Wednesday 3rd January 2024
We will open for our first service of the new year at 12 noon today.
I lived in Osaka for a bit in the 90s and fell in love with Japan and especially the food culture. I really loved these tiny ramen shops where they focused on only one or two dishes served up in backstreet, hustle bustle spots.
When I got back to London, I couldn’t believe how little Japanese food there was back then. Perhaps I didn’t quite have the guts to act on it though because I took the ‘easy’ route and got a job in an office. Every time a Japanese place opened up I’d go along and check it out but there were never any ramen dedicated places. I couldn’t silence the voice saying, “perhaps you should try opening your own little shop?”
Many years of corporate life later, on a slow Friday afternoon in the office, a touch hungover from Thursday night drinking, someone asked me the standard, ‘what would you do if you won the lottery’ question. I quickly realised that after a year or two of traveling and ‘consumption’ I’d start asking serious questions about what I really want to do in life. The ramen light bulb came on again and within a month I’d quit my job and was on a plane to Japan. Then it dawned on me; I hadn’t actually won the lottery.. doh!
Anyway I travelled up and down Japan for a few months eating A LOT of ramen, trying to remember the language and studying in a ramen school. I even bought a noodle machine in a rush of blood to the head moment. Back in London I spent the next 6 months making ramen in my kitchen every single day. My wife would bring Japanese colleagues home from the office on Fridays and they’d test that week’s batch and give me pointers. Then I worked in Ippudo making ramen for 6 months.
In the summer of 2015 I launched Monohon Ramen as a pop up and over the course of the next year we sold a couple thousand bowls of ramen wherever we could find a space in east London. Then one day, a nice man told me there was a restaurant for rent in Old Street and I had some more of those, ‘are you really going to do this?’ moments. A few months and an emptied savings account later, I had the keys.
Now we’ve cleaned up the place and I have hired some nice people to help me cook and serve my ramen. We’re making everything in house; the soup, the noodles, the toppings. We’re starting slow and focusing on a small number of dishes. Hopefully 1 or 2 people will come in and check us out!
Our total focus is authenticity. It’s a labour of love. Here’s a tiny glimpse of what goes into a bowl.
We don’t buy mass-produced, long-life noodles. Everyday we make fresh noodles in-house. The recipe is simple but much thought about. We use specialist flour from Japan (since most flour in Britain is for bread and not suitable) kansui, salt and water. Since London water is far too hard, we use softened water to get the right final texture.
Our soup is made from pork bones with kelp and shiitake mushrooms added for natural umami. It’s boiled furiously for a whole day so that the fat emulsifies into the soup giving the creamy texture and whiteish colour. We constantly monitor the soup viscosity with a refractometer (honest!) to get the right final thickness.
Our shouyu dare (seasoning sauce), for example, is made from 10 different ingredients and we measure salinity (using a different refractometer this time) to make sure the saltiness is the same in every bowl.
Our pork belly topping is slow-braised for up to 5 hours until it’s exceptionally tender.
Our hanjuku-tamago (soft boiled eggs) are cooked for precisely 6 minutes and 10 seconds and then marinated for 24 hours!
Umami-infused soy-sauce seasoning ‘tare’ with creamy pork bone soup
*Egg is extra
Shouyu Tonkotsu ramen with spicy miso pork mince
*Egg is extra
Shouyu Tonkotsu large size, all the toppings, extra egg and spicy miso pork mince
Pork bone soup with sea-salt seasoning ‘tare’ and spicy marinated cod roe topping
*Egg is extra
A soup-less ramen. Thick, bouncy ramen noodles on a sesame-oil based ‘tare’ with lots of toppings
Spicy, garlicky Nagoya style soup-less ramen
A soupless ramen with Mentaiko (spicy marinated cod roe)
Pork bone soup blended with different miso types, chillies, sansho pepper, medium thick noodles, bean sprouts, spring onions, pork kakuni and toasted seaweed
Also contains peanut
Creamy sesame flavoured soup with medium thick noodles, spring onions, beansprouts, pak choi, toasted seaweed and spicy miso-fried seitan
Also contains peanut
Thick, home-made ramen noodles with Japanese style chicken curry and pickles
*Egg is extra
Chilled ramen salad with tomato, cucumber, ham, omelette strips, soft-boiled and seasoned egg, bean sprouts, spring onions
Slightly spicy, slightly sweet pork mince, baby bamboo and shiitake sauce served
over chilled fat noodles
We are always looking for hardworking and talented people. Please send us your CV if you are interested to join our team.
