Arang seems to be one of those places that people go to but never talk about, as up until my recent visit, I swear nobody had ever mentioned it to me. Before then, I wouldn't hesitate when asked where to go for Korean BBQ. "Head to Koba." I would instantly reply. "The Korean BBQ there can't be beat". I guess such a reactive statement can be open to all sorts of challenges, but in my rather limited knowledge of London's Korean restaurants, I only ever want to go to Koba. On the upper end, Asadal in Holborn is OK, but pretty damn expensive. Kimchee, also in the Holborn area is so boring and bland that I had no compulsion to write it up, with Bibimbap much better, although with no proper BBQ (I will be writing that one up at some stage). Having yet to visit New Malden, the Korean heartland in the suburbs, my options were somewhat limited.
So along comes Arang, a
little restaurant (it's not actually that little) in the heart of Golden Square. I hadn't even heard of it until, after some boating and mostly boozing on the roof of Selfridges, our group of six craved grilled meats and someone piped up with the suggestion. At this stage, I was ready to go along with anything to soak up the booze, so it seemed like the perfect idea. A quick jaunt later and we had arrived in Golden Square.
Unfortunately, it seemed that the masses not only knew about Arang, but had also chosen Friday evening to go stuff their faces. I was not pleased, but the smells wafting from the frontage spurred me on to stay. Just as members of our group were wavering, we were ushered to our tables and presented with a free beer by the front of house to make up for our wait. Not before long, our pre-BBQ dishes arrived. Seafood pancake, vegetable tempura and especially the beef noodles were all very nice, but once the plates of raw meat started coming, we had eyes for nothing less. We stared impatiently as they slowly sizzled on the hotplate, chopsticks poised ready to snatch the morsels off the plate and shovel the searingly hot meat into our gaping maws.
The shovelling is inevitably followed by yelps of pain, but once the stimulus finally reaches your brain that shoving red hot bits of pork and beef straight into your mouth may not be the best idea for your welfare, I soon learned to blow, wait and dip into the numerous sauces, pastes and oils dotted around the table. I think it's fair to say that it was all very good. Each tender sliver of meat slowly and methodically turned until it was cooked just enough to eat.
I think it is testament to Arang that even though our group of six were so close to actually having to be rolled out the front door, we still picked at the remaining scraps of meat off the hot plate like mindless birds. I kind of wish I had know about Arang before, but I am glad that I do now. The staff are polite and friendly, and the food is up there with the best Korean food I have had in London, and at £20 a head, it was extremely good value. Who knows if it really is a well kept secret, or if I have just been seemingly oblivious to it's existence. Either way, I will not be keeping quiet about this one and will definitely be letting people know about it!
Arang - 9 Golden Square, London W1F 9HZ