If you happen to be unfortunate enough to work in the vicinity of London’s Victoria station, you will know that it is, unequivocally, a culinary wasteland. On a budget? Have a stale sandwich filled in limp and watery salad leaves at Pret. Got £££ and three hours to spare? Go to Hunan and have a blow out meal. Got an hour to kill and less than £10? Good luck with that.
My latest culinary disappointment was Lime and Orange, a Korean restaurant just a few minutes away from the station.
Walking into the restaurant, I felt assured by the authentic menu descriptions – mentions of beef slices marinated in a pear and soy sauce, kimchi pancakes and hearty stews made my mouth water.
Given my curiosity, I chose the Budae jjigae – a spicy kimchi stew with sausages, spam and assorted vegetables. The dish’s name translates to ‘army stew’ – a reference to the types of food supplied by US bases in Korea just after the Korean War. I thought I was getting an authentic taste of Korean by ordering this dish – but I was soon proven wrong.
The first warning sign was when the food arrived. The colour of the stew was an insipid orange, nothing like the fiery traffic light red I would expect from a bowl containing kimchi. Upon further inspection, I realised I could barely see the aforementioned meat, spam or vegetables in this dish. Swirling the gloopy liquid around with my chopsticks, I managed to scoop out a few morsels, but these were so miniscule you would have needed a microscope to identify them.
The ‘kimchi’ present in the stew was just as bad – tasteless shreds of cabbage with absolutely none of the pickled, fermented goodness I had come to love.
In fact, tasteless is how I would describe my entire dining experience – I couldn’t detect any spiciness in the kimchi, so tasteless was the broth I may well have been drinking water, and given the meagre portions of meat I’d been served, it was impossible to tell if these had any flavour at all.
The worst thing was receiving the bill for such a substandard plate of food. I paid £10 in total and in other words, a total rip-off. All I wanted was an inexpensive but tasty place to visit on my lunch break, but the gastronomic desert that is Victoria seems to mock me at every turn.