designed to be a quick meal.

ramen noodles and food at Yokocho

  • Yokocho Ramen (bottom, £13.90) – ironically, this originates in London, so doesn’t really play into the ‘regional noodles’ vibe, but it was great. You probably know by know that tonkotsu is my favourite for the lingering creamy coating it can leave on your mouth. This is a different, clearer and saltier style of broth, but it worked really well and the presence of a naruto fishcake was a bonus.
  • Kumamoto Tonkotsu Ramen (top, also £13.90) – Nick tried this and thought it was delicious and garlicky. Special mention was given to the nitamago egg bobbing gently in the broth.
  • Cheese Tsukuni Yakitori (£7.50) – these were a little like the meatballs that you get in Ikea covered with a grilled dairlylea cheese slice. It was tasty and the chicken was very moist, but on reflection I’d probably go for the fried chicken karrage next time.
  • Shio Kosho Wings – we had visited on ‘Wing Wednesday’ where a side of wings was £4.00 instead of the usual £6.50. The wings were very crispy but definitely needed the addition of some Shichimi powder for a bit of additional flavour.
  • Pumpkin Croquette Bun (£4.90) – I always really want to like a pumpkin bun, but in reality they can taste a bit like a veggie burger. The spicy mayonnaise was a hit!

I don’t usually review the toilets in the places I go, but on this occasion they get a special mention too for the (deliberately?) badly printed martial art movie wallpaper, which I adored.

cartoon face on retro wallpaper

Overall, Yokocho was a little on the expensive side compared to other ramen joints, but this is about as central as it’s possible to get so I think there’s probably a bit of an uplift because of that. However, both ramens and the side dishes were great and would definitely make a return visit if I was in the area because you can also pop into the Japan Centre and pick up some cool stuff there too.

Here’s to another year of noodley goodness!

Ramen Resolution – Mikawa Japan

Ramen Resolution – Mikawa Japan

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

I have a long-standing theory that the best Japanese restaurants specialise in a particular dish. I would always recommend exclusive sushi places, dedicated ramen joints, or restaurants that only sell okonomiyaki.

However, that theory has been blown clean out the water with a trip to Mikawa Japan, which offers a range of sushi, sashimi and ramen.

My visit ahead of a gig at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire was a bit of a last minute decision (thanks in part to the Victoria Line doing everything in its power to mess up my journey). The original plan has been to go for ramen at Shoryu at Ichiba Japan Centre in Westfield, but I thought that might be cutting things too fine for the start of the concert.

So Google Maps suggested Mikawa instead. Initially I was sceptical – the website is pretty sketchy and it was tricky to find details of the menu other than some photos which looked like they’d been taken on a potato.

Mikawa is one of those traditional Japanese restaurants – think sumo wrestler wood cut illustrations on the walls and red lanterns. However, they brought a Western vibe (and a great pre gig warmup) with a 90’s pop playlist!

I visited with my sushi obsessed friend, so we picked the Mikawa Set (an 8 piece salmon sushi roll, 6 pieces of nigiri all of different types and 3 types of sashimi and then we both opted for the Tonkotsu ramen. You know you’re in for a good experience if there is chūhai (essentially it’s a Japnanese alcopop) on the menu too, we chose yuzu and white peach flavours.

The sushi/sashimi arrived first and was marvellous.

My personal highlight was the tuna sashimi was so fresh, slightly salty and almost meaty rather than fishy. Nick loved the salmon sashimi, which I agree was also really good. The other stand out item was the wasabi, which was less lurid green than you find in some places, and has a texture similar to crunchy peanut butter. The only downside was that I wanted more, but we also had a bowl of ramen to come.

The noodles arrived as a ‘main course’ which is better than some places that just bring it as and when. We both noted how nice the bowls were too.

The noodles themselves were overdone (in that they were soft when they first arrived and then they continue to soften as you eat too). Nick wasn’t sure about the addition of ‘spinach’ as a topping, but I have to disagree; I thought it added a different more earthy dimension. The broth was delicious. It could have been more unxious (spelling?) but it was smooth and rich with a subtle sweetness. Two half eggs were also slightly overdone, but had so much flavour. And the pork slices were beyond great!

