Features

14/02/22


The Best Korean Restaurants In London

Korean food has a rich, illustrious history – arising from ancient semi-nomadic traditions, flourishing in royal houses and temples, transforming over centuries of social and political change, and finally culminating in the many varied, flavour-imbued dishes we know today.

And as we all know, the best way to enjoy history is by eating it.

The good news is that London’s blessed with a growing number of Korean restaurants; and we’ve taken the liberty of detailing our favourites below…


JUMP TO: KOREAN BBQ | TRADITIONAL RESTAURANTS | CHEAP EATS | KOREAN STREET FOOD | KOREAN BARS


KOREAN BBQ RESTAURANTS

Koba | Fitzrovia

Koba

Paul Winch-Furness

Sleek Central London spot Koba has been hosting DIY diners since 2005. Spread over two floors, the basement holds a low-lit, moody space while upstairs you’ll find a slim but airy dining room flooded with light from the huge skylight overhead, and lined with industrial extractor fans hovering over each table’s integrated hob. The counter seating up at the bar – still equipped with mini burners – makes for a fun and intimate experience for two. Stews and noodles are prepped in the kitchen, but the vast majority is left down to you: order ox tongue, rib eye or the famous bulgogi (beef strips marinated in soy) to sling onto the BBQ and follow up with sides of miso sobaegi (pan-fried aubergine) and the calamari with punchy Korean dips.

Details: 11 Rathbone Street, W1T 1NA | Open daily for lunch and dinner | Book here

Olle | Shaftesbury Avenue

Olle

Chinatown has changed a lot in the past few years, with a wave of polished new eateries buoyed by investment edging out some of the older institutions. Olle is a relatively new addition right on the corner, and while it’s sleek and polished in style, you can still get an authentic slice of Korean BBQ dining here. On entering, you’ll be engulfed by loud chatter, teal walls, bustling staff and the smell of Korean comfort food being cooked up on the grill-fitted tabletops. The kitchen rustles up dishes like Korean fried chicken (KFC) and dumplings, while you sling a selection of international ingredients such as wagyu beef and even Iberico pork onto the grills.

Details: 86-88 Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 6LN | Open daily from 12-11pm | Booking recommended, call 020 7287 1979

The Petite Corée | West Hampstead

The Petite Corée

The Petite Corée was once known for its unique fusion dishes, combining Korean flavours with seasonal European ingredients. It’s since pivoted to an exclusively Korean menu, and is all the better for it. The classics are all pulled off with aplomb – lip-smacking gochujang fried chicken; flavoursome kimchi pancakes; hearty beef bibimbap – and the menu branches out with a wide range of veggie and vegan-friendly options, too. The recent addition of the tabletop BBQ is just the icing on the cake, really.

Details: 98 West End Lane, West Hampstead, NW6 2LU | Open for lunch & dinner Tues-Sun | Book here BYOB, corkage £10

Sarang | Golders Green

Sarang

Old-school decor – elegant lanterns and cabinets designed to look like traditional windows – is mashed up with a soundtrack of Blackpink and BTS in this family-friendly joint just opposite the station. Service is warm and friendly, and the BBQ menu goes a little beyond the typical London offering – sliced beef tongue and spicy scallop appear alongside more standard options of sliced beef and pork belly. It’s all backed up by a solid selection of rice and noodle dishes, and some fiery kkanpunggi chicken.

Details: 887 Finchley Road, London, NW11 8RR | Open daily for lunch and dinner | No bookings

Gogi | Maida Vale

Gogi

Surprisingly vibey for its location, Gogi offers Korean BBQ in a low-lit, brick-walled space where industrial pendant lighting hangs alongside suspended extraction flues. Starters of dumplings, pancakes and glossy japchae (stir-fried glass noodles) set you up for the main event: platters of bulgogi, spicy pork, soy chicken and scallops to sizzle on the grill in front of you. Don’t skip the LA Galbi – beef short rib cut across the bone.

Details: 451 Edgware Road, London, W2 1TH | Open daily for lunch & dinner | Book here

K-Town | New Malden

K-Tong

One of many, many great options in London’s unofficial Koreatown, New Malden, K-Town sets itself apart with an all-you-can-eat BBQ buffet. For £25 (kids are charged a pound for every year of their age), you can stuff yourself with over 40 different ingredients to toss on the grill, from beef strips and pork to squid and mussels. It’s a place to roll your sleeves up, and get stuck in – with a 90 minute time limit, don’t expect to get too comfy, and all the smoke and activity means it can get hot in there. For value, though, it’s hard to beat.

