A fully halal Korean restaurant in London? You know we have to get there to try it out! Despite saying Korean BBQ in its name, Korean BBQ & Vegan doesn’t actually serve Korean BBQ grills on the table. If you are looking for Korean BBQ where you get your own grill to cook the food, the likes of Bari Bari and Bento Bab are halal-friendly ones to try out instead.
Korean BBQ & Vegan is located in Barbican, a short few minutes walk away from Barbican Centre along Whitecross Street. The restaurant is quite big and is very casual, more like a local no-fuss eatery type of place. We visited on a Sunday night for a late dinner and the restaurant was really busy, which we really hoped was a good sign for the food.
Korean BBQ & Vegan: Halal Korean Food in London
Halal Korean food hasn’t been the easiest to come by and it’s been a long way coming to start having more halal-friendly Korean food options in London. Korean BBQ & Vegan is one of the very few that offers a fully halal menu with no pork and alcohol served at the restaurant. It’s not just halal but there is also a huge emphasis on vegan options as well. Essentially, they saw a gap in the market and they took it, and I hope this would lead way to more coming up in the future.
The Food: What We Ordered:
Sweet Chilli Korean Fried Chicken (£6.50)
To start, we’ve definitely got our eyes on some Korean Fried Chicken. You can choose between sweet chilli sauce, honey butter & garlic sauce, or just ‘naked’ without any – we went with the first, i.e. sweet chilli. It came in 4 pieces and the chicken pieces were pretty huge. Crispy and saucy on the outside, tender and succulent on the inside – these KFCs’ were a decent munch.
The toppokki, on the other hand, we felt was a bit underwhelming. Tender pieces of rice cakes and fish cake slices were generously coated with a spicy sauce. As vibrant as the colour looked, there was, however, no flavour depth or dimension in the dish. In terms of spice, it wasn’t as fiery as expected. That weird artificial flavour-ed aftertaste didn’t help either. Overall, the dish just fell short and isn’t one to remember.
If there’s a must-try dish at Korean BBQ & Vegan, make it the Kalbi Beef Ribs. The beef ribs were saucy and juicy to taste, with the kalbi sauce oozing sweetness laced with umami savoury flavours. Each piece of the shortribs was sufficiently fatty, perhaps a bit much for some parts but we generally don’t mind. Though we appreciate that some people may definitely find it too much. Anyhow, we enjoyed this dish and unanimously agree it’s the most satisfactory dish of the evening.
Yakhoe Jang (Spicy Beef Soup) (£14.50)
Just the sight of soup bubbling in a hot stone bowl is enough to warm you up on any cold wintery day. The Spicy Beef Noodle Soup is the perfect winter warmer by looks. Flavour-wise, there seemed to be a bit of a hit and miss. The soup was okay, which was mildly spiced but, again, missing some flavour depth. Portions are generous, with plenty of glass noodles in there plus vegetables and shredded beef. Perhaps it was my expectations, but I feel that the beef was a bit dry in texture and didn’t have the umami I was looking for.
Beef Bulgogi Bibimbap (£13.95)
The final dish we tried was the Beef Bulgogi Bibimbap and, unfortunately, it was a sheer disappointment. By paper, it really ticked the boxes for how I personally like to enjoy bibimbap – i.e. the hot stone bowl and the raw egg on top. However, the beef was just dry and tasteless. There is none of that irresistible sweet & savoury Bulgogi flavour in there and the meat was dry like the desert. A sauce is served separately on the side which got a relatively punchy sesame oil and chilli touch of flavours but the weird artificial aftertaste (also mentioned for the Toppoki dish above) was there again that killed it. The positives were that the portion was huge and, with a hot stone bowl, you do get some burnt rice bits which is the best thing about rice dishes.
Restaurant Review Summary
Overall, it was a very mixed experience at Korean BBQ & Vegan. The Kalbi Beef Ribs were definitely the highlight, and the Korean Fried Chicken was fairly decent too that saved the experience. However, the remaining dishes left us rather disappointed and was just poor. All in all, I suppose it’s okay if this restaurant is local to you and you are just looking for something of huge portions (given you avoid any of the poor dishes). But it is in no way worth getting out of your way to visit.
Nearest station: Barbican