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CHEF ROSS SHONHAN: THE RAMEN MAN

Ross Shonhan, the chef behind Japanese ramen noodle eatery Bone Daddies and izakaya restaurant Flesh & Buns, is launching new venue Bone Daddies Kensington. He tells all to Alexander Larman. 

If you’ve noticed the recent trend of Oriental street food sweeping London, from succulent noodles in soup with an array of toppings to squidgy buns full of delicious fillings, then you’ve probably stepped foot in one of Ross Shonhan’s restaurants. Bone Daddies in Soho was credited with bringing ‘rock ‘n’ roll ramen’ to the area – great food at affordable prices, served fast – and his second restaurant, Flesh & Buns, became a cult hit in Covent Garden almost immediately. Now, he’s opening another Bone Daddies in Kensington, on the first floor of the Whole Foods Market.

Why did you decide to launch the new Bone Daddies in Kensington?
It was an interesting opportunity to partner with a brand like Whole Foods, with good food values, and I’m comfortable around Kensington – I used to live around there when I was head chef of Zuma. It’s underserved with decent food, as there are a lot of chains.

What will be the main differences between the Kensington restaurant and the Soho one?
It won’t be quite as loud! We will do gyoza, which we don’t do currently, and something new will be the curry ramen, which is popular in Japan but nobody’s representing it here. The world of ramen is endless – there are 26 accepted forms of it, and it’s continuing to evolve.

Ross Shonhan used to be head chef at Zuma and has also worked for Nobu

Ross Shonhan used to be head chef at Zuma and has also worked for Nobu

Why do you think people are so focused on ramen right now?
It’s because it’s delicious comfort food; a hug in a bowl. It’s a proper meal, including everything that you’d want. It’s not challenging and it’s quite accessible, even for those who don’t particularly care about Japanese cuisine. People want what their friends have around the world, and this is clearly something that has gone viral. Food nowadays is almost like a sport – people are obsessed with being first.

What is your favourite kind of ramen?
When I went to the south of Japan, I got really into tonkotsu, which I hadn’t expected to. But on our menu, my favourite is our spicy miso ramen.

What have been the highlights of your career to date?
Definitely opening and running the Nobu in Dallas, which was the first one that they’d opened in five years. I’d come from outside the group, it was my first head chef job, and Nobu himself taught me how to cook the dishes precisely. He was very old- school Japanese, quite scary but impeccable at it.

A range of tasty snacks on the Bone Daddies menu

A range of tasty snacks on the Bone Daddies menu

Do you have any plans for future London openings?
I’d like to do a couple more Bone Daddies, and keep them all individual and unique, making them seem interesting for customers to remain interested. I think Busaba managed to do it quite well in terms of maintaining standards and Byron have done it very nicely in terms of stealth expansion and keeping individuality. But we’ll only do it as long as we can maintain standards.

What restaurants and cafés do you like visiting in Kensington?
Kitchen W8 is one of my favourites, and obviously Min Jiang is really good as well, albeit expensive. What I found was that there isn’t enough casual dining round there – I’d rather not eat than go to yet another bland chain restaurant, it’s not what I’d want for dinner.

You’re originally from Australia, how has this affected your attitudes towards the London restaurant scene?
I think that in Australia we have freedom to experiment, because we don’t have a traditional food culture and our population has come from all over the world. I worked in a restaurant where we had a wood-fired oven, and a wok burner too, and it seemed about right, because we had European and Asian people working there. Whereas in London, things have to be packaged into a box, although the recession has helped shake things up a bit. We wanted to do that with Bone Daddies and Flesh & Buns, and it seems to have worked – we just want to make food delicious.

Bone Daddies Kensington will open this November on the First Floor of Whole Foods Market, 63-97 Kensington High Street, The Barkers Building W8 5SE; bonedaddiesramen.com

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