20 minutes from London Waterloo is New Malden station which ejects those that visit onto a grey road flanked by two huge grey tower blocks. Turn left and it morphs into a sleepy, suburban high street, the same as any other in England, that is until the visitor notices that the William Hill sign is written in Hangeul as well as English, and that local butcher Tree Stone has a whole section devoted to Korean cuts of meat. New Malden’s postal prefix of KT may well denote the Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames, but this could equally stand for Korea Town. Samsung opened its first UK offices in New Malden, and the South Korean Ambassador used to reside nearby. Now, it’s estimated that 10,000 Koreans live in the area. Since the mid-90s, it’s been the shopping and dining hub for the wider K-diaspora, with numerous Korean supermarkets, restaurants and cafes, and so those seeking bulgogi, bossam and banchan are spoilt for choice. This is where to eat in New Malden.Read More
The Best Korean Restaurants in New Malden
The neighbourhood in London to eat bibimbap, Korean fried chicken, table-top barbecue, bingsoo — and more
Located at the bottom of Apex Tower opposite the station is this self-proclaimed “Oriental spoon and bar”. Hands-down the most stunning restaurant in New Malden: Han’s interior is divided into four traditional Korean pavilions known as jeongja made from wood imported from Korea, and which resemble a galleon. Despite the high-end surroundings, prices are in keeping with neighbouring restaurants, although it offers fewer banchan, the free side dishes which are given with every Korean meal, and service charge is added to the bill. There’s a small but pretty courtyard area to eat outside, and at night the basement thrives as a karaoke and cocktail bar. Sundae soup is a sizzling broth bursting with blood sausage, tripe and pork that comes with rice and a small dish of saeu-jeot or fermented shrimp on the side to add a salty kick to proceedings.
A few shops along from Han is relative newcomer Kang Nam. Closed Monday lunchtime and all day Tuesday, its cheerful interior plastered in Korean advertising posters is worth visiting for the yukhoe dolsot bibimbap: raw beef stone bowl rice. Kang Nam is also noted for serving arguably the best KFC around (that’s Korean fried chicken), which is double-fried and then served plain and/or doused in a sweet and sticky sauce.
Opposite the Korean minimart Seoul Plaza is (Cake &) Bingsoo Café which seems like an average chintzy English tearoom other than it happens to specialise in the Korean frozen dessert: bingsu or bingsoo. Similar to the Malaysian ais kacang, it comprises shaved ice and sweetened condensed milk or fruit syrups, and toppings such as strawberries, chunks of tteok (rice cake), jelly bits, and adzuki beans. Bingsoo’s ramie leaf cupcakes are delightful — a type of Korean nettle, ramie resembles Japanese matcha tea in flavour, but is caffeine-free, a fact the cafe proudly proclaims.
Walk past department store Tudor Williams (a time capsule from the eighties) and the Korean buffet restaurant Kimchi Village to find KJ. The Japanese dishes are said to be excellent, but the section to study is the Korean casseroles, the best of which is haddock roe tang (or al-tang) — a spicy, pungent stew made with generous chunks of fish roe, served with rice and pickles. At night, it offers a charcoal barbecue menu — worth mentioning as many places now use gas.
Yami (closed Wednesdays) is one of the few places that offers table-top barbecue at lunchtime. Those not in the mood for the delights of short ribs, brisket or ox tongue should try bo ssam, the pork belly dish made famous in the West by David Chang (of Momufuku), or one of its rice porridge dishes, including nurungji made with scorched rice, the toasted crust left at the bottom of a pot of cooked rice. There’s even a version using abalone.
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Jin Go Gae Restaurant
A detour off the main drag and down Burlington Street towards Raynes Park is recommended for a visit to Jin Go Gae which is always packed, and with good reason. It’s rightly famed for its charcoal barbecue, but its or gejang — a dish of crab marinated in the Korean chilli sauce gochugang is almost supernaturally delicious, the raw crab itself redolent of sea urchin. Jin Go Gae also offer the biggest portions of banchan, which seems apt as the proverb on the blackboard outside the restaurant says “The belly rules the mind.”
Further along New Malden High Street, the bright yellow frontage of Hamgipak can’t be missed. Closed on Mondays, it’s one of the only restaurants to offer the dish biji jjgae (or kongbiji jjigae) — a creamy stew made with the soya pulp or lees left over from the process of making soya milk or tofu. Known as okara in Japanese and konbiji in Korean, it’s fairly tasteless in itself, but it provides a soothing texture to Hamgipak’s deeply savoury biji jjigae made with pork.
Named after the ancient capital of the Silla Dynasty now known as Gyeongju, Sorabol at the end of the High Street is one of the oldest and more traditional Korean restaurants in New Malden. Its dark wood interior is perfectly suited to night-time carousing and offers the Korean beer OB Lager as well as the more ubiquitous Hite, and Korean wines and spirits including soju and baekse-ju. Its specialty is galbi, tender beef or pork ribs marinated overnight in soy, garlic and sesame and then cooked on the charcoal barbecue, but its seolleongtang, a milky ox bone broth, is also worth seeking out.
Imone is currently, by a head, the best Korean restaurant in New Malden. The modulation on the banchan betrays a level of care that few places anywhere in London are putting in — a kimchi not fridge cold and not over-fermented but just below body temp, a seasonal pickle like courgette or spaghetti strands of radish that snap with a refreshing acidity. The best dishes on the menu are fish based. Saengsun jjim is a showstopper, a whole whiting in a deeply savoury, spicy sauce, leavened by herbaceous and bitter chrysanthemum greens, while maeungtang has a cleanness and restraint that the very best Korean broths have, backed by a dry anchovy kick and more pearlescent fish.
Chick and Beers
Korean fried chicken has historically been too sweet, too dry, too wet, undercooked, overcooked, battered incorrectly and just generally put through the wringer in London. Chick and Beers is maybe the first to nail it. There are those who will instinctively go for the sweet and spicy yangnyeom as a matter of principle, the kind of people who will order anything on a menu with five chilli symbols next to it, but this is more sweet than spicy. Instead the simple fried is the best option to start with, plainly seasoned, but worth searching in between the bones for. Really it’s the ganjang —soy — that is worth the journey, the batter sweet enough to be redolent of the honey cornflake cakes that every primary school child has attempted to make, yet saved from overwhelming sugariness by the pungency of garlic and crisped onion, the batter pitched somewhere between craggy and hyper-glossy.