Bibimbap, London

i’m glad we accepted the invitation to dinner at bibimbap along charlotte street (thank you jeremy!), because it is now somewhere we see ourselves returning to when craving a big bowl of piping hot rice on a cold night.

we visited on a thursday night and it was surprisingly (and impressively) busy for a weeknight! despite the healthy crowd, service remained good and efficient which is always a huge plus point. the space bibimbap occupies is big and spacious, but still has a warm and cosy atmosphere with cute and colourful decorations in the form of polaroids stuck on the walls:
20140213_21113520140213_211119besides the main dining area, they have 2 other seating areas spread across 2 floors in the back, which seem ideal for private parties or large groups looking for a quiet corner to themselves.

didn’t manage to snap a pic of the menu, but you can find it on their website here. though quite simple, the menu is wide enough to include an array of korean favourites and of course as the restaurant’s name suggests, many variations of bibimbap! we started with a seafood pancake, and a serving of chilli squid.

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mixed seafood pancake with garlic and sesame soy sauce – £5.45

the pancake was a nice start to the meal that left us in anticipation of good things to come. we liked how the pancake was of just the right thickness – any thinner and it would probably have been too crispy, and any thicker and it would probably have been too dense! it was tasty and not too oily, and the serving size was decent for its price. however, we felt it could have done with a little more seafood in it; a lot of the time we felt like we were just having a plain pancake with some veg and the odd bit of small prawns.

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deep-fried chilli squid seasoned with chilli and sea salt, served with a spicy garlic & chilli dipping sauce – £5.45

the chilli squid was a hot favourite for us. the seasoning was delicious and the squid was deep-fried to perfection, without being too oily. the batter was clearly fried in fresh oil, and was wonderfully crispy without being dry and crumbly. the squid itself was juicy and naturally sweet, and size-wise the serving was more than enough for two. it was so tasty on its own that we didn’t touch the dipping sauce at all! would definitely recommend this as a side.

for our mains, we opted for a mixed mushroom bibimbap topped with a fried egg, and a beef bool-go-gi bibimbap topped with a raw egg.
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beef bulgogi bibimbap with raw egg – £6.95 + £1 

i (rach) thoroughly enjoyed the beef bibimbap which i got! the beef was very well-seasoned and tender, the other ingredients were fresh, and both were very generously provided! also loved the slightly charred bits of rice at the bottom (though i did feel that there could have been more charring) that were the result of serving the bibimbap in a stone bowl, as i feel it always should be!!!

after mixing everything together:20140213_195407topped with a healthy dose of sauce, it made for an extremely delicious and satisfying bowl of bibimbap, definitely one of the better ones i’ve had in london! i loved how the ingredients were added so generously that there was more than enough to be eaten with the rice. nothing is worse than having to eat plain rice because there just aren’t enough condiments to go around.

we also ordered the mushroom bibimbap and it was delicious:20140213_194842
mixed mushroom (shitake, oyster, white & black) bibimbap with fried egg – £7.95 + £1

nic had this, and as with the beef one rach had, the bibimbap was served in a stone bowl which provided the slightly charred taste that gives bibimbap its supposed authenticity. the portion of mushrooms on top was extremely generous and hearty. after all, there can never be too much-room for mush-room in a dish. the mushrooms were extremely fresh and consisted of a good variety. there were shitakes and also what i (nic) reckon were white and cremini mushrooms. this gave not just a nice variation in taste but texture as well. i also loved the doneness of the carrots and other veggies served in the bibimbap. their crunch made the meal feel far more healthful (yes, healthful and not healthy: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/checkup/2009/01/healthy_vs_healthful.html) than it probably was. however one tiny regret that we (rach in particular) had was that the charring was not intense enough. what we should have done was perhaps left the rice to ‘cook’ a little while before greedily tucking in!

to accompany our rice bowls, we also ordered a tofu soup & kimchi soup.20140213_194851tofu soup with mixed seafood – £6.95

this was supposed to be tofu soup, but turned out to be more like a stew. it tasted really good at first, like something that you would crave when the weather outside is wet and cold (as is London most of the year). however, rather disappointingly, after a few sips, the oiliness (yes, that entire top layer is oil) crept in and it became a bit overwhelming. it would make a nice taster dish, however, if you were to take a trip down to the restaurant with a large group. A couple of spoonfuls is enough; an entire bowl for one person is probably a little of an overkill (in the context of a meal but for the heart as well).

the kimchi soup, on the other hand, was perfect! it was a wonderful rendition of a classic korean favourite:20140213_200054
kimchi soup with pork – £6.95

light but tasty, it was not overly sour, which was good as the taste of the kimchi and associated ingredients came out far more prominently. this was my (nic’s) favourite dish that night. and just look at how, again, the serving of ingredients is so generous. it literally filled up the entire surface of the bowl. also, contrary to what other restaurants serve, this bowl of Kimchi soup was divine in that it wasn’t oily at all. i could have 10 bowls of this and still feel fit enough to run a marathon!

all in all, we left bibimbap as extremely satisfied customers! we thought the bibimbaps especially, were some of the best we’ve tried in london (both in terms of taste and serving size) especially given their reasonable price! the restaurant is perfect for a casual night out with good food and friends, and is an affordable option along charlotte street for some yummy asian food. we will certainly be returning for more!

