Certain phrases have a knack of evoking a smile.
“You look great today!” A classic. “I love your style!” Always a winner. “You’re more fun than bubble wrap!” Maybe that’s just me.
But my personal favourite has to be “bottomless brunch”.
The term “bottomless” is wonderful in itself. But the possibility of a never-ending supply of food to feast upon cries of “fill her up sir!” as you guzzle more of the good stuff.
Excited to sample such an occasion, we popped in to Shoryu Ramen in Piccadilly Gardens to see what their latest menu had to offer and took our seats on the sunshine terrace.
Zaki, our friendly and smiley server, recommended his favourites from the menu as we “umm-ed” and “ahh-ed” over every possibility until eventually ordering one of everything, just to give it a good going over.
First up, the baos – a kind of steamed, filled bun.
Choose from Char Siu Barbeque Pork or Grilled Halloumi with Shimeji Mushrooms. Pillowy pockets of rich, salty-sweet bites with just a hint of spice. The halloumi bun is light and fresh with a wicked kick but I highly recommend plumping for the pork belly. It’s achingly wonderful, tender and juicy and very very moreish. Trust me, you’re bao-ned to love it. (Sorry).
Next up, the sides. At four dishes a pop per person, these generously portioned platefuls crowd the table with a delicious presence, leaving you feeling very spoilt for choice.
The Chicken Karaage, was truly exceptional. Crispy-coated, juicy chunks of chicken packing a satisfying crunch with every bite. Already eye-rollingly good, make sure you indulge in liberal dunks of the garlic mayonnaise to really tip over the flavour scale.
The Goma Kyuri Cucumber is a thing of real beauty. Expertly presented like soldiers reporting for duty, this is a refreshing order with a healthy kick of spice – similar to the Wakame Seaweed Salad, which acts as a fantastic palate cleanser in between bites.
The Hakata Tetsunabe Gyoza was slightly disappointing. Steamed and then flash fried, the impeccably-seasoned chicken stuffed inside its doughy parcel goes unnoticed because of the overpowering flavour of sesame oil. I would have preferred to see these babies steamed and served in baskets to really show off the flavour.
The Takoyaki, or deep fried octopus balls were my personal favourite. They were plump and sweet with the lightest layer of crackled batter. Best enjoyed when popped in the mouth as a whole, with a good smothering of Japanese mayo for good measure.
The Tiger Prawn Tempura is fair and worth an order. Stand alone its delicately crisp outer layer compliments the thick, juicy bite of prawn. However, it is massively outshone by its delicious neighbours.
The Bottomless Ramen comes in four variations and is based around a choice of pork, chicken or vegetarian. Opting for the Curry Ramen, I anticipated that I would be overfaced based on the previous course but was pleasantly surprised when I was met by a neat bowl of comforting broth, brimming with fragrant spice.
A spiced, coconutty flavour runs through the dish, giving a healthy kick to the sumptuous chunks of lightly-fried chicken. A satisfyingly-orange-yolked chucky egg, soft noodles and brightly coloured veggies make up the rest of the bowlful, providing joyful slurps and sips until you’re left with nothing but the zingy broth which embraces your tastebuds in the friendliest of hugs.
Got room for one more? Good. Because there’s pudding to be had.
The final course allows you to choose from a selection of Asian-inspired ice creams. A charming and diverse array which demands some experimentation. If you’re looking for the inside scoop, however, I can vouch for the matcha and chocolate miso. Traditional meets innovative and the cooling texture your palate will be ready for.
At £38 per person, the price may not have Londoners batting an eyelid, but may need a bit of a tweak for our fair city. Whilst there’s no doubt you get bang for your bucks, there’s only so much brunching one stomach can handle in an hour and a half to really reap the benefits.
Worth a visit? Certainly, if only for the Takoyaki alone. Bring the price down or increase the dining time and there’ll be a queue out of the door. Of that I can a-Shoryu. (Sorry).
1 Piccadilly, Manchester M1 1RG