A text tonight asked if I fancied trying a Korean restaurant on Finchley Road. My response- how about a Chinese in Soho? This wasn’t because I don’t like Korean food, but instead because like so many other British people, I am far more accustomed to eating it’s Asian neighbours.
Walking up Finchley Road past dead restaurants and packed Chicken Cottages, I was hardly enthusiastic. And arriving outside of Seoul, and seeing that it was almost empty inside I was tempted to go into the bright and busy Italian cafe next door. But we stuck to the plan, and I’m glad we did.
Inside the decor isn’t much more than tables and white walls, and there was only one other table in there, and without music the atmosphere isn’t the best. I imagine on a busier night (if there is one) that there would be a great vibe with everybody sharing food and cooking it on the small BBQ’s in the centre of each table.
Within a few minutes our attention was drawn to a three side dishes (on the house). These were beansprouts marinated in sesame oil, pickled radishes and small cubes of water chestnut jelly. Although nothing spectacular, they were refreshing.
For the main I couldn’t pass up on the chance to order something for the BBQ. Even though it is essentially doing the job of the chef, there is something so satisfying about deciding the fate of your own food. And something so manly about cooking your beef just right. We had bulgogi (beef marinated in soy sauce), samgyupsal (pork belly with seasme oil) and ojinger gui (strips of squid). It was lucky that a numbered system runs alongside each dish on the menu, because I wouldn’t fancy trying my hand at pronouncing them.
The meat doesn’t look too appealing when it comes (the strips of pork belly were still frozen) but once they hit the BBQ and the smells rise and they crisp as the flesh catches, it has you salivating. No dish on the BBQ is more than £6.80 and you get a good starter size portion of each. All were surprisngly tender and had a nice kiss of flavour, but next time I go I’ll venture deeper into the other side of the menu with the more exotic noodle and soup dishes.
We did try one rich dish- bibimbap with beef, vegetables and a fresh egg that is mixed in and a a slow burning chilli sauce. It was delicious. The vegetables gave it a real crunch and the egg yolk mixed in was creamy and glued the rice together. At around £8 for the dish it is remarkably cheap given it is big enough for two to share.
The meal came to £34 for two of us, and although we probably could have eaten more and didn’t drink any alcohol, it was still a cheap meal. The staff were pleasant, although a little switched off at times, and each dish was tasty and fresh. It isn’t worth coming all the way to Finchley Road for, but if you are in the neighbourhood, perhaps if you are going to the 02 Centre for a Nandos or a curry night at Wetherspoons, then I’d suggest you venture a few minutes further up the road. You won’t be disappointed.
Seoul 289 Finchley Rd, London NW3 6ND