It’s the small touches you notice in Soup. There are the real flowers, a small bunch of cheerful tiny-blossomed ones on the large timber tables and benches.
It looks like there wasn’t much money in the budget for anything other than paint after the kebab shop that once was here was stripped out. So the walls are half-white, half-peppermint green, and the floor is painted. There are two beach-themed canvases on the end wall, feet on stones and swirls of brine and kelp.
Those shared tables and bar are fashioned from slabs of huge trees, beech and cedar, “downed in Roundwood”, according to the website.
Soup add a final flourish to their kimchi: they deep-fry it. Coated in panko crumb, this kimchi is better than chips. And they finish it with a technicolour splatter of beetroot ketchup
I’ve been for a swim at Seapoint, with notions of inching into the bite of the Dublin Bay water as long as possible this year, if only for the rush that follows the numbing. I can’t think of a better place to wash up afterwards than here, thawing hands wrapped around the smooth round bowls of hot ramen.
Soup is at the end of George’s Street Lower, Dún Laoghaire’s main street, where the wave of chain-store money peters out to a shoreline of smaller operators, furniture stores and charity shops.
It’s a big, bright unpretentious ramen bar and our gang, which includes four hungry children, is going to give their short simple menu a workout. One of the plates first up is a fast food iteration of kimchi. The Korean spiced cabbage staple is not my thing, even though I’m aware of its stonking health and cultural credentials. I think it’s a texture problem. There’s too much of forgotten salad bag sliminess going on when soft cabbage leaves wilt in a spiced ferment.
But Soup add a final flourish to their kimchi: they deep-fry it. Coated in panko crumb, this deep-fried kimchi is better than chips. And they finish it with a technicolour splatter of earthy sweet beetroot ketchup for extra food kicks. It has the look and satisfying chew of fried meat.
There’s another plate of charred cauliflower with peanuts and lime that’s exactly as delicious as it sounds, but it’s the shared kimchi plate that my friend and I are clashing chopsticks over.
There are three kinds of ramen here (four if you count the vegan option that ditches the seasoned egg in the veggie bowl): chicken, tonkotsu pork and vegetable options; three salads and a spice bag which you can have with chicken or halloumi.
Our testing of all the options led us to a discovery of the bleedin’ obvious – when you go to a ramen bar have the ramen, or the spiced chips. The seasonal salad is curiously flat, and almost flavour-free, like a bag of fridge-cold leaves tipped into a bowl with peas, broccoli and pickled cucumber. It’s a good heaped five of your five-a-day, but in a watery, chewing the cud way.
It could be that the deep fried kimchi was just too hard an act to follow, but even so this salad is a dud to all the dazzle.
Everything else more than pulls its weight. We get smaller, child-sized bowls which are the perfect size. The pork broth is milky and nutty and every element in it is bright with its own flavour set off against the comforting broth, to be slurped with black steel ladles in between chews.
In my vegetable ramen there are slippery pickled mushrooms, some more of that crispy kimchi and a seasoned egg, the colour of American tan tights but tasting fresh and funky, with a scattering of black sesame seeds.
The non-meat-eater is thrilled with his halloumi spice bag. Strips of pepper have been tumbled with triple-fried chips flecked with chilli flakes and dotted with fried cheese
Marinated salmon ramen manages to be fish soup without the fishiness. The non-meat-eater is thrilled with his halloumi spice bag. Skinny lengths of yellow and red peppers have been tumbled with triple-fried chips flecked with chilli flakes and dotted with cubes of the fried squeaky cheese. The frying turns it fluffy inside, like scampi. We get a doggy bag and there’s enough to bring home for his tea, reheated on a frying pan, which as the youngest points out, makes them quadruple fried chips.
Ashe’s dismay when she goes up to order the gingerbread nachos can be heard where I’m sitting. “No, don’t say that,” she says when the lovely staff tell her there are none today. We are intrigued as to what these are and want to try them. But the 80 per cent chocolate they use in the chocolate and chilli sauce gets nibbled by staff, we hear, and has disappeared.
They mollify our outrage with black chai ice cream. Mine is drowned in a hot espresso, affogato style, and topped with candied pistachios. Served in a tiny wooden bowl, it’s a feel-great end to a gorgeous meal.
Soup is a stunner, the best ramen in Dublin. It deserves to be a destination dining experience for Dún Laoghaire, as beloved a part of the local food scene as Teddy’s ice cream and with similar queues year-round.
Lunch for six with tap water and a shared dessert came to €94
- Verdict Only missed out on a 9 because of the salad.
- Facilities Basic but fine
- Music Excellent.
- Food provenance None.
- Vegetarian options Excellent
- Wheelchair access 4.5/5 (No steps and a fully accessible toilet but a small lip to navigate to get to the toilet)