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Japanese Udon Juggernaut Wants to Roll Into London

Marugame Udon operates over 1000 restaurants worldwide, specialising in precisely machined, bouncy noodles

Udon at Marugame Udon, which will open a restaurant in Spitalfields
Kama-age udon at Marugame Udon
Marugame Udon [Official Photo]

One of the world’s largest udon noodle and tempura specialists is planning its first London restaurant. Marugame Udon, which had planned to open a debut site in the capital in early 2019, will use London as a base for significant European expansion, according to Big Hospitality.

The company, which operates over 1,000 restaurants across the globe, is best known for its adherence to sanuki udon tradition, but through machines, proprietarily designed to mimic the motions of kneading and shaping that go into making udon by hand. Kamaage udon, served in a communal pot with a dipping dashi, and kake udon, served in a hot kakejiru broth of dashi, soy, and mirin, are the two cornerstones of its menu, with guests able to accessorise bowls with tempura, chicken and pork katsu, and onsen eggs.

The Japanese cafeteria model, with noodles boiled off to order and no table service, is part of the brand’s quick service approach, which could appeal to a U.K. restaurant audience already beholden to ramen nerdery. Udon specialists like the adored Koya Bar and Ealing’s Kiraku have seen great success, and Marugame Udon’s new European division is betting big: headed by new CEO Keith Bird, the company hopes to eventually operate 6,000 sites across the world.

It is not yet known where in London Marugame Udon will open, nor the timeline for that opening.