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Tonkotsu ramen at Seto, a restaurant in Camden, London David Paw

London’s Best Noodle Soups

Crystal clear shoyu ramen, rich, sour laksa, tantanmen lurid with chilli oil: every bowl worth a slurp

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Some of the great achievements of human history are anonymous: the invention of the wheel, the alloying of copper and tin to create bronze, whoever tweeted that ‘Davey Cameron is a pie’ from the official Jeremy Corbyn account. To this list, add another: the person — almost certainly in China — who first put noodles into broth, and gave a nation its most potent form of soft power.

As Japan opened up, la mian from China became ramen, and from there it took over the world, becoming a canny vehicle for transmitting flavour and culture in the same way the sandwich and pizza would for the West. At its heart the noodle soup contains three infinitely variable components — broth, noodles, and toppings — consider the distant affinity between the textural complexity of a laksa, with its rich broth and layers of flavour, and the maternal simplicity of a chicken noodle soup with matzo balls.

There is another aonymous hero in this story: The inventor of chilli oil. It’s a brave person who adds chilli oil to a soup. Irreversibly diffusing into the liquid, it draws out mucus and all ailments, to be wielded like a spell to ward off pestilence, hunger and quite possibly death. As the days get colder, it is a duty of care to tell Londoners exactly where they can get their medicine.

Shimogamo, recommended on the initial version of this guide as the best place to eat soba in London, closed on 15 November 2019. The hunt goes on.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. B & K Salt Beef Bar & Restaruant

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Lanson House, 11 Whitchurch Ln
London HA8 6NL, UK

Chicken soups are for life not just for illness. One of the best is at B&K up in Edgware where the salt beef sandwiches first require a bowl of chicken soup with lokshen noodles to line the stomach, with the two genres of dumplings: squidgy balls of kneidlach, and parcels of kreplach stuffed with turkey and garlic.
 Chilli oil status: BYO.

2. Singburi

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593 High Rd Leytonstone, Leytonstone
London E11 4PA, UK
020 8281 4801

Not content with having undefeated wok technique, Sirichai Kularbwong is also a soup master. The best way to dine alone at Singburi is to get a moo krob and whatever soup is on the menu, a lurid pink yen ta fo or even a great version of Taiwanese beef noodles. Apparently there’s a Thai style laksa with venison and bone marrow on this week’s menu too.
 

Chilli oil status: Homemade, and delivered to the table with ceremony by Sirichai himself.

Singburi restaurant in Leytonstone, site of some of London’s biggest restaurant surprises in 2018 Tranvfood/Instagram

3. Sambal Shiok Laksa Bar

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171 Holloway Rd
London N7 8LX, UK

Here’s a tip for one of the city’s most-raved-about noodle soups. For those who find that laksa can be too rich, Mandy Yin’s Assam version is now on as a permanent special, and it’s laksa in a whole other key: fresh and fragrant with cucumber and pineapple, with a light broth funky with mackerel and an underlying sourness. Whisper it, but it might even be better than the regular version.

Chilli oil status: If ordered correctly, not necessary.

Laksa noodle soup Sambal Shiok [Official Photo]

4. Seto

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5-6 Plender St
London NW1 0JN, UK

Before ramen obsession spread far and wide and fell prey to otaku nerdery, there were simple bowls of soup noodles that were just … Soup and noodles. Many Japanese customers come to Seto to be reminded of these old-school, crystal-clear shoyu broths, ideally with a lightly oiled bushel of negi (spring onion.) These soups leave diners sated, rather than burping pork fat for the rest of the day.
 

Chilli oil status: Homemade and mild, with a prawn hit.

Tonkotsu ramen at Seto, a restaurant in Camden, London David Paw

5. Lahpet

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58 Bethnal Green Rd, Shoreditch
London E1 6JW, UK

Mohinga was in the news for all the wrong reasons this year, mainly because someone thought they could do a chicken mohinga — an idea that makes as much sense as beef bouillabaisse or mince on toast with beans instead of mince. The real thing — a catfish broth as thick as chowder, with rice noodles, boiled egg and split pea fritters — is one of the best things on the menu at Lahpet.
 

Chilli oil status: Fine, but please don’t call it something else and say it’s progress.

