The Best Korean Restaurants In London
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
London has plenty of superb Korean restaurants and New Malden should be loaded up in Citymapper if you’re looking for the best Korean dining in the city. That said, there are superb options more centrally too. So, whether you’re looking to make a pilgrimage for London’s best pajeon or somewhere with tabletop grills and enough for a small, hangry army near Soho, this list has you covered.
When everything in our lives is going wrong, Imone’s pajeon makes it right. This isn’t just one of our favourite Korean spots, it’s one of our favourite restaurants in London full stop. Aromatic previews of the dishes waft out of the New Malden kitchen before you decide what you’re ordering—which should be the pajeon (obviously) and the fiery kan pung gi (smoky, spicy fried chicken). It’s the kind of place you could bring your boss or your grandma, and both would leave in a better mood than when they walked in, thanks to the bright interiors, friendly staff, and that comforting pajeon.
You. Me. Fried garlic prawns. As long as a meal at You Me Korean involves eating the crispy, hazard-warning-red garlic prawns, you’re doing it right. And the warm hospitality at this New Malden spot is just the cherry on top. Once you visit You Me Korean, you’ll be back here twice a month. It suits every mood: a solo meal including jajangmyeon and black bean sauce-stained clothes. Or a round-everyone-up in a private room kind of meal, where pajeon and Korean fried chicken are laid on the table, family-style.
We’re yet to meet a drumstick with as much crunch and flavour as ‘The Original’ from Tongdak. This New Malden spot talks like a chicken shop, walks like a chicken shop, and yet tastes 70% better than anything you’ve seen in an Amelia Dimoldenberg interview. You’ll get a mix of drums, flats, and wings, which are hand-battered and fried to golden, crispy perfection. When it comes to seasonings, take our lead and go for the yangnyeom and the original, then sit back in the brown leather booths and work your way through London’s crispiest chicken.
There are plenty of great Korean restaurants in New Malden, but this one does a spicy crab dish that’s worth venturing off the high street for. Approximately 10 minutes after the doors to Jin Go Gae open, a steady stream of friends and families pour in, charcoal barbecues are fired up, and the sound and smell of sizzling marinated pork hits ears and nostrils. Gae-jang—a refreshing, chilled, raw crab dish slathered in a spicy gochujang sauce—is a face-tingling, finger-licking must. The room is simple and sedate, but the service is friendly and the food makes it worth seeking out.
Seoul Matjib is a New Malden restaurant where we go for warm fuzzy feelings and comforting food. Seventy-somethings eat in companionable silence and 20-somethings steam their faces with bowls of sundubu jjigae. Our favourite thing here, throat-tickling bowls of tteokbokki, are served with a smile and steam up the small windows. The pajeon—fluffy and well-stuffed, like us after eating it—is a must too. Just know that the dining room is simple, so save this for a casual dinner with people who are more interested in delicious, soothing dishes than flashy interiors.
We like a concept. And this one’s pretty simple, completely foolproof, and all in the name. The Korean fried chicken at Chick And Beers in New Malden has got a crunch that would make for some truly hypnotic ASMR, and the beer taps pour Krušovice and Maltsmiths into frozen glasses for consistently cold pints. It’s a casual spot with a does-the-job setup (read: canteen-like chairs that kind of hurt your back), and is perfect for an in-and-out portion of fried chicken for one, or a laid-back dinner with mates.
Just like the first iced latte of the year, we wait impatiently for the mercury to rise for our first bingsoo of the year. The signature milk-based shaved ice at this bright and airy Korean cafe in New Malden comes loaded with gravity-defying sweet treats and ice cream. Think a moat of perfectly sliced cubes of mango around a mountain of snow-white shaved ice, topped with a scoop of mango ice cream. There are layers, there’s a high chance of brain freeze, and there’s no way you’ll be able to finish one yourself so bring back up. Snag a seat at the large sharing table and get battling with spoons.
Evenings at Taeyang Pocha start with the homework-next-to-the-tteobokki family crowd and end with dates and mates trickling in to clink bottles of Cass and get handsy with fried chicken. The Korean restaurant in New Cross doesn’t go in for bells and whistles when it comes to decor, save for a few strings of flashing lights that bounce off moreish KFC. And despite high-tempo K-pop pumping over the speakers, it’s more sedate than party in atmosphere. But the comforting, generous plates will lure you back. Skip starters like overly fried pajeon and dumplings, and load up on excellent soups with tender beef rib, balanced bibimbap, and saucy tteokbokki.
At Assa, know that you’ll have to wait at least 20 minutes for a table, no matter the day of the week. But the queue at the low-key Soho spot moves quickly and the excellent Korean food is worth it. Inside, hot pots get the respect they deserve at the centre of most tables, couples are given a table for four because they’ve knowingly over-ordered, and everywhere people are dipping pajeon in soy sauce, throwing fried chicken into their mouths, and splashing themselves or someone on their table with gochujang. Assa sounds chaotic but in reality, orders come out quickly and staff are attentive.