102 Old Street
London EC1V 9AY
Monday: 12:00 – 14:15 17:30 – 21:30
Tuesday: 12:00 – 14:15 17:30 – 21:30
Wednesday: 12:00 – 14:15 17:30 – 21:30
Thursday: 12:00 – 14:15 17:30 – 21:30
Friday: 12:00 – 14:15 17:30 – 21:30
Saturday: 17:30 – 21:30
Sunday: 17:30 – 21:30
We’re closed all bank holidays.
Sorry, we don’t take reservations.
I’m really sorry, we don’t take reservations.
There is a very real and not insignificant cost in running a reservation system. First you have to pay someone to administer it. That takes more time than you might imagine as people chop and change their requests over time. You have to play tetris with the tables as well when groups of different (and changing) sizes make requests for ever changing times. The biggest cost of all is that rather sadly, somewhere between ⅓ and ½ of people don’t show up for their bookings. Or they do but come late. Or with a different number of people than they requested. Then we have people showing up on the night, standing in the queue and being told there is no space when the restaurant is actually half empty because we’re holding tables for people who may or may not show. With a small restaurant of only 32 seats, paying London rents (and I have to pay my staff enough so that they can afford London rents!) and UK taxes, we really need to be full as much of the day as possible or quite simply we lose money.
Sorry for the long explanation but I hope you can see why we run things this way. I’m sorry if you have to queue too long for a table.
Please remember we need your whole group to be here before we can seat you in the restaurant.
Failing that the counter sits 9 in a row.
Post corona customer flows are not as predictable as they used to be. During the cold weather, we are pretty busy most of the time. Evenings 6-8.30pm we are likely to have a queue of people waiting to get in.
Thursday – Sunday evenings, the queue often forms before opening time (which is 5.30pm) and sometimes contains more people than fit in the restaurant. If you want to be in the first wave that gets in when we open, best to arrive at least 10-15 minutes before we open.
Lunch times still haven’t returned to pre-corona levels as the local offices are not as busy. Monday lunch time is by far the quietest time of the week and if you are able, that’s the best time to be almost guaranteed no queue. Tuesdays – Fridays are busier but still, it’s rare there is a queue on those lunchtimes.
We have a really small space and have thought very hard about how to use it best.
We ask that your whole group is present before you take your table.
When we first opened, we allowed people in to wait for their friends and very quickly found the restaurant ‘full’ with half-full tables; meanwhile fully ready groups waiting in the queue got miffed.
We believe it’s quicker, fairer and nicer for all if we do it this way. We hope you understand.
Every day, people tell us, “can I have a table for 2/3/4 – my friends will be here in 1 minute”. To be fair to everyone, we ask your whole group to be here before entering.
Small, well-behaved dogs are totally fine and welcome. Anything larger or unruly just doesn’t work in such a small space I’m sorry.
I’m really sorry, no. We are a noodle shop, everything we make is with Japanese wheat flour. Some places do sell gluten free noodles but so far, i’ve not tasted any good ones.
If you are not coeliac but gluten-intolerant and small amounts of gluten are ok, we can substitute rice for noodles in some dishes – assuming we have enough rice left.
If you are coeliac, that won’t help I’m afraid as every dish has soy sauce.
It isn’t. Our butchers have told us some items are halal but their suppliers can change so I can’t say for certain the meat is always halal.
In general our opening hours are:
Apart from that we’re open – unless there is some unforeseen problem like a power cut or staff shortage. We usually announce that on social media.
We don’t deliver and don’t use Deliveroo or any other such service.
We do offer click and collect take away here: https://goodeats.io/MonohonRamen