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Japan Centre London


Live Your Lunch Break

The lunch break is a perfect time to recharge and take a little ‘me time’ before taking on the challenges of an afternoon at work.  Sometimes it can mean picnics in the park with colleagues or at more stressful times, grabbing a sandwich to munch on al desko.

Flexioffices, leading provider of serviced office spaces in London and the UK, is running a campaign to reclaim the lunch break and make the most of those 30 minutes or one hour to relax and maintain a good work/life balance every day.

A recently conducted survey of worker habits found that only 30% of UK employees take a lunch break and more than a third of workers feel pressured to work through their lunches.

I’ve been lucky to have always worked close to Soho.  Even when based in Mayfair, I would spend a lot of time at press screenings, junkets and interviewing celebrities in Soho, so my lunch break would always be spent there.

Here are some ways to spend a fulfilling lunch break in vibrant Soho…

Get Outdoors

Soho Square is the focal point of Soho and on every warm day it’s buzzing with Londoners relaxing, socialising and enjoying an outdoor lunch.  There are very few quiet spots in Soho, but a bit of fresh air, quiet contemplation or meditation can help alleviate stress and get you back on track for an afternoon of work.

Relax & Beautify

One of my favourite ways to perk up my lunch break in indulging in a spot of grooming and beauty maintenance.  Cowshed Carnaby offers a selection of express 30-minute treatment, so you can enjoy a Speedy Facial, Manicure or Pedicure and still have time to grab lunch.

For an after-work event, Fordham Soho does an excellent quick blow-dry.  If time is of the essence, Cucumba offers beauty pit-stop treatments such as a re-energising massage, eyebrow threading and mini manicure within just 10 minutes.  When I’m feeling stressed or tense after hunching over a computer all morning, a massage clears my mind and helps melt away those back and shoulder knots.

Get Fit

To let off some steam and get your body moving in your lunch break, why not try some light exercise?  Go for a quick, refreshing swim at The Third Space, take a one-hour yoga class at Triyoga, go spinning at H2Bike or simply take a power walk around Soho (avoiding busy Oxford Street as much as possible).

Eat Amazing Food Fast

You’re really spoilt for choice in Soho for great places to eat – in fact there are new restaurants popping up every week.  I’ve found that the best options for a lunch break are Soho’s cool cafes and self-service restaurants, where you can control the pace (no frantic eye-catching for the bill).

I’ve long been a fan of Princi, a high-end Milanese cafe and artisan bakery that serves delicious pizza al taglio, hot Italian main dishes, colourful salads, arancini and exquisite cakes.  You’ll be popular among your work colleagues if you bring back a box of cannolis (an upgrade from the usual Krispy Kreme dozen that find their way into the office).

My other lunch break haunts include Houmous Bros (not only for the incredible stews and houmous but the spiced apple tea), Shoryu Go for moreish hirata buns and gyoza, Whole Foods Market for burritos freshly-prepared at the counter, Yumchaa for pots of loose-leaf tea and home-made paninis and Maison Bertaux for delicious French cakes.

Also worth trying are Berwick Street Market for tempting street food, Pizza Pilgrims Pizzeria, Rapha CC for superior coffee and light bites and The Detox Kitchen for healthy salads and nourishing juices.

Treat Yourself

After working hard all week, surely a small reward is deserved?  Even surviving the daily tube commute without getting mad is reason enough to self-congratulate, in my opinion.  Why not perk up your day with a new book from independent specialist Claire de Rouen Books, a box of delectable macarons at Yauatcha, a must-have NARS lip colour from Space: NK, a new album from Phonica Records, simple basics from Sunspel, a niche designer accessory from Machine-A or luxurious lingerie at Agent Provocateur.

Shop Gourmet 

Food shopping is best saved for the evening and weekends, but you can pick up some fantastic speciality products in Soho that you can’t find in the supermarkets.  Algerian Coffee Stores is a petite emporium where you can find the best exotic blends in town, Lina Stores and i Camisa & Son are great Italian delis where you can find posh pasta and olives and Japan Centre stocks every possible Japanese food product you could need for a tasty dinner.

How do you spend your lunch break?  Where are your favourite Soho lunch time spots?

Take part in the #LiveYourLunchBreak campaign and discover something new in your work neighbourhood.

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All photos by Chérie City

London, Restaurants

Tonkotsu Noodles At Shoryu Ramen – London

The Japanese ramen trend has truly taken off in London (via New York) and we are now spoilt for choice, with a number of ramen joints popping up across town within just a few months.  One of the most talked-about places for authentic ramen is Shoryu Ramen, a stylish yet casual tonkotsu noodle bar just a few steps away from the Japan Centre on Regent Street.

Earlier in the summer, I visited the Japan Centre for tonkotsu ramen and the manager Nari, who also oversees Shoryu, told me that it was the next big food trend to hit London.  Boy, was he right about the ramen invasion and cleverly the Japan Centre was there to meet demand with Shoryu.

Judging by the frequent queues and high number of Japanese guests, Shoryu has already become a big hit.  Ramen varies between regions in Japan and Shoryu specialises in Hakata ramen, expertly made by Fukuokan-born Head Chef Kanji Furukawa.

The restaurant is petite and has a walk-in only policy so there’s a good chance you’ll have to queue at peak times.  Whenever a guest walks in, all of the staff shout ‘Irasshaimase!’ – an honored tradition of welcoming customers.  The design of the restaurant is contemporary, bright and unfussy and tables are squeezed quite closely together.

We began with Edamame with hakata yuzu and British sea salt (£3.50) to snack on.  The steamed edamame pods were infused with fragrant, citrusy yuzu and very fine salt, served cold.  The large beans were plump and full of flavour – edamame perfection!

