The walls of our Infatuation office are covered in doodles. We have colour-coded boards covered in the names of restaurants we want to write about. We have a long list of new openings. And we have the word ‘swish’ in capitals to remind us to never, ever, use it in a review again. Basically, our walls are like A Beautiful Mind if you replaced every pi symbol with the word ‘chicken’. And that’s one of the reasons we like Seoul Bakery, a casual Korean spot with walls covered - and we mean covered - in doodles and declarations of love for BTS.
This Bloomsbury spot is tiny but packed in is a real buzz. The walls are covered in drawings of K-pop stars, scribble covered scribbles, and sweet nothings dated 2015. It basically looks like someone in the throes of their first hormone-fuelled crush got given unlimited BIC highlighters and let their inner Banksy fly. But that’s only one of the reasons why we love it here. There’s the constant chatter of students, the slurping of dak udong, the sipping of honey plum tea, and the solid smell of melted cheese that goes on top of their signature kimchi fried rice.
While you can expect that £7 kimchi rice to be excellent, you shouldn’t expect to be comfy. You’ll be wedged on a seat between other people. Don’t resent it. This is the pre-order special. Your chance to perform a sneaky sniff test of your neighbours’ pork dumplings and beef ghimbap to decide what you want to get involved in. Cheat code: you want all of it. The £8 squid-packed seafood pancake is the sort of dish that prompts you to buy a pillow embroidered with ‘cherish the simple things’. It isn’t cheap and cheerful. It’s cheap and deliriously tasty food.
The only issue with Seoul Bakery is that the secret is out. The secret being that you can come here, eat some banging rice and noodles, and leave £15 lighter with a pack of Korean candy in your bag for later. On any given day, lunch, evening, or mid-apocalypse, you’ll find a queue for spaces on one of their two six-person tables. We’re not talking a little, good-natured baby queue that involves a three-minute Twitter scroll and casual eye-up of the laminate menus stuck to the window. No, we’re talking half-an-hour, consider bribing someone, and eventually decide that Unchained Melody was an ode to getting inside Seoul Bakery. They also shut at 7.30pm, so sometimes you have to play a game of queue roulette if you’re heading here after work. But when there’s bulgogi this tasty waiting on the other side, it’s high risk, high reward.
What Seoul Bakery lacks in booking potential and big group hang capacity, it makes up for in flavour. You’ll merrily declare “I’m alone” to be shuffled in with that group of three up front and decide that those thick, wipe-down menus are all you need for company. Coming here alone is basically like winning Love Island in reverse. That’s why Seoul Bakery is perfect for a quickfire lunch where you purposefully order extra fried rice to take home for dinner. And why it’s perfect for a catch-up where you get all that talking done in the queue so you can slurp up your ramyen noodles in silence. It’s also why you’ll find ‘Seoul Bakery’ doodled on our wall, under the heading Best Cheap Eats In London.
These aren’t essential, but they’re definitely worth ordering if you’re in the mood for dumplings.
We don’t want to tell you what to do, but these are mandatory. You have to order them. Sorry, but you do. We’re also very into the kimchi ghimbap but the bulgogi is the best.
Not for the faint of heart - read as, if you cry like a baby at the first sniff of chilli powder, you’re not going to get on with this. But if you’re into a solid hit of gochujang with tasty little rice cakes and boiled eggs, this is a winner.
Listen to Kool And The Gang’s Celebrate. Now replace every ‘good times’ with ‘kimchi fried rice’ and you’re on your way to understanding our feelings for the go-to dish here. Get it with the melted cheese. Get it with a fried egg on top. Get it with roasted onion and sausage. Just get it.
Eight pounds. Eight little pounds and you can get a whole plate of seafood pancakes packed full of squid and scallions. If you’re coming as a two-some or a group, this is a great dish to share. Or if you’re coming here solo, hello leftovers.
The dak udong comes in a giant metal bowl. If you think, ‘oh, they’ve accidentally brought me enough for a table of four in a mixing bowl’, then you’d be wrong. This is seven pounds of braised chicken noodle soup that, sure, will probably end in bright red chilli oil down your top. There will also probably be a lot of satisfaction.