What: A fast casual Korean chicken restaurant within Westfield London’s first floor food court. Seoul Bird deftly combines Korean and US culinary traditions to create a simple yet compelling offer centred around soy-marinated, double-fried chicken.
Who: Korean-American chef and television personality Judy Joo. She is best known for - on this side of the Atlantic, at least - her five year stint running Korean street food and sharing plate restaurant Jinjuu. She left the Soho restaurant last year to pursue other projects, including the release of a cookbook (Jinjuu remains open). She has teamed up with former Jinjuu head chef Andrew Hales and restaurant consultant Jeremy Simmons.
The vibe: Seoul Bird looks slick and modern with neon signage and a mix of concrete, wooden and metal materials. Joo clearly hasn’t skimped on her design or build costs and has ended up with a kiosk that stands out in a venue that’s not short of eye-catching, high-profile food options (neighbours include Bleecker Burger, Sabroso, Morty & Bob’s and Pastaio).
The food: The menu is an intriguing fusion of Korea and America: tater tots are served with gochujang mayonnaise and the mac ‘n’ cheese is spiked with kimchi. The chicken is served up in a similar way to most chicken shops with a selection of boneless thighs, wings and tenders (one wonders what happens to the drumsticks). The poultry is brined in soy for 24-hours before being double-fried in rapeseed oil for a glass-like crunch. Seoul Bird also offers chargrilled chicken marinated in soy, sesame and Korean spices. The chicken comes with Asian slaw, pickled daikon and a choice of sauce (options include blue cheese ranch, sweet garlic soy and yuzu mayonnaise). There are also burgers and more health-conscious ‘Seoul bowls’ that come with a base of either steamed white rice or Cauliflower rice, mixed with broccoli and quinoa that can be topped with fried or grilled chicken or soy-ginger marinated mushrooms.
To drink: Seoul Bird has a simple but well-thought out drinks offer that includes homemade Korean iced tea in yuzu and plum and ginger variants; fresh juices and canned soft drinks. Alcoholic options - meanwhile - include the Korea-brewed Hite lager and a duo of soju-based cocktails.
And another thing: Korean fried chicken is a big deal back in Korea and is an established genre of restaurant in some areas of the US, not least Los Angeles and New York. There are a fair few specialists in London now too but none that really target the mainstream. With Seoul Bird, Joo strikes a good balance between authentic flavours and accessibility. London is not short of fledgling chicken concepts these days but Seoul Bird feels fresh thanks to its different but delicious take on its core product and an unusually exciting range of sides.