Where: 58-59 Great Marlborough Street, London W1F 7JY, email@example.com, tel: 020 7042 5225, http://bibigouk.com/
Cost: £25-£30 per person on average for a 3-course meal excluding drinks (starters priced from £4 to £8, main courses from £7 to £20, and desserts all priced at £5). There are 2-course lunch and dinner sets available at £9 and £12 respectively. Korea's national dish, Bibimbap served on a hot stone plate is priced at £9.
About: Led by head chef, Kim Yong Hwan (previously at Roka and Zuma), Bibigo in Soho is the European flagship restaurant for CJ, Korea's biggest food company. As well as being a 66 cover restaurant and cocktail bar, it also stocks a range of Bibigo Korean food products. Bibigo has several sister restaurants in South Korea, Singapore, Japan, China, Vietnam and Los Angeles, which focus on serving Bibimbap and other national dishes of Korea, at affordable prices.
The London branch is a modern, stylish restaurant on Great Marlborough Street, a stone's throw from Carnaby Street. The busy open-plan kitchen is a spectacle for those who like watching the chefs in action. On the midweek evening we were there, it was packed with a mix of Korean and western clientele.
|Spotlessly clean, open-plan kitchen at Bibigo|
What We Ate: The new menu at Bibigo is well designed, every dish is beautifully photographed making it easier for those not too familiar with the cuisine to order their food. Most importantly, it is surprisingly affordable.
We started with a Bibigo Salad (£8), a lovely mix of fig, persimmon, baby spinach, fried lotus roots, cos lettuce and crispy rice crackers (nurungji), seasoned with a dressing made from bokbunja berry. This signature salad had a good combination of fruit and salad flavours, along with an interesting texture from the crunchy lotus roots and nurungji.
The Red Chicken (£6) was one of my favourite dishes of the meal - deep-fried chicken pieces seasoned with a red, kohot sauce were crunchy, sweet and spicy and totally moreish. They were served with deep fried tempura(ed) okra. I am ordering two portions of this in my next visit!
Japchae (£6), one of Korea's most popular dishes, could not be missed. The delicious stir-fried glass noodles had a lovely sesame-charred flavour from the hot wok it was fried in, it was served with spinach, onion, pepper and thin slices of beef.
The Grilled Scallop with Truffle Yuja Dressing (£9) was another favourite. Fetchingly presented, this combined nicely seared scallops seasoned with a dressing made from the Korean citrus fruit - yuja (or yuzu in Japanese) and spiced, smoked pollock roe which had a similar taste to Japanese mentaiko, an ingredient I cannot have enough of.
The Beef steak Hache (£14) was a generous portion of char-grilled hand chopped short rib beef served with grilled rice cakes glazed with ginger and soy sauce . This was very good - the beef having the spicy- smoky, barbecued flavour I remember from similar dishes I tried in my latest visit to Seoul, and again it was well presented.
We had the beef with a Ssam Basket (£2), wrapped up in lettuce leaves and seasoned with kimchi, pickled cucumbers and soy bean dip.
For pudding Dr G and I shared a couple of their sweet offerings - we started with the Bibigo Goldfish (£5) - Goldfish shaped Korean waffle filled with red bean cream, very similar in presentation and flavour to the Japanese Taiyaki, served with almond crumble and vanilla ice cream.
We also had Hoddeok (£5) - a traditional sweet Korean pancake with vanilla ice cream which was equally nice.
What We Drank: We were pleasantly surprised by the wine choices and reasonable mark-ups on Bibigo's wine list, devised by the resident French sommelier Raphael Thierry. The restaurant also offers an interesting range of soju cocktails.
For this meal, we shared a bottle of Picpoul de Pinet Domain de Lauriers 2011 (£22). We felt that the crisp, fresh acidity and minerality of the Picpoul were a good partner for the Korean dishes we had. At £22 this is well priced considering it retails online for about £8-9.
Likes: A stylish location for well-presented, reasonably priced authentic Korean food. Commendably, Bibigo has its own resident French sommelier, Raphael Thierry, the man behind the excellent range of wines of all prices available on the menu. The deep-fried red chicken and seared scallops with yuja and Korean mentaiko dishes are a must.
Verdict: Fresh, delicious and affordable Korean food in a stylish, modern restaurant in Central London. Great wine list. I cannot wait to return. Highly recommended.