Ramen is trendy and I’m a great fan. Particularly at lunchtime. But despite Brixton’s ‘foodie’ reputation, it’s not so easy to find, particularly on weekdays. So, for those who share my addiction, here’s a brief guide of what’s available.
Ramen is seen as a classic Japanese dish, although I’ve been surprised to discover that it originated in China and has only become dominant since the second world war, when cheap wheat imports became available. Named for the eponymous type of noodles, it’s served invariably with a tasty stock plus garnishes, usually meat and vegetables.
Here’s four places in Brixton that I considered for my Ramen fix, but you will see that early in the week there’s only one or two of them that are actually open. I might have missed somewhere so don’t hesitate to let me know.Okan Ramen & Soba – 338 Coldharbour lane, SW9 8QH
Open at lunchtime Wednesday thru Sunday
See our full review here.
This is good, serious ramen. I went for the tonkotsu ramen, with what is correctly described as a creamy pork broth topped with sliced pork belly, nitamago egg, kikurage mushroom and bamboo shoots. Lots of flavour and spot-on noodles for under £12 including service.
Koi Ramen Bar – Pop Brixton, 49 Brixton Station Rd SW9 8PU
Open at lunchtime everyday.
See our full review here. (This was pre-Pop Brixton, when it had a stall in Brixton Station Road)
This is the only everyday option, served from a stall in Pop Brixton in a large paper cup. Here I had the tonkotsu option again, with the addition of an egg. Disappointingly, the egg was unmarinated, as would normally be expected. The stock was good but without the richness that I really look for. This option costs £7.00.
Kamome – 14BC Market Row Brixton, London, SW9 8LD
Open at lunchtime everyday except Monday
See our full review here. (This is from a long time ago, when it was called Curry Ono.)
Here there’s a simpler approach of a miso stock with pork slices and a limited garnish. It’s good of it’s kind but not really what I’m looking for in ramen in terms of depth of flavour. The noodles were also too soft for my taste. This cost £8.60.
This is where I was caught out in conducting my survey, as Nanban has stopped opening at lunchtime during the week, except for Fridays. I had hoped to go last Tuesday. So these comments are based on previous visits. But there is no doubt that Nanban is up there as one of the top two or three places to eat in Brixton and their ‘soul food’ versions of ramen are no exception. They offer a Kumamoto pork ramen for £10 but, unfortunately, I don’t have a picture. However, the picture (above) shows their signature lazy goat ragù-men’, where the noodles are served separately from the curried sauce. This shows the distinctive wiggly noodles with the yellow colouring that comes from the use of sodium bicarbonate when they are manufactured.
All in all Nanban were always going to be my favourite but Okan Ramen are also excellent and certainly not an inferior option on days that they are open when Nanban is closed. And Koi Ramen is good enough, when the others aren’t available. There’s nothing wrong with Kamome’s version; it’s just not what I am looking for.