A grand old time at the Petite Corée?

Last week I was searching for somewhere to eat as we were going out with friends, venue to be decided. I delved into the stashed away pile of reviews and recommendations looking for somewhere suitable with interesting food, a nice atmosphere and not too expensive. Among the reviews I found a Sunday Times ‘cheap eats’ supplement, which recommended West Hampstead’s own Le Petit Corée. So I thought, why schlep all the way across London when this is on our doorstep.

WHL had reviewed the Petite Corée previously and gave it the thumbs up.  How would it fare on a repeat visit?

The Petite Corée offers a fusion of European and Korean food, so a pretty suitable choice for our friends Tim (German) and his new girlfriend Katrina (Asian-American). After a quick glance at the menu we decided on the  sharing route and for starters ordered ceviche, soft-shell crab and truffle burrata. Jae, the chef, worked in one of London’s top kitchens and it showed – the starters were all hits. Visually, a particular highlight was the ceviche which was a beautiful as a Tom Aiken’s salad; a Jackson Pollock on a plate. Sometimes truffle on a menu is just a way of cashing it, but not here as it was the right note of truffle to an excellent fresh creamy burrata. And finally soft-shell crab – a favourite of mine but which I don’t often see on the menu in London.

It's thumbs up - as the clean plates show - for the Petite Coree

It’s thumbs up – as the clean plates show – for the Petite Coree

For mains we went for skate wing, octopus and firm favourite pork belly with a couple of extra sides (including kim-chi, of course). Again the three main course dishes were excellent, the skate perfectly flash-fried and the pork-belly slow-cooked. Not only were we eating local but from locally sourced ingredients as the skate was supplied by Broadhurst Garden fishmonger La Mer and the chocolates (on offer for dessert) from its erstwhile neighbour Cocoa Bijoux. The wine was a Chenin Blanc, a nice alternative to the usual Sauvignon/Pinot Grigio and – as behavioural economics predict – our choice was the second cheapest on the good but, not too long, wine list.

Dessert choices were raspberry Etton mess (sic), tiramisu and miso brownies. As I prefer chocolatey desserts my vote went for the brownie and tiramisu but Katrina and Tim’s preference was the Eton mess.

Some nice touches in both the decor and the desserts

Some nice touches in both the decor and the desserts

The Petite Corée has a quirkyness about it – from the name and logo to the decor – and spelling of Etton mess, but there is nothing quirky about the cooking. It’s fusion yes, but not quirky. Jae, the chef, trained at some of the best London kitchens and he has brought this back to West Hampstead. Lucky us.

It was listed as being a cheap eat (well for the Sunday Times at least) but that undersells the cooking. Rather it’s like when you book a good value Ford as a rental car on holiday and find you’ve been upgraded to a BMW. The excellent cooking was matched by a relaxed but efficient service making our evening at The Petite Corée a success – we had a grand old time.

The Petite Corée

a: 98 West End Lane, NW6 2LU

t: 020 7624 9209



The Petite Corée: Locals shouting about Korean twist

I was an early sceptic. Korean French fusion? In West Hampstead? Really? It sounded pretty risky – the sort of thing that Kitchen Nightmares are made of. The reality, thank god, is astonishingly good. This is partly because The Petite Corée’s food isn’t really Korean-French fusion.

Jae, the deadpan chef, though Korean, has trained in European restaurants and his cooking is achingly classic Western European; but, and it’s a critical but, there’s a Korean twist to every dish that’s handled with both flair and subtlety. He even made me love kimchee (when I mentioned that I wasn’t normally a big fan of kimchee, he asked if I was being racist – see “deadpan” above). This is high class food presented in a pared-back casual restaurant (no jacket required) presided over by Yeon, who runs the front of house.

The restaurant launched very quietly at the start of the year, and took a few weeks to get going as word of mouth slowly spread. It may be the only restaurant in West Hampstead that hasn’t yet had a negative comment tweeted about it, which is impressive given the fickle nature of many local diners!

