Kimchee, 71 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6EA
Going to a restaurant where you’ve pretty much only read poor reviews is never a good start… We went to experience our first ever Korean meal last week and as I was reading up on it on the internet it wasn’t looking promising.
Kimchee is in a weird bit of the city – High Holborn, there’s not a huge amount else there, apart from half a dozen Cards Galore and T.M.Lewin shops. When we arrived, thirty minutes early, there was a queue and were surprised to see that the massive restaurant was full – it was 7pm on a Tuesday night. Inside the decor was sleek and stylish, and very cool slatted light shades that we’d like in our house. Our expectations lifted as we looked through the extensive menu whilst sat in the purposely designed waiting area (nice idea), complete with water feature. We didn’t have to wait long, and were led to the back of the restaurant to our table, I could’ve quite happily stayed and watched men barbecuing meat and making fire in the kitchen for a bit longer, although am sure they didn’t appreciate my gawping at them and taking photos.
Once seated, I spotted a fellow diner eating out of a pot perched inside a wooden box thing, I didn’t know what it was but I wanted it. First off we ordered drinks, a Soju Red – A sweet shot of raspberry liqueur blended with Soju and crushed ice, finished with fresh raspberries and mint. Ade had a Bora Blue – Blueberry liqueur mixed with Soju and crushed ice, topped with fresh blueberries, both £5.40. There are two sections for cocktails, one made from Soju, a Korean white spirit similar to vodka, but sweeter. The others are made from Makgeolli, a milky looking drink made from a mixture of wheat and rice, more on this later. We thought how cheap they were compared to most restaurant cocktails, and really tasty too, mine was the perfect cocktail for me and Ade loved his that he described as tasting like a Slush Puppy.
Kimchee (a traditional fermented Korean dish made of vegetables with a variety of seasonings) – Pickled cabbage Kimchee with chilli and garlic £2.50 was the first thing to arrive and didn’t look very appetising but was actually OK, we had a laugh trying to pick up the slippery cabbage leaves with chopsticks. Next was Crab Tuigim – soft shell crab fried in breadcrumbs served with a plum dipping sauce £5.40. It had a light flavour with a lovely crunchy coating, I dipped mine in the sweet and sticky plum sauce but Ade kept it simple and ate his with a dribble of lime juice.
We were advised by Twitter to try the traditional Korean pancakes, so ordered Bin Dae Duk – pancake with mung bean and vegetables served with a soy and chive sauce £5.50. These were quite bland but livened up when dunked in the soy sauce, I loved the texture of these, not your average pancakes, these had a crunchy outer shell.
We made an error when ordering short beef ribs – Bulgalbi, we ended up with Bulhogi – thinly sliced beef marinated in a fruity sauce with onions and garlic £7.90. We stuck with it and it was gorgeous, although Ade had a little sulk, he loves ribs. Mild chicken Bulgogi – tender chicken marinated in a fruity mildly spiced chilli pepper sauce £6.90 was SO good, both dishes come with crisp lettuce leaves for you to make your own little wraps, I really loved this, so simple but a great combination. And the chicken appeared to be thigh also which made it even tastier.
Another must-try we were told was Chicken Bimimbap – a rice dish served in a sizzling hot earthenware pot, with vegetables, red chilli paste and a raw egg perched on top, £8.20. I wasn’t keen on the raw egg part by once we mixed it up it kind of felt like it was cooked. The rice at the bottom of the pot is meant to be crunchy and golden brown but it wasn’t, a bit of a disappointment, especially as the chicken portion was quite small.
Now for my favourite dish of all, the one that makes me want to return – Hot Pot Bulgogi – thinly slices beef in a soy marinade cooked with vegetables and glass noodles in a steaming broth £7.60. Any description of a dish with the word ‘steaming’ has me hooked in right away. It was a rich, sweet hearty dish, the glass noodles were fascinating and gloopy, I could’ve eaten it all night. It also helped liven up the chicken Bibimbap which was quite unremarkable in comparison. Be warned of the cherries with stones in though!
By now I thought we’d be stuffed but I had bags of room for dessert, luckily there were only a few options which made for easy choosing. We shared a Red bean ice cream £3.40 and Chap Ssal Dseok – traditional soft chocolate rice cakes with a dusting of cocoa powder £1.95. Am sure these prices are the wrong way round, there was only one little scoop of the ice cream. While the Chap Ssal Dseok were amazing, like little soft squidgy dumplings, the chocolate oozed out as they were torn apart, delicious – why don’t they sell these in Sainsbury’s? Again these helped liven up the other dish.
We ended the night with a cup of Korean tea £2.20 per pot (have to try such things) which wasn’t good, it smelt like a boys changing rooms so it was a mission to get past that smell and to get it in my mouth. We persevered for a while but our taste buds (and noses) said no.
We needed something to get rid of the taste so we had some Mae Wha Soo – Korean Plum wine £11, which came in its own little bottle, this was a huge improvement to the tea, and gave us a warm glow in preparation for the journey home. I also tried one of the Makgeolli-based cocktails, a Berry Berry Nice – Makgeolli mixed with blueberry liqueur, shaken with crushed ice and finished with blueberries £5.40. It looked and tasted like a watery Yop yoghurt drink, the colour were fantastic – the picture doesn’t do it justice.
I was pleasantly surprised by Kimchee, and we couldn’t believe how busy it was. Seeing as we have never had Korean food before we’re not sure just how authentic it is – some reviews I read state otherwise. I don’t care as we really liked it, but would be keen to try another Korean restaurant to see how it compares. They also have a brilliant website with pictures of the food (and drink) on the menu! Always a bonus.
71 High Holborn,
London, WC1V 6EA
Telephone 020 7430 0956
Monday-Sunday 12pm – 11pm (closed between 3 – 5.30pm)
Nearest tube (two minutes walk) is either Holborn or Chancery Lane.