Ichiban Noodle Bar
A refurb in 2016 saw this long-standing Japanese specialist back to its stripped-down Asian stylish best, delivering everything Japanese from ramen and udon to sushi and bento.
After ten years at an inconspicuous upstairs venue on Queen Street, Ichiban is still the go-to place for sushi and good Japanese food, having seen off numerous competitors, and relatively untroubled by the presence of noodle giant Wagamama. Perhaps the twin attractions of cheap and cheerful are the key (although bento boxes will set you back £13 a time). The open kitchen sits to the left of a canteen of long bench tables and bright splashes of Japanese kitsch where friendly staff serve speedy meals for time-poor diners. A £6.90 lunchtime deal of a side dish and a main represents excellent value, and portions do not seem diminished in size. An unadorned drab-looking char siu (Japanese roast pork) is surprisingly tasty despite its unappetising looks. But a big fiery bowl of chicken chilli ramen does not disappoint on any level. A sliced char-grilled breast is tender to the bite, well-seasoned with a pleasing well-flamed flavour, properly cooked. Topped with bright red chillies. it jostles for space alongside some fresh wilted bok choi, seaweed, mushroom and a generous coil of ramen noodles, and constitutes a deeply satisfying lunch on a cold afternoon. Squid teriyaki is of a similar standard, freshly and properly cooked – bouncy but not chewy – and served on fresh leaves with the sweet sauce and a squeeze of lime. Round off proceedings with a decadent glass of one of Ichiban’s specialist Flora teas and watch a work of art unfurl before your eyes as a dried flower ‘blooms’ in the hot water, reaching upward, elegantly diffusing the aromas and flavours of green tea, lily and jasmine.
- High point: Freshly cooked fare of a consistently high standard
- Low point: Trudging up those stairs
- Provides: Halal options, Children's portions, Children's high chairs
- Music on stereo: A range of housey beats
- Capacity: 80
- Largest group: 80
- Open since: 1998
- Number of wines sold by the glass: 8
- House wine: £12 per bottle