Places To Eat In London: Bó Drake, Soho
As you know, I’m always up for Korean food. However, there are not many in London that take reservations (if you know of any, hit me up with your recommendations!) so when I heard about Bó Drake in Soho that serves up Korean food inspired by Southern-style barbecue techniques obviously I had to grab a table on a sunny Sunday afternoon and someone open to Korean flavours (I don’t know why, but people always seem sceptical when I wax lyrical about the virtues of kimchee and my copy of Our Korean Kitchen!)
After I’d had my requisite put of green tea whenever I eat out somewhere even vaguely Asian-related on a Sunday morning we got around to ordering some drinks. While there is an argument out there that all light Asian beers taste the same, I always order a Korean Hite when I can find it and I’m eating spicy food, because there is just something about it to me that screams ‘refreshing’ – if you see it in a Korean restaurant, do try it. He went for a ‘Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde’, a cocktail made with Japanese whiskey, plum wine and vermouth, served over jalapeño for a bit of a kick and that is brought to the table still smoking in a bottle of hickory smoke – order this as soon as you sit down, because it is something you’re really going to want to try and you have to wait for the smoke to dissipate into the whiskey before you can open the bottle to pour your drink.
We started with a few things to nibble on that are our usual favourites: sliders and bao buns. We did rather like the Bugogi Beef Sliders, which was small, rich, unctuous mouthfuls. Mine fell apart a bit because while the crispy pancetta, miso mayo and caramalised onions that made it a great mouthful were listed on the menu, the slither of cheese also in there was not, so I had to pull it out of my one which caused structural difficulties! The Pork Belly Bao with confit New Hampshire pork belly and pickled onion (we asked them to hold the peanuts) were lovely, but they just did not have that spark some other places in London do: you can get double the amount of better bun around the corner at Bun House with change left over, for example, and Bao in Fitzrovia is still in my mind as the best meal I have had recently, and I ate there back in September.
We meant to share a main and a side, but ended up keeping one each. The main we went for Miso Glazed Baby Back Ribs, and god do they look stunning. There was a good amount of meat (but also very large strips of fat), and I usually utterly adore ribs, Asian flavours and miso paste – I always have at least two different types in my fridge at any given moment – but I honestly did not like them. I had one, and then moved on. While he did polish them off, he did say he’d had better so the dish turned out to be something of a disappointment.
Moving on, we have the number one reason you should visit Bó Drake, even if some of the dishes were a bit of a let down: the Chilli Rice Cakes. If you’re looking for a bit of an introduction to what the hell these things are look no further than my recipe for Soy Rice Cakes, but these were a perfect specimen. I gobbled almost all of them up myself and I was utterly shameless in stealing them at great speed from the middle of the table. The right amount of chewy in the middle and crispy on the outside, they were tender and covered in the most perfect sweet chilli sauce with just the right level of kick. I want to eat them all over again just writing this.
We were actually dodging kimchee dishes as my companion has an allergy to red shellfish and sometimes shrimp paste or fish sauce with shrimp in is made to make kimchee, but I could not resist on getting a side order to myself. It was the good homemade stuff and happily the restaurant let me take what I did not eat home with me which ended up in a Korean-style salmon salad in my lunchbox a couple of days later.
Bó Drake is far from perfect. It’s pricy and some of the dishes are hit and miss, but the atmosphere is great, what dishes they do do right they have executed perfectly, and there really are a shortage of good Korean places in London. I’d duck in again to order those rice cakes and a side of kimchee again, and to try their Korean Fried Chicken (I’ve never found a portion of it I did not like) and perhaps to try one of their rice and noodle bowls.