We’ve eaten at Francis Road’s diminutive new opening, Zaxx, twice in the last week. Yep, partly out of research but mostly because our Friday night dinner was so tasty that we returned on Tuesday for lunch. It was unexpectedly busier, in fact, on our second visit.
The bright and distinctly purple-and-yellow interior has only a handful of tables, as well as two armchairs and twin spots at the counter to watch the comings and goings on the street. On the wall are posters of traditional Korean sayings with witty English explanations to help you pass the time while you wait.
The menu is uncomplicated: bibimbap is the main offer, their take on Korean rice bowls. There are two plant-based ones, one prawn and a handful of meat options: of the duo we’ve tried to date, the gochujang chicken (pictured above), its tender chunks wrapped in a moreish red pepper sauce, was superior to the tofu dressed in citrusy yuzu shichimi (Japanese 7-spice), not quite as crispy as billed.
Moreover, the bowls, which come with brown or white rice, are colourfully good-looking beasts, filled with spinach, carrot, mushroom, bean sprout, courgette, chill, coriander, omega seeds and spring onion. For extra acidity you can squeeze a lime piece over. And the salad itself is lightly coated in a zesty avocado and coriander sauce, fierier gochujang sauce and a touch of toasted sesame oil. There’s enough going on to keep it interesting – and healthy – at the same time.
On our evening visit, we also ordered a bowl of “locally produced” kimchi, which added textural contrast to the rice bowl. And, rather unnecessarily, we scoffed some sweet-salty seaweed fries, dressed in a creamy Yum sauce (a kind of paprika-y mayo). Vegans might also want to tuck into seitan tenders, while there are fried wings for carnivores.
The upshot is Zaxx is now a definite regular stop-off for us, especially as the chicken rice bowl is just £7.95. A small token of advice to the friendly team? How about dimming the lighting in the evening, and perhaps trialling a BYO wine policy, like neighbourhood classics Panda, Singburi and Masala India? Having said that, we enjoyed our Korean soft drink, a lemon sour Chulo, whose tartness matched the food perfectly. Feed your Seoul, indeed.
Main image: Stephen Emms