Nara may be named after the erstwhile capital of Japan, but it’s the Korean food that is the main draw here. Located just off Oxford Street, it’s well placed for refuelling during a day of shopping. The simple dining room has a relaxed, informal feel. Adding to its appeal, this is one of few central London Korean restaurants to offer free panch’an – on this occasion, sweet pickled cucumber, seasoned beansprouts and mung bean jelly.
Portion sizes can be generous – witness a big bowl of manduguk, filled with garlicky pork dumplings, sweet shrimp, squid and glass noodles. Barbecue dishes are also popular, such as juicy kabli, eaten wrapped in lettuce leaves with chunky-textured, piquant ssamjang and finely shredded sweet-and-sour spring onions. Succulent chicken slices, carefully cooked at the table-top electric grill, glistened invitingly with sticky chilli sauce.
If you fancy something a little more unusual, Nara offers hard-to-find ingredients such as Korean black pudding (sundae) served stir-fried or in soup, and savoury, sautéed bracken stalks (kosari namul). Korean beer is the ideal accompaniment.