Bargain Bite: Bi Bim Bap

Bargain Bite!

Each month I'm gonna aim to recommend a place to eat or get a treat for a bargain price! I guess last month's can be The Tea House and this month it's Bi Bim Bap in Soho.

This Korean restaurant is very modest about what's on the menu. The main feature is their dol sot dishes - the ingredients are put into a stone pot (or dol sot) and served that way. You then mix together the ingredients (depending on which dish you order) with some chopsticks or a spoon.

Chilli Chicken Dol Sot

As you eat the heat of the pot keeps cooking away merrily and sizzles, keeping everything piping hot!

Dol Sot with Egg

The dishes start at around £5.95 and go up to about £7. The pots of tea are just £1, and starters or sides average at £4. Service is quick but it takes a while to eat the hefty portions seeing as they don't cool down in the stone pot.

Green and Oolong teas


Busaba Eathai - Store Street

Busaba Eathai is a big favourite of mine. Great tasting Thai, served quickly, presented well and great value. It's owned by Alan Lau* who brought us the booming brand Wagamama and has the same concept - to enjoy a substantial meal, a choice of creative recipes and quick service.

And now there's a new branch right near Tottenham Court Road on Store Street. It's conveniently on a corner tucked away from the main road so it's not as busy as the original branch on Wardour Street, well known for it's lengthy queues any night of the week.

The great thing about Busaba is that it hasn't gained such popularity or expanse as Wagamama so there's a little more attention to detail. The design of the restaurants is warmer, inviting and rather than sitting at benches with randoms you eat at tables (sometimes with randoms).
The food is served in interesting crockery to give the impression they're what would be used in an authentic eatery in Thailand. If you order green tea in Wagamama you get a little white cup of tea...when you order tea at Busaba Eathai you get a lovely pot of Cha accompanied by a coconut and cashew cookie!

On a recent visit I had the rose apple with chicken stir-fry plus some jasmine rice. It ma sound like a mild dish but it's hot and packed with spice and flavour but calmed down by the rose apple. To be fair- most of the dishes include chilli which is in keeping with the way people cook in Thailand whether in restaurants or home cooking.

The jungle curry is also amazing. Creamy curry sauce with chargrilled chicken and aubergine plus some veg and of course a smack of chilli! It's really filling so maybe one to share between two with some Chinese broccoli?

If you've not been to Busaba, you must, and if you've only been to the Wardour Street branch and were put off by the queuing then I suggest heading to a different area. Store Street is great, there's a new one on Panton Street and they're about to open one around Old Street.

* Will the Alan Lau franchise ever end? Probably not with the affordable success of Wagamama, the Thai version Busaba Eathai and a similar project Cha Cha Moon. But Lau also has a great reputation for upmarket fine dining with Sake No Hana and his superb (but expensive) highly credited restaurant, Hakkasan. In a way I hope Busaba doesn't become as popular as Wagamama resulting in a mass expansion across the country because the character and attention to detail might get lost in the hustle of fast-food service.