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Ban Di Bul, Korean Restaurant, Review

Rakhi Sinha finds a new destination on Princess Street

Published on September 15th 2011.

Ban Di Bul, Korean Restaurant, Review

GETTING in and out of Ban Di Bul is a bit of an ordeal. It seems the newly-opened Korean on Princess Street is having a few teething problems.

Ban Di Bul’s version was wonderfully authentic and came with all the trimmings, a boiled egg, some rice noodles and thinly sliced fishcakes.

When the automatic door failed to open for my fellow diner, she had to flail her arms around until one of the staff noticed her and let her in. “Sorry, it’s broken,” she was told.

Getting out was as complicated.

First of all we were told that we couldn’t pay by card, yet there was no sign indicating this. We clubbed together finances and were a quid short of the total, which included a compulsory 10% service charge. When we asked why the menu didn’t mention service, we were laughed at and told: “Well we’re not going to write that on the menu.”

Eventually the waitress reluctantly accepted the cash we cobbled together.

Of course these are early days for the restaurant and maybe a credit card machine is on the way but it was painful few minutes.

All the while the man, who I presume was the owner, just sneered. He leant nonchalantly on a ledge at the side tutting at us. Dressed in a very tight black shirt and trousers with his hair slicked back, he needs to get on a meet and greet course and learn a bit about making customers feel welcome.

When you eventually make it in to Ban Di Bul the dark brown walls, dark brown tables and dark brown floor are slightly oppressive, functional rather than fancy. With its big windows overlooking Princess Street, it looks better from the outside than the inside.

What about the principal ingredient though, the food?

Let’s get some things straight. Korean food isn’t Chinese food, and it isn’t Japanese food. It’s very much its own cuisine. And, dog is a rarity which many Koreans would never even try. It’s nowhere to be seen on the menu at Ban Di Bul.

One more thing, no Korean meal is complete without kimchi. Indeed, it’s so highly revered in Korea that it’s almost viewed as a deity. They have separate fridges for the stuff and it’s eaten with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Being pickled, fermented cabbage it is an acquired taste though. The kimchi (£2) at Ban Di Bul was potent and whilst I loved it, my fellow diner thought it too strong. We also got some pickled radish (£2), which was much milder.


A staple in Korean fast food restaurants and on street corners is a dish called deokbokki (£8.90), which we had as a starter to share. It’s made of plump, soft rice cakes coated in a thick, smoky, spicy, tomatoey sauce. Whilst it might look like a sloppy mess, it’s wholly comforting and if you have a hangover, it hits the spot. Ban Di Bul’s version was wonderfully authentic and came with all the trimmings, a boiled egg, some rice noodles and thinly sliced fishcakes. It sounds weird but trust me, it’s good.

As well as kimchi, bulgogi (marinated, barbecued beef, £8.90) is a national dish of Korea. It came on a sizzling hot plate and was really tender. As with all Korean food, there was a nice balance of salty, sweet, sour, bitter and spicy.  It’s a dish that was traditionally prepared for the wealthy, and this one was fit for a king.


We also got a dolsot bibimbap (£9) which is rice topped with vegetables, a raw egg, optional meat and chilli sauce, and comes in a hot stone pot. It’s great for those who want to err on the side of caution and very Western-palate friendly. Sadly, this one was bland and no matter how much chilli sauce we put in it, there was no hiding the fact that, at the end of the day, it was just a bowl of hot rice topped with tasteless veg. And the cardinal sin was committed. The egg was already cooked when the bibimbap arrived. The joy of this dish is mixing everything together and coating it in the raw egg as soon as the pot hits the table. This, for me, overshadowed the fact that we had ordered a vegetarian bibimbap, but ours came with beef in it. 

The menu at Ban Di Bul may be overwhelming to a Korean food novice but, aside from the grumpy man, the attentive staff are on hand to answer any questions and give suggestions.

Korean Restaurant 005

At one time the only Korean restaurant in Manchester was Koreana, but now there has been an explosion of eateries serving up Korean food. I personally favour Baekdu on Shude Hill, which has many of the same dishes as this place, but is a couple of quid cheaper. One thing Ban Di Bul does have over its city centre cousin, is its choice of BBQ banquets and traditional Korean stews. This might give them some clout once they’ve ironed out their teething problems.

Dinner for two cost: £38.80.

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. £1000 to the reader who can prove otherwise, and dismissal for the staff member who wrote a review scored out of twenty on a freebie from the restaurant.

Ban di Bul
77, Princess St, City, M2 4EG, 07415 106 616

Rating: 12/20
Food: 7/10
Service: 3/5
Ambience: 2/5

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away.

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38 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Geoffrey WarnerSeptember 15th 2011.

Think I'll be giving this place a miss! Please correct me if i'm wrong, but I thought that If no information about the service charge appears on the menu or elsewhere in the restaurant then an extra payment, such as a tip cannot be demanded. Also It is legal to refuse to pay a mandatory service charge if the service was considered inadequate.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousDecember 12th 2011.

