Review: Ko Gu Ryo, Staines

I have to confess, this is my first time eating Korean Food. But at least I’m confident that it is about as authentic as I’ll find outside of a visit to Korea. The only other customers at Ko Gu Ryo in Staines were Korean, and while we considered our menus a steady stream of twenty or more businessmen came in and disappeared into the back of the restaurant, where they must clearly keep a Tardis as we scarcely heard a peep from them all evening.

The restaurant is small and simply furnished. Service could not be friendlier; it’s a family affair, and the owners emanate all the warm hospitality I remember from travels in Asia. The lady of the house helped us put together a menu, the master of the house plied my brother with ginseng wine in celebration of his birthday.

So, we began with a few starters. Kimchi is a national staple of Korea, and I really must start making my own: fermented cabbage with a chilli paste, delicious. Caramelised soy beans were good nibbles. There was a very handsome plate of delicious gyoza-style dumplings, a plate of enormous tempura prawns in lightly crisp batter, and a dish of glass noodles with beef that was good but seemed an odd starter. Customary, perhaps? The best starter was a “seafood pancake”, in fact more like a deliciously crunchy seafood rosti chopped into bite-sized pieces.

The table barbecue seems to be another staple of Korean dining, at least in the UK. The mixed lamb was very good, while the thinly sliced beef was tasty enough but such relentless cooking was bound to leave it a bit leathery. Two heavy, sizzling stoneware bowls came with a mixture of seafood, rice and vegetables. All good. The finale was deep-fried pieces of chicken in a crunch batter with a deliciously caramely sweet/sharp sauce pepped up with pepper, garlic and chilli. Wicked pleasure.

We drank Korean rice wine with our meal, an unexpected white concoction almost the consistency of smooth gazpacho, served in bowls and very delicious. Far too easy to drink, in fact. Good tea was also to be had, along with more typical wines and beers.

Next time I’m in Staines I can’t imagine picking anywhere else to eat. I’ll probably skip the barbecue and look at the more classic Korean dishes, as that’s surely where all the flavour is. I can’t help recommending a trip to Ko Gu Ryo if you happen to be in Staines too. There may be even more authentic Korean food in the streets of London, but there’s surely no more authentically friendly Korean welcome than here. The meal, drinks all in, was less than £30 per head and we left happily stuffed.

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