Today I cheated a bit. I was on The Strand for a lunchtime interview and saw this as a golden opportunity to try out the new Korean place that’s opened up just opposite the Savoy hotel. Kimchee already has a full-service restaurant on High Holborn, clearly very popular with local students and professionals alike as there’s often a queues out the door. I’ve only been once but was impressed with the food quality and service, so when I heard they were opening up a take-away on Strand I noted down the date it opened (Monday 8th April) and made a point to go.
It’s small, but big enough to seat about forty on benches and stools and the warm wooden interior is certainly welcoming. There was an assistant on hand by the display cabinets, explaining the racks of salads, rice dishes and rolls to first-timers.
After much deliberation and weighing up, both mentally and literally, the tasty options, I opted for the chicken bibimbap – a tongue twister if ever I read one. This is a box which contains eight vegetables and either chicken, beef or tofu in the middle. Once at the counter, you’re given the choice of white or mixed rice, which is added, with lettuce, to the bottom of the box. Once you sit down to eat, tip the top layer of goodies into the rice and lettuce, mix and enjoy.
That’s the concept, and it worked surprisingly well. They really packed quite a bit of rice into my box; I chose the mixed rice, which ended up being pinkish rice mixed with beans and peas, a wise choice, as the pulses added some welcome texture. The vegetables were nicely pickled and the chicken was warmly spiced. I found it very filling – I only just managed to finish – but absolutely delicious.
I also picked up some nude spicy beef kimbap – essentially futomaki – which came in a pack of eight in a cylindrical roll. As I was so full from the bibimbap, I waited until this evening and shared them at home with my brother. The shredded beef was nicely tender and there was a decent amount of vegetables in each roll. My brother found them too spicy, I didn’t think they were spicy enough – this depends on your own taste.
In other words, a lovely change from the Tupperware norm and a welcome rival to the Asian lunchtime fare of itsu – which I also love. It’ll be interesting to see how Kimchee on-the-go expands across London over the next few months.
Kimchee is at 85 Strand, just across from the Savoy. I visited at 12:45 and the substantial seating was all taken, but service was friendly and efficient to go.