Richly-flavoured ramen, rice bowls and delectable dumplings await you at House of Fu.
House of Fu is the new opening from the people who brought us Belgrave Music Hall, Water Lane Boathouse and Headrow House. They’ve transformed the old William Hill building into a cool, tiled restaurant with a communal atmosphere and steaming bowls of ramen. Behind it all is Ben Iley, the man who made his mark at Ox Club.
The dream of House of Fu started a few years ago with fledgling street food vendor Fu Schnikens, but after a trip to Japan, Ben decided it was time to turn it into something more permanent. The opening was pushed back, not just by the pandemic, but also because of the city’s ever-growing food and drink scene.
With so many new Japanese restaurants, Ben was concerned they’d get lost in the mix, or that opening another would simply be overkill. That led them to move from bao to ramen, but even then, it wasn’t plain sailing as three potential sites fell through thanks to the minefield of planning permission. Fast-forward to summer 2021, however, and House of Fu finally threw open its doors.
There are enough options here for a quick lunchtime bite, but you could also easily turn up with a gang of mates and order everything on the menu. While the menu and approach might shout ‘fast food’, the kitchen has a fine-dining pedigree that shines through in the quality of ingredients and the skill of the chefs.
Fried gyoza are one of the best ways to start your meal. Half a dozen perfectly-prepped parcels, containing either pork or shiitake mushrooms and kale, all based on Ben’s wife’s recipe – she hails from Japan. There’s a gyoza of the week too, which has already taken in such delights as Szechuan lamb and a knockout kimchi and burger cheese. Feeling hungry? You can order up a plate of 24 gyozas, the perfect sharing platter.
Five ramen options mean there’s something for everyone, with two vegan choices. Both of those start with miso and shiitake broth, the green ramen adds kohlrabi chashu and roast tomato, while the miso tantan ramen gives you toasted rye noodles and plant-based spiced mince. For those of you who aren’t vegan, the house staple is the original fu ramen, so you can delve into a richly-scented bowl of pork broth, BBQ pork, egg and burnt garlic oil.
You’ve got two more to try – the spicy fu tantanmen has zingy spiced pork mince and an addictive crunchy chilli oil, or yuzu chicken ramen, which is lifted with the zing of Japanese citrus. You can also add your choice of extra toppings – with everything from half a ramen egg to BBQ pork chashu, yuzu chicken chashu or the plant-based mince.
If you’re not in the mood for ramen, the rice and super bowls are a delicious alternative. The classic katsu combines panko-crumbed chicken breast with that trademark curry sauce, while the spicy tofu has aromatic sansho pepper and soft roast aubergine. A cauliflower bowl once again shows what can be done with a humble vegetable, with hot sauce and kimchi helping to deliver robust flavours.
If you want to leave House of Fu feeling virtuous, the super bowls all start with a bed of seasoned rice, then add goodness like avocado, cucumber, edamame and kale, or perhaps fresh tuna or nori-cured salmon. As an added bonus, they’re all gluten-free. If you’re still hungry, you can explore the sides, with Fu-fried chicken and crispy cauliflower among the must-tries. Desserts are simple but lovable – a choice of ice-cream sandwiches. Will you go for miso caramel or white chocolate and matcha?
Not content to rest on their laurels, Ben and the team have plans to open a courtyard out back, dressed with the city’s only moving neon sign. There’s a second-floor karaoke spot in the works too, and further down the line, a petite and relaxed cocktail bar on the top floor. In the meantime, the one thing you’re guaranteed is a good feed, so get down there to work your way through that oh-so-marvellous menu.
House of Fu, 15-19 The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PU.