How to Have an Epic Food Hangover: Bloggers Feast at Kimchee

Last week, I was invited to a small gathering of food bloggers and new media types to dine at a “Bloggers Feast” at Korean restaurant Kimchee in Holborn. I don’t know how I get invited to these awesometacular events, but after the cavalcade of delicious dishes through FOUR COURSES at this Bloggers Feast, I am thanking whatever divine PR gods out there who have cast such benevolent abundance upon me.

Seriously, it was epic. And possibly slightly overwhelming. And for me to be overwhelmed by food… well, now.

The attendants of this Bloggers Feast dined in a smaller room than the expansive hall on the ground floor, but still with similar aesthetics: dark wood, interesting lanterns, interlocking geometric designs. Quite a beautiful place to eat, really, especially considering the occupants of this intimate eating space was just those of us invited to the event.

Although I have been familiar with vegetarian versions of Korean food before, having eaten in a couple places in Bloomsbury and near Centre Point (Seoul Food, holla!), as well as had food made by a friend’s Korean mother, Kimchee’s dishes were… well, proper. We had a set menu for us, but I was told all the dishes we would be offered were on the regular menu for anyone to order.

There were four courses for this Bloggers Feast, with special consideration to the vegetarians in providing alternate dishes. Perhaps also with special consideration to those of us fond of tipples, because each course was paired with a fantastic Korean drink as well, starting with makgeolli.

Makgeolli is a traditional drink made from rice (and wheat, according to Wikipedia) that’s around 6-8% in ABV, so it’s about equivalent in alcohol to a strong beer. The taste is quite nice–rather creamy and refreshing–and as you can see in the photo above, the beverage is very cloudy due to it being unfiltered. The makgeolli was served cold in bowls, and I really enjoyed it, although I’m curious to see what it would taste like if it were served warm.

Our bowls of makgeolli were poured out just before our first course was set out. The dishes at Kimchee for this Bloggers Feast were served tapas-style, with diners sharing plates and dishes of food. Again, I seriously cannot stress how much food there was to be had this evening.

It was a lot.

Behold the evidence:

This was all one course, people. 

There was so much food, I can’t mention it all in this blog post. It was too much. You can view the menu for our feast and see more photos on my Flickr account if you still cannot comprehend the gargantuan gastronomical challenge set to our bellies on an otherwise innocent Tuesday evening in Holborn.  In the face of this avalanche of food, I will be focusing on a few of the favourites, particularly the vegetarian and alcoholic highlights.

I had a lovely vegetarian stew, jjigae, with spinach, mushrooms and tofu that would be an excellent antidote against London’s dark, drab days. Whenever I’m feeling under the weather here in the Big Smoke, I usually head to my favourite Japanese restaurant and get a big bowl of kitsune udon. Kimchee’s jjigae could be a wonderful alternative, being warm with lots of savoury broth and having a healthy amount of veggies.

It’s like a hug for your tummy. This, with a bowl of rice and some makgeolli, would make me a jolly eater during the winter months when the sun goes down at 4 in the afternoon.

Those of you familiar with Korean dining are likely familiar with one of its more common alcoholic accompaniments, soju. Soju is a slightly sweet distilled drink generally consumed without mixers, but rather on its own, and (if I recall correctly) at room temperature. It’s generally made from rice. Soju was the second alcoholic pairing we had at Kimchee‘s Bloggers Feast, and it was served to herald the arrival of our second course, which included the jjigae above. I like soju, as the taste is quite clean and easily quaffable, which might be dangerous considering it’s usually at around 14~20% ABV.

But how can a beverage with such a cute cartoon drawing of a happy guy cause any harm? I mean, look at him. He’s having a good time. He knows what he’s doing.

Bek se ju, which is the drink on the left, is another rice-based wine with herbs such as ginseng blended in with the distilled drink to create a pale amber concoction that is quite light on the taste, with subtle herbal-spice notes. It was quite nice, and it was the paired drink for our third course. As you can see from the photo, the  alcoholic content of the bottle we had is 13%.

Back to food, our third course featured, among many other things, a very tasty portobello mushroom that had been drenched in a fantastic sesame sauce. It was wonderfully simple and flavourful, and I enjoyed the smokiness contrasting with the savoury-creamy sesame sauce. Also for the vegetarians, there was a nice vegetable mari–noodles and vegetables wrapped in rice paper similar to a summer roll.

The fourth drink pairing was plum wine, which even featured tiny plums pickled inside the liqueur, which were fun to watch bobble around in their alcoholic sea. This was lovely and sweet, and like all the other liqueurs we had previously, drunk neat in a tiny cup.

I enjoyed some lovely dumplings, called mandu in Korean, during the fourth course of this massive meal. I love dumplings, and the vegetable mandu at Kimchee were pan-fried to perfection. Although by this point I was crazy full, I was still slightly reticent to share this plate with the other person at the table dining meat-free at the feast, because these were pretty spectacular.

By the end of the fourth course, I had to dash off back to North London to meet up with a friend who I’d already kept waiting for quite a while at the pub. This meant I missed out on dessert, which consisted of a line-up just as amazing as the rest of the meal: red bean ice cream (which I love), chestnut ice cream, chap ssai ddeok/rice cakes and various teas.

The next day, I felt hungover. Not from the soju or the makgeolli or the two pints I had post-feast. No, I was hungover from food. I ate my breakfast almond croissant with less gusto than normal, and by lunchtime I was still so full, I opted to just nibble on a piece of lemon drizzle cake from The Russett in Hackney Downs. It wasn’t until around 5 pm Wednesday when I felt properly hungry again, and even then my dinner was quite light.

Such is the power of Kimchee’s Bloggers Feast.

Kimchee Restaurant
71 High Holborn
020 7430 0956

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