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/

Flesh and Buns, London

i’d been wanting to try flesh & buns since i heard that it was owned by the same people behind one of my favourite bowls of ramen in london at bone daddies. the thought of roasting your own green tea s’mores was also too good to resist, so it was flesh & buns that we headed to to celebrate one of my housemate’s birthdays!

occupying a pretty large space in the basement of a building at seven dials, it is an izakaya restaurant (drinks accompanied by food) that made its debut quite recently in the london dining scene. decor is simple and modern, with large tables that make it a good venue to meet up with larger groups of friends. it was rather quiet when we visited on a sunday night:
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its a really dimly lit place so unfortunately the photos aren’t going to be great because all i was armed with was my s3 camera 😦

as their name suggests, they pride themselves on their handmade buns, which are to be eaten with their mains. their buns are basically kong bak pau buns (for those who have absolutely no idea what i am going on about, kong bak pau are chinese braised pork “burgers”) – delicious steamed buns that are eaten with different fillings:
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the menu seemed to be going in the direction of fusion, with a mix of interesting asian and western dishes. they do things tapas-style, the idea being for you to order a number of dishes that the whole dining party can sample.
here’s the menu:20131208_203234

the first dish to arrive at our table was the beef tataki:
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beef tataki with onion ponzu & enoki mushrooms – £10.50
this was probably my favourite starter of the night. the sauce was delicious and the beef was fresh and sliced to just the right thickness – not as thin as beef carpaccio but not thick to the point of chewiness. neither was it stringy, which is another huge plus point! eaten with the condiments that topped it, it was a really yummy burst of flavours in the mouth.

the second appetiser we had was the fried squid aka calamari:
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fried squid with japanese pepper and lime – £8
there was nothing very outstanding about this starter, in my opinion. we really wanted to try the grilled beef skewers (with kimchi & yoghurt) but they had run out by the time we placed our orders 😦 it was good calamari and the batter was light and tasty, but nothing exceptional at all.

we also ordered the eel cucumber roll and the softshell crab roll:
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eel cucumber roll (grilled eel, sweet soy) – £10/ softshell crab roll (jalapeno mayo, chives) – £9
we all thought the rolls were rather pricey for the serving size (5 pieces each?!). they weren’t anything to shout about; i think you can easily get better rolls elsewhere. the jalapeno mayo was an interesting addition i suppose, but again it can be recreated pretty easily at other joints, i feel.

the last starter we ordered was the grilled corn:
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grilled corn with lime spice butter – £4
i loved this starter, especially because i adore corn!!! the corn was grilled to perfection and slathered in butter, naturally sweet but yet made even yummier by the extremely tasty butter. i. love. corn.

now on to the mains, which definitely impressed me more than the appetisers (thankfully!). we ordered 4 to share among the 6 of us.
first up, the crispy piglet belly:20131208_210208
crispy piglet belly with mustard miso & pickled apple – £14.50
the crispy piglet belly was basically like chinese roast pork. but it was a pretty good rendition of it! the meat was tender and juicy, and the skin was thin and crispy. the layer of fat wasn’t too thick and it wasn’t too oily too! it went well with the mustard miso, and we all really enjoyed the amazingly thin slices of pickled apple that were a very refreshing twist to the meat!

we also had the crispy duck leg:
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crispy duck leg with sour plum soy and beetroot pickles – £13.50
the duck was also really enjoyed by all of us – it was like duck confit with a slight asian twist. the skin had that yummy melt-in-your-mouth texture, while the meat within was moist and tasty! if i return, i would probably order this if i’m looking for a meat to go with the steamed buns.

our third choice of main was fish; we got the grilled sea bass:
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grilled sea bass with coriander miso and kimchi pickle – £16.50
i remember this to be very yummy, probably something i’d order if i return! the fish was extremely fresh and grilled to perfection. the skin was crispy and coated in just the right amount of coriander miso, while the meat was firm, moist and naturally sweet. our only gripe was the small serving, given the price we were paying.

