This post feels like it has been a long time in the making. Probably because it has been.
I first visited Cocktail Beer Ramen + Bun back in January. My date and I overindulged on every bun we could get our grubby little mitts on, and had zero room for ramen. Of course for a fully rounded review this meant I needed to head in for a second visit. Which I finally made this week.
I get there eventually.
So let’s start at the beginning. CBRB (for short) is on Oldham Street, across the road from one of my favourites, Eat New York. It’s a simple set up, clean, some squishy booths, lots of clean wood panelling.
The menus too are nice and straightforward. A good beer list, a good wine list, and a separate cocktail list, which uses names rather than numbers – an idea they’ve taken (with consent) from Speak in Code. Rather than spend time trying to come up with pun after pun, it means the bar staff can get on with creating great drinks – and they are great. From light spritzer style refreshers to something a little heavier and more complex, there’s a little something for everyone.
Favourites for me include #2 – Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky, Creme de Poire and soda, and the #7 – Tequila Ocho, Alipus Mezcal, Dolin Chamberyzette, lime sugar and pink peppercorn. The first is light, clean and refreshing with a little soft fruit and a grainy sweetness. The second is sharp, sweet and smoky, served in a delicate glass, it’s a delicate shade of pink, that belies it’s gentle kick.
Onto the food, and the buns are really good. I mean, really good. From a bun alone perspective, they are soft moist, but not overly so, light fluffy and chewy. All the things a good bao should be.
As I write this, my tummy is reminding me I haven’t eaten yet, and I’m starving, so this is going to be a challenge. The pork char siu with miso mayo is buttery and soft, with an umami fattiness that means you don’t want to stop at one. The crispy artichoke is vegetal and earthy, satisfying with their stonking green sriracha – the latter is fresh, clean, green and spicy, all the things it should be. I can highly recommend asking for a side of it – because you can do everything from dunking your bao or karage fried chicken (delicious), or the in it to adding spoonfuls to your ramen. The steak is exactly as it should be, pink, meaty, with the sourness of the kimchi and the richness of the mayo. The only one that wasn’t quite for me was the shiitake mushroom – simply because the aioli was so sharply garlicky it was all I could taste for quite some time afterwards.
When it comes to the ramen, it’s good. It’s not Tonkotsu London good – and I can’t decide if they’ve just spoilt me for other people’s ramen, or I’m just being overly critical. The Tonkotsu ramen is rich and porky, as it should be – but it could still go a little bit more oomph. The noodles are good, but a little pastey, only a little, but as someone who eats a helluva a lot of noodles (they are my comfort food), it was a bit disappointing. What doesn’t disappoint is the pork – lots of flavour, the crackling is properly crunchy, the ajitsuke tamago (soy marinated eggs) are bang on for flavour and texture.
I admit, this is the only ramen I’ve had opportunity to try (it was a post business meeting and I think there’s a point where asking if you can try an acquaintance’s soft crab ramen is just a bit odd), but I’m assured it was really good. I’ll obviously have to head back for more.
Overall, good site, great baos and fried chicken, good ramen, and great cocktails. Now if you see a redhead in the middle of Oldham Street, trying to decide where to eat, and torn between one side or the other, you know who it is.
All the food and drink consumed during this visit were paid for by ourselves.