The menu is reassuringly short, and has already had one seasonal change, which is a promising start. The Petite Corée is not a cheap restaurant – it’s catapulted itself right up into the high price bracket for the area – but for food of this quality, that isn’t going to put too many people off (and it also does a more competitively priced lunch deal!). I loved the smoked swordfish starter and my guinea fowl main course – perhaps one of the least Korean dishes on the menu – was beautifully balanced. However, the slow-roast pork belly with “Korean BBQ” jus is already established as the restaurant’s signature dish and rightly survived the first menu change.

Now over to my fellow reviewers (apologies, our photos aren’t the best, we may have been enjoying the wine list too much – there are much better ones at this excellent review).

I’ve never raved so much about a radish. The humble root vegetable, garnished with a flavoursome black sesame and yoghurt dressing, was the unexpected star of the starters – although the smoked swordfish with wasabi and lime dressing deserves an honourable mention. For my main course I had the steak. This was served with galbi – a soy-based Korean sauce, expertly rendered, which distinguished the dish from the rest of the NW6 rib-eye pack. The dollop of mashed potato beside it was the evening’s biggest triumph, however. I just about had room for an ice cream at the end. This is a friendly little eaterie with idiosyncratic, well-prepared food at a fair price. I’ll be back, especially during radish season.

"I've never raved so much about a radish"

“I’ve never raved so much about a radish”

The Petite Corée had a lot to live up to, having built up a steady stream of glowing reviews on Twitter and the WHL Forum. And it didn’t disappoint. We shared six starters between us, which was probably a good idea as we each got to taste everything without anyone suffering food envy. Highlights included mandu – pork dumplings drizzled with a deliciously sweet and sticky balsamic sauce, and a radish salad that was as good to look at as it was to eat. Each dish was a nicely-balanced combination of classic European and Korean cuisine, but without ever straying into gimmicky “fusion” territory. Special mention has to go to the mashed potato (I was gluttonous enough to steal a forkful from Tom), which in true French style tasted like it had been whipped with about 80% butter. Believe the hype: The Petite Corée is a great new neighbourhood restaurant.

Arancini with kimchee flavoured rice and mozzarella

Arancini with kimchee flavoured rice and mozzarella

In refreshingly minimalist decor, Petite Corée was a delightful dinner. Every dish was an inventive combination of simple ingredients that was great fun to try. I liked the simple uncluttered menu and as there were six of us we were all able to check out most of it. As a big Korean food fanatic, I was particularly pleased with the kimchee, although it was prepared and served in a less-traditional way: kimchee sauce on ‘un-kimcheed’ cabbage. Still, the result was gorgeous and gave me the satisfying kimchee kick that I’m addicted to. My pork belly main was sold as a korean BBQ dish. Whether it was Korean or not, it was lovely. What a gorgeous little restaurant, I couldn’t fault it to be honest and I can’t wait to go back.

I was impressed on my first visit to Petite Corée a few months ago, but this was on another level. Every single plate chef served up featured a collage of fascinating, powerful, yet nicely-nuanced flavours, with well-considered combinations and really delightful vegetables. And that mashed potato – divine! The starters were addictive and varied; my favourite was (predictably!) potato and rice gnocchi with wild garlic leaves, Parmesan and Korean chilli sauce. Balance was offered via a rather stunning radish salad, with enticing colours and a splendid bitter twist. My gurnard with rainbow chard and a spicy fish jus was delicious; clever use of spices adding waves of flavour whilst not overpowering the fish. Also served were eringi mushrooms, which I now know are also known as king trumpet or French horn mushrooms (among other things) – how marvellous! Great service and a very special chef – not surprised this restaurant is making a few local headlines.

Guinea fowl with asparagus

Guinea fowl with asparagus

I had walked past Le Petit Corée and glanced at the intriguing menu several times, so I was looking forward to giving it a try though not entirely sure what to expect. Would a French-Korean mash up work? In short, yes. All of the starters were excellent, particularly the pork dumplings and the swordfish, both of which had an invisible touch of Korea, providing a kick without overwhelming the delicate flavours. My sea bass main was beautifully cooked and the miso butter dressing worked really well. The only negative was a few small bones left in the fillet, which caught me by surprise. The sesame cream caramel to end was delicious, I’ll be goin’ back for more of that! Great service and a friendly atmosphere ensured a good time was had by all. I expect we’ll all be returning for at least one more night.

The Petite Corée
98 West End Lane
T: 020 7624 9209