6. NHA-MOR

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45 Crispin St, Shadwell
London E1 6HQ, UK

The East End used to be full of cafe proprietors with character, none more so than the late Arthur who refused to put chips on the menu before midday or serve toast after 11:30a.m. The same spirit resides at Nha Mor where Rachpan Sirisawat gives his lunch crowd the red green curries they expect, only bringing out the Isaan soups and spicy boat noodles that Thais and East End hypebeasts alike crave come evening. Boat noodles come with blood on request, as is only proper.
 

Chilli oil status: Already too spicy.

Noodle soup at Nha Mor Nha Mor [Official Photo]

7. The Great Thai

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14 Riding House St, Fitzrovia
London W1W 7HR, UK

Here’s how to order at The Great Thai. Go to the right Great Thai, not the Great Thai takeaway place round the corner. Ignore the set lunch menu. Do not be distracted by upselling aunties. Get boat noodles, murky and ditchwater brown but so full of flavour, with the sharp nasal hit of white pepper. As good as it gets round the back of Oxford Circus. Get the yen ta fo if needing something milder.
 

Chilli oil status: Chopped pickled chillis instead.

Boat noodles and larb at The Great Thai in Fitzrovia, one of the best value restaurants in central London The Great Thai [Official Photo]

8. Laksamania

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92 Newman St, Fitzrovia
London W1T 3EZ, UK

One of the best or worst named restaurants in the city — depending if it is or isn’t a pun on Lisztomania — the other uncertain thing about Laksamania is the best choice of regional laksa. After much eating, a brief flirtation with the Penang Assam laksa, and with all due respect for the Ipoh and Singapore versions, it’s the Melaka laksa that emerges victorious. It’s the most balanced version, rich with coconut milk but with just about enough sourness to temper it, with texturally delightful toppings of barely cooked prawns, squishy fish balls, fish cakes and soft egg.

Chilli oil status: It’s already floating on the top.

Laksamania serves great Laksa near Oxford Street and Oxford Circus Laksamania [Official Photo]

9. Koya Soho

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50 Frith St, Soho
London W1D 4SQ, UK

Broths are so often associated with the leeching of animal fat into water, but one of London’s great noodle soups is completely vegetarian and can be found at Koya. A ball of crushed walnut miso is added to the dashi which then melts slowly into the soup, turning clarity to a sweet, murky chewiness. Beware the very real temptation to nibble at the sticky ball before it’s added.
 

Chilli oil status: An act of vandalism.

Udon noodles by Koya Ko at Market Halls Victoria, the new London restaurant food hall Maria Nakhmanovich/for Market Halls

10. Koya City

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10-12 Bloomberg Arcade
London EC4N 8AR, UK

It might seem strange to put two Koyas on this list, but the specials at Koya City are worth their own entry. Veering each week between monastic — udon in a clear broth with sake steamed mussels — and hedonistic — pig trotter and ham hock creaminess — these are some of the very best single bowls of anything in London, period.

Chilli oil status: Sacrilege.

Noodles in broth at Koya City Koya City [Official Photo]

11. Lanzhou Lamian Noodle Bar

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33 Cranbourn St, Charing Cross
London WC2H 7AD, UK

Compared to London ramen, Chinese noodle soups are a bargain and none more so than Lanzhou Lamian which everyone has known about for about ten years but still feels like a secret. Get the real menu in the back and order la mian in various forms of thickness, or even better the dao xiao mian which is shaved from what looks like a marble block straight into the gurgling cooking water until it’s perfectly al dente.

Chilli oil status: Weirdly dry, but still absolutely essential.

Noodle soup at Lanzhou La Mian @izzyeatsworld/Instagram

12. Wong Kei

Copy Link
41-43 Wardour St
London W1D 6PY, UK

Look, the wonton noodles from Wong Kei is not Great Soup. It has the clarity of dishwater; there is a questionable amount of prawn in the dumplings. But: it takes about 15 seconds to arrive after making eye contact with the soup and meats chef, and comes piping hot, filling, and infinitely salvageable with chilli oil. Despite prices increasing year on year, it’s still cheaper than going to Pret. Maybe the only truly essential bowl of noodles in the city.
 

Chilli oil status: Iconic.

13. Rao Deli

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304 Borough High St
London SE1 1JJ, UK

There are those who like pho that emphasise clarity and herbal aromatics. Go to Cafe East or Song Que for that sort of thing. Rao Deli’s pho is different, a big beefy brute of a pho, simmered for 20 hours, no bouquet of herbs but full of liquid marrow with a slightly charred note that tastes like licking a cow in the best possible way.

