True Londoners will pride themselves on how easily and whole-heartedly we can fall madly in love with a pub that’s a little on the dishevelled side aesthetically, because we know in the most understated places, true magic resides.
Walk through a pretty deserted Hackney road, open a creaking old door and be welcomed by beaming smiles and home-brewed beer. You’ve found the right place.
Anju is the brainchild of Taewoo Kim and to the delight of us all, they have acquired a long-term residency at this much-loved Hackney pub.
The short menu includes dishes inspired by his childhood in Korea including Bibimbap and the universally loved Korean fried chicken. Personally, I’m a huge fan of a short menu. The physical pain of ordering regret is often too much to bear and so a short list of lots of items I can chow down on suits me just fine.
And order lots we did. On Sundays only, Ramyun is in the menu. A broth made of traditional deounjang soup served with slurp-able noodles and vegetables and fermented soybean paste.
We went for the pan-fried aubergine with seaweed, courgette and tofu. Sweet, velvety, umami flavours and textures felt like nectar on a bleak Wintery Sunday.
An extra pop of energy came from the shot of Junro Soju that’s served with the soup. Anju! Food eaten with alcohol!
The rest of the food came on silver trays lined with grease-proof paper, letting us know this is a place to get your hands dirty. Dig in and dive in, you’ll enjoy the food all that much more.
The fried chicken dumplings were some of the best we’d ever tasted. Full of rich Korean flavours, these moreish, juicy morsels of yum were eaten alongside crunchy, fresh, spicy salads.
With Korean fried chicken being everybody’s favourite food group at the moment, diners can choose between a Gojuchang glaze (almost like a sweeter, more tomatoey buffalo sauce), or a honey butter glaze.
We went for the former and pretty much inhaled the lot. They use skinless chicken thighs in this dish, meaning no bones for those on the squeamish side and none of the dryness you can get from chicken breast. Sticky, crunchy, sharp, spicy, soft and tender. What a delicious combination of adjectives.
Our hands move greedily over to the Korean barbequed beef. 24 hour slow cooked beef short rib served with fresh and crunchy Ssam salad and steaming, sticky rice. Absolute delicious.
The slow cooking of the beef made it incredibly tender and luxurious and is balanced beautifully by the smokey char on the outside that hits you as you take your first bite. My oh myÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ We thought we were full but managed to devour the lot.
Beer lovers and hungover hedonists will love The Gun’s home-brewed lager, which is so refreshing and easy to drink, it makes hangovers worth the sweet relief of that first gulp.
As is the nature with residencies, by the time you’ve made time to eventually get down there, it’s disappeared, so do make sure to make a concerted effort to not let this happen to you when it comes to Anju.
I’d recommend coming along with a few favourite friends who don’t look at you in disgust when you start licking sauce off your fingers and pinching the last few noodles out of the bowl and then directly into your mouth.
That way you’ll be able to order the entire menu! Short menusÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ how I love thee.
Photos by Graham Turner