Jinjuu Soho Review
I was little late to the Jinjuu hype train as I was living in Florence when it all kicked off, but when I begrudgingly came back to London it seemed like one of those London only kind of places that I’d struggled to find around Europe, but wanted to try. Not because it appeared especially good but because Korean food isn’t exactly taking off over on the continent and I had missed it, but in London, the promise of deeply fried chicken and bits and bobs of random meats slathered with gochujang is omnipresent. My first experience of the restaurant was with Jay Rayner’s hilarious “review” that just screams of the London that I was happy to leave behind. Style over substance. Reactions over experiences. PR over honesty. Lip service over service. But with some trepidation I tried it out and I have now made it my business to return to Jinjuu on no less than 4 occasions.
I enjoy Jinjuu in the warmer months when the terrace is slightly abuzz with the scent of chillies and Soju lingering in the Soho air. It is perfect when Kingly Street is packed at 6pm and you just want to sit back and eat good food and watch the throngs. It’s not a restaurant that I’d suggest for the restaurant itself, though the interiors are lovely, right down to the K-pop-star covered bathrooms. But rather I’d recommend Jinjuu as an early stop on a night out or for a cocktail-infused lunch. I say early stop, because after midnight on a weekend I can’t stand the place. Full to the rafters, music (sadly not Korean) louder than the flavours and crowds standing everywhere, cramped around the bar and the tables, making eating the late night menu a bit uncomfortable, but doable if you’re currently flashing through the heady state of drink-induced chicken cravings.
The Food at Jinjuu
Out of all of the Korean Fried Chicken that I’ve tried in London, Jinjuu’s signature fried chicken remains the best. It is decadent with heaps of flavour, juicy meat wrapped with super-crispy batter and just very, very good. It’s delicious with a cocktail, a glass of wine or whatever else, and the house sauces (served in cute little plastic diner bottles, possibly acrylic paint bottles nabbed from a local art store) are so packed full of flavour that chicken from anywhere else tastes positively bland by comparison. Other dishes like the Mandoo are playful and exceptionally fatty, making for great drinking food. Particularly the Philly Cheesesteak variant which is basically a crispy fried dumpling overflowing with bulgogi short rib, cheddar, mushrooms and pickled jalapeños, and is just bloody dirty and perfect (no, really) food to smush into your face when the music’s far too loud and someone elses elbows are rubbing into your arm after midnight on a Saturday night.
The lunch menu on the other hand is a little more average but often has dishes that don’t appear on the main menu. Such as the gorgeous Kimchi broth in the image above. And it’s cheap.
The Cocktails at Jinjuu
Cocktails at Jinjuu carry forward that east meets west playfulness that’s ripe throughout the food menu. The Spamarita (this may not be served anymore but it’s still worth a mention), with Spam-infused Ocho tequila, mezcal, agave nectar, pineapple and fresh lime comes served in a spam can and has the unmistakable bouquet of over processed spam, but is finished by a nice long hint of smokiness passed down from the Mezcal.
Much of the cocktail menu at Jinjuu is based around classic western cocktails with a Korean twist (as is de rigueur). My favourite of these is the Kimchi bloody Mary that comes with Soju in place of Vodka and plenty of spice from the Kimchi, while The Interview comes with a cinema ticket clipped to the glass and is an interesting twist on a Whiskey Sour with boricha, Sac Sac Orange and black smoke lending it a grown up complexity that feels almost out of place on a menu that boasts a K-Pop Porn Star Martini amongst its creations.
Jinjuu, 15 Kingly St, Soho, London W1B 5PS