Find Korean Comfort Food in London (Seven Restaurants of varying styles to choose from)
Flu season is upon us and I don't know about you, but it makes me seek out some home cooked, deep-tasting broth with rice. With my own mother now over 3,000 miles away, I have to find the next best thing in any country I visit. It was quite difficult finding good Korean food in London, but don't you worry. I hunted relentlessly until I found the good stuff for you.
Even if you're not looking for home-cooking because maybe you're not that familiar with Korean food, it's still a very comfort food-style cuisine. Korean food isn't about elegance and gourmet styles. It's about eating mom's home cooking that can warm hearts and heal colds.
I also needed to check for myself to see if these online Google reviews were accurate. To no surprise, like I mentioned in previous posts, Google reviews in London are very inaccurate. So I made sure to try these places out for myself and I'll tell you which ones are the best.
Masigo | Angel
I came across Masigo accidentally while house-hunting in Angel one day and noticed it was quite busy inside. There was only one table empty and thankfully, we were able to take it. If there is heavy foot traffic inside a restaurant, usually that's a good sign that the restaurant knows what it's doing.
Masigo in Korean translates to "and to eat". And eat you shall. If you're looking for a decent home cooked Korean meal, Masigo will have most of the basic Korean dishes you're looking for. From Korean pancakes to japchae, bibimbap, bulgogi, marinated Korean fried chicken, and popular Korean soups. Now is it the best Korean food I've ever had? No. But it did the job and I left satisfied. It also has a clean interior with comfortable leather seats and excellent customer service. Since customer service makes up half of the dine-in experience, I was happy with my visit here.
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Jijigo | King's Cross
It was my first time hearing of Jijigo the day I gave it a try. It may not have come up on my Google searches due to the minimal amounts of reviews of Jijigo, which is unfortunate. But I'm glad I found it in the midst of my flu because it's just what I needed to remedy my illness.
Jijigo has a broader variety of traditional Korean dishes from budae jjigae (army stew) to chadol dwenjang jjigae (brisket soybean paste stew). I love that they have an Anju section of their menu which refers to food you usually have while drinking. Having an anju section means the restaurant provides a atmosphere where you can snack while having a couple of drinks with your friends so you don't necessarily have to have a full meal.
I personally tried the crispy Korean fried chicken in garlic soy sauce and beef short rib soup (galbi tang). The Korean fried chicken was crispy with a tangy sweet sauce. The galbi tang was the best part of the meal for me. It was well seasoned and had that deep, mama's home cooking taste that I was looking for.
On The Bab | Soho
In a previous post, I talked about The Best Bao Buns in London, which included On The Bab. It reminds me of a cafe or food bar where I can have a quick bite while finishing up some work on my laptop. The menu has a lot of small plates, so it's easy to share with friends and try a little bit of everything.
They take your order at the front bar and then hand you a buzzer that buzzes when your food is ready. I loved that this dishes here were all true to having Korean flavor influences such as bulgogi even if it was a fusion dish like the bao buns.
HanRü | Kensington
I stumbled upon HanRü Food & Soju Bar accidentally on a day I was touring around many of the museums in Kensington. I took a beautiful walk around Hyde Park and found HanRü right by the High Street Kensington Station. With a trendy, old school gastropub vibe and a juke box by the entrance, HanRü is a place where you can come with your friends after work for some snacks (anju) and soju.
They have all of your basic traditional Korean dishes from fried gyoza to bibimbap to various soups. You can be sure that they have vegetarian options on their menu as well. With the rainy weather that day, I had to try the galbi tang (beef rib soup). It was well seasoned with a lovely garlic and beef soup broth, much like how my grandma makes it.
Kimchee | King's Cross
If you're looking for something apart from a gastropub but not quite fine dining, Kimchee is the place to go. It's a casual, inviting, clean atmosphere and the ordering is high-tech with waiters on iPads which makes obtaining your food something that feels very streamlined.
The grilled galbi was tender and seasoned perfectly while the ddokbokki was a bit lackluster in flavor. It's hit or miss with some of the dishes, but it's not bad and it's accomodating to seat large groups of people.
I thoroughly enjoyed the lively atmosphere and the reasonable prices. It was satisfying, but not the best versions of Korean dishes that I've had in London. For the atmosphere and service, I would definitely go back again. Since they accommodate large groups, it's perfect for large format dining.
Koba | Fitzrovia
For a more fine dining Korean BBQ experience, you can try out Koba. I personally don't think Korean BBQ should be a fine dining experience since in South Korea, that's not the original atmosphere nor intention. Korean BBQ is meant to be casual dining with a bunch of people. But there aren't too many alternatives in London yet.
The prices at Koba are a bit steep for food and drinks compared to traditional Korean BBQ, but the quality of meat is still decent and it's in an affluent neighborhood. You can't be seated with more than 4 guests in a table, so it's tough to come with a big group of friends.
Come prepared to throw your clothes into the wash after dinner due to poor ventilation of the smoke. You'll be walking out of this place fully smelling like barbecue, which is good or bad depending on how you look at it. Despite this being a Korean BBQ joint, I have to say I was impressed with the bibimbap the most. It hit all of the right flavour profiles of spicy, sweet and acidic.
JinJuu | Soho
I read some terrible reviews about JinJuu and fortunately for us, those reviews were very wrong. I stumbled upon it one night with friends because we happened to be in the area and were looking for a dinner spot. We decided to give JinJuu a try and we were very pleasantly impressed.
They serve traditional Korean dishes, but also several fusion dishes that peaked my interest. With a ton of variety, you won't get bored of the food. Mentioning that it's a fusion restaurant, they do have some traditional Korean dishes, but also dishes that aren't. I like this combination because it allows for you to choose to be an adventurous eater.
My favorite dish had to be the whole fried chicken. Only Korean places do this, where they double deep fry an entire chicken. When it's done right, there's nothing that compares to it. Jinjuu definitely made Korea proud.
I'll make sure to keep this list growing for you as I check out more Korean restaurants and prove these published reviews wrong. I can't wait for you to try these places out. Each places holds a different vibe from casual to gastropub to finer dining. Depending on your mood, you can go from fancy to very casual. Let me know what you think leaving a comment below. Looking forward to hearing how your hearts and bellies are now full.
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