ZAXX – Representing the rise in influence of Korean cuisine

ZAXX is an increasingly popular local Korean restaurant based in East London. It opened its doors just before the first lockdown in 2020 and made a name for itself despite the uncertain times. With the rise in Korean culture and cuisine in the UK, there is no surprise that customers are curious to try something different.

Umair and his wife opened their restaurant on trendy Francis Road in Leyton which has become the place to visit for independent cafes and shops such as Marmelo and Yardarm. Iram Khawaja discovers more…

What inspired you to open ZAXX?

Having a deep passion for food, I always felt that having a business in hospitality would come easy to me, and it has! The only question was, what kind of cuisine would be best suited? It didn’t take long for myself and my wife to decide that Korean cuisine. In particular, Korean Fried Chicken and beautifully presented Korean Bibimbap rice bowls would appeal to many as well as being some of our personal favourite cuisines when choosing food to make at home.

What’s your favourite dish?

My wife loves our kimchi pancakes! Such an incredibly crispy, chewy texture and along with the dipping sauce brings together a perfect harmony of spicy, sweet and tartness! I must take a box of these home every time I visit otherwise I expect the wrath of a scorned lover!

How has ZAXX been impacted by the lockdown?

It’s been difficult, we didn’t want to do deliveries for at least until a year after we’d opened and been established as a dine-in restaurant. However, we had to quickly adjust when lockdown made it clear our methods would have to change. Although we’ve done well with deliveries and take-aways, some of our food, along with most other restaurants, doesn’t travel well and needs to be eaten fresh to be appreciated most. That’s why we are looking forward to diners being allowed back inside this spring.

What is your goal for this year, and and the future?

The feedback we are being given from the government, media and our delivery partners (UberEats and Deliveroo) make it clear that there is now a new normal. We need to make sure we are consistent with people’s expectations and new eating habits so we’re trying to be prepared for all possibilities over the coming months. We do want to expand to other areas of London and the UK, but the way we do this, whether through the use of dark kitchens or a physical storefront on the high street, will be dictated by how consumers dining habits change and settle once lockdowns are over.

What do you think is driving the rise of Korean culture and cuisine in the UK?

Korea is a relatively small country but is doing big bits on the world stage when it comes to influencing culture. The best movie at the Oscars in 2020 and the biggest pop group in the world are just small tags on a mountain of influence the small nation has managed to gain over the world of culture. The rise in people watching Korean content and learning the language is evidence of this and naturally has led to the rise in the demand of people wanting to try Korean cuisine. That’s where we come in!

Written by Iram Khawaja.

ZAXX Korean Street Food, 161 Francis Rd, London E10 6NT | @zaxx.food

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