London is currently experiencing what is almost certainly the greatest rate of new restaurant openings in its long history. Newcomers seem to arrive not singly, but in waves. For example, the city has only a very few truly English restaurants, but then two new ones (both reviewed earlier this week) have come along at practically the same time. Parisian-formula steak-houses? An almost-unknown London concept, but a brace of such places, unrelated to each other, have opened withing a month of each other (and less than a mile apart).
Another growth area is that of Korean places, long an under-represented cuisine in the West End. Until the opening of the stark but very stylish Koba, in Fitzrovia, earlier this year, the term ‘fashionable Korean’ would have seemed an oxymoron. Now, along comes this opening to which the description similarly might almost be attached. Admittedly, Asadel’s location (beneath Holborn tube station) is not of itself particularly hip – though it is handy – and the setting, while very comfortable and well spaced, has just a hint of suburbia about it. (New Malden is, in fact, the heartland for Korean restaurants in the capital, by the standard of which this place is the last word in chic).
As a practical destination, this particular newcomer is hard to beat. Korean cooking – for those unfamiliar with it – bears many superficial similarities to Japanese, and a set lunch, for example, will arrive in something looking very like a Bento box. Flavours are strong and clear, too – or at least they are here – and prices are very reasonable, for such a civilised and convenient West End setting. For first-time visitors, though, there is an important safety tip – if you want service, there’s a bell push, hidden away beneath your table.