Address: 58-59 Great Marlborough Street, London W1F 7JY
Closest Transport: Oxford Circus Station and Tottenham Court Road
Telephone: 020 7042 5225
Online Booking: Yes (Recommended for evening meals as it gets busy quickly)
Online Menu: Yes
Vegetarian Options: Yes, vegetarian options listed on menu
Special Features: Bar area serving range of drinks and cocktails. They also do private catering and picnic boxes (which are amazing).
CJ Food, one of Korea’s biggest food companies, opened Bibigo in Soho just over a year ago. Bibigo is CJ Food’s first European venture, following other similar Bibigo restaurants opening in various other countries like the USA. However, this Bibigo is the first non-casual restaurant in the chain, giving customers a quality sit down experience. Bibigo aims to introduce the British public to Korean food in a modern and fresh environment, creating a space where people can experience healthy Hansik food. Catering to a market of more Western punters, this restaurant makes it clear what each dish is consists of, which is handy for those not too familiar with Korean food. As well as food, Bibigo has a bar serving a range of Korean inspired drinks and cocktails. There’s also a good list on non-alcoholic mocktails at the bar so all the family can enjoy something new and refreshing. One fun feature of this establishment is that several of CJ Food’s products can be bought in the restaurant, meaning that you can go home with not only a full belly, but food items to try to re-create dishes at home too!
Before dinner, a few of us took full advantage of the Bibigo Happy Hour which is everyday from 5:30pm to 7pm, with 3 for 2 on Korean beer and 50% off of a selection of Bibigo’s signature cocktails. You can view the menu here. Firstly we tried the Yellow Sea which had an amazingly refreshing and sour citrus kick to it, perfect for waking you up after a long day at the office and onward for a evening of fun! We also tried the Korean Cobbler which featured Korean Sake, maraschino liquor and a beautifully sweet and fruity concoction of lime, raspberry, pineapple and orange. We enjoyed the cocktails very much and will definitely be taking advantage of the Bibigo Happy Hour again. If you don’t feel like eating, Bibigo has a special bar area for you to simply enjoy a fine Korean inspired cocktail.
We went on a Thursday night and booked ahead, which was definitely a good idea as many of the tables were already taken by 7pm. We were sat towards the back of the restaurant which featured a window looking into the kitchen so you could see all the chefs at work. Our table was very nice and intimate and we got straight down to business and looked through the extensive menu.
Bibigo’s menu has many of the staples Korean food fans would be familiar with, such as japchae, pajeon, bibimbap, but also boasts some more unique items like specially designed Korean style salads and soondae (blood sausage) for the more adventurous, which is prepared fresh on the premises. We chose to share some small dishes before getting our own individual mains.
Starters / Small Dish
Egg Pot: The steamed egg looked delightful in its little hot pot and seemed light and fluffy. The little pot was quite big and had enough for the five of us to all share with around two decent sized spoonfuls each. We’ve eaten steamed egg before in Jeonju, and we have to say nothing compares to the Jeonju dish (which was heavenly), but Bibigo’s was a good way to start off a meal. The egg was very well seasoned and savoury, the texture was more like sponge cake rather than light steamed egg, but it lined our stomachs nicely.
Rice Cake: The tteokbokki was really different from what we were expecting, but in a good way. We’re used to chewy tteokbokki, but these rice cakes were fried giving it a slight crispy outing; a completely different texture to your usual tteok, and coupled with a really rich and sticky sauce. A fabulously different new take on tteokbokki. This dish came with sweet potatoes in the mix too, giving this dish a good mix of flavours and textures. The chilli sauce wasn’t too spicy, which can be good for those not used to too much heat, but we could have done with a bit more kick however.
Red Chicken: This was the clear favourite of the night with our whole party. The small chicken pieces had been battered and deep-fried in the signature Korean way and covered in an amazingly rich, thick and sticky red sauce. Each piece was perfectly sized for a bite, and before we knew it, the plate has been finished. The portion was good for us 5 to have a taste, but had we known how good it was, would have definitely ordered more. In fact, our whole meal could have been made up of just red chicken and we’d have been perfectly content.
BBQ Chicken: This was beautifully presented on a personal hot plate. It came in a similar sauce to the red chicken, which was delicious and envy-inducing. The chicken pieces were tender and delicious, really well cooked, and there was just enough to leave you feeling satisfied but not too rich when you finished. The chicken was mixed in with vegetables like sweet potato, which tasted similar to the tteokbokki small dish.
Beef Short Rib Stew: This was a very light and delicately flavoured stew. The was a good amount of ribs in the stew which was cooked to a beautifully tender texture with the meat almost falling off the bones. It came with rice, but the stew also had some rice noodles and was quite a big portion so it’s definitely a great dish for those who are hungry. We wish there was a bit more background flavour to the soup but generally it was a very delightful and refreshing stew.
