Short back and side dishes | Hurwundeki, 298 – 299 Cambridge Heath Road, Hackney, London E2 9HA
They say you should never judge a book by its cover. Well, you should never judge a venue by its roadside appearance. Hurwundeki, a Korean Cafe and hair salon (yes, a strange combo) is under a railway line, on a busy crossroad and opposite a dodgy looking gentleman’s club. You can’t miss it as you drive along Cambridge Heath Road, HURWUNDEKI blaring out in big grey letters, attached to the side of a bright blue corrugated metal wall. It looked more Kwik-fit than Korean cafe.
But don’t drive or walk on past. Once through the rather quirky pebble ‘beech’ complete with old ride on animals (think haunted fairground Scooby Do style) and a rusty old Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage, you’ll be in for a treat. So far, so weird.
Inside it looks like the owners have ransacked a flea market. There’s a display of stuffed birds, top hats and dusty old bottles huddled in the corner – perhaps for safety? The walls are beyond distressed and the tables very DIY. Wander through to the hair salon and the decor gets curiouser and curiouser… And we LOVE it! The man behind this quirky, scattergun approach to interior design is hairstylist, fashionista and owner Ki Lee.
Hurwundeki has undergone a couple of major transformations of late. Ki ran the space as boutique shop selling his own clothing range and charging a minimum of £80 for ‘fashion’ hair styling. Then recession hit and demand drifted away. But not afraid of hard work or taking a risk, Ki kept the premisses and opened this Korean cafe/hair salon hybrid.
This risk is definitely paying off. Head chef Kwan Kim produces delicious, yet simple, traditional Korean dishes at very reasonable prices. They blend their own soy and chilli sauces and never use MSG or artificial additives (although we’re quite partial to the odd sprinkling of MSG ourselves). All ingredients are as fresh as commercially possible, Kwan admitted to us he’s down the local market early every day buying fresh produce. He also makes his own Kimchi (fermented cabbage or Mooli – a long radish).
As mentioned above the menu is short and great value for money. There’s even a meal deal, £10 for one main, one side and one Gim (roasted seaweed), how good’s that? Plus it’s BYO booze, with NO corkage. If you fancy a soft drink though, you have to try a Korean fresh fruit tea with honey £2.70 hot or £2.90 cold. I had a cold plum tea, so refreshing and sweet, reminiscent of a raspberry Slush Puppie. Saff had a lemon tea but kept drinking mine instead.
From the choice of six sides we decided to share a Kimchi Jeon £4.90 as a starter – a Korean style savoury pancake with chopped vegetables. Perfectly crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy in the middle and deceptively filling.
I went for the Samgyeopsal £6.90 which I’d spotted on the table next door – thick cut pork belly, roasted garlic and kimchi served sizzling on an iron skillet. It’s accompanied by an addictively spicy doenjang sauce. Saff opted for the Hot chicken Bulgogi £6.90 – a spicy Korean style of barbecuing, served with stir-fried vegetables with a couple of chillies thrown on top for good measure. All main dishes come with a little bowl of sticky white rice – job done! We toyed with the idea of a desert but we were still too full from our earlier adventures at Smokey Tails.
We were lucky enough to order a fantastic coffee, although for some reason it’s officially only served between 8am-4pm. This coffee comes courtesy of WorkShop coffee roasters in Clerkenwell. Better than the instant usually served up in a salon. Now I very rarely need a hair cut being folically challenged, but I know Saff would have loved a quick trim. Although the speediness is a slight concern for her, not that she’s fond of being sat in the chair for ages either. These haircuts are quick and charged in a similar way to a taxi meter. For men it’ll set you back just £9 for the first 15 minutes, women £14 for the first 19 minutes. Both sexes are then charged £2 for every extra three minutes.
*** SPECIAL OFFER ***
MENTION WE ‘LOVE FOOD, IT’S ALL WE EAT’ WHEN ORDERING YOUR FOOD TO GET 20% OFF
Valid from Monday 26th August – Monday 2nd September 2013 (inclusive)
Now this isn’t be the kind of place that I’d usually warm to, and when we were invited to visit we did wonder what to make of it. Unlike Saff, I’m usually not a huge fan of Korean food and never set foot in a barber’s shop these days. But the quirkiness of the decor, craziness of the concept and passion of chef Kwan and owner Ki really won us over. The food was good too. Like I said, you should never judge a book by its cover…
298 – 299 Cambridge Heath Road, Hackney, London E2 9HA
Telephone: 0207 749 0638
Opening hours: Mon-Fri: 8am-10pm Sat: 9am-10pm Sun: Closed
Nearest station Bethnal Green