Details: 8-12 Coombe Road, New Malden, KT3 4QE | Open daily for lunch & dinner | No bookings

 

TRADITIONAL KOREAN RESTAURANTS

Lime Orange | Victoria

Food at Lime Orange

No wonder Queen Vic was not amused; her neighbourhood’s seriously underpowered when it comes to good (and not insanely expensive) restaurants. But Lime Orange isn’t just ‘good for Victoria’, it’s worth a trip in its own right. A family-run joint, they specialise in bibimbap and bulgogi here – the former available with plenty of different topping options, including veg, and arriving in a hot stone bowl; the latter marinated in a formidable house sauce and pan-fried with onion and pepper. The drinks, too, are a cut above your usual – try the makkolli (a sweet, tangy, chalky-looking rice wine) or herbal baekseju.

Details: 312 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 1AAOpen for lunch & dinner Tues-Sun | Book here or call for same-day reservations on 020 8616 0498. Please note pre-theatre dining is particularly busy.

Imone | New Malden

Food at Imone

New Malden again, and this time to Imone, or ‘Aunty’s place.’ Home-cooked food is ostensibly the order of the day, but it’s one special aunty who can knock together dishes this good. Lunchtime set menus start at £11, or choose from the à la carte for treats like soondae (vermicelli noodle-stuffed sausage); flat, crispy wedges of mung bean pancakes or the hearty, cockle-warming al tang (fish roe stew).

Details: 169 High Street, New Malden, KT3 4BH | Open for lunch & dinner Thurs-Tues | Book here

Paranhodu | New Cross

Paranhodu

Paranhodu’s seasonal menu changes three times a year, showcasing the best available produce through the vehicle of classic Korean cooking. The decor’s relaxed and eclectic – it feels a bit like one side of the restaurant should be an outdoor patio and the other a 70s canteen – and the food is undeniably delicious, filling, and smacks of home-made care and attention. Having grown something of a cult local following, it’s best to book ahead – and arrive ravenous.

Details: 125 Lewisham Way, London SE14 6QJOpen Thursday – Tuesday, 5-10.30pm | Book on 020 3573 8175

 

CHEAP EATS

Masigo | Angel

Masigo, Angel

This no-frills spot is just a stone’s throw from the excellent Ogam cocktail bar on Islington’s Chapel Market. We feel a crawl coming on… They offer BBQ here, but it would be a shame not to go for the hearty bowls of dolsot bibimbap served in sizzling hot stone bowls, the punchy kimchi & pork stew or hotpots to share (which feed two for about £20).

Details: 29 Chapel Market, London, N1 9EN | Open Tues-Sat for lunch & dinner, plus Sunday lunch | Book on 020 7916 3212, or just turn up

Dotori | Finsbury Park

Dotori

Dotori offers both Korean and Japanese dishes on its vast menu. You might wonder how they could possibly do both so well, and you’d be right to – the answer is that the Japanese side lags somewhat behind its Korean counterpart. Come here for brisk yukgejang beef stew, pliable seafood pancakes, and kkanpungi chicken that grabs you from the first bite. And don’t expect to stay much longer than an hour.

Details: 3 Stroud Green, London N4 2DQ | Open for dinner Tues-Sun, plus lunch Fri & Sat | Book here for a small fee, but it’s better just to rock up | Cash only

GoGo Pocha | Waterloo

GoGo Pocha

Nestled on Waterloo’s Lower Marsh, GoGo is a great pitstop for authentic Korean cuisine. Elbow to elbow with other diners, you’ll find yourself in a buzzy, crowded restaurant surrounded by steaming bowls of hotpot and bibimbap. It’s a good spot for both connoisseurs and first timers, serving everything from dumplings and kimchi to spicy fried chicken gizzard.

Details: 30 Lower Marsh, SE1 7RG Open daily for lunch and dinner, all day on weekends | 07787 414249

Zipbab | Holborn

Food at Zipbab, Holborn

Lunchtime favourite Zipbab is unpretentious, speedy and will fill you up for a tenner. Hefty portions of bibimbap, ramen and BBQ’d pork belly hit the spot, but if you’re bringing friends (and with four types of soju on the menu, why wouldn’t you), boost the mains with kimchi pork jjim (a slow-cooked broth) and crispy chicken poppers.

