Marugame Udon, which operates over 1,000 restaurants in Japan, will make a long-awaited U.K. debut with a 4,000 square foot opening in Liverpool Street. It will replace the Wahaca at 1 — 3 Widegate Street, having announced intentions to open in the U.K. in summer 2020.
The company is best known for its adherence to sanuki udon tradition achieved 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. It will also bring a condiment bar which it labels “iconic.” A bold statement.
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 competitor Kineya Mugimaru moved into King’s Cross late last year. This is the lesser-seen side of the coronavirus reopening land grab, in which international chains with financial muscle will be able to take over large vacated restaurants for lower rents than they might in “normal” times.