Acclaimed London-based Japanese chain Bone Daddies has just launched its latest restaurant in Marylebone and it’s used the opening to introduce charcoal grills into one of its ramen bars for the first time. FEJ caught up with group head chef Tom Moxon to find out how the specification of new equipment is supporting the ongoing diversification of its menu.
In terms of cooking equipment, what’s been the workhorse of Bone Daddies’ kitchens up to now?
For the first two years or so I would have said our Bonnet boiling kettle, which managed to survive day after day of stock boiling. Now it would be our MKN pressure boiling pans, although neither of them have been issue-free.
You’ve made no secret of the fact that you’ve been looking to use charcoal grills for a while. What’s prevented you from using this sort of cooking technology before?
It’s not that anything has prevented us from doing so, our restaurants Flesh and Buns and Shackfuyu both have robatas (Japanese charcoal grills). This is just the first time we’ve incorporated a grill into a ramen bar, allowing for quite a unique izakaya-style offering.
What does charcoal cooking allow you to do that existing equipment hasn’t?
There’s just no other way you can recreate the layers of flavour that you get from marinating, glazing, seasoning and then grilling over open flames. In Japan, they have perfected the simple art of charcoal grilling, this gives us an opportunity to explore a little of this.
In terms of the new site at James Street in Marylebone, is it a case of building the menu around the charcoal grill or making the grill work for the menu?
We had decided on building a robata into the restaurant before we had even looked at the menu, knowing from previous experience that it would work well within a ramen concept and we’d be able to create something special.
How central will charcoal grills be to future restaurant openings for Bone Daddies?
Not hugely central, but if the right site and opportunity arises then for sure we’d consider it.
Are there any plans to retro-fit charcoal ovens into existing Bone Daddies restaurants that don’t have them?
Not at this moment, no. We like to keep each of our ramen bars unique. Peter Street is our original rock and roll ramen, HSK has gyoza, Old Street has Kushikatsu and now St Christopher’s Place has a robata menu. There are still plenty more Japanese cooking styles for us to explore yet.
What was your process for finding a charcoal grill that suited your kitchen and would deliver the output you want? Did you spend much time studying different suppliers in the market?
Well we’d previously worked with the Clay Oven Group to help design and build our robatas at Flesh & Buns and Shackfuyu, so we based our decision on this relationship and previous experiences. They were able to customise the grill to fit into what is usually an already quite tight kitchen.
Which model of charcoal grill did you go for?
A customised, non-gas, robata grill.
Did you undertake trials of the grill before installing it and, if so, what did you learn from that?
We had used their grills for a few years, previously while working at Zuma in Knightsbridge, London.
How do you see your kitchen lay-out and design evolving as the business grows?
We learn a lot from each new kitchen we design, build and use; each kitchen being an evolution of the last. I don’t see it changing too much more from where we’ve got it to now: simple inbuilt equipment, Altro flooring and white rock walls for ease of cleaning, gullies where possible to manage any water prone areas, and plenty of air flow and light. Induction will play a big part as we’ve found it allows for faster, easier control and consistency while keeping our chefs cool. We’ve just installed two Falcon Dominator Plus four-hob electric ranges into St Christopher’s Place, and they are doing the job well so far.
The Bone Daddies story
Bone Daddies is the brainchild of acclaimed chef Ross Shonhan, formerly of Zuma and Nobu. He is passionate about Japan and wanted a home for his version of Japanese food and contemporary culture, created specifically for London. Combining original Japanese dishes with Shonhan’s unique twist, Bone Daddies promises considered yet incredible tasting food, served to a soundtrack of old school rock.
The original Bone Daddies was launched as a simple ramen bar on Peter Street. Crowded and loud, it continues to serve the company’s signature Bone Daddies noodles. Although they are quick to serve and eat, these complex bowls of ramen involve many hours of preparation in the kitchen, from boiling bones into creamy, flavoursome broths to cutting vegetables by hand to ensure the best, handcrafted quality.
Its desire to deliver memorable, standout Japanese-inspired food has driven the opening of every new Bone Daddies restaurant since. From ramen to izakaya or yōshoku, each delivers something slightly different, with the guarantee of creative food full of flavour.
With music as intrinsic to the concept as the food, each Bone Daddies restaurant plays an eclectic mix of classic rock songs for the enjoyment of customers as they eat.