Chilli oil status: One untouched bottle of sriracha.

Pho at Rao Deli, near Elephant and Castle and Borough Market — is one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in London, and also one of the best-value restaurants in any category in the capital. Rao Deli [Official Photo]

14. Hoa Phuong

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4 Hampton St
London SE1 6SN, UK

Mythic diaspora restaurant cliche bingo. Unassuming exterior? Check. One woman cooking? Check. A few stools. Check. Small blackboard menu and odd opening hours? Double check. The biggest check is that Thewner Phuong’s bun bo hue puts almost everyone else’s to shame, a deep fiery broth with a marine funk from fermented shrimp past, it’s herbal, citrus, spicy, umami all in harmony, with well cooked beef meat and Hue sausage.

Chilli oil status: Ask for more shrimp paste.

Bun bo hue noodle soup at Hoa Phuong in central London Tripadvisor

15. Nanban

Copy Link
426 Coldharbour Ln, Brixton
London SW9 8LF, UK

Ramen communicates culture in noodlee soup form. Nanban does ramen found nowhere in Japan, using ingredients inspired by Brixton surroundings, so Tim Anderson maybe does the most authentic ramen in London. The vegetarian soups are among the city’s best — a sesame ridden tantanmen with aubergine, or a delightfully named Ramen for Faye Wong with enoki and fried tofu.

Chilli oil status: Get the bamboo shoots pickled with scotch bonnets instead.

16. Jin Go Gae Restaurant

Copy Link
272 Burlington Rd
New Malden KT3 4NL, UK

The crab gets all the attention but the very best thing on Jin Go Gae’s menu may just be the budae jigae, army stew. Using surplus ingredients first plundered from US army bases, this is ecstatic trash food incorporating almost every single worthwhile nutritional group: instant noodles, kimchi, rice cakes, spam and kraft cheese.

Chilli oil status: The sixth food group.

17. Noodle House

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333 High St
Sutton SM1 1LW, UK

Sutton might not seem like the obvious place to go for noodles, but Noodle House holds a small secret. Although it looks like a Chinese takeaway, the speciality is Malaysian — curry laksa, assam laksa, kway teow soup, all done exceptionally well. The lor mee — noodles in enough gravy technically becomes a soup — is better than most you can find in central London.

Chilli oil status: A must.

1. B & K Salt Beef Bar & Restaruant

Lanson House, 11 Whitchurch Ln, London HA8 6NL, UK

Chicken soups are for life not just for illness. One of the best is at B&K up in Edgware where the salt beef sandwiches first require a bowl of chicken soup with lokshen noodles to line the stomach, with the two genres of dumplings: squidgy balls of kneidlach, and parcels of kreplach stuffed with turkey and garlic.
 Chilli oil status: BYO.

Lanson House, 11 Whitchurch Ln
London HA8 6NL, UK

2. Singburi

593 High Rd Leytonstone, Leytonstone, London E11 4PA, UK
Singburi restaurant in Leytonstone, site of some of London’s biggest restaurant surprises in 2018 Tranvfood/Instagram

Not content with having undefeated wok technique, Sirichai Kularbwong is also a soup master. The best way to dine alone at Singburi is to get a moo krob and whatever soup is on the menu, a lurid pink yen ta fo or even a great version of Taiwanese beef noodles. Apparently there’s a Thai style laksa with venison and bone marrow on this week’s menu too.
 

Chilli oil status: Homemade, and delivered to the table with ceremony by Sirichai himself.

593 High Rd Leytonstone, Leytonstone
London E11 4PA, UK

3. Sambal Shiok Laksa Bar

171 Holloway Rd, London N7 8LX, UK
Laksa noodle soup Sambal Shiok [Official Photo]

Here’s a tip for one of the city’s most-raved-about noodle soups. For those who find that laksa can be too rich, Mandy Yin’s Assam version is now on as a permanent special, and it’s laksa in a whole other key: fresh and fragrant with cucumber and pineapple, with a light broth funky with mackerel and an underlying sourness. Whisper it, but it might even be better than the regular version.

Chilli oil status: If ordered correctly, not necessary.

