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I was at a loose end one Saturday. I’d had as many naps as you can usefully fit into one day and with the Queen of Fitzrovia away for the weekend, and an evening comprised of bad movies with an even worse takeaway seemed to stretch out in front of me.
Looking to stave off the inevitable I was sending out random calls for help to everyone I knew on WhatsApp. Eventually I received a reply my friend from the Entrepreneur. Not only was he around, he was up for doing something, with just one caveat it had to be vaguely healthy.
Having gone through various options, we decided to visit Donburi, the Korean restaurant on Garratt Lane, near enough opposite the Halfway House. Korean food with its barbeques, kimchi etc. is generally reckoned to strike a good middle line between tasty and healthy, and that was close enough for us.
I perhaps should have been concerned when I couldn’t book on the website. No matter how much I clicked on the button nothing happened. I didn’t worry too much however as Google assured me that they were still a trading concern, perhaps they just decided to go no reservations like many eateries had these days.
Well the change was bigger than that, as we arrived after we can only be described as an only marginally health conscious couple of pints, we arrived at a dining room that was near enough empty, and strange signs outside telling you to order at the bar. In short what has happened is that Donburi is now a Deliveroo kitchen with a small café attached.
For customers who decide to visit Donburi, what you’ll find is something akin to a Korean themed version of Wasabi, a fast food café with less atmosphere than a leaky space suit. For our visit we only had to share the dining room with two other customers, which sort of puts a dampener on your Saturday night.
The menu is short, very short which should be good. There are steamed buns, the eponymous donburis (Korean noodles,) and bimbaps (a rice dish offered as an alternative to the noodles.)
We went for a selection of gyoza, KFC (Korean fried chicken wings) a selection of steamed buns and kimchi. Well the gyoza were I thought watery, the chicken wings not nearly crispy enough and the buns completely interchangeable so that I wasn’t really sure what was in them. As well as tasting alike the buns all looked alike, resembling rolls stuffed with sandwich spread which on second thoughts I might have preferred. The kimchi came in a plastic pot and was OK, I think it’s harder to mess up pickles somehow.
Perhaps I’m just in a bad mood as my night out only lasted about 25 minutes, and I found myself back home again at 9 still having to search for a movie to watch. Perhaps it’s because the interior was full of bright colours but no people, making it feel like you’re dining in an abandoned junior school.
No, I know the reason I’m not giving Donburi a good review, I think it could be because both me and the entrepreneur felt ill the next day and, in my case, explosively so. On the plus side it was cheap, the whole lot coming to just £28, including the cheeky Asahi I’d fished out of the drink’s cabinet.
This is the problem with moving to a café style, food sits around waiting for people to order it. Many of my friends have been made ill by visits to Donburi’s larger multi outlet competitors in town. I also feel bad as the waitress was genuinely cheerful and helpful.
Perhaps Donburi’s food is like some sort of fast ripening fruit, only reaching its full potential during this 20 or so minutes it spends being transported by Deliveroo. Whatever, my thoughts are that once the lease is up Donburi will be moving to a kitchen only location. I can only say it would take quite a lot of persuasion to get me to try it again.
Donburi & Co
394 Garratt Ln, Earlsfield, London SW18 4HP