Review: Korea Town's Po Cha Reincarnated In Waterloo
Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆
Earlier this year we noted the sad demise of Centre Point’s K-Town at the hands of Crossrail, as a handful of long standing Korean restaurants located on St Giles High Street were forced to close — including Assa, Po Cha, Seoul Bakery and Woo Jung.
We are happy to report that at least one has since resurfaced, with Po Cha quietly arriving on Lower Marsh near Waterloo station in the last couple of weeks.
It replaces Marsh Ruby, a popular but notoriously rude Indian restaurant, and has a similarly basic and functional appearance to both its predecessor and its original incarnation. We’re not sure if more work will be done on the site or if the bare wood panels that line the walls are all the polish its likely to get. Either way, we’re glad there’s not too much shine — great Korean food at low prices was always this restaurant’s appeal and it remains that way.
We tried a selection of dishes from the laminated pages of the extensive menu, which spans soups, salads, big pot stews, rice dishes, BBQ, fried noodle dishes, cold noodle dishes and a small selection of Chinese food.
A plate of homemade kimchi (£2) is suitably pungent, crispy and tongue-tingling with an abundance of vinegar, chilli and garlic making their presence felt.
A pretty patterned plate hosts dumplings (£4) with pleasantly crisp pan-fried exteriors and juicy burst-in-the-mouth middles filled with the piquant, saline flavours of pickled veg.
Fried chicken with cheese (£8) comprises chunks of chicken in a slightly sticky sauce with grated cheddar on top — a staple of Korean restaurants. It’s a tad too sweet for us but the tender cubes of well-flavoured chicken thigh are markedly better than usual for cheap and cheerful Korean restaurants.
BBQ sliced pork belly (£8) is soft and melt-in-the-mouth, with a light, tangy and well-balanced sauce — it’s the most delicate dish of the meal by a long stretch.
The Korean classic rice dish Bibimbap (£7.90) is a great example of its kind. It arrives at the table — as is customary — still sizzling in a hot stone bowl, adorned with a raw egg yolk which gets lightly cooked as we stir it into the rice. A choice of toppings include bulgogi (marinated beef), pork, seafood and tofu; we opt for raw beef, tossing it against the edges of the hot bowl to sear the outside while leaving the centre succulently rare. The meat isn’t as tasty as we’d have hoped for but it's not too detrimental to the big-flavoured spice and pickle-laden dish as a whole.
Hite beer, sake, soju and green tea form the backbone of the drinks menu; there are no desserts.
Our verdict? There are better Korean restaurants to be found in London — mainly in the ‘Little Korea’ community of New Malden and the surrounds — but since the demise of K-Town central, London's offering has been distinctly lacking. Po Cha is back and ever so slightly better than ever — Centre Point’s loss is Waterloo’s gain.
Po Cha is at 30 Lower Marsh, SE1 7RG.
Last Updated 01 April 2015