The twin poles of Korean restaurants in the UK are New Malden in Surrey (near Samsung’s HQ in Chertsey) and the West End, but there’s little between the two. Hana is a small, family-run restaurant that bridges that gap and seems aimed firmly at non-Koreans – the menu is written in English, with no Hangul (Korean script). It’s a good-looking, split-level room in the ‘modern Oriental’ mould with dark wood and pretty hanging lamps. The service is notably smiling and on-the-ball.
Our meal started well with some generously portioned mandu (steamed dumplings) served, like dim sum, as a threesome; the pork and vegetable filling was moist but with a pleasingly crunchy bite. Also good was the kimchee of pickled, spicy cucumber sticks.
Bossam is a dish best-known to New Yorkers in a fancy variation served at Momofuku’s Ssäm bar, where it’s accompanied by oysters (at $200 for a large, sharing dish). Hana’s version is much simpler: £16.50 buys you a platter of cold, sliced pork belly served with fat wedges of blanched chinese leaves that were too clumsily thick to wrap around the pork; shrimp sauce and radish kimchee added interest to an otherwise insipid dish. Better was the dolsot bibimbap, a piping-hot stone bowl filled with sizzling rice, vegetables, egg, chilli paste and raw slivers of beef that cooked as the contents of the bowl were stirred together.
The drinks list is better than you might find at many Korean restaurants, covering the expected Hite beer and soju (vodka-like Korean firewater), but also decent wines by the glass and Korean novelties such as bokbunja ju, a Korean fruit wine that some think improves ‘male stamina’. The rowdy table of Battersea lads sitting next to us were clearly not on the bokbunja ju as they arrived, drank and ate quickly – leaving faster than you could learn to dance ‘Gangnam Style’.