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Bibimbap (Charlotte Street)

10 Charlotte Street
London W1T 2LT

http://www.bibimbapcharlottestreet.co.uk/

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Scandinavian Kitchen, London

i liked this place even before i stepped in, when i saw this outside their shop:
20131211_132251the humour was a sign (pun unintended) of good things to come – good food and good service in a nice environment! it was packed when i had lunch there on a wednesday afternoon, and with good reason, we soon learnt 🙂
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the lunchtime crowd

what you can order for lunch (which they start serving around 11.30am) at scandinavian kitchen is simple – smörgåsbord (your choice of sandwiches/wraps/salads), swedish meatballs (with your choice of 3 salads), or a scandi hotdog! everything is available for takeaway as well – the eat-in price is slightly more than the takeaway price, and taking away is hence extremely reasonable! see prices here:20131211_132522

a mix of sandwiches/wraps/salads can be chosen for your smörgåsbord from the glass display at the counter – they had a pretty wide range and everything looked good so that made picking just 3 (we opted for the 3 pieces one) quite a difficult task! the sandwiches & wraps:20131211_133232and the salads:20131211_141453

we settled on a smörgåsbord and a plate of swedish meatballs to share! you place your order at the counter, and bring the food to your table yourself, helping yourself to cutlery and water along the way.

the smörgåsbord:20131211_133442smörgåsbord (3 pieces) – £6.50 (eat-in)

i can’t remember the exact names of the things we picked, but the one in the front on the left was something with prawns (no surprise there) and going in a clockwise direction from there, we had one with pate at the back, and last but not least, one with a warm salmon topping. 

i can’t pick a favourite because i thought they were all really yummy. if only they were bigger.. 😛 guess i’ll have to opt for the smörgåsbord with 5 pieces to be truly satisfied next time! the ingredients were very fresh – the prawns especially; i remember them to be naturally sweet and crunchy. they went together really well with the egg and tomatoes to make a very light and refreshing open sandwich. as for the one with pate, the pate was smooth and did not taste too strongly of meat. it was topped with bacon which i would have preferred to be crispier, but all was still good. and finally for the warm salmon one, it wasn’t exactly warm but i suppose they called it that since it wasn’t cold like smoked salmon slices and was instead cooked and made into something like a chunky spread. it was tasty and went really well with the dill and rocket that topped it!

however, if i had to pick one out of the three that i wouldn’t order again, it’d probably be this salmon one – it wasn’t bad at all, but i felt that it wasn’t as flavourful as the rest or as i had hoped! or maybe its because it was served on a crisp flatbread as opposed to the other 2 which had rye as their base, some extremely delicious rye at that! i was tempted to buy a loaf home (they sell it in their grocery section) but resisted, since i was leaving london and heading home really soon. next time i will!

we also ordered a plate of meatballs with 3 side salads to share:
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swedish meatballs with 3 salads – £6.95 (eat-in)

this was a really generous serving – we were given nearly 15-20 meatballs, accompanied by 3 big servings of salad! we opted for the apple and beetroot salad (bottom left), the artichoke and rye kernel salad (bottom right), and the pizza salad (top right).

i loved the beetroot salad, and not only because it was my favourite shade of pink! it really reminded me of what i had in panama (see here), but this was a lighter version in a dressing that was less thick and mayonnaise-y. the beetroots were fresh and juicy, and the rare apple bits added a nice touch! i also loved the artichoke salad, with its bits of feta and rye kernels. it was something quite different with an interesting combination of ingredients. as for the pizza salad, what went into it really shed no light on why it is named as such – consisted of cabbage leaves that seemed to be soaked/dressed in a light vinegar; an interesting salad that is apparently quite typically swedish!

the meatballs were super yummy. i liked the fact that they were small and almost bite-sized, served warm and quite crisp on the outside while soft and moist within. i would definitely come back for these! they also have a meatball open sandwich, if you don’t think you can handle a whole plate of 20 balls at one go.

having finished all that, we had dessert accompanied by some pomegranate cider! i must first say that the pomegranate cider was really nice – do try it if you’re a cider fan and you’re at scandinavian kitchen. it was light and refreshing, and my friend liked it so much that she bought a few bottles home. as for dessert, they had a few cakes and sweet pastries to choose from:
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we ended up going with something that one of the staff recommended, and did not regret it one bit. behold, the amazing kladdkaka, a traditional swedish sticky brownie:Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetsticky brownie with whipped cream – £2.75

the brownie was. amazing. i am normally not a huge fan of things that are this chocolate-y, but this was pretty heavenly.  as you can probably see from its glistening interior in the picture – it was incredibly moist and sticky, having an almost half-baked/cookie dough-type texture. might sound weird to some people, but we thoroughly enjoyed it. i also loved how the top was crisp and went so wonderfully with the soft inside and the freshly whipped cream that topped it. it really had the homemade feel to it as well, which i really liked; it made me feel like i was having a really good piece of cake in someone’s wooden cabin in the middle of some scandinavian woods 😛 come to think of it, maybe scandinavians are just really good at making chocolate cake – i remember having really good chocolate cake while i was in norway with my sister last year! i’m definitely returning for more of this yummy brownie.

besides serving food, scandinavian kitchen also has a little supermarket section at the back that is well-stocked with a range of scandinavian products. throughout our lunch, there was a steady stream of customers browsing the shelves and the majority of them seemed scandinavian – looks like its a one-stop shop for them to get a taste of home!
20131211_155353besides the seating area you see in the above picture, they have more seats downstairs!

scandinavian kitchen is a wonderful little hangout along great titchfield street. it offers food that is legitimately scandinavian – everything is made using fresh nordic produce and though simple, they come together to make some very good dishes! as my friend said, everything tasted “… scandinavian.” we felt that there was really something different about the food there! service is friendly and efficient (pretty sure the staff are nearly all, if not all, scandinavian), and the staff all wear shirts with cute slogans at the back (not particularly relevant i know, but it adds to the experience!). the cafe itself is nice and it was not difficult getting a table at all despite the lunch crowd – most people seemed to be getting takeaways. i will definitely be back for more 🙂

Scandinavian Kitchen

61 Great Titchfield Street
London W1W 7PP20131211_15584920131211_155915