Soup tends to get a bad rep for being, well, boring. Japanese noodle soup though, is a whole different ball game.
Bursting with umami flavours and more exotic ingredients than your basic leek and potato, ramen is nourishment for the soul and you won't find any better place in the city than the all-new Cocktail Beer Ramen + Bun.
While Piccadilly's Shoryu Ramen and a few little niche places down Chinatown all do heartwarming bowls of noodle soup, I've found my new fave. But it wasn't the ramen that won my heart...
Not because it wasn't good, mind. Cocktail Beer Ramen + Bun makes all its glorious steaming bowls fresh but on their already-signature small plates menu there are some truly innovative dishes that I imagine even the likes of Heston Blumenthal would be proud to call his own.
In a charming, rustic-chic unit on Oldham Street a taste sensation like no other...
With its cryptic CBRB sign illuminating the otherwise bare store-front, you'd be forgiven for walking down this street a hundred times and never be aware that waiting there is one of the best late-night food and drink hangouts in the whole city.
Inspired by the ramen joints of Copenhagen and Melbourne, the 40-cover restaurant has a bespoke cocktail menu boasting homemade bitters, syrups and cordials - split into "Lights" and "Signatures."
I've tried ramen all over the world - and can say that Cocktail Beer Ramen + Bun is one of the best on offer in Manchester right now.
Haven't had ramen yet? CBRB is the best spot in town to burst that cherry
Ramen consists of Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a meat or fish-based broth, often flavored with soy sauce or miso, and uses toppings such as sliced pork, dried seaweed, menma, and green onions.
Nearly every region in Japan has its own variation of ramen, from the tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen of Kyushu to the miso ramen of Hokkaido; CBRB has 5 different bowls of the magical broth to choose from, and myself and my partner were completely torn between the original Tonkotsu with xo sauce, crackling and spring onions - and the Crab Tonkotsu - signature broth finished with spicy crab curry, soft shell crab, padron peppers, bonito oil, coriander and ajitsuke tamago.
We opted for the pork and the portion was huge when it arrived (we had one between the two of us with some extras and were stuffed by the end.)
The ramen comes with wooden ladles to scoop up the soup into greedy mouths. Just the right marriment of light fragrance and full-bodied richness combined to make one flavour sensation to ooze deep in your memory and remain there for a very long time. We went on the official opening night and the place was absolutely packed out and to be honest, I'm not a bit surprised based on the quality of the food.
From the small plates section, we chose the crumbed pigs head and two different types of bao bun - the karaage chicken which I've had before and is my absolute favourite - as well as the shiitake mushroom.
I can say with absolute frankness that the pigs head is the most delicious thing I have ever tasted in my entire life - and I've eaten out a lot.
I could tell from the look on my boyfriend's face he felt the exact same and we had a good giggle for a few minutes at just how mind-blowingly tasty it was. We hadn't picked it out originally, but our endearingly enthusiastic waiter recommended it wholeheartedly and were were too curious for our own good. And it paid off big time.
Piping hot and melt-in-the-mouth, I only wished we'd ordered more of it and I was genuinely sad to see the last crumb gobbled up. It's a truly unusual dish which reflects the boldness, passion and the innovation embedded in not just the menu - but the staff and the labour of love that is the venue itself.
Of the bao buns the mushroom was extremely flavoursome but it was the chicken which was stand-out for me personally, we shared both buns but one bite of that sumptuous chicken is enough to make any dieter abandon all intent and give in to the hedonism of food, glorious food.
I can't honestly say I've ever had a "go-to" place in Manchester before, and I've lived in the city centre for almost three years now. I like to dart about, change it up, never sticking to one particular favourite foodie destination. But CBRB has it all - sensational food, reasonable prices, great cocktails (I only tried the one mind and I was knocked for six - so go easy if you're not well-acquainted with your spirits) as well as chilled-out vibes.
I can't praise it enough and I won't rest until I've tried every single small plate on that menu.
You can find Cocktail Beer Ramen + Bun at 101-103 Oldham Street - in the heart of the Northern Quarter.