If you’re into smelling like a BBQ and eating some excellently chewy tteokbokki, Myung Ga in Soho should be on your radar. Coming in a group is a must, to demolish some ramyun and work your way through their meaty set menus. Friendly staff are undoubtedly part of the reason why it’s almost always packed out. Meats are placed, flipped, and served for you, so you can focus on that long-awaited catch-up instead of overcooking the beef. Some classics like pajeon could be better, but overall a meal here will make you happy. Get some of their halal gganpoonggi, a set BBQ meal, and whatever you do, order that tteokbokki.
When you find yourself close to Leicester Square station, having just taken an M&M’s Store bag to the face, go to Olle. This chic Korean BBQ spot is easy to find and it’s easy to order, because most dishes are very good. Fried chicken with thick, crunchy batter that’s sticky with sweet chilli sauce is non-negotiable, though. The half portion is huge, and will easily feed a table of four who are getting involved in the BBQ too. Option B is the one to go for. It includes a hearty selection of wagyu rib-eye, mushrooms, marinated pork belly, and large tiger prawns.
A queue snakes down Poland Street from 7pm on most days as hungry groups wait to enjoy Arirang’s sizzling table-top grills. First opened in 1975, it claims to be the first Korean restaurant in the UK and, given the consistent popularity since then, who is anyone to argue. Inside it’s a brown wooden-boothed affair with tables on two floors full of friends and colleagues grilling plates of pork bulgogi and bul kalbi. Meat plates are rightfully popular—a group dinner here means that table real estate can be a genuine problem—but it’s worth exploring every part of the menu. The somen (a milky noodle soup filled with mussels, prawns, and clams) is excellent.
At Chung’dam in Soho, the steam box steals the show. The three-tiered box has layers of meaty prawns, soft mussels, and thinly sliced beef brisket, and our favourite part of the whole thing is the warming peppery noodles that are cooked in the hot pot at the end. The Korean restaurant is a fancy-feeling, calm spot—all minimalist beige walls and foliage dotted around—where the high-quality ingredients match the price tag. Get the pajeon too, which is some of the crispiest in London.
A shrinking violet Pochawa Grill is not. The tight-knit KBBQ spot on Wardour Street is luminous pink from the outside and neon-lit once you step in. Kaytranada pumps from the speakers and LA galbi sizzles from every chrome table’s grills. It’s inspired by pojangmachas in South Korea—stalls where you can eat, drink, and slur words with friends until the early hours—and it’s a fun interpretation. The banchan and BBQ platters are prepared and presented to a high standard and the only sound more constant than the bass is ice-cold bottles of Cass being cracked.
Halal Korean barbecue is hard to come by and so is a good hotel restaurant. Korean Grill Kensington is the answer to both. The high-end, yet gloriously laid-back, Korean spot near Gloucester Road is filled with the type of people who own five of the same black turtleneck. So while you won’t have to dress up, at least put on your nice pair of jeans. Servers do all the hard work, flipping and cooking the meat on the tabletop grill, so all you have to do is eat it. The £150 meat board is filled with enough high-quality meat to feed three people—our favourite is the marinated king kalbi and the beef ramyun jeongol.
Kimchimama does a kimchi jjigae that’ll sort out your sinuses. This small spot is tucked down a pretty street in Pimlico, but it’s not somewhere you come for a long, lingering lunch. Orders are tapped into a self-service screen and moments later your choices are shouted around the kitchen and ferocious sizzling begins. The spicy jjigae broth, with strips of fatty pork and silky blocks of tofu, is our go-to. But the mandu dumplings should be ordered like Matthew McConaughey’s martinis in The Wolf of Wall Street—two, then seven, and two more. And then, two more every five minutes until you pass out.
We challenge anyone to go to Mukbap (in any mood) and not leave happy. The pajeon is pleasingly stuffed and crispy, the tteobokki delightfully chewy and saucy, and the jjigae richly flavoured. But it’s the side of maternal warmth from the welcoming owner of the vegan Korean spot that’ll make you most happy. She might slip you a tub of sticky beans with the bill because you said you liked them, or fuss over being careful to let the soup cool a little. Know that the stripped-back, canteen-ish space is small—i.e. six stools small. So get takeout during the lunch rush hour when office workers from Shoreditch and Liverpool Street descend, or snag an early spot for an unhurried dinner.
The walls of Mukkebi are filled with meaning. There are noodle packets leftover from its former days as a supermarket, photographs of Korean pop culture legends, mismatched crockery, and an adorable illustration explaining that Mukkebi is a mischievous goblin that uses a studded club to conjure food. If it all sounds heartwarming, that’s because it is. This Finsbury Park spot is a charming, relaxed place to eat silky smooth japchae or to get some of our favourite Korean fried chicken (get the sweet chilli sauce one) while listening to your friend retell the story of the date they went on last night.
Located two minutes from Tufnell Park station, Kkini is one NW5’s go-to Great Little Places. There isn’t a tonne of room to manoeuvre in this moody, industrial KBBQ spot, and its 10-or-so tables (each with their own grill) are dominated by families doing 6pm post-homework dining or 30-something grilling enthusiasts later on. Spicy pork belly and LA galbi are a must. The former is caramelised on its fatty edges and the latter is an always tender and umami-filled mouthful. Other standouts are generous and crispy seafood pancakes and a hearty, spicy galbitang soup full of soft beef short rib that’ll thaw the chilliest of Hampstead Heath walks.