On the Bab, Old Street

Ooh I do love a soft launch.

The hefty discounts, the jovial first-day-at-school atmosphere, the shyly welcoming staff – and of course the chance to give a new restaurant’s dishes a whirl. Even the inevitable delays and mishaps are part of the fun of the dress rehearsal before the “real” opening.

On The Bab is billed as East London’s first restaurant specialising in anju : the Korean custom of eating small snacks with alcohol.

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A friend and I popped into On The Bab yesterday for lunch for the second day of its soft launch. While the 50% off prices allowed us to order with impunity, the lunchtime hour stopped us from ordering booze, so we will have to return for a true anju experience.

However the food was good enough sober to ensure that we will be back soon for the lethal-sounding soju cocktails.

Yangyun chicken with soy garlic glaze. Crushed peanuts gave the crust a fantastic savoury crunchiness.

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Pa Jeon – pancakes with seafood and spring onion. Surprisingly dense and chewy, I was expecting a lighter crepe style. These were a decent vehicle for the house chilli oils and sauces.

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Bibimbab – not served in a sizzling pot like in New Malden. This version was more like a refreshing salad with its mix of crunchy veg, room temperature rice and sesame dressing.

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“On the buns” was a highlight for me. I can’t get enough of pillowy steamed buns at the moment and these bad boys had a special shape and deep pockets for a generous amount of spicy pork filling.

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Naturally, we had to order a side of kimchi, which was served clamped down in a sturdy tin, presumably to keep the dish’s famous fermented fumes in check.

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They had run out of Kimchi Jeon and Bab Twigin, an innovative kimchi & cheese arancini which was a shame, and I do think they’re missing a trick by not offering a takeaway service or a set menu for the lunchtime crowds.

At half price we paid just £8 each. I’ve heard it said that to avoid buyer’s remorse and foolish purchases when shopping in sales, you should consider whether the item you covet would really be desirable at full price before you dig out your wallet. In the case of On The Bab – absolutely.

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