I would go back to Mikawa in a heartbeat.

It’s great to find new places, especially in areas of town that I’m less familiar with, because it’s an incentive to return and do more exploring. I’d make sure I go hungry beforehand though, so I could get even more sushi!

Ramen Resolution – Ippudo Villers St

Ramen Resolution – Ippudo Villers St

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

I’m back back back again with another ramen blog, and it feels like an eternity since my last post.

Post lockdown life has resumed and I was heading to see one of my favourite artists (L Devine, stream her album, buy her merch!) on Tuesday at a gig that has been postponed twice. I decided to swing by Ippudo on Villers Street for a quick bowl of noodles beforehand.

My very first foray into the world of restaurant ramen was at an Ippudo in Tokyo, so it always has an air of nostalgia.

I’ve walked past the Villers Street branch a lot (like, a lot) but this was my first time popping inside. It’s a small branch and the menu is limited. There are appetisers, but they’re only available as ‘specials’ not as standard menu items.

One of the things I like most about ramen is the ‘no messing’ approach. We’d been sat only for a few moments before our order had been taken and steaming bowls had been presented to the table.

Nick ordered the Akamaru Modern Special (a classic tonkotsu with garlic and miso) and I plumped for the Hakata Nikuton (tonkotsu with a sweet and spicy pork) which was a location exclusive.

Before tucking in to the noodles I tried the strawberry sake. It was really tasty cloudy-style sake and came out a slightly less lurid colour than the bottle indicated; but made from American rice and American strawberries it felt a little inauthentic! (side note: apparently this sake is good mixed 50:50 with milk…which I’m curious to try!).

My noodle broth was hotter than the surface of the sun. Sadly I scalded my tongue on the very first mouthful. Although that didn’t affect the flavour, it did affect my enjoyment! The broth was rich and had that texture where you’re lips stick together momentarily, even after a good lick! The spicy pork was very thinly sliced, and almost dissolved on your tongue like those mouthwash strips that were popular a few years ago…but less minty.

Nick’s was delivered in what I would call ‘pho style’  with toppings served separately. I quite like that idea.

But here’s his review in his own words:

Now, I also like a good ramen spoon, but my personal preference is for the flat ladle-type spoon rather than the Chinese-style spoon. Different spoons for different folks I guess!

I’ll will 100% be back to Ippudo Villiers Street – it’s fast, it’s convenient and it’s delicious. My only tip, give the boiling liquid a minute to cool down!

Ramen Resolution – Goto

Ramen Resolution – Goto

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I was passing through the south west of the UK last week with some time to kill. Naturally, I took to Google to find some noodles!

The first recommendation was in Exmouth, but on further investigation it wasn’t ramen, just regular noodles. No thanks. Not this. 

In a mysterious place, the oft neglected page two of Google, I found a news article singing the praises of Goto in ExeterGoto in Exeter. It wasn’t completely out of my way, so off I set!

There were free tables when I walked in, but it was approaching 19:30 and they had some bookings so I was asked to wait outside for a few minutes.

After what felt like forever (but was actually about 12 minutes) I was beckoned back inside, with a wave which, I imagine, they keep for regular patrons!

Hand painted murals adorn the walls, they’re pretty cool, and remind me of the ramen joint I visited in Boston.

I’d had time to study the menu so ordered as I sat down – restauranting like a pro!! 

The starter selection was a little limited, but I chose the vegetable tempura. The courgette was deliciously crispy but the sweet potato seemed to lack a bit of flavour. 

Tonkotsu then arrived before me. However, I have to be honest, it was a bit disappointing. The bamboo shoots were really tasty and the chasu slice was well cooked. But that thick, stick-to-your-mouth broth was nowhere to be seen. This was more like brown onion soup, thin and watery. And it had iceberg lettuce in it?! 

The table opposite me raved about their sushi though, so maybe ramen just isn’t Goto’s speciality?

If you’re passing through Exeter then definitely check it out, the customer service was great – quick, friendly and for the table who were a bit unsure of what to order they gave lots of recommendations. However, manage your expectations, this is not tonkotsu as you might know it elsewhere.