If you will skip out on trying a great restaurant because you're too cheap to tip 10%, they probably don't want your business anyway.

AnonymousSeptember 26th 2012.

the food was crap and so overprice anyway.

if theres no service, why should they deserve a service charge

AnonymousMay 5th 2013.

If they want the cash guaranteed they should just stick 10% on all the food prices.

AnonymousSeptember 16th 2011.

I'd avoid this place on the attitude to customers alone.

AnonymousSeptember 16th 2011.

There is a reason why people choose to have no CC machines.........

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 16th 2011.

Being a new venue, perhaps they haven't yet made arrangements for a PDQ machine to be installed. Alternatively, they are trying to keep overheads to a minimum.

AnonymousOctober 10th 2011.

Went on Saturday, they did have the card machine...

AnonymousSeptember 21st 2011.

Despite this review, I'm still willing to try it out. I love Korean food. The location next to the Town Hall is very central and ideal for me. A lot of restaurants charge 10% for service include chain restaurants like Giraffe. And being a new restaurant, it seems like it still needs to work out some kinks but it doesn't seem enough to boycott this place. I just hope this review doesn't turn off so many people that the restaurant closes down before I get a chance to try it out.

AnonymousOctober 10th 2011.

I tried it on Saturday, loved it to be honest! OK, the door still seems to be broken and requires a sliding, but they accept cards.
I thought the food was beautiful. Much like Japanese, they don't differentiate between starters and mains, so the lot comes, which to be honest, we liked. Couldn't knock any aspect of the food.

Service wise, again, excellent. No grumpy bloke in the corner, just two extremely helpful girls.

Down side, they didn't have an alcohol menu, but two girls working there helped us out and said they are in the process of getting them.

All in all, I would recommend it!

Steve POctober 11th 2011.

I tried it last week... Have to agree the door was a pain, but the food and service excellent.

TonyOctober 11th 2011.

I went to BanDiBul Korean Restaurant on Friday last week, yes i do recommend it to all the people, who loves Korean Food or people who dont know about Korean food, go and try you will know the real taste of the Korean Food.
I was in Korea for two years and back to Manchester few months ago, I was really miss Korean food, I went to Koreana and BeakDu, but there is none of them are could has that taste like the food i tried in Korea,
but truth me in BanDiBul they do, love it, BulGarBi, YokHea, Seafood pancake, Dolbibimbab, wow nice.
BanDiBul's menu are wonderful, not different between starters and mains but that is the real Korean food.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Ian LoughlinMay 26th 2013.

You are such a fan, I suspect you work there Tony!

AnonymousNovember 9th 2011.

Went here last weekend for lunch with a group of friends (about 7 of us total). Think the reviewer for this article has got most things correct.

Positives: Food was delicious and nicely presented. There is a good range of different things from the menu to try. The waitresses who served us was polite and helpful. Restaurant was clean and they had a card machine!

Negatives: Door was still broken, and they could have stuck a sign to let people know. Decor is very bare, so probably wouldn't recommend it if you're taking a first date/going out for a very special occasion. They had a TV playing Korean music but the volume was set too high for my liking and it got somewhat annoying as it was streamed from the internet so it lagged quite a bit. Prices are alright but if it's to compete with Baekdu it could do with lowering it slightly. I'm not sure if they offered any student discount (I couldn't see any hints) but again, this could be something they can incorporate.

Overall: I would like to go again and I think the place has great potential! :)

AnonymousNovember 17th 2011.

Raw egg with bibimbap? Don't know what you've been reading.
I ate countless bibimbaps in Korea, all served fried egg on top, but with a runny yolk.

Please don't review Korean food unless you know what you're talking about. Pleading ignorance would have been a better option.

Simon EllisNovember 26th 2011.

good god, have we become so lazy and stupid that the biggest issue for people is that they can't open a door? clearly this restaurant thinks so, as they have now put a sign on the door. went last night, place was mobbed (mainly chinese students), people were being turned away, but the service and the food was fantastic and i added a tip (10% is a bit tight if you enjoy a meal). i even liked the chinese top of the pops (played off a vcd, low quality dvd, popular in asia) and the canteen style decor, felt communal. prices seemed right for that part of town.

AnonymousDecember 12th 2011.

This self righteous reviewer has a superficial understanding of Korean food and culture. Bibimbap is fantastic with a cooked egg. This is how it is most commonly prepared and preferred in Korea. Anyone who is actually Korean or has lived in Korea will tell you this. Kimchi is not considered even remotely god-like; Koreans are not some primitive people with backwards beliefs. Kimchi is just an ordinary staple food that every household has stock of, like potatoes or pasta would be here. I frequent Bandibul regularly. The food is great, especially the bibimbap, and the service is great. Support a local mom and pop restaurant and give them the chance they deserve.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousApril 15th 2012.

