“Oh sure, we’ll definitely be getting a barbeque!”
That’s what we said at the start of last summer when quizzed endlessly about it by our charred-meat deprived friends. Why? Because as all stereotypes have some truth to them, every great Kiwi summer requires a great Kiwi barbie, no matter where you are. It might also have something to do with that fact that we have a decent sized outdoor area all to ourselves, complete with rickety picnic table and chairs. It’s no grassy New Zealand backyard, but it’s not bad for London.
So a barbeque made sense; they’re not that expensive anyway and of course we’d have people round all the time to make the most of it. But that’s not how it works in London is it? Not if the weather gods have anything to do with it. When the sun is shining and you decide to have an impromptu barbeque, everyone’s already busy, but when you’re a bit more organised and plan something in advance so people can actually come… the sunshine doesn’t come to the party.
So suddenly a barbeque didn’t make sense anymore. That first London summer passed, this second one is all but over, and we still didn’t get that barbeque. I figured if I was really desperate to barbeque something I could settle for one of those silly disposable things, or better still… go somewhere that will let me live out all my barbeque dreams indoors.
The place where such dreams come true? SuperStar BBQ, a brand new restaurant where you can barbeque just like the Koreans do – with plenty of meat and plenty of sides, all in the comfort of a roof and four walls! Which was very convenient as the rain happened to be pouring down the evening we were due to barbeque. After a short dash through the rain from Tottenham Court station, we settled into our booth in the modern, high ceilinged (I guess that’s important when you’re grilling indoors) dining room and started perusing the menu.
Korean cuisine isn’t completely new to us; I was introduced to it at a tiny little place in Wellington, decided I really liked it after a dinner at Chan in Seattle, before continuing to dabble in it at Korea-town in New York and even here in London. However, knowing the best dishes to order is still a bit of a mystery to us so we decided to go with the easy option and order one of the set menus, giving us a little bit of everything without the hassle of actually choosing!
Our meal started with the japche (glass noodles), kimchi jeon (kimchi pancakes), and KFC (Korean fried chicken). We loved the flavour of the slippery noodles with the crisp vegetables, and the crispy battered slices of kimchi, but were a little divided on the KFC. I quite enjoyed the crunchy little popcorn chicken balls covered in the tangy sauce, but a certain someone found the batter a little too floury – more for me then.
As swiftly as those plates were cleared, our table was filled with a selection of accompaniments for our barbeque, much to my delight because I love the sides you get with Korean meals. Blanched beansprouts and spinach served cold, lotus root, kimchi, lettuce leaves and miso paste, and sangchu salad, a traditional lettuce salad dressed usually dressed with soy and rice vinegar. Each of these dishes may seem boring on their own, but they are there for a reason, each adding a bit of texture, seasoning, spice and even freshness to accompany the barbeque meats.
Then finally our barbeque items arrived; rib galbi, beef boogogi, spicy chicken, spicy pork, and mixed vegetables. At this point our table was looking very, very appetising so there was only one thing left to do – fire up that barbie… which in this case was simply a case of pushing a few buttons and waiting for the hot plate to heat up!
Wielding his silicon tongs like a pro, a certain someone got the cooking underway with the spicy chicken… which we proceeded to follow with the spicy pork, beef boolgogi, rib galbi and vegetables thrown in sporadically. Sometimes we gobbled up the utterly tender and flavoursome meat pieces on their own, other times we wrapped them in a lettuce leaf with miso paste, or in a jumbled chopstick grab with any of the side dishes.
Halfway through the grill, eat, repeat process, our miso soup arrived alongside bowls of bibimbap, a mixed rice and vegetable dish. Literally served in sizzling hot bowls, our waiter added chilli sauce then started to vigorously whip the vegetables and rice together… another great accompaniment to the meat, you know, in case you needed a little more to fill you up.
After a couple of hours of grilling and eating, we felt like we had eaten enough food for about six people instead of two but still made room for the little desserts of ice cream or a cinnamon drink. As I am not a fan of the latter, a certain someone tried that while I opted for the creamy red bean ice cream; no matter how full I am, I love ending a meal with a sweet treat!
This was certainly one delicious barbeque, full of the bold flavours you expect from Korean food – rich saltiness, hints of spice and vinegary notes, and not a carcinogenic piece of meat produced which is always an achievement! We thought the food was great, but dining at SuperStar BBQ is really about the whole experience; the service is attentive and helpful, and overall it was without a doubt one of the most entertaining meals we’ve ever had out. Definitely recommended for a group of friends or even a first date… nothing like a bit of grilling to break the ice!
Thanks to SuperStar BBQ for treating us to this barbeque feast, but because we are partial to wine on a weeknight we treated ourselves to that! As always, all opinions are mine, mine and mine alone!