The restaurant chain bibigo, which specializes in the popular Korean dish bibimbap, has made its way into the heart of London. CJ Group launched an 80 sq. m branch of its flagship restaurant on Great Marlborough Street near Oxford Circus on July 25. With 86 seats, it is the first branch of the Korean franchise to open in Europe.
While its domestic chain serves mid-priced dishes (W7,000-15,000), the restaurant in London is little more upscale: Appetizers and bibimbap range from W15,000 to W25,000, with main dishes like bulgogi stake and galbi going for W30,000 to W50,000 (US$1=W1,138).
"The U.K. is well known for adopting foreign cultures, and we believe Korean cuisine will take off across Europe if it can succeed there," said Noh Hee-young, executive director of CJ Brand Communication Lab and the woman responsible for overseeing the launch.
Chef Kang Leo, best known for his role as a judge on the cable TV reality show "Master Chef Korea," will serve as the restaurant's main chef. CJ selected Kang in light of his colorful resume, which includes stints working with British chef Gordon Ramsay, giving him a deeper insight into the local market. "Fourteen local chefs were hired, five of whom are of Korean descent," said Noh.
Some recipes will be modified for local customers, and the restaurant will also offer a variety of Korean liquor and side dishes as Britain is known for its pub and drinking culture.
"The menu is not yet quite ready. We'll modify and add to it according to customer feedback," said Noh. "We're planning to launch up to five branches in London to create a strong brand presence and raise awareness of Korean cuisine among foreigners."