171 Holloway Rd
London N7 8LX, UK

4. Seto

5-6 Plender St, London NW1 0JN, UK
Tonkotsu ramen at Seto, a restaurant in Camden, London David Paw

Before ramen obsession spread far and wide and fell prey to otaku nerdery, there were simple bowls of soup noodles that were just … Soup and noodles. Many Japanese customers come to Seto to be reminded of these old-school, crystal-clear shoyu broths, ideally with a lightly oiled bushel of negi (spring onion.) These soups leave diners sated, rather than burping pork fat for the rest of the day.
 

Chilli oil status: Homemade and mild, with a prawn hit.

5-6 Plender St
London NW1 0JN, UK

5. Lahpet

58 Bethnal Green Rd, Shoreditch, London E1 6JW, UK

Mohinga was in the news for all the wrong reasons this year, mainly because someone thought they could do a chicken mohinga — an idea that makes as much sense as beef bouillabaisse or mince on toast with beans instead of mince. The real thing — a catfish broth as thick as chowder, with rice noodles, boiled egg and split pea fritters — is one of the best things on the menu at Lahpet.
 

Chilli oil status: Fine, but please don’t call it something else and say it’s progress.

58 Bethnal Green Rd, Shoreditch
London E1 6JW, UK

6. NHA-MOR

45 Crispin St, Shadwell, London E1 6HQ, UK
Noodle soup at Nha Mor Nha Mor [Official Photo]

The East End used to be full of cafe proprietors with character, none more so than the late Arthur who refused to put chips on the menu before midday or serve toast after 11:30a.m. The same spirit resides at Nha Mor where Rachpan Sirisawat gives his lunch crowd the red green curries they expect, only bringing out the Isaan soups and spicy boat noodles that Thais and East End hypebeasts alike crave come evening. Boat noodles come with blood on request, as is only proper.
 

Chilli oil status: Already too spicy.

45 Crispin St, Shadwell
London E1 6HQ, UK

7. The Great Thai

14 Riding House St, Fitzrovia, London W1W 7HR, UK
Boat noodles and larb at The Great Thai in Fitzrovia, one of the best value restaurants in central London The Great Thai [Official Photo]

Here’s how to order at The Great Thai. Go to the right Great Thai, not the Great Thai takeaway place round the corner. Ignore the set lunch menu. Do not be distracted by upselling aunties. Get boat noodles, murky and ditchwater brown but so full of flavour, with the sharp nasal hit of white pepper. As good as it gets round the back of Oxford Circus. Get the yen ta fo if needing something milder.
 

Chilli oil status: Chopped pickled chillis instead.

14 Riding House St, Fitzrovia
London W1W 7HR, UK

8. Laksamania

92 Newman St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 3EZ, UK
Laksamania serves great Laksa near Oxford Street and Oxford Circus Laksamania [Official Photo]

One of the best or worst named restaurants in the city — depending if it is or isn’t a pun on Lisztomania — the other uncertain thing about Laksamania is the best choice of regional laksa. After much eating, a brief flirtation with the Penang Assam laksa, and with all due respect for the Ipoh and Singapore versions, it’s the Melaka laksa that emerges victorious. It’s the most balanced version, rich with coconut milk but with just about enough sourness to temper it, with texturally delightful toppings of barely cooked prawns, squishy fish balls, fish cakes and soft egg.

Chilli oil status: It’s already floating on the top.

92 Newman St, Fitzrovia
London W1T 3EZ, UK

9. Koya Soho

50 Frith St, Soho, London W1D 4SQ, UK
Udon noodles by Koya Ko at Market Halls Victoria, the new London restaurant food hall Maria Nakhmanovich/for Market Halls

Broths are so often associated with the leeching of animal fat into water, but one of London’s great noodle soups is completely vegetarian and can be found at Koya. A ball of crushed walnut miso is added to the dashi which then melts slowly into the soup, turning clarity to a sweet, murky chewiness. Beware the very real temptation to nibble at the sticky ball before it’s added.
 

Chilli oil status: An act of vandalism.

50 Frith St, Soho
London W1D 4SQ, UK

10. Koya City

10-12 Bloomberg Arcade, London EC4N 8AR, UK
Noodles in broth at Koya City Koya City [Official Photo]

It might seem strange to put two Koyas on this list, but the specials at Koya City are worth their own entry. Veering each week between monastic — udon in a clear broth with sake steamed mussels — and hedonistic — pig trotter and ham hock creaminess — these are some of the very best single bowls of anything in London, period.

