After a brief cold spell, temperatures in London are rising once again. But that’s not to say we’re bidding farewell to the most restorative of foods – especially since we all know that any given day could call for noodle soup.
Spring and summer are great times for peak seasonal produce, with tomatoes, watermelon and corn getting their due. But nobody wins friends with salad, and nothing can truly rival the appeal of a bowl the size of your head, filled with strips (or parcels) of dough swimming in a pool of glasses-fogging, slurpable soup. Whether you’re craving delicate tortellini or chewy udon, fiery laksa or a soothing pho, allow our guide to lead the way to London’s very best noodle soups.
London Isn’t Just About Tonkotsu
While the capital abounds with chains churning out bowls of rich pork bone broth, lighter options are few and far between. That’s where Camden’s family-run Seto, with its unassuming decor and affordable lunch deals, shines. Homely bowls of clear shoyu and miso broth house noodles with a satisfying chew, and thick slices of char siu are rich without sending one into a post-prandial slump. Ask for your noodles to be cooked harder if you enjoy them on the al dente side.
For those in the mood for a playful spin on the Japanese staple, Filipino spots are a winning bet. At Ramo Ramen’s outposts in Soho and Camden, creamy chicken sopas brims with Tokyo noodles, adobo chicken and pork crackling. Meanwhile, Ealing’s grocer and takeaway Kuya Fernando douses its egg noodles in beef pares, a hearty and beloved soy-based brisket stew. Enjoy it on one of their tables outside with an ube shake or halo halo to finish.
The Best Pho Is Firmly in South London
Old Kent Road mainstay Pho Thuy Tay’s extensive menu spans crisp banh xeo and Hanoi classics like galangal and turmeric-marinated monkfish. But as its name suggests, Vietnam’s national dish is this cosy spot’s calling card. Order the rare beef pho to enjoy chef Thuy Nguyen’s addictive broth, and don’t forget to consult their specials boards on future visits for dishes like stuffed and fried offal, as well as Northern Vietnamese specialities like banh da cua Hai Phong (flat brown rice noodle soup with crab and beef wrapped in betel leaves).
Slightly further south in Peckham, you’ll find one of two Bánh Bánh outposts (the other one being in Brixton), where vegans and meat-eaters alike can enjoy the Nguyen siblings’ iteration of the Vietnamese classic bún bò Huế, with flavourful fermented tofu used in lieu of traditional shrimp paste.
There’s Plenty of Variety When It Comes to Chinese Noodles
Skip the trays of chow mein in the window of Leicester Square’s no-frills classic Lanzhou Lamian Noodle Bar and opt for a bowl of their signature knife-cut noodles in soup with stewed beef brisket, spiked with the restaurant’s self-serve chilli oil. A rich, coriander-topped broth pairs perfectly with fatty hunks of meat and irregularly shaped slivers of dough.
A few streets over in Chinatown, there are the iconic wonton soup noodles at Wong Kei, where dumplings dwarf those served at an average spot in Hong Kong — but at £5 a bowl, it’s an unbeatable choice, alongside the beef brisket noodles for those in the mood for a meatier, richer broth. If you ask nicely, they’ll switch out the thin, springy egg noodles for slippery ho fun.
For those on the hunt for the numbing, fragrant flavours of Sichuan and Chongqing, you’ll find that in droves at Noodle and Beer in Shoreditch. Loaded with herbs and spices, the restaurant’s freshly made noodles can be enjoyed in everything from Sichuanese hot pot stock to a tomato and brisket base. But it’s the pickled cabbage and fish rice noodles (suancai yu fen), hailing from Chongqing, that stand out from the city’s other noodle peddlers with its broth’s subtle mouth-watering tang.
London’s Laksa Game Keeps Getting Better
Spicy laksas are as satisfying as they are time intensive, so let the experts do the heavy lifting. You’ll find several versions at Mandy Yin’s Sambal Shiok on Holloway Road, where rice noodles and tofu puffs soak up the chef’s creamy signature broth — based on a style of laksa found in Malacca — as well as a tangy Assam laksa base that the restaurant occasionally offers as a special.
If you’re in Central London, the two varieties (among many regional styles) can also be found at Laksamania, where additions like British mussels, soft-shelled crab and curried beef top a variety of noodles. While you’re there, don’t miss their wok-fried dishes, like hawker favourite char kuey teow, as well as large-format dishes to share, like fish head curry.
For Udon, Koya is Still Unparalleled
A guide to London’s best noodle soups would be remiss without a mention of udon specialist Koya’s growing presence. Whether you visit their newest branch by Broadway Market, stop by Koya City in Bloomberg Arcade (in particular, for chef Gustavo Tavares’ fusion of Japanese traditions with references to his Portuguese background) or head to its seminal Soho mothership, the addictive chew of head chef Shuko Oda’s noodles in a bowl of savoury dashi beckons. Everyone has their favourites (and specials are always tempting) but the kitsune udon, topped with an onsen tamago and shrimp tempura, is an unbeatable classic.
And There’s Plenty of Comfort in Tortellini en Brodo
It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of noodle soup, but a shallow bowl of stuffed pasta in delicate chicken broth makes the case for a generous interpretation. At Farringdon’s Brutto, small mortadella-filled parcels are tricky to share, but fun to eat. The dish also makes appearances across some of London’s most beloved Italian institutions, from Manteca and Bancone to Shoreditch pasta workshop and café Burro e Salvia, as well as Giorgio Locatelli’s high-end Marylebone spot Locanda Locatelli.
Speaking of Dumplings…
Head to South Kensington’s Daquise and you’ll see regulars ordering the Polish institution’s borscht with dumplings. Rather than chunkier Ukrainian versions typically with sour cream, theirs is clear, and almost medicinal — a refreshing start to a meal likely full of Polish gnocchi, schnitzel, and goulash. The dry dumplings, such as those filled with cabbage and mushroom, are also obligatory.
Don’t Forget The Gochujang
Even as the sunshine returns in full force, it won’t be surprising when the queue outside Soho’s Assa for its famed budae jjigae — a gochujang-based cauldron heaving with the likes of instant noodles, spam and tofu — persists through London’s sticky summer heat. But quieter spots are also well equipped to satisfy.
In the basement of Centre Point Food Store, Woo Jung’s comforting bowls of mandoo-guk (dumpling soup) are a warm hug, where refreshing naengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodles), with or without the spicy bibim topping, are ideal when you need a cooling down. Pair it with a cup of iced corn tea and pick up a few snacks for the road.