If you don't live in New Malden, Surrey (Zone 4 - train from Waterloo) you are unlikely to run into Korean cuisine. New Malden has a substantial Korean population.
But central London has Naru – at the Holborn end of Shaftesbury Avenue. It's difficult to compare it with others because there are so few. Therefore, it's back to the primitive taste test – do I like it? And would I recommend it to others?
The answer to both is “yes”. I don't know how it matches up against other Korean restaurants. All I know is that I enjoyed my visit.
In Korean, Naru means a place where you get a ferry boat to cross a river – a sort of landing stage and those who arrive here will feel they have landed well.
It's not fancy but neither are the prices. You can eat and drink well at lunchtime for £20 each as there are number of fixed price dishes (around £13) – expect nearer £30 in the evening when dining is more a la carte.
The presentation and the service are both good. I had “Pa Jeon” (£7.90) to start with – it's a crispy pancake filled with spring onions and mixed seafood or kim-chi, the ubiquitous Korean fermented vegetable dish. I had the former and it was delicious. My dining partner went for “To Po Kki” (spicy street food, with rice cakes, fish cakes and vegetables). She found it too spicy at first but soon got used to the chilli. After which, she wanted more.
For my main course, I ordered “Yang Nyam Dak” (£11.90) – crispy fried chicken in a sweet and sour plus chilli sauce. It was generously portioned but without any noticeable sugar – the ingredient that ruins so much Oriental cooking (it's assumed it is for the “European Taste”). Plus rice (£2.20).
My fellow diner went for the “Naru Boo SSam” (£13.90) a pork dish cooked in a house sauce. Again, the amount was good and the sauce, basically ginger, scallions and hot spicy oyster sauce, was very good. She had noodles (depending on exact sort, around £2.50).
As with most Asian cuisines, desserts are both unneeded and uninspiring.
Drinks are limited – best stick to Korean beer.
On the day we went, the credit card machine was not working – something of a problem in many London eateries. But as we didn't have enough cash, the restaurant paid the £1.75 charge at the nearest shop with a cash machine.
Naru 230 Shaftesbury Avenue London WC2
Phone 020 7379 7962
Nearest stations Tottenham Court Road, Covent Garden, Leicester Square
Opening hours 12.00pm to 3.00pm and 5.30pm to 10.30pm. Closed Sundays