Ippudo is no small-town ramen place, it's a chain restaurant with global reach and is active in 12 countries. In London, a second destination opened in summer 2015 to satisfy the cravings of the Canary Wharf crowd and continue ramen's international spread. Quick lunchtime menus or speedy dinner, there are no reservations so plan well or be fine with waiting.
Having a go-to ramen place is necessary for any 2016 foodie. A pop-in-and-out kind of place that doesn't feel too heavy on the wallet but fills you up and leaves your mouth a-tingle, layered in broth. "Let's just get a ramen," you can say, slightly pretentiously, but knowing that no one's going to disagree with you.
Canary Wharf is not a great place for finding eateries that don't make your meal either feel like it was spat out by a machine in a giant centralised head office; or that you're probably too poor to be there. The whole enclave isn't exactly known for it's soulful atmosphere – it's where people work so go-to pop-in places with good food are what you keep an eye out for.
Ippudo doesn't have a reservation policy, people say when there are long queues you can leave your number and they'll text you when a table is ready but I haven't experienced that. Usually, you can eat by the bar or squat at the counter that frames the open kitchen.
Down at the counter, things are being yelled quite near you and the sounds of cooking clink around the wood and metal decor. The shininess of everything gives off a futuristic edge that could either mean hygiene or your food tastes of wood polish.
It doesn't though and when you've stopped in for lunch, it comes as fast as you'd want it to. The Hirata Pork Bun is small and appetising – a soft steamed bun folded over chashu pork with lettuce and mayo: the pork just right to sink your teeth through the bun and clean through the meat; the bun fluffing around the barbecued meat and the whole taste coming together with a tang as you make it up to the mayo.
Address - Unit CR 28, Level Minus One Crossrail Station and Retail Mall, 1 Crossrail Place London E14 5AR
Times - Monday to Saturday 11.30am – 10pm (Last order: 9:30pm) & Sunday 11.30am – 9pm (Last order: 8.30pm)
Telephone - 020 3326 9485
Website - ippudo.co.uk
Menus - Here
Prices = Around £20 per head including drinks.
Of course, you're more than free to skip everything else and go straight to the ramen. The Akamaru Modern is strong and heavy. It has an umami flavour that rises through the broth and fills your nostrils as your head hangs over, slurping noodles. The Akamaru Modern comes with garlic oil and a "secret special-blended miso paste" along with the thin noodles, pork belly, bean sprouts, sesame kikurage mushrooms and spring onions that come with the original. The additions are for those of us who enjoy being overpowered by taste, who want our quick lunch to be rather more than a temporary fix.
It's a place that's good for dinner, too – the sake isn't cheap but it's no more than you'd pay anywhere else. The pricing in general is a bit mixed – the Akamaru Modern is well-placed at £11 but the Hirata Pork Bun isn't enough to warrant a £4 tag (you can get three for £10 but that still doesn't quite cut it).
Overall, you're getting good, tasty, filling food in a place that feels like a clean, bustling kitchen for around £20 a head (assuming people are having a few drinks). Pop-in and out, it's a safe-bet go-to ramen place.
NOTE: James Tennent ate at Ipuddo anonymously and paid for his meal.