The Matcha Orange Smoothie (£2.90) wasn’t quite what I was expecting.  On a positive note, it was filled with lots of detoxing matcha powder, but it was unfortunately very bitter, possibly made with concentrated orange juice instead of freshly squeezed and had the thin texture of a juice – not really a smoothie at all.  Steven fared better with a simple Diet Coke (£1.50), although notably they also serve Chegworth Valley Apple Juice, Gekkeikan sake and Asahi beer.

We’re both gyoza fiends and could easily wolf down dozens of those little parcels, but spotting the size of the ramen bowls leaving the kitchen, we shared just one portion of Gyoza Dumplings (£5 for 6).  They were quite possibly the best gyoza I’ve ever had – thin steamed skins lightly fried on each side and filled generously with beautifully-seasoned pan fried pork, vegetables and herbs.

The six gyoza dumplings were served piping hot and came with a delicious soy vinegar dipping sauce.  Gyoza dumplings must be one of Shoryu’s most popular starters, as almost every table ordered a plate of them, and rightly so.

I love miso-based soups, so I chose the Shoryu Tonkotsu (£8.50) – tonkotsu pork broth with miso, bbq pork, nitamago, kikurage, red ginger, nori, bean sprouts, spring onion, sesame.  The bowl was enormous and filled with meticulously placed fresh ingredients ready to be mixed into the mild, creamy and not overly oily tonkotsu broth.

The bbq pork is already cooked and sliced, so it lacks somewhat in tenderness, but it’s hearty, lean and goes well with the ramen.  My dish had around four medium slices, so there is a reasonable amount without the pork being the main feature.  The plentiful hosamem noodles at the bottom of the dish are thin,  springy and hold their own in the broth (thankfully not over-cooked).  The nitamago egg, boiled and marinated in a soy sauce mixture, was an authentic addition and added richness to the ramen.

Steven was slightly braver and went for the Piri Piri Tonkotsu (£9.90) spicy tonkotsu pork broth with miso, bbq pork, nitamago, kikurage, red ginger, nori, bean sprouts, spring onion, sesame.  This fiery bowl of ramen had a serious kick to it, with spicy seasoning in the broth and slices of super hot piri piri chili.  This is definitely one to order to blast away winter colds!

The ramen was so filling and warming, but there’s always room for dessert, especially if they are bright green!  We were told that the desserts are made by a very good local Japanese bakery and all contain matcha.  I went for the Matcha Sponge Cake (£4.50), which included layers of deliciously vanilla cream, a centre of sweet plum jam and a generous dusting of matcha powder.

Steven’s Matcha Cheese Cake (£4.50) had an intense matcha flavour and the biscuit base was crumbly and heavenly.  To finish the meal, we were advised to try Hoji Cha (£2) – a roasted green tea that is almost caffeine-free.  It had a subtle, nutty flavour and was very easy to drink.  The manager told us that they use the finest quality Hoji Cha and import it straight from Japan.  I later found this particular type of Hoji Cha in the Japan Centre and it really is the very best you can find.

Shoryu is the perfect place for hearty, authentic Hakata ramen and is very reasonably priced, considering the generous portion sizes and high quality of the food.  They tempted us with some dishes that were ‘coming soon’ on the menu, including my favourite Chicken Kara Age, so I will definitely be back as their menu expands.

Best of all, if you feel inspired to recreate the dishes at home, Japan Centre is just across the road.  We were sold on the health benefits of Hoji Cha and matcha, so we picked some up on the way home, as well as some adorable little chocolate mochi and a matcha brownie for the next day.  A delicious dinner with a bit of shopping afterwards – what could be better!

Chérie City was a guest of Shoryu

Photos by Chérie City and Shoryu

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Tonkotsu Ramen Noodles At The Japan Centre, London

Japan Centre in Piccadilly is a real haven for Asian food lovers – not only can you grab a delicious donburi or sushi in the Japanese canteen and delicatessen Umai, but you can then pick up all of the ingredients to recreate dishes at home.  I always gravitate towards old favourites such as gyoza, karage, koroke, katsu curry and yakisoba, but this time I wanted to try something new.

Nariaki Kanazawa, manager at Japan Centre told me that Tonkotsu ramen noodles are one of the most popular dishes in Japan and now the dish is starting to appear on menus in the UK.  There are a few variations of Tonkotsu ramen noodles to choose from and because I love miso soup, I went for the Hakata Miso-Tonkotsu Ramen Noodles.

I had the chance to stand at the other side of the counter and watch as one of the chefs prepared the dish for me.   All of the ingredients are super fresh and surprisingly it takes just a few minutes to prepare.

Ramen noodles are added to a rich tonkotsu pork, miso and chicken broth, which is kept piping hot in a large soup kettle, ready to serve.  Then the noodle soup is topped with cold slices of bbq pork, kikurage black mushrooms, red ginger, nori seaweed, beansprouts, spring onion and sesame.

Hakata Miso-Tonkotsu Ramen Noodles is real Japanese comfort food – hearty, warming and full of flavour.  The soup has a slightly creamy, oily texture, which gives taste to the fresh vegetables and the succulent slices of seasoned pork.  I ordered a big bowl (£8.30), however I really struggled to finish it, so a small bowl (£7.10) for lunch is more than sufficient.

The Japan Centre is a great source of inspiration for Japanese home cooking and trying new dishes to see how they should taste before going it alone.  The staff are so enthusiastic and passionate about Japanese food and are on hand to help if you need some advice.  It’s definitely one of central London’s more interesting spots for a healthy, freshly-cooked lunch.

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Chérie City was a guest of Japan Centre