Kimchi Stew: We were in the mood for something powerful and spicy and Bibigo had run out of the Spicy Chicken stew so we went for the classic kimchi jjigae. This dish wasn’t as spicy as some other kimchi jigaes, so if you’re looking for a massive heat kick, this may not be the dish you’re looking for. However, it was still very tasty and the tofu was especially good. This would be a great dish for all those new to Korean food and have not yet developed a palette for Korean spices yet.
Hot Stone Seafood Rice: Seafood dishes are always a bit of a gamble at restaurants, you risk the disappointment of only getting 3 prawns and maybe 1 clam if you’re lucky. The Bibigo Hot Stone Seafood Rice was jam-packed with fresh seafood. It was seriously impressive, the amount of prawns was countless as well as a fabulous and decent mix of clams. fish, squid; Bibigo are definitely not stingy! The seafood was beautifully fresh but we were a bit let down by the sauce that accompanied the dish. It was called spicy soy sauce on the menu but the sauce had absolutely no heat and just felt very oily with a very strong and overpowering garlic flavour.
For dessert, we couldn’t leave without trying some hotteok, which is a sweet pancake stuffed with brown sugar and cinnamon. It came with a scoop of ice cream, some berries and what we think was a garnish of muesli, very creative! The hotteok was a big hit. The warm hotteok was slighlty crisp on the outside and beautifully soft in the middle. The heat from the hotteok melted the creamy cold ice cream slightly which made the dish brilliantly sweet and gooey. With all the delicious cinnamon flavours, we were finishing the dessert in no time. What’s handy is that we noticed on the way out of the restaurant, hotteok pancake mix was available to buy, so if you’re a fan, you can make it at home!
This decor of Bibigo UK is a lot more modern compared to other Korean establishments around town giving it a very ‘trendy’ atmosphere. This modern decor also makes the restaurant feel a lot less “Korean” and more standardised, which draws in many general passer bys; maybe it seems less intimating to those unfamiliar with Korea cuisine. However, this modern atmosphere did get in the way of some aspects of our dinner. The music was quite loud meaning it was difficult to hear people at the other end of the table. This would be fine for parties of two, but group conversations had to be shouted, meaning the restaurant lacked any sort of intimate atmosphere. It would have been nice if the music was softer and something of a calmer mood rather than repetitive music you would expect to hear at an expensive boutique clothes shop. It didn’t feel as cosy as other Korean restaurants we’ve been to, and our dinner felt generally less intimate as it was hard to keep a group conversation going. Even so, it seems like this style was very popular to the trendy Londoner dinner crowd as it all looks very swish, welcoming and fashionable. Bibigo has been styled with the aim to bring in the London crowd, and introduce more people to Korean food and this was evident as the customers at Bibigo were more varied compared to other Korean restaurants in London.
The front of house service was very polite and welcoming and the bar staff were very friendly and attentive. The restaurant service was generally good and the food came without delay and everything was beautifully presented and clean. It was definitely one of the finer dining Korean restaurants as the waitress started putting the napkins on our laps, definitely something we weren’t expecting at a Korean restaurant. But overall the service felt very clinical and almost robotic. They obviously had a very efficient and strict service plan in place with people who handled dishes and the waiters and waitresses that talked to customers. The food came quick and staff were knowledgeable, which was great, but it was rather frustrating when you needed to get the attention of the staff as you had to make sure you got the correct waiter/waitress or be left with your arm in the air feeling slightly embarrassed.
Bibigo is definitely a more modern take on Korean food and dining. Their BBQ red sauce was absolutely amazing and the food selection was wide and very varied to appeal to all types of diners, but the setting felt a bit too modern for us. However, we can see it being great for all those new to Korean food. The menu was very descriptive and extensive with pictures meaning it would be great for all those wanting to take their first bite into Korean cuisine, and the waiting staff were also knowledgeable and happy to help if you had any questions about the dishes.
Overall Bibigo was fun and had a unique take on Korean food. The dishes looked amazing and it was interesting to have a fine dining experience and seeing the modern twists on classic dishes like tteokbokki. It was also great to see a bar with interesting Korean inspired cocktails which we’ll definitely be going back for. And to complete the Korean dining experience you can leave with many of the ingredients sold by CJ Foods in the restaurant and try recreating some of the dishes at home. Bibigo may not have the usual homey vibe of Korean restaurants, but it’ll no doubt appeal to a large audience and get many UK people giving Korean food a try! Also, in case we haven’t already mentioned before, the red chicken is really a must!