Chilli oil status: Sacrilege.

10-12 Bloomberg Arcade
London EC4N 8AR, UK

11. Lanzhou Lamian Noodle Bar

33 Cranbourn St, Charing Cross, London WC2H 7AD, UK
Noodle soup at Lanzhou La Mian @izzyeatsworld/Instagram

Compared to London ramen, Chinese noodle soups are a bargain and none more so than Lanzhou Lamian which everyone has known about for about ten years but still feels like a secret. Get the real menu in the back and order la mian in various forms of thickness, or even better the dao xiao mian which is shaved from what looks like a marble block straight into the gurgling cooking water until it’s perfectly al dente.

Chilli oil status: Weirdly dry, but still absolutely essential.

33 Cranbourn St, Charing Cross
London WC2H 7AD, UK

12. Wong Kei

41-43 Wardour St, London W1D 6PY, UK

Look, the wonton noodles from Wong Kei is not Great Soup. It has the clarity of dishwater; there is a questionable amount of prawn in the dumplings. But: it takes about 15 seconds to arrive after making eye contact with the soup and meats chef, and comes piping hot, filling, and infinitely salvageable with chilli oil. Despite prices increasing year on year, it’s still cheaper than going to Pret. Maybe the only truly essential bowl of noodles in the city.
 

Chilli oil status: Iconic.

41-43 Wardour St
London W1D 6PY, UK

13. Rao Deli

304 Borough High St, London SE1 1JJ, UK
Pho at Rao Deli, near Elephant and Castle and Borough Market — is one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in London, and also one of the best-value restaurants in any category in the capital. Rao Deli [Official Photo]

There are those who like pho that emphasise clarity and herbal aromatics. Go to Cafe East or Song Que for that sort of thing. Rao Deli’s pho is different, a big beefy brute of a pho, simmered for 20 hours, no bouquet of herbs but full of liquid marrow with a slightly charred note that tastes like licking a cow in the best possible way.

Chilli oil status: One untouched bottle of sriracha.

304 Borough High St
London SE1 1JJ, UK

14. Hoa Phuong

4 Hampton St, London SE1 6SN, UK
Bun bo hue noodle soup at Hoa Phuong in central London Tripadvisor

Mythic diaspora restaurant cliche bingo. Unassuming exterior? Check. One woman cooking? Check. A few stools. Check. Small blackboard menu and odd opening hours? Double check. The biggest check is that Thewner Phuong’s bun bo hue puts almost everyone else’s to shame, a deep fiery broth with a marine funk from fermented shrimp past, it’s herbal, citrus, spicy, umami all in harmony, with well cooked beef meat and Hue sausage.

Chilli oil status: Ask for more shrimp paste.

4 Hampton St
London SE1 6SN, UK

15. Nanban

426 Coldharbour Ln, Brixton, London SW9 8LF, UK

Ramen communicates culture in noodlee soup form. Nanban does ramen found nowhere in Japan, using ingredients inspired by Brixton surroundings, so Tim Anderson maybe does the most authentic ramen in London. The vegetarian soups are among the city’s best — a sesame ridden tantanmen with aubergine, or a delightfully named Ramen for Faye Wong with enoki and fried tofu.

Chilli oil status: Get the bamboo shoots pickled with scotch bonnets instead.

426 Coldharbour Ln, Brixton
London SW9 8LF, UK

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16. Jin Go Gae Restaurant

272 Burlington Rd, New Malden KT3 4NL, UK

The crab gets all the attention but the very best thing on Jin Go Gae’s menu may just be the budae jigae, army stew. Using surplus ingredients first plundered from US army bases, this is ecstatic trash food incorporating almost every single worthwhile nutritional group: instant noodles, kimchi, rice cakes, spam and kraft cheese.

Chilli oil status: The sixth food group.

272 Burlington Rd
New Malden KT3 4NL, UK

17. Noodle House

333 High St, Sutton SM1 1LW, UK

Sutton might not seem like the obvious place to go for noodles, but Noodle House holds a small secret. Although it looks like a Chinese takeaway, the speciality is Malaysian — curry laksa, assam laksa, kway teow soup, all done exceptionally well. The lor mee — noodles in enough gravy technically becomes a soup — is better than most you can find in central London.

Chilli oil status: A must.

333 High St
Sutton SM1 1LW, UK

Related Maps