If someone told you that London was a slow, sedate place, you’d probably simultaneously laugh at them whilst rushing past to nab the last free seat on the tube. This is a city that thrives on speed-walkers, fast food, and being able to shower in under a minute so you can still make it to work on time despite your hour commute. Which is exactly why all Londoners need a list of casual and quick restaurants they can dive into, eat something, and be on their way. Restaurants exactly like Bento Ramen in Camden.
The most crucial information about this Japanese spot is that they claim they’ll feed you in under fifteen minutes. But on one of our meals here they didn’t feed us in fifteen minutes. They fed us in ten. This place is a quick-fire, go-go-go, regimented machine turning out huge bowls of ramen, sushi rolls, and big bento boxes full of salmon teriyaki don and California maki, all to the rhythm of Daniel Bedingfield’s Gotta Get Thru This. In fact, Bento Ramen’s speed to decent sushi ratio, and location, is hard to beat when you need a lunchtime drive-by where you’re back in the office in half an hour, or a pre-show catch-up in a lively space that looks like one big, living breathing advert for the Japanese tourist board. It’s affordable. It’s two minutes walk from Camden Town station. And no matter how busy it is, they’ll have you seated and ordering in no time.
Your order will probably be the most time-consuming part of your visit here, as there are over 130 things on the menu. Despite the name, this place stretches far beyond bento boxes and a tonkotsu ramen. There are Japanese classics like sashimi platters, a huge selection of sushi, donburis, and noodle dishes. They also serve a selection of dim sum. And though some things on the menu, like their spicy yaki soba, might miss the mark, stick to the sushi, ramen, and dim sum, and you’ll have a perfectly decent meal. Sure, this isn’t a restaurant that’s designed for long winded chats over their great golden tiger maki, but this is London - who has time for that anyway?
Got ten minutes to kill before a show at the Roundhouse? Feeling lethargic after realising you’ve out-grown everything in Urban Outfitters? Have a fiver in your pocket and a penchant for barbecued meat? These are for you. Whatever else we might order here, we’ll always get a round of the char siu buns.
If you’re hitting up Bento Ramen as a two, the mixed dim sum platter is your best let’s-get-dinner-rolling move. It comes with some great har gau, a couple of other nice prawn based dumplings, and some scallop shu mai that might look a little slap-dash but tastes great.
Maki involving tempura is generally a big tick, tick, tick from us. This might not be the best sushi we’ve ever had, but thanks to the crunch, miso dressing, and seared salmon this is still a go-to order here.
After eating these you’re going to have some pretty important things to consider. Things like, how can ‘being crabby’ be an insult when the combination of the crab, tobikko, and avocado in this roll is so tasty. And, why did I agree to share these?
The ramen here comes in the kind of big, steaming bowl you want to close your eyes and hang your head over on a cold day. At £11.50 for the classic tonkotsu, it’s an easy, crowd-pleasing meal.
If you have plenty of time on your hands - you know, like a full twenty minutes - go for one of their teriyaki dishes. The chicken has our heart, but shout out to the tofu teriyaki also.