Ramen Resolution – Nanban (3)

Ramen Resolution – Nanban (3)

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

One of the (many) shows I’ve watched on Netflix over the last year is Million Pound Menu. Hopeful restauranteurs set out to impress judges to secure funding for a new eatery.

The pandemic is far from over, but we have reached the stage that the Government is once again permitting people to eat indoors at restaurants. So the plan was to track down one of the successful contestants and support small businesses.

Trap Kitchen in Balham was top of the list. But after looking at the prices and portion sizes it felt a little extravagant for a Tuesday.

So instead, we returned to old faithful Nanban in Brixton. Not a Netflix winner, but the founder did win Masterchef some years ago. I’ve blogged about previous Nanban visits here and here.

This is was my first time eating in a restaurant since October 2020. Things are different in many ways, socially distanced tables, eMenus and app ordering, staff in PPE. But things are also the same too, relaxed atmosphere, delightful smells wafting from the kitchen, and clever marketing which appeals to your senses and gets you to order more than is really needed!

We ordered the Angry Birds wings and padron peppers, a Lazy Goat ramen and a The Leopard ramen.

That was all washed down with some unusual sounding drinks – a Kinnie (think a fizzy non-alcoholic negroni) and a Cloudwater soda (apparently pineapple and yuzu flavour, but you had to search hard for any kind of flavour to be honest).

Nanban is one of my favourite ramen spots in London. What they offer is Caribbean/Japanese fusion, so this isn’t somewhere for an authentic experience but is good for trying out new things.

First up was half a pound of angry birds chicken wings. I wasn’t really sure how many that was but it sounded like a lot. In reality, eight. The outside of the wings was crispy and drenched in a sweet yet spicy (like, lips on fire, fire emoji) sauce.

The padron peppers were, well, padron peppers, which brought a little hit of freshness after the fried chicken.

Two bowls of ramen then got delivered to our table. Nick had the Lazy Goat ‘fusion’ although his review was “I enjoyed it but didn’t get a Japanese vibe”. The meat was very tender but it was a bit lacking on the broth front. The scotch bonnet bamboo shoots were also a teeny bit too spicy for us.

It was only when I stirred my bowl that I understood it’s name ‘The Leopard’. Burnt garlic oil spotted through the creamy broth like a leopards coat. Clever. Surprisingly the broth wasn’t the sticky pork bone broth I was expecting, more of a thick sesame milk. The toppings (tea pickled egg, bamboo shoots, garlic chips, spring onion) were great and the chunks (rather than slices) of chasu pork were meltingly soft. Finished off with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, which didn’t dissolve into the broth but softened and sank into a cheesy lump. This sounds like a bad thing, but it was a nice surprise at the bottom of the bowl!

We rounded off the meal with a Nanbanana, a miso fried banana with cinnamon ice-cream and crispy noodles. In my experience hot banana can be hit and miss. This was a resounding hit! The banana kept its texture in the warm butterscotchy sauce.

My first ramen after a very weird period was great, and Nanban remains high on my list of favourite ramen spots (even if it did turn out to be about 20% more expensive than Trap Kitchen…which we turned down because of prices! #fail)

Ramen Resolution: UH K-DOGS N JUICY

Ramen Resolution: UH K-DOGS N JUICY

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

It can sometimes be hard to escape the swirling vortex that is the TikTok algorithm. Such was the case when Korean Corndogs popped up on my friend Nick’s ‘for you page’ a few weeks ago.

I hear what you’re saying. Corndogs are not Ramen. Why am I reviewing them? Well, it turns out Korean corndogs come served with a variety of toppings which include crushed ramen noodles. I’m listening…

Avid readers will remember that I discovered dry ramen as a snack earlier in this whole lockdown situation. Some bright spark has basically decided to incorporate that into the batter/dough for a corndog.

Before this weekend I’ve only ever had one corndog in my life. It was from a concession in Pennsylvania Station in New York City. I was underwhelmed, so the bar was relatively low.

Here’s the TikTok that whet our appetites:

@foodysumzKOREAN HOT DOGS at Uh K-Dogs n Juicy London 🌭🌭 BUSSSSIN 10/10😍 #fyp #koreanhotdog #bussin #food #halal #london #viral #yummy #cheesey #cheese #yes♬ Copines – Aesthetic sounds

Yes. I had to Urban Dictionary what lengggg is too, don’t worry.

