My first experience of Korean food occurred in Hoxton, London. It decidedly was where I decided to lose my Korean food virginity. Yikes. But despite visiting On the Bab due to sheer lunch-hour hunger, I had heard good things from colleagues and Shoreditch-erians. The restaurant’s name might make you raise your eyebrow with curiousness at first, especially if you’re unfamiliar with Korean street food, but upon glancing at the menu, I can tell you that ‘bab’ means ‘served with rice’.
The interior of On the Bab was not what I expected. From observing their Instagram photographs, I anticipated an environment that screamed space. But, in reality, I had to walk narrowly between tables and chairs to reach the counter. The counter sits at the back of the room, in front of the open kitchen where it’s chef is rushing with the pace of impatient customers queuing outside the restaurant, waiting for their takeaways (they can’t wait inside due to how small the restaurant is).
I glance at the menu briefly, deciding to stay in my comfort zone during my first experience of Korean food. I know, not adventurous at all! However, I do choose the ‘on the bab’ spicy chicken, keeping with the restaurant name. I’m served by a friendly young woman who takes my order quickly, before informing me to wait outside with the rest of the customers. My meal comes to £8.50 which I find to be a reasonable price for tasty food in Hoxton.
My meal is given to me within fifteen minutes in a brown paper bag, served in a cardboard box where I can see the bright colours of my meal. It’s served with pickled cabbage, rice, and spicy chicken. Yet, where is the rice? Despite being served ‘on the bab’ it takes me a few seconds to actually find the rice beneath all the cabbage. I had first considered they had my order wrong, but find the rice buried beneath the cabbage.
The taste of the food isn’t memorable nor is it pretty to even look at in terms of presentation. For my first Korean food experience, it was nothing special.