Ebony Ashcroft is a hopeless ramen-tic for echoes of Japan
HIBIKI (meaning resonance or echo in Japanese) is tucked away like a sexy little pocket watch just on the end of Renshaw Street towards the Bombed Out Church. You can pretty much get the vibe at first glance. No money has been wasted to create a boujee or intensely captivating aesthetic, which means the buzzing from inside is for one reason only - the heavy scran.
I make a mean pork ramen at home, but if my ramen is mean, this is the 'Squid Game' of ramen
Inside it’s simple, pleasant and tremendously clean. I’m made up that I actually booked a table because it’s a weeknight and packed from wall to wall. There are people sitting at the bar and tucked in the corners. Not a single seat is unaccounted for.
The staff energetically direct us to our table and I’m 99.9% sure they’re smiling behind their masks too. Kicking off the night with one of my faves, a chilled Asahi (£4.50) served as is, in the bottle. It’s understandable to want to minimise the glass washing load when you see how many plates are used here.
The menu is split into categories for diners to explore, which is particularly helpful when it comes to Japanese cuisine. I have my eye on a few tantalising choices which are reaffirmed by my waiter.
Let’s eat. First out is the pork bone ramen with black garlic oil and shasu pork (£10.20). I make a mean pork ramen at home, but if my ramen is mean, this is the Squid Game of ramen.
I was recommended to try this dish by a vegan pal of mine who declared that when he visited with his carnivorous friend “the smell almost turned him.” That’s a seductive statement right there.
Even better, it’s probably the cheapest ramen I've ever paid for. If my misophonia around eating wasn’t so severe (a terrible burden for a foodie, I know) I would be showing my appreciation by slurping every single mouthful.
Following that brothy bowl of deliciousness comes the slightly more eccentric eel donburi-mono (£15), which arrives in the cutest looking little wooden bento box I have ever seen.
The lid is placed on to create internal steaming, allowing the flavours to permeate the rice and keep everything at the perfect temperature. Something about unveiling this dish by hand is distinctly satisfying and immersive. Hidden inside is a glossy, sticky, perfectly sized portion of eel and rice.
Every bite is charming. I don’t care how good your lunch boxes were as a kid, this is putting your mum to shame. As one of the most expensive options on the menu, don’t let the price point send you r-eel-ing, it’s justified I promise.
Finding pleasure in the little things, I follow two beastly hot dishes with seared salmon nigiri (£4.30), tuna makis (£4) and mango California rolls (£11.80).
The smoky showstopper of hand rolled delicacies is the nigiri. The other sushi is on the comfortably high end of average, but doesn't make me desperate to finish every piece. Please try the nigiri, and pile on the homemade pickled ginger and wasabi paste. Just do it.
Our meal is quintessentially accompanied by a chilled sake (£13.80). A 300ml serving doesn’t sound like a lot when you’re used to nearly the same sized glasses of vino with each course, but this fruity and refreshing fermented rice drink hits the spot Goldilocks style, just right.
If you can remember, make sure you’re pouring forward and for each other when you share this at the table. Dining etiquette in Japan is beautifully complex and you should aim for the most authentic experience possible. At the very least, try to avoid the generic faux pas of western behaviour and be culturally respectful. The staff will appreciate it.
In true polite English fashion, I feel far too discourteous to order dessert by the time we have finished our savoury scran. It’s 9.30pm and everyone has started to clean up for closing. It’s a shame to cease opening hours so early as they could easily fill time slots into the night. If you pass by next week you’ll probably find me here again, wearing a hat and a scarf, munching on the mochi ice cream.
Thank you, Hibiki. Gochisō sama deshita (it was quite a feast).
If you’re craving Japanese food and go to Wagamama after knowing this place exists - dishonour! Dishonour on your whole family, dishonour on you, dishonour on your cow. Mushu walked so I could run, I’ve said what I’ve said.
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidentials and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Ramen 8, eel donburi-mono 7, salmon nigiri 8, mango California roll 6, tuna maki 6
Highly organised, pleasant, quiet and quite happy to leave you to it
A humble layout