Due to the pandemic UH K-DOGS N JUICY are only taking pre-orders, so we arranged our order via Instagram (modern! engaging! interactive!) and headed to Parsons Green to collect.

The collection process was WEIRD! This is not a restaurant. It’s not even a food truck pop-up thing. This is direct from somebody’s actual kitchen in their house in West London. You wait outside the block and somebody comes down with your order.

Our order was broad enough so we got to try a bit of everything, but I’m focusing this review on the ramen coated corndog in an attempt to stay somewhere close to my brand!

Korean corndog with ramen topping

It was incredible! I’m not sure exactly what made it Korean. However, the fried dough was crispy and didn’t taste oily, the sausage inside was soft and the ramen obviously added a crunch. Flavour came in the way of spicy siracha sauce and parmesan flakes.

It was a trek to get there. I think that would put me off going again as it’s not a part of town that I know very well or can access easily. However, they are looking at moving to more traditional premises so I would pay them another visit if it was more convenient. One of the toppings for your savoury corndog is sugar, and I would be keen to try that!

It’s only vaguely ramen, so I’m not sure it warrants a score, but this is a definite levelling up of my previous corndog experience if nothing else.

Ramen Resolution – GGE Ramen Snacks

Ramen Resolution – GGE Ramen Snacks

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

Coronavirus has put paid to many of our traditions and customs this year. Around the world, people have adapted to find new ways to do old things.

As has become mtthwhgn tradition I was all set for my NYE lunchtime trip to Nanban. This would have been my fourth annual excursion, but it will have to wait until 2021.

Online ramen isn’t quite a thing yet, and I didn’t feel like cooking my own. However, I did find ramen crackers in a local Korean supermarket and so in absence of any actual ramen, I’ll be reviewing them instead!

I wasn’t really sure what to expect, is this just uncooked ramen?

The answer seems to be yes! But they have been kind is smashed up and reconstituted with some additional flavourings, a bit like if bombaby mix had been somehow glued together into a lump.

One version was described as a ‘cube’ but both versions were like small fat cylinders.

I tried two flavours, BBQ and Seaweed. To be honest, I’m not sure I could tell them apart, but neither pack lasted longer than a couple of minutes. They’re super crunchy but packed with flavour, even if that flavour seems to be generic! The brand, GGE (Good Good Eat) also make actual dried ramen for cooking, so my inner cynic thinks this is probably a ‘waste’ product that they have found a way to market!

The only downside really is the price, they were about £2.50 for an 80g packet, which felt on the expensive side. Although, after a quick google, you can get these beauties online for around half that price. I’ll definitely be getting more ramen snacks – there are at least four other flavours from the same brand, so that sounds like a project for 2021!

Ramen Resolution: Ramen At Home

Ramen Resolution: Ramen At Home

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

Here we are, teetering on the precipice of a second COVID lockdown. Whether it’s just a short ‘Tier 2 circuit breaker’ or something longer remains to be seen.

We’ve all learnt lessons from enduring the first few months of the Coronavirus pandemic. No doubt there will be many more to learn.

One lesson we should all aim to learn is how to make ramen as good as the ramen I was treated to on Thursday.

Cooking for other people can be stressful. Dietary requirements. Allergies. Timings. Striking the balance between cooking and entertaining. Add to that, cooking somebody one of their favourites foods AND one which they (ridiculously) review online.

And so it was, earlier this week when Nick decided he would make his signature chicken ramen for me. BOLD!

But you know, it’s October. The world is a mess; we could all do with a bowl of chicken soup!

Some ingredients arrived and the process began…

Nick started cooking at about 11:00. We ate at 19:30. A goooooood percentage of that time went into preparing the broth. There were a whole host of things simmering away for most of the day. My kitchen smelt (and still smells) wonderful!

Surprisingly for a chicken-based broth it was quite opaque and had more sweet, sticky, slurpyness than I had anticipated.

