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Restaurant Review: Bó Drake, Soho
December 17, 2015
Bó Drake is one of the more unusual additions to the crowded restaurant scene on Greek Street in Soho. You might not normally associate BBQ with east Asian countries, and even the most well-travelled food lover would struggle to name a similar restaurant in London. Bó Drake has a particularly strong emphasis on smoked meat, which no doubt explains the extensive metal piping seen snaking its way from the kitchen to the external street.
The decor here wouldn’t sell any postcards with its sturdy inoffensive look, but no one would expect anything more for what is in essence a relaxed BBQ restaurant. There is a persistent trend for Asian restaurants to look culturally neutral and it certainly helps here; guests feel comfortable enough to stroll in just to enjoy their fabulously inventive cocktails by the bar.
The food has an excellent pedigree and the owner, Jan Lee, previously worked at Roka. Interestingly, he was also the lead for dance punk band Shitdisco in the early 2000’s; so it was only appropriate to expect the food to be wild with a bit of a punch. Thankfully, on the night we visited, all we could hear was the successful buzz of restaurant chatter.
We hadn’t savoured the delights of KFC in a long while: that is, Korean fried chicken rather than the Kentucky version, and the dish here didn’t disappoint. The chicken was crispy without being overly greasy, the soy garlic sauce with grapes and rosemary gave a wonderful kick to the dish. Our only issue was that this dish in particular didn’t marry well with delicate cocktails, ideally it needs to be paired with a quality beer.
The Scottish sirloin tataki was another finely prepared dish. The beautifully presented beef was lightly seared and topped with a hint of citrus from the ponzu sauce and all the richness of truffled shitake. The flavours contrasted well, but the key, as always, is in using top quality sirloin.
But perhaps the most delightful surprise was their cocktails; in particular the big smoke. Any discerning cocktail lover must make an effort to try this inventive gem. 12 year old Suntory hakushu already has a crisp and vibrant taste, but here it was presented in a smoked enclosed bottle. The marvellously intense aromas we inhaled once we opened the bottle would bring sheer delight to anyone from the casual diner to the hardened restaurant reviewer. Mixed with bamboo syrup and antica formula, it was one cocktail we would happily sip on all night.
The restaurant started out as a Korean/Mexican cultural mix, but it is excellent to see they have streamlined it to focus on east Asian cuisine and a pleasure to see that the smoking techniques had been introduced to their cocktails too. It might be the music industry’s loss that Jan Lee no longer plays in a band, but it is certainly a massive gain for the culinary world.
Words by Baldwin Ho