the above 3 mains are meant to be eaten with the steamed buns or vegetables (which come together with the buns):
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i thought it was good that they had lettuce and other vegetables to eat with the mains – too many buns would fill you up really quickly, and veggies are always a healthier and lighter accompaniment.

finally, we went for the spicy beef hot stone rice aka flesh & bun’s take on bibimbap:
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spicy beef hot stone rice with mushrooms and sesame butter – £8.50
i think this was probably the most reasonably priced out of all the mains we ordered – the serving was definitely the biggest of everything we had ordered! i really enjoyed this dish and how the many ingredients and sauces added culminated in a big bowl of goodness. i felt that there was something different about it when compared to what you get in regular korean restaurants, but couldn’t quite place it. it was really tasty and the veggies added were fresh and retained their crunch. this dish had me scraping at the burnt bits at the bottom of the pot when we were done (not the healthiest thing to do, i know).

and finally, definitely last but not least, we had our dessert – one of our main motives for going to flesh & buns. out of the 4 we ordered though, i felt that only 2 were worth the hype and out of those 2, only one was something i’d return for.
the dessert menu:
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first, we had the bone daddies sundae:
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bone daddies sundae: matcha ice cream, blueberries, jelly, honeycomb, cream – £7
i felt there was too much going on with this sundae – it was nice and exciting to have a huge range of toppings added to the sundae, but the (major) downside is that i thought the matcha taste of the ice cream was almost completely masked. there was also something in it that we could not identify, but that made the whole thing kinda sour..? i’d probably give this a miss if i visit again.

we also had the yuzu meringue pie:
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yuzu meringue pie with raspberry yuzu sorbet – £7
this was very refreshing! the combination of yuzu and raspberry made for a very tart but yet not too sour dessert, and was a good break from the sweetness of all our other dessert choices. i thought the yuzu pie was delicious, as was the raspberry sorbet. i’m not really a fan of meringue so can’t say much about it! if you’re into sour things, this is definitely for you!

we also had what flesh & buns has become pretty famous for (how could we not) – the green tea s’mores!
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s’mores: marshmallows, biscuits, green tea chocolate – £8
we were beyond excited when the charcoal stove was brought to our table for us to roast the s’mores. there was definitely a major novelty factor there – the idea of DIY roasting not just regular s’mores, but green tea s’mores at your table. it was a really fun experience (though the marshmallows ended up being kinda burnt), but i wouldn’t rave abut the taste. we all agreed that the green tea chocolate was pretty lightly flavoured, but teamed with the biscuits and melty marshmallows, still made for something rather satisfying. given that we were only given 2 s’mores though, i would again say this isn’t really value-for-money though it might be worth paying for the fun experience.
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birthday girl with the completed s’more

and finally, on to my favourite dessert and quite possibly my favourite dish of the night:
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kinako donuts with black sugar custard – £8
these. were. amazing. DELICIOUS. amazing. they were like giant sugar-coated exploding donuts. pictures to illustrate my point:
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just look at that!!! the outside of the donuts were as good as the inside – they were light and fluffy, of just the right thickness to hold the amazing oozy custard, and coated in sugar. so sinful but so good, especially because they were served warm. the black sugar custard actually tasted quite like normal custard, but it was extremely smooth and creamy and not too sweet at all! if there’s only one dessert you have space for after dinner, its these amazing balls of goodness that you must go for!!!

all in all, we had a pretty good experience at flesh & buns but i’m not sure how soon i’ll be returning just because i thought it was rather pricey (though looking at the pictures of the donuts again, i now realise that they are indeed quite hard to resist :P)! some of their dishes are rather novel though, so i suppose its worth trying at  least once. they also have a lunch set-type thing, which seems quite reasonable!
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Flesh and Buns

41 Earlham St
London WC2H 9LXProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 presetIMG_20131209_101906
night out with my chicas bonitas aka best housemates ever 😉 ❤