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Why not indulge in a little Mee time?

Import from South Korea – a fusion of takeaway, canteen, deli and designer shop – is an intriguing destination

26 January, 2018 — By Tom Moggach

Mee Market is a fusion of takeaway, canteen, deli and designer shop, a concept known as ‘table and market’

EXPECT to broaden your mind with a trip to Mee Market – an original import from South Korea. I left their Soho shop brimming with new facts, humming K-Pop and swinging a bag of exotic kitchenware.

Located in Archer Street, this is a fusion of takeaway, canteen, deli and designer shop. The concept is called “table and market” and is apparently rather popular in Seoul.

There’s plenty to explore. The origin of “Sauna eggs”, for example, was news to me. These pale brown boiled eggs, cooked with a special method, are a favourite snack in the ‘jjimjilbang’ (spa or bathhouse).

I learned that birch water – sap tapped from the birch tree – is not half as nice as kombucha, a type of fizzy and fermented green tea.

And “Mee” – one element of the restaurant’s name – means both “rice” and “A Source of Beautiful Life”.

The brains behind the business is Linda Lee, who already runs a handful of Korean restaurants across the capital.

Upstairs is home to the tills, open-plan kitchen and shop shelves stocking all manner of Korean goods.

We visited for lunch, taking a table in the small, bright white basement. A ledge by our table stocked copies of Monocle, a hipster range of travel guides. Korean pop music blared loudly.

The Mee Bowl (£6.90) is a choice of either curry or “jajang” (a dark stew) served with a vegetable fritter, green peas and rice.

The Bee Bowl (£6.90) is a mix of salads and rice. You can also order dumplings, barbecue meats or fried chicken and, on our visit, a special of spicy seafood soup with soft tofu.

Our Bee Bowl was a firework display of textures and colours: brown rice topped with crushed wasabi peas, kimchi relish, edamame, beetroot, burdock, green beans, seaweed, finely grated vegetables and much more besides.

“It’s certainly got all the bases covered,” said my awe-struck companion, who described it as an ideal weekday lunch for the health-conscious.

We were less smitten with the curry and jajang. The latter was visually remarkable but hard to love: unidentifiable chunks of root vegetable smothered in an almost jet-black glossy sauce.

The fried chicken and barbecue meats are excellent. We also got stuck into their homemade, sweet sauces in lurid colours – such as spicy mayo, sweet and spicy or a soy and ginger creation.

After eating, we browsed upstairs. One feature is the gleaming dried goods dispenser, stocked with sweet brown rice, black rice, mixed grains and the like. The chest freezer is stuffed with grated wasabi, kimchi dumplings, leek pancakes and other specialties, while the fridge holds the sauna eggs, tubs of pickled radish, anchovies and fragrant shiso leaves.

This is a good place for gifts, too, with a range that spans from stationery to crockery. I treated myself to a dinky colander.

For the adventurous eater – or shopper – Mee Market is an offbeat and intriguing destination.

Mee Market
9a Archer Street, W1D


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