Restaurant review: Gulp Ramen, Edinburgh
It’s a low-level treat I have planned for myself, but in the absence of much else to do I’m a little giddy with anticipation.
After working a Saturday shift I decide to reward myself in moderate style by dining solo the following day in a proper restaurant with bowl of ramen – attracted by the prospect of brightly-coloured warmth enlivening a cold, dreich lunchtime.
Gulp Ramen is only mere weeks old (“mad to be opening a ramen shop during a pandemic? Perhaps we are!” it says) but judging from the steamed-up windows and flurry of activity both during my visit and whenever I’ve walked past, it seems to have been a vindicated decision by owners Elizabeth Elliott and Sharif Gergis.
They have fused their knowledge of management and cooking to create the offering after moving back to Edinburgh from Morzine, France, and she has said that while opening during a pandemic is risky, “it would have been riskier not to do anything”.
The two of them are running the restaurant, which is located on a relatively restaurant-heavy section of Leith Walk – with neighbours including The Little Chartroom and Bodega.
I have also worked out at the gym that sits opposite; the only thing harder than plodding along on the treadmill is knowing that in mere minutes you could be placing your order in one of these sites, perhaps then popping into the Sicilian Pastry Shop to leave with a wealth of sugary carbs – the kind of weight I enjoy lifting.
Gulp Ramen describes itself as an “ingredient-led” ramen shop, focused on making “the highest-quality noodles and broth” for its dishes. This includes noodles made with nine types of flour to produce a Hakata-style noodle, while the broths take at least 60 hours using high-end locally sourced pork, chicken and duck. There is also a veggie ramen that is “no afterthought” – comprising a rich laksa-style broth with a daily changing mix of vegetables “often cooked overnight in the embers of our Konro Japanese BBQ”.
Also on offer is an Asian-influenced snack, which changes daily, in what is billed as a “fun, laidback and great value” venue.
I book online, not noticing the alert that tables are for an hour maximum – given its compact size and curtailed opening hours – and then on the Sunday I make my way there, with the premises a bright space including a colourful mural created by artist Chas Williams featuring the image of a soundwave of someone slurping, while there is also a map of Leith.
I see both from its website and the restaurant itself that it’s stringent about anti-Covid measures.
The menu comprises the Asian snack – on the day I visit I order the wild boar dumpling, shiitake mushroom, sweetcorn and coriander – and there are three ramen options (£12 each), with the trio depicted in a mural – and you can pay extra for additional edamame, for example. There’s an additional option where you choose one of the three made to your preferred spice level.
One is the pork and roast chicken broth, including components chasu pork collar and shoulder, slow-cooked egg, miso corn, edamame, spring onion, mushroom and puffed crackling; another the laksa-style roast onion, mushroom and vegetable broth, silken tofu tempura, seasonal vegetables and nori puffed potato.
But my name is written all over the chicken and shoyu (soy sauce) broth with fried and breaded chicken thigh and many of the same elements of the others.
Having perused the menu before my visit I’d planned to have an alcohol-free beer or cider, but I’m instead intrigued by the boundary-pushing soft drinks on offer from local low-sugar soda brand ROOTS. The Superposition – white grapefruit with hop and clove – is apparently a popular choice, so I order that.
This arrives along with my wild boar dumpling, an exemplary dish with the rich dumpling sitting alongside a quarter circle of black pudding plus a mushroom, and sauces including a flavourful, creamy mushroom velouté as rich and warming as cashmere.
Then it’s ramen time, a large bowl comprising the breaded chicken on skewers suspended like a tightrope over the lagoon underneath. There are more noodles and less broth than I’d expected, plus a soft-boiled egg in the centre surrounded by sweetcorn, spring onions, edamame beans and a brown, translucent slice of wood ear mushroom.
The skewered chicken is tender and moist and enhanced by a sauce that seems to have a sweet chili edge. The broth boasts a rich onion-y edge, and although I wish I’d opted for a spicier option – the rich flavour of the dumpling dish is a hard act to follow – it’s hearty and warming.
My curiosity regarding ROOTS’ products has not been sated so I try out the apple, celery and coriander soda, and it’s my favourite of the two, dominated by the celery in a much better way than that sounds.
I am still happily catching up on my magazine reading when I’m given the bill (£24, not the cheapest lunch) – a group of fresh-faced youngsters has arrived that is waiting for me to vacate, and like Cinderella at the ball, my time is up and I must sadly head out into the cold. Many would “gulp” at the idea of entering hospitality’s choppy waters in the current climate, but this ramen shop is proving that people are seeking out tasty, trendy treats.
9 Albert Place
Tel: 0751 6789 419
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.
If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.