A leading outlet of Korean food, long before it became a hot trend in the capital, Koba has stood in London’s Fitzrovia since 2005. However, a recent refurbishment to celebrate the restaurant’s second decade of trade has dramatically brought it into the present day, finally matching the impressive cuisine with an environment it deserves.
Working with chef and owner Linda Lee, Korean design agency Elephant have married elements of the country’s traditional design heritage with more contemporary accents, peppering the restaurant with craftworks from Korean ceramic specialists KwanJuYo, as well as pottery from Seoul’s renowned Woong Gallery. Fronted by trompe l’oeil doors, the ground floor dining room is now a bright and modern space, heralded by a long bar and illuminated by a skylight. Downstairs, the basement space takes on a noticeably more sultry mood, with art picked by Lee lining the walls, including porcelain panels printed with enlarged versions of famous Korean imagery.
To coincide with Koba’s reopening, Lee has introduced a new menu, yet the focus remains on table barbeque cuisine, signalled by a series of unadorned low-hanging extractors hovering over tabletop burners. Here, classic dishes like bulgogi are cooked by diners themselves, but for those not keen on the DIY approach, other Korean staples, such as shinsunro, a hotpot served in a flaming copper pot, and bibimbap are prepared traditionally: in the kitchen.