Details: 51 Red Lion Street, London WC1R 4PF | Open for lunch & dinner Mon-Sat | Book here

 

KOREAN STREET FOOD

On The Bab | Old Street

Food at On The Bab

On The Bab is a more casual, street-food oriented spot from Koba founder and chef Linda Lee, and it’s a move that’s paid off. There are now four outposts across the capital – and another in Paris – all of which are perennially bustling. It’s a spot that’s just as good a choice for a solo lunch as it is for rowdy after-work beers alongside gargantuan bao; KFC; heat-packing pork noodles and kimchi fried rice.

Details: 305 Old St, EC1V 9LA Open daily 11.30am-10.30pm (10pm Sun) No bookings

Bunsik | Leicester Square

Corndogs at Bunsik

Along with K-pop, K-beauty, K-drama and er, K-quarantine, Korean street food has become pretty zeitgeisty recently. And undoubtedly the star of the show (on the London food scene at least) is Bunsik’s corndog. The American snack has been firmly adopted into the Korean street food vernacular, and Bunsik is the first to specialise in the dish over here. It’s essentially a pork sausage dipped in sweet batter and panko breadcrumbs, fried, dusted with sugar and lavished with ketchup and mayo – with its most popular version containing half sausage, half melted mozzarella. Other twists include crispy potato cube coatings, beef sausages and a meat-free version, and its presentation – on a stick – make this a supremely portable snack option.

Details: 62 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0BU Open daily, 11.30am-8pm (9pm Fri/Sat) No bookings

 

GREAT PLACES FOR KOREAN DRINKS

Ogam | Angel

Ogam, Angel

This Chapel Market bar is a feast for the senses – or, in Korean, ogam. Reigning champ bartender Taeyeol Kim left his 12-year career in South Korea to strike out in London, where he faithfully combines traditional alcohols with novel ingredients and evocative names, like the Milky Way (with rice wine, yuzu syrup and blue curacao), or the Night Emperor (whose yaguanmun-infused gin promises to aid ‘men’s stamina’). Drinking-food like KFC, deep-fried dumplings and tteogkkochi rice cake skewers add a little ballast, and with all-counter seating you’re guaranteed a good view of the theatrics.

Details: 10 Chapel Market, London N1 9EZ | Open 5-11pm, Tues-Sun Book via instagram DM

be-oom | Exmouth Market

be-oom

A great place for your little black book when you need to unwind, day or night. 비움 (be-oom) means ‘to empty’, and this tea-shop’s philosophy is all about emptying and refilling your mind while emptying (and refilling) your cup. They work only with organic, small-scale tea farms dotted across Korea, serving everything from sparkling malcha (matcha) to wild magnolia petal tea from Boseong, alongside traditional snacks. Come evening, that tea gets infused into creative cocktails, or you can sample their tea and wine pairings.

Details: 27 Exmouth Market, LondonEC1R 4QL Open Tues-Sun Book here

Korean Dinner Party | Carnaby

Korean Dinner Party

Korean Dinner Party is inspired by the restaurants of L.A.’s Koreatown, with its marvellous confluence of Korean, American and Mexican cuisine. That delicate fusion balance is kept weighed towards innovative rather than gimmicky thanks to KDP’s founders, Ana Goncalves and Zijun Meng (the brains behind the much-loved TĀTĀ Eatery). There’s corndogs here too, naturally, but also bacon ‘mochi’ (rice cakes wrapped in bacon with gochujang caramel); 48-hour slow-cooked beef short rib tacos to build yourself; and chicken nuggets drizzled with garlic sauce. But top billing here should really go to the creative drinks menu: experimental combos include the Yakult Royale (with soju and Champagne) and the Burnt Rice Old Fashioned – and the old-school hip-hop soundtrack takes things from dinner, to party.

Details: Top Floor, Kingly Court, Kingly St, Carnaby, London W1B 5PW Open daily for lunch and dinner Book here

Hongdae Pocha | Soho

Hongdae Pocha

Hongdae Pocha may only have been here since summer 2021, but step inside and you’ll find yourself, somehow, in 1970s South Korea. ‘Pocha’ gets loosely translated as pub, but really ‘dive bar’ feels more appropriate – there’s a thumping soundtrack, twinkly fairylights, booths, disco balls, and walls that are rapidly becoming entirely covered with messages scrawled in marker pen (you’ll find one attached to your menu). The food’s fun, interactive and loaded with heat (hotpot arrives with its own gas burner) and the drinks will set you up for a properly raucous Soho night – featuring ice lollies dipped in cocktails, highballs and giant soju toads…

Details: 26 Romilly Street, W1D 5AJ Open for lunch & dinner, Mon-Sat Book on 0207 287 1585

 

Last updated: 24th May 2022 | Main image: On The Bab


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