There was a time when Korean barbecue restaurants were hard to come by in London, but in recent years, the trend for cooking your own dinner has really taken off. You can now practice your barbecuing skills at the likes of Olle in Chinatown, Superstar BBQ on Tottenham Court Road, and Gogi in Little Venice.
Koba however, found in Fitzrovia, pre-dates them all. The restaurant takes up residence on Rathbone Street, also home to Banh Mih Bay and The Newman Arms, and is classy enough to attract prim and proper clients while also offering the fun theatre of cooking your meal at your table.
Inside, the dining room features unexpectedly upscale décor – think a large central skylight that allows the dining room to be bathed in a natural glow, smart banquette seating which lines the walls and shelving units stocked with chic crockery and trinkets.
Whether you are here for a business lunch or a dinner date, we would recommend kicking things off with yook hwei, which is Korea’s answer to steak tartare. The dish combines strips of raw beef with slivers of sweet pear and an egg yolk that is stirred in at the last moment. Otherwise, opt for the goon mandoo (pan-fried veggie dumplings which are not unlike gyoza), or a casserole or broth with mushrooms and gnocchi-esque rice-flour dumplings.
Once you have polished off your starters, it is time for the main event. Sit back while efficient staff fire up the hotplates and barbecue pieces of sirloin steak, or feast on the pork belly that pairs perfectly with kimchi (chilli-hot pickled cabbage) – “to die for”, as one reader swoons.
To wash it all down, order a bottle of cold Hite, which is Korea’s favourite beer, or stay sensible with a non-alcoholic cocktails such as the Plum Punch.