Heddon Yokocho

It’s almost a month since we visited this place, but since you can’t go anywhere anyway, we might as well revisit it!

Natsuki Kikuya had posted about this place in her Instagram page, so I was curious about it.

But wait… a ramen place in Mayfair? 🤑💸

I looked at the menu on their website to make sure I would not have to sell a kidney to visit 😆 The prices seemed within the standards of ramen in Central London, and since there’s not a lot to look forward to these days, I made a reservation.

Turns out, we really didn’t need to have booked because it was quite empty at 12pm. But maybe that will change… sometime in the future.

In any case it was a nice change from the usual experience of trying to eat ramen in London, that is, having to queue in the cold for a good while because the place is popular and they refuse to accept this alien and mysterious concept of “reservation”. Yes, I’m looking at you, Kanada-ya!

This restaurant aims to replicate the experience of the Yokocho, the little restaurants you can find in “narrow alleys” in Japan. So it was sort of dark, full of exposed bricks here and there, red paper lamps decorated with ラーメン (“ramen”) on them and various other vintage looking quaint memorabilia. And many tables did not have actual stools for people to sit on, but a couple of crates piled together and topped with a cushion instead, to make it look more like you’re in a back alley and the tiny outpost just ran out of stools but they’re still willing to accommodate you, so they come up with this makeshift seating arrangement, or something 🙄

We ordered two starters: octopus balls and a tori kara age bun (fried chicken bun). I only wanted the chicken, not the bun, but there was no such option, so I went for the closest thing.

These were OK; not too hot, not too cold, the right taste and amount of sauce. I found the bun a bit underwhelming, maybe because I was still regretting ordering it since I didn’t want the bun, and it felt like there was a lot of bun and very little chicken, and the tori kara age in Kazu is much nicer, but anyway… I ate it.

Octopus balls and a tori kara age bun
Octopus balls and a tori kara age bun

Another view of the tiny chicken piece and the big bun:

Tori kara age bun
Tori kara age bun

Then came the ramen bowls. I had ordered a tonkotsu ramen (so pork based broth) while Devver’s was a bit lighter as I think it was chicken and miso based. I prefer rich and unctuous ramen, so I was pleased with the flavour of mine. In my mind, I can make a nice chicken soup at home, but I do not have the patience to boil pork bones for 12+ hours while periodically removing the foam and etc, so I suppose that also weighs into me favouring tonkotsu broths.

The broth was satisfying, the toppings were decent, except the slices of pork didn’t quite fall apart and melt in my mouth as I envisioned they would do, so there was a bit of fighting between them and me.

Also, in contrast with Kanada-Ya, we weren’t asked to choose the softness level of the noodles, so we had to trust they’d get it right. And they were…

Tonkotsu ramen at Heddon Yokocho
Tonkotsu ramen at Heddon Yokocho

What they didn’t get quite right was my “soft” boiled egg, which felt more like a sturdy casing for an even harder golf ball: the yolk was so overcooked that I’m sure it could have been used to play a few rough matches, so round and solid it was.

I genuinely don’t know what had happened there, as Devvers’ egg was nicely soft boiled 🤷🏻‍♀️

And I suppose in normal times I might have politely asked to have a new egg, but the thought of the additional bureaucracy introduced by covid makes me tired already: get somebody’s attention, explain the problem, make a sort of little amplifier with your hand behind your ear as you ask for things to be repeated back to you, because they’re slightly mumbling behind their mask and you can’t understand them, then they eventually come back with a tray containing a single egg on a little container, and you have to immediately stop what you’re doing—drop the chopsticks, gulp the beer down—to take the container from the tray so the waiter doesn’t touch it, as if it had been placed on the tray by the Holy spirit to start with… so tedious! 🤯

So I just pretended like this hadn’t happened.

The music was also extremely loud, at 83 dB, the equivalent of a freight train at 15 metres of distance, or the loudness level of a rubbish removal truck, I suppose to give it more of a character, and make it animated and an exciting place to be in. To really feel like you were off a street in Tokyo—a thundering highway with thousands of Toyotas an hour roaring past nearby, etc.

But all I wanted to do was to leave as soon as possible, which we did.

Heddon Yokocho neon sign (へどん)
Heddon Yokocho neon sign (へどん = he-don)

I’m not sure I’d want to come back, unless I was really, really desperate for ramen and neither Kanada-Ya or Ippudo wanted to accept me (or if they both were closed, which wouldn’t be a surprise these days ☹️). They’re all within relative walking distance.

The food was OK (we can ignore the egg incident) but the rest felt too artificial and forced, like a theme park of sorts. Too much pretend-atmosphere, too little comfort for my tastes.

Nah. I might change my opinion if they give me a proper stool or even a chair with back rest next time 😂

Heddon Yokochohttps://heddonyokocho.com/
8 Heddon Street
London W1B 4BU

As a side note: this place used to be another Japanese restaurant called Sakagura, and all of them seem to be owned by the Japan Centre, as are the Shoryu restaurants too.

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