Thursday, 22 October 2009

Review: Ramen Seto (Japanese), London

The Last Noodle

Update: Sadly, Ramen Seto is closing at the end of January 2012. This is a shame, as for a long time, this humble little caff was a torchbearer for ramen in London. OK, it might not have been like being in Tokyo, but it was of a decent quality. But I'm pleased to report that this caff is now reborn under the name: Seto, in a new location in Camden near Mornington Crescent. The food is pretty much the same as before, although they had a few kitchen timing gremlins the day I went. Hopefully, these will be ironed out in due course. 

{Update March 2010 - after a few beers nearby, I returned here with my friends, Mr Fussy and his t'other half, Ms Fush 'N' Chups (guess where's she's from?). We ordered pork gyoza and vegetable tempura to start and yes, Mr Fussy had trouble with the aubergine, courgette,and sweet potato tempura leaving him few options! I wouldn't mind but he doesn't eat prawns, which ruled out my favoured tempura choice. Onto the noodles and other than the hard boiled egg, Mr Fussy enjoyed his shoyu ramen as did Ms Fush 'N' Chups her enormous seafood ramen. Me, well I liked my wonton ramen although it's not strictly Japanese. £15 each with a beer and a generous tip - definitely recommended.}  

To be honest, what started off as a good idea is starting to lose its appeal. Much as I love soup noodles, aside from a round-up, this will be the last post on them until the New Year. So having travelled across China and South East Asia, the noodle tour comes to a temporary halt in Japan, well Soho really. {Update -it's just the soup noodles I'm taking a break from and I'll be blogging about other stuff in the meantime}

Thanks to Wagamama, ramen is what most people think of when you say 'soup noodles' - don't fret, I'm not gonna review this popular chain although I'm not that much of a food snob to totally dismiss it. However if I am going to call myself Mr Noodles then you’d expect nothing less than for me to come up with a 'little place I know' for ramen.

That little place is Ramen Seto, a homely little Japanese caff on Kingly St - ideal for a quick bite if you're out and about around Carnaby St. I've come here on and off for years but I can't actually remember the last time I ate here so it was an ideal time to revisit.

The menu consists of sushi, sashimi, gyoza, tempura, one-dish rice meals, fried noodles, and last but not least soup noodles. To start, I ordered two pieces of sea bass nigiri (£2.80) – there was nothing wrong with it but I don't think sushi is their strength. To follow, I plumped for the negi chicken ramen (£6.50), a hearty bowl of soup noodles served with finely chopped spring onion (negi), half a boiled egg, and topped with fried chicken.

I was initially underwhelmed by my ramen as it seemed a bit basic (no veg or seaweed) and the broth was slightly underseasoned (a tad ironic given my last soup noodle experience at HK Diner). However this bowl of noodles soon grew on me. The weaker broth didn't matter so much as the spring onions added flavour but it was the incredibly moreish fried chicken leg served off the bone that lifted this dish. Mind you looking back, I had a mild hangover that Saturday and soup noodles are comforting. What I'm trying to say is, would this combo of fried chicken and ramen worked as well if I wasn't slightly jaded ?

The other thing that nagged away was whether topping ramen with fried chicken is authentic or not as I've never been to Japan and I'm not over familiar with Japanese food. Unfortunately, I'm one of those saddoes that needs to know if what I'm eating 'is for real' but I shouldn't really care as long as the food is good which it largely was. Service was fine and this charming little caff has a warm homely feel absent from the more corporate chain eateries that sadly litter this part of town.

Verdict: It's all too easy to take the easy option in chain-Britain (even for soup noodles) so if you're in this part of Soho, eschew the obvious Wagamama and Cha Cha Moon and visit Ramen Seto instead. Not only is the food better but you'll also be supporting the underdog.

Other Stuff: The bowls of noodles are big enough - even for me - but if you're really hungry, you can 'super-size' for an extra £2.50.

Ramen Seto on Urbanspoon


  1. I've followed your blog since you started and it's absolutely refreshing. You've filled the niche particularly well. Wagamama is both embarrassing and insulting; the chain's dishes lag behind any of the instant noodles that hail from the Far East. Seeing that you're a noodle expert, a shootout of these packet or pot meals from yourself would be most enlightening! Looking forward to your return next year, happy slurping!

  2. Fat Les - thank you for your kind words. It means a lot to me as Bellaphon and Pissing Prawn are great blogs. My break is just from soup noodles and there's plenty in the pipeline including a post on Nissin Ramen (gongzai mein).

  3. I've always wondered about this place but for some reason never made my way there (usually having the ramen in Ten Ten Tei). Might have to stop in when I'm in the area next.

  4. Sounds good enough for me! If I see it in Japan, I'll let you know. There are a million and one different types of ramen dishes anyway (and it's all Chinese anyway!)

  5. Su-Lin - I must give Ten Ten Tei a try.

    Helen - I bet you're looking forward to your trip to Japan. I hope you find the time to drop in my old friends, Ramen and Udon.

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  7. Just a note on this.

    I used to love this place as they served the noodles as 'slightly crispy' which was delicious. It was always good value.

    HOWEVER - when I returned their last September they sprang on us at the end that everything in the menu was without VAT - so we had a whopping 30% added to our bill (VAT + Tip) So now the big bowl of ramen seemed decidedly BAD value.

    Maybe they were struggling - but this prevented me from ever returning.

    1. The practice of displaying prices before VAT is illegal (although they've never pulled that stunt when I've been). That said, it's a moot point given that Ramen Seto is now shut.