You paid how much for a bowl of udon?!

Eat enough Japanese cuisine and you’ll notice that there are a lot of noodles. They come in all kinds of exciting variants — from the auspicious buckwheat soba cooked at the New Year to harusame noodles made with bean starch.

But unfortunately, people unfamiliar with Japanese cooking often miss out on one type of noodle that doesn’t get as much press: udon, thicker noodles made from wheat flour.

Marugame Seimen, also known as Marugame Udon, is taking a dramatic step to change that. Along with opening restaurants in the U.S., they’ve got their sights set on Europe. Their first European restaurant technically opened in Moscow, Russia in 2016, but the second restaurant that was planned to open in London in 2020 was pushed back to July 26, 2021, due to the global pandemic.

▼ The new London restaurant is located on Middlesex Street.

Upon opening, the restaurant promised to give away 5,000 bowls of free udon for the first waves of customers, but it seems that incentive was hardly necessary. Lines to enter the restaurant apparently reached up to 100 people strong, with some prospective patrons even getting turned away due to the limited capacity of the building. Parent company Marugame Seimen plans to open 100 restaurants across Europe by 2026, so the warm welcome received by this London branch bodes well for future European outlets.

What makes Marugame Udon especially tantalizing is their low prices. The cost of dining out in any capital city can run high, and London is no exception. However, Marugame Udon allows you to purchase a full bowl of bukkake — sorry, B.K. — udon for 3.35 GBP (US$4.66), which is roughly equivalent to 511 yen at the time of writing.

▼ Fancier dishes, like their chicken katsu curry udon, cost 6.45 GBP or more.

This might seem expensive to those who are used to paying around 320 yen for a bowl of bukkake udon in Japan, but there are various factors that lead to a necessary increase in price for udon sold at the London branch.

This includes import fees for ingredients, the cost of living and renting properties in London, and the presence of Value Added Tax which is factored into prices. Some restaurants that produce cuisine from outside the U.K. may even increase prices due to the novelty and scarcity of their product.

As such, the comparatively low prices showcased at Marugame London really are a cause for celebration.

▼ Take this menu for instance, where even the “bites” cost over 6.70 GBP.

Londoners and Japanese people living in London were enthused over having access to their beloved udon noodles at a relatively affordable cost. Several people even expressed a desire to go to England just for the novel experience of eating Japanese udon there, with comments from Japanese-language Twitter users including:

“It rocks that you can eat Marugame udon in London for about 700 yen now! When I visited the United Kingdom, whenever I tried to get udon it cost about 1,000 yen just for a plain dish of udon with no trimmings, so I gave up.”
“Hearing that a bowl of bukkake udon costs about 600 yen in the U.K. really drives home how incredible Japanese price deflation is.”
“I can eat Marugame udon in London now. I’m too happy for words.”
“Hey, is it okay if I slurp my noodles at the London Marugame? It’s probably not, huh?”

At udon restaurants like Marugame you can purchase not only bowls of udon, but various tempura-fried trimmings and side dishes as well. In the London chapter, these sides have been specially curated for British diners with a taste for Asian cuisine: kimchi, Little Moons mochi ice cream, and unlimited coconut-matcha soft serve ice cream all accompany traditional options like pumpkin croquettes, edamame, and onsen boiled eggs.

The London restaurant has also taken pains to ensure that vegetarian and vegan options are available, as well as rice bowls for those who aren’t keen on thick floury noodles.

Basically, if you’re a fan of Japanese cuisine and are in London, you won’t want to miss out — especially if your only previous exposure was to fusion food like the English Breakfast udon bowl. Just make sure to stay as safe and socially distanced as you can!

Restaurant information
Marugame Udon
Address: 114 Middlesex Street, Spitalfields, London, United Kingdom, E1 7ES
Open 12 p.m. – 8 p.m. (Monday to Wednesday), 12 p.m. – 3:45 p.m., and 4:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. (Thursday to Sunday)

Related: Marugame Udon UK
Source: via Golden Times
Top image: Marugame Udon UK

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