BiBimBap, Charlotte Street, review: ‘This is how it should taste’

A BiBimBap Dish.

A BiBimBap Dish. - Credit: BiBimBap

I sat looking at the menu thinking: “No one will beat the Wagamama’s katsu curry, why are we even bothering?” I’m pleased to report that I was an idiot

When it comes to Friday night dining, I’m not a particularly adventurous person. It’s simple: I want carbs, caffeine, and some crappy but quaffable white wine. So when I was dragged to BiBimBap, a Korean place tucked away on Charlotte Street, instead of Nandos, I was dismayed to find that it met none of my usual criteria. In hindsight, I’m pleased to report that I was an idiot.

Given the combination of central location and an alien foreign cuisine, in my naivety I assumed that I could be expecting to pay fifty quid for a steaming pile of pak choi, garnished with slow-cooked pine nuts. Immediately seated in the slightly fluorescent but nonetheless pleasant dining area, I sat looking at the menu thinking: “No one will beat the Wagamama’s katsu curry, why are we even bothering?”

But it was a different meal. Don’t get me wrong- same ingredients, same tiny plates adorned with pickle confusions, but the final product was an altogether better meal. It was like the sun coming out from behind a cloud as I realised: “Oh! This is how it should taste!” The menu was credibly authentic, but thanks to the “Korean food for dummies” explanations of the dishes, it wasn’t impenetrably unfamiliar.

Following the katsu starter, and a miso soup that I would now without fail choose over Pinot Grigio (yes, really), our BiBimBap arrived. Now the namesake of the restaurant is the crown jewel of the menu. BiBimBap is a dish which comes in a large granite hot bowl, with rice at the bottom, and a satellite of toppings and meats on top. I went for the Beef-Bool-Go-Gi, complete with a fried egg.

The general idea with BiBimBap is that you swirl all the contents into an Asian vortex of deliciousness. But I myself have always been a work my way around the plate and save the best ‘till last’ sort of a girl. The only problem with BiBimBap was that it’s all so good I couldn’t decide what to go for first – my trusty meal prioritisation method just did not function.

The bill too was a welcome surprise. My friend and I paid £20 a head for a couple of mains, two sides, and two drinks each. That’s pretty good going considering in London it costs me more than that to get out of bed in the morning.

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The only thing lacking in this menu is an equally salivation-inducing dessert selection. If you’re running a remarkably well priced restaurant with great starters and mains, chuck the hungry customers some end-of-the-night chocolate for crying out loud.

I’m not going to jump the gun and say Nandos has lost my custom forever. I’m just saying when my mind wanders off my computer screen minutes before lunch, I’m considering whether I have enough time to get to my new favourite international eatery.