In the colder months, there is nothing I crave more than a warming bowl of hot noodles. Vietnamese Pho, ramen, or even my favourite instant noodle packet – Mama Tom Yum flavour – will do. So when I spotted the United Ramen sign as I rode my regular bus down Upper Street, I let myself get excited. Then I went home and did a bit of research – United Ramen is inspired by Japanese traditions but is also influenced by other “cultural traditions”. The purist in me recoiled at the “British Bulldog” ramen which includes “mini Yorkshire puddings”. Yikes. Keeping an opening mind, we popped in for lunch and I went straight for the traditionally Japanese classic Chashu Pork Shoyu Ramen – with Chashu Pork, soy egg, menma, bok choi, beansprouts, nori, spring onion, shoyu & chicken bone broth with thin noodles. The pork was nicely grilled but the broth was disappointing. It tasted overly salty and it had no richness or complexity to it at all – a bit of a Wagamama throwback. The noodles didn’t have that beloved ramen springiness to them, they just tasted a bit flat, chewy and starchy – not in a good way. Obviously I finished it – but it was nothing to inspire a repeat visit for me.
Hansel ordered the Spicy Sichuan Tantanmen noodles (inspired by China) with spiced ground pork, soy egg, beansprouts, bok choi, fresh chilli, spicy sesame & chicken bone broth with thick noodles. This was surprising much better than my more classic Japanese dish. The noodles were well-cooked and springy with a nice texture. The slightly watery broth was a lot less salty but had no depth of flavour to it despite the nice colour.
These yakitori-style wings were on the daily special menu and were the most underwhelming thing we ate. I only ate one which is most unusual for me. The strange sweet flavour and slimy texture made them very unappealing.
The cold Japanese Roast Sencha tea with honey was refreshing and the perfect palate cleanser. They have a Bubble Tea menu for those of us who can’t get enough of those weird chewy tapioca balls. United Ramen isn’t all bad – I’d be willing to go back and try another dish as they had just opened. Our server was extremely helpful and friendly which is always appreciated – but it doesn’t make up for the sub-par food. My impression though is that this is just a chain in the making – everything from their very orange decor and menu to the website screams franchise. If you live in the Islington area, it’s one of the few places to get a quick bowl of ramen if you’re craving it. Just don’t go in expecting authenticity or a satisfying broth.
105-106 Upper Street
London N1 1QN