One question that everyone has been asking me since I moved to London is: “Am I missing Korean food?” So far I have to be honest and say that I have not. Firstly because I have been enjoying all the other kinds of foods I have been deprived of for the past decade, and secondly because I know I am heading back to Korea in a few weeks. So I can honestly say I have not been purposely seeking it out. However when I was offered the chance to go and give some a try on behalf of BEAST magazine I couldn’t resist.
Anju is a residency at The Gun, which is a pub in Hackney, not the first place one would expect to find good Korean Food no matter how cool a neighbourhood it is. Anju (which means food served with alcohol in Korean) is headed up by chef Taewoo Kim, a Korean chef who has been living in the UK for over a decade. He opened his first location in Haringay, North London earlier this year and the residency at The Gun swiftly followed. To give Anju a real test I decided to bring along my friend who is both Korean and a chef. She was also conveniently in London at the time.
The night started out poorly as I foolishly went to The Gun in Spitalfields (unrelated) instead of the one in Hackney. By the time we managed to get up to Hackney I was in desperate need of a drink. Thankfully for us the cool, hip, and trendy pub had a very nice little cocktail menu and a friendly bar tender who made us a couple of Aperol Spritz’s (7.50) while we looked over the menu.
The menu is pretty varied and includes all the dishes that you would expect to see. We kicked off with the Korean Fried Chicken (£6). This is one dish I do miss quite a bit, I love me some fried chicken smothered in a sweet and spicy yang nyum sauce. The chicken itself was tender in the middle and crunchy on the outside. I was also pleased to see that it came with a side of white pickled radish, a combo that seemed so bizarre when I first went to Korea but now I cant eat fried chicken without it. So far so good.
I love a Bulgogi Kimbap (£5.50), the cheap little snack I would get after work to tide me over if I was ever having a late dinner. This is the Korean version of a sushi roll, as they are labelled on the menu. They have a tofu or a beef version but we went for the beef. I was glad to see that the kimbap roll contained the neon yellow radish that any kimbap roll made in Korea would have. Flavour wise it was spot on, and I’d have a job to fault it in terms of authenticity, the only difference is that this one came with a soy dipping sauce that standard kimbap does not. Personally I found it unnecessary as the kimbab is flavourful enough on its own but I’m sure sushi fanatics appreciate it.
Of course Korean BBQ (£13.50) is the Land of the Morning Calm’s most famous dish, but a pub in hackney is no place for a grill at your table, so chef Taewoo ingeniously makes it in a dosirak (lunchbox) then infuses the box with smoke to give you that bbq feeling when you opened the lid. The slow cooked galbi-jim beef was absolutely phenomenal. It was tender yet full of delicious favour, both my Korean friend and I agreed it was the best meat we had had in a long time. The dish was rounded out with samjang which I refuse to eat BBQ without, some rice, and of course salad. Do not miss out on ordering this dish.
Last up was the Bibimbab (£7.50), a dish that I have never really been that bothered about. However I couldn’t deny my Korean companion a bowl of rice to finish her meal. The rice came topped with a gochujang laden pork, kimchi, seaweed, and more salad. This version also had a deep fried egg which I though a cute and quirky touch. When it was all shook up this was actually pretty good, I think the spice had been adapted slightly to suit the western palate.
Overall I thought this place was great, the food is excellent, and will impress even the toughest Korean food critic. The pub is also uber cool and they have fab drinks and a fun atmosphere. If you are looking for a stellar spot in Hackney, this is a real gem.
Anju at The Gun is located at 235 Well Street, London, E9 6RG . The nearest train station is Homerton. For more information you can call them on 020 8985 6296 or check out their website. They are open from 6pm – 10pm Wed-Fri, 12pm-10pm on Sat, and 12pm -8pm on Sun.