Peter Morrell discovers the delights of Korean food at the new branch of this highly successful restaurant
The first Kimchee opened in High Holborn in 2011 and I was always puzzled why there was always such a long queue outside. That curiosity was satisfied when I recently went with my wife to the new branch of Kimchee in Kings Cross to try the food.
The new branch is situated in Pancras Square, a bold new business and leisure development, the place is literally buzzing with activity. Kimchee itself is a large restaurant in a commanding position on the square with an alfresco dining terrace, ideal for summer days where you can relax in the traffic free environment.
Inside the décor is stunning, it’s been designed using high quality materials by the award-winning Japanese interior architect Aiji Inoue. The walls feature geometric design accents that have been carved in light and dark woods. Inspired by Korean design and architecture, they create a modern and stylish interior.
On the ground floor is a bar where you can enjoy a preprandial Korean inspired cocktail, a large dining space and an open plan kitchen which is a hive of activity. Arrival at the restaurant is made even more pleasurable with the warm welcome from the charming staff.
The menu is easy to follow but if you have got any questions the friendly staff will give you advice. Perusing the menu my wife was tempted by the Mackerel Jorim, mackerel fillet cooked in garlic, green and red chillies and soy sauce while I liked the look of Tang Su Yuk, lightly battered pork strips with a fragrant sweet and sour sauce.
Our eventual choices were Pa Jeon, a savoury pancake with mixed seafood and spring onion and Tuigim, lightly battered tiger prawns with a plum dipping sauce. There are variants on this second dish featuring shrimp, calamari, tofu or vegetables.
As well as being beautifully presented on decorated plates the food was delicious. We decided to share all the food so we both found the pancake fresh with good seafood flavours and the tiger prawns were satisfyingly crunchy with a moist and tender interior.
Our mains were equally difficult to choose. For example Dolsot Bibimbap, a Korean classic with the options of marinated beef, raw beef, marinated chicken, tofu, eel or seafood, is served sizzling hot in a stone pot, it was a strong contender. We eventually selected Seafood Japtang Bap, stir-fried mixed seafood, sesame oil and Asian vegetables served with sticky rice, and Pork Belly, sliced and chargrilled and served with a wasabi and mustard dip.
We also had two sides, the first, Kim, was thin layers of seasoned crispy seaweed and the second was an order of Kimchee. Not only is it the namesake of the restaurant but it’s Korea’s national dish. For those unfamiliar with Kimchee it’s layers of Chinese cabbage fermented in a garlic and chilli marinate and it’s regarded as a superfood.
We enjoyed the food immensely, there were so many taste, flavour and texture combinations. We rolled the pork belly up in lettuce leaves adding wasabi for a kick, mixed sticky rice with the Japtang Bap sauce, savoured the concentrated smell of the sea with the Kim and became more and more addicted to the Kimchee.
Our wine match, chosen from a well curated list, was an aromatic Sauvignon Blanc. It’s citrus and tropical fruit flavours and slight acidity worked well with the powerful spicy flavours of the food.
Our final indulgence was dessert and although we didn’t go for any of the traditional dishes like Chap Ssal Ddeok, a soft chocolate rice cake with a light dusting of cocoa powder we did have some ice cream. This too had a distinctively Korean twist. We had one scoop of golden sweet chestnut and one of black sesame. Arriving with a topping dates and nuts the ice cream was the perfect end to an excellent dining experience.
I had also discovered the answer to my question of why there were always queues outside Kimchee in High Holborn, with food this good it was well worth the wait.
We liked everything about Kimchee from the location to the décor and the food to the service. We were even intrigued by the waterfall taps flowing into the wooden sink in the loos.
If you are looking for a unique dining experience I can thoroughly recommend Kimchee