Years of searching and the perfect packet noodles still evade me. Some are too curly. Other too straight. I’m not sure what brand we had on Thursday (there was no English on the packaging at all) but they were good; not too soggy, even after being submerged in broth for a while.

Four types of mushrooms and homegrown spring onions bobbed around. Perfectly tender chicken thigh meat joined it. As did an egg.

Nick stressed over the egg. He appreciates that it’s arguably the showpiece of any bowl of ramen. He needn’t have worried, the slightly runny yolks and soft pillowy whites were glorious.

Was this authentic ramen? No, but does that matter? Well yes, to a purist I suppose it would. To me, the guy who enjoyed the addition of cheese to ramen in Washington DC, it was flavoursome and filling. Which is essentially what I’m looking for in my noodles.

Learn how to make ramen this good. Better, find someone to make you ramen this good. Take lockdown one bowl at a time.

Yummo!

P.S. here’s the recipe if you fancy giving it a whirl:

Ingredients

Chicken leg and thigh
Oyster mushrooms
Shitake mushrooms
Enoki mushrooms
Store-bought chicken ramen
Ginger
Star Anise
Garlic
Onion
Spring onions
Egg

Method

  1. Put the chicken stock, ginger, star anise, garlic, onion and chicken pieces in water.
  2. Slow cook for about 6 hours.
  3. Once done, shred chicken, cook mushrooms and noodles and spring onions in the broth.
  4. Serve with egg.
Ramen Resolution: Ramo Ramen

Ramen Resolution: Ramo Ramen

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Let’s be upfront about this, lockdown has significantly affected my access to noodles. That, in turn, means I’ve had little to blog about. It’s been a tough time for everyone. There are support lines available.

However, the time has not been wasted and I’m the proud owner of a list of places to check out as restrictions are reduced.

With that in mind, when Nick had the genius idea of grabbing ramen I was quick to consider CoCoRo in Bloomsbury. CoCoRo self describes as ‘a space with a feel of genuine Japan in central London’. This authenticity sounded just the ticket after a few misguided attempts at making ramen at home.

But, sad news: CoCoRo remains temporarily closed until further notice. *shakes fist*

I turned back to my list and opted to go with a slightly off the beaten track (i.e. out of Zone 1) option, Ramo Ramen in Kentish Town.

My interest was piqued by the idea of Filipinx-Japanese ramen. What even is that?!

There seemed to be a slight nod towards a movie theme in the decor, which I did’t really understand. 

We’d both had a chance to study the menu in advance so we were quick to order the miso baked prawn gyoza, the squid karrage and two bowls of the award-winning oxtail kare kare ramen; 2018 winner of Battle of the Broths.

I braved it and opted to drink something called a Dragons Fizz. This turned out to be a tropical sherbety mocktail in a luminous green. Nick chose a large glass of milo with tapioca balls. I’m going to say it, lumpy drinks are not the one for me. 

The squid karrage isn’t listed on the online menu, so this was a nice surprise addition of tender squid and crisp and salty batter. 

Prawn gyoza sounds fairly typical, but the twist here is that they are baked and then smothered in bechamel sauce and cheese. It was an interesting concept, kind of like a tiny prawn lasagne. 

The ramen broth was a rich earthy brown colour, slightly oily but without the same stickiness of a tonkotsu broth. Dotted through the soup were plump shitake mushrooms, crisp spring onions, bamboo shoots, slightly sweet pea shoots and gloriously soft golden yolked eggs. Then there, slightly off centre, was a mound of deliciously soft and peanutty pulled oxtail which Nick agreed was “the perfect amount of meat” adding that the meat seemed to be the source of the peanuttyness. 

I also really liked the stoneware bowls! 

In a panic, I asked for the bill before we’d had a chance to order the mango peach pie for desert. So that’s the excuse for a return visit!

Randomly, the bill was presented in a Kill Bill 2 DVD case (why?!). At £12.50 a bowl it’s far from the cheapest you can find, but as a post-lockdown treat it was an absolute bargain! 

I have to dock some points for the music selection. Back-to-back Justin Timberlake is the last thing we need in 2020. Especially if not one of those songs is ‘Mirrors’.

So, drumroll…

I’m awarding Ramo Ramen a very strong 4.6 out of 5.