Me and chopsticks? Never! Well, maybe except for that few times when as a kid, I used to try and twirl my chopsticks around my noodle-y dinners. I can assure you that I was never any good at handling the chopsticks and making my way into a restaurant with seemingly no forks and knives on the table and all the diners picking up their food with an elegant twist of the chopsticks jarred me a little. I felt out of place to say the least but what else could I do other than set aside my inhibitions and pretend as though I knew what I was meant to be doing.
The honour of being the first restaurant to witness my pathetic attempt at picking up food with chopsticks goes to ‘Bibigo Bar and Dining’, a Korean chain of restaurants and the brain child of ‘Star of Masterchef Korea’, (as they call him on the website) Hee Young Noh. The name Bibigo stems from a mix of the words ‘bibimbap (a traditional Korean speciality)’ and ‘bibida (to mix)’ and adds the ‘go’ to mean ‘take-out’ or ‘to go’ and although the original Bibigo chain in the East Asian countries is more of a casual variant and dishes out traditional Korean national fare, their foray into London is a fine dining establishment which specialises in nouveau Korean cuisine. I’ve never been an ambassador for Asian food to be honest but that has changed over the last year or so and I’m liking what is there on offer.
Where is it: The restaurant finds a home on Great Marlborough Street just off Regent Street and near Liberty and the glass covered front and the bright green signage is not too hard to miss.
Interiors: The restaurant is spread across two levels but I did not get a look at the lower level as we took our place at a table in the centre of the restaurant with a view of the glass panelled kitchen. Though it positions itself as a fine dining establishment, the décor does not really do justice to the place and I’d peg it as upmarket casual at best. Wooden tables and seating evinces a certain sense of casual comfort to the place but for fine dining, I’d say not. That said, it doesn’t take away anything from the place and one side of the floor is lined with a long comfy sofa for larger groups.
Food and drink: As far back as my memory goes, never have I gone into a restaurant so unprepared as to what flavours to expect and not knowing any of the dishes the restaurant could throw at me. And trying out a new cuisine is certainly always an exciting prospect even if what you order doesn’t turn out to be what you expect, but that’s the
thrill of it isn’t it? Four starters were picked – the ‘crispy mandoo crust’ (steamed prawn dumplings under a crispy pancake) was a great start with its fresh and simple flavours; a ‘korean beef tartar’ which wasn’t my first choice since raw beef didn’t really appeal to me but my friend loved it and I thought I would give a small beef cube a try and well, surprise surprise, I didn’t find it bad at all; an ‘octopus and mung bean jelly’ which was too squishy for me but that’s to be expected of it, so I’d advise you to avoid it if you aren’t an octopus lover; and a ‘grilled tofu and kimchi’ which was delicious in its own vegetarianistic right and held its own.
For the main course, I decided to go with seafood even though I had my eye on a couple of other dishes. And I was pleasantly surprised when they brought out my ‘grilled scallops and Pollock roe’. I loved how they served it on a thin long plate with slices of lemon and bamboo shoots sticking out of the scallops allowing for an easy pick up and chew (thank goodness I didn’t have to use chopsticks for this one). The roe was placed in tiny amounts on top of each scallop and the addition of the lemons gave the entire dish a nice zestiness.
For drinks we picked out the ‘Bek Se Ju’ which is a rice wine and a ‘Soho Somec’ which is a mix of rice wine, beer and lemonade and came recommended by our server. Both the drinks were pleasant and the Somec was fruity and airy and complemented the meal really well.
But what I always look forward to when I dine out is the dessert. Even if the rest of the dishes fall below par (not here though), a great dessert can save the day or night. I had the ‘Eton Mess’ and boy oh boy wasn’t it a delectable treat. Crisp meringue with gooey centre and a scoop of honey ice cream drenched in a five berry syrup along with fresh strawberries. The server requested that I create a right old mess by mixing together the various elements and I was only too happy to oblige. But this is definitely something that will bring a smile to your face.
Service: The servers were efficient and friendly without being intrusive and were only too pleased to be helping out with the dishes on the menu.
Final thoughts: It’s definitely a place I would recommend with the food being fresh, simple and healthy with an elegant new twist. The place is pricey however and will definitely leave your wallet a lot lighter than it was when you stepped in. The average cost for two would be close to £90.