I was thinking this - the separate fridge is because if you leave it in a normal fridge it affects all the other food!

Darren AthertonDecember 29th 2011.

Rakhi Sinha = No idea about Korean Food

I visited this place last week with my wife and brother in law. Both just happen to be Korean and I must say the service was good and the food was very tasty. The down side to this Korean Restaurant is the same as any other Korean Restaurant in the UK. The portion sizes are small for the price of the food and they don't like to serve salads with your food. I would rate this place 8 from 10.

Give it a try if you want something a bit different and fancy a nice Korean Meal.

Raw egg with bibimbap? Don't know what you've been reading.
I ate countless bibimbaps in Korea, all served fried egg on top, but with a runny yolk. (Correct, Nail on the head) Shame the reviewer has no idea about Korean Food)

AnonymousFebruary 3rd 2012.

I thought i would give the place a go, i thought the food was amazing... it was just right the level of spice, the staff were so lovely, and yes the door did need sliding but we were singing away to the korean music on the tv in the restuarant it was a fab experience! and complaining about a tip, dont go to a restuarant!!!" lol

OwenFebruary 11th 2012.

What an idiotic review.

A particularly low-light is when you decide to mention that there is no dog on the menu.

Are you for real? No DOG on the menu? Who are you? Fucking Bernard Manning?

2 Responses: Reply To This...
gimboidFebruary 11th 2012.

Are you a total spoon? Is your reading comprehension that poor that you can't understand the writer was trying to dispel some of the common myths about Korean food?

OwenFebruary 12th 2012.

My reading comprehension is fine, thank you, though It's true I found this review hard to comprehend.

The idea that 'Koreans eat dog' is a widely held preconception is preposterous. It is even more ridiculous that the writer thinks it pertinent to the review. It's like saying 'My food arrived quite quickly, Mexicans aren't lazy at all' at a Mexican place, and then justifying it by saying 'it's ok because Jeremy Clarkson might want to eat there'.

Anyone that's ignorant enough to expect dog at a Korean restaurant is highly unlikely to be interested in reading a review about a Korean restaurant. Don't you think?

NigelApril 5th 2012.

I speak no Korean whatsoever, but after an aborted attempt to eat here last night (coupled with Rakhi's "we had ordered a vegetarian bibimbap, but ours came with beef in it"), I can only assume that "Ban Di Bul" is Korean for "Vegetarians f*** off!".
My partner and I both ordered vegetarian meals. Hers arrived with a lump of meat on top, which, upon questioning its presence, was simply removed without apology. Mine smelled very meaty, and I questioned this with the waitress, who assured me that there was no meat in it whatsoever. I wasn't convinced, and rightly so, the first spoonful came up with a couple of prawns in it. There then followed a farcical exchange, in which I was first told that they were fake prawns, then that there were none in there, and finally that the chef had mis-read the order and had made some random seafood dish. All of this was further compounded by a very poor attitude to customer service regarding what was to happen by way of restitution or compensation for their mistakes.
Even had the food arrived as ordered, this would be a negative review. The noodles in my dish were quite plainly the ~20p instant variety available at any of Chinatown's supermarkets, Wing Yip, W H Lung et al...

4 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousApril 5th 2012.

NIGEL did you pay for your bill?

(The noodles in my dish were quite plainly the ~20p instant variety available at any of Chinatown's supermarkets, Wing Yip, W H Lung et al..) I would say any food in any restaurant you could find them in supermarket ,,,not only noodles,which a lot more cheaper then restaurant as you know,,, non-sense at all... dont go to a restaurant, go shopping at supermarket eat at home is better option,,,

AnonymousApril 5th 2012.


NigelApril 6th 2012.

We paid for the beer we had drunk, and were then hassled to pay for the salads we hadn't eaten...

Obviously one can buy ingredients cheaper at a supermarket and make dinner at home; part of the point of a restaurant is to eat something you can't make for yourself, and when the noodles arrive still in the cuboid block they drop out of the packet in, not only is the illusion that I couldn't prepare the dish myself somewhat dented but the ludicrous markup is exposed as well.

AnonymousApril 6th 2012.

I was sitting right next to your table, what a different stores ,,,I thought you both were ordered noodle dish, not BIBIMBAP, (bibibbap is rice dish,,,)
on the menu clearly shows that V letters available for vegi dish, didnt shows it is vegi dish,
Again,,, i heard the staff keep say sorry, more then 10 times ,,, and said that cook new food for both ov you free of charge , then you ignored it,,, she told you just pay for the drink .... Shame *****!

I had really nice meal ...,, as first time i tried korean food, it's good !

DavidApril 5th 2012.

This restaurant is not new at all,it's been there for months.Its just most of its customers are young Asians,who I would suggest have more idea about Korean food than the clueless reviewer.
Having actually been to Seoul,and eaten at a variety of eating places,I would say the quality of food in reataurants,cafes,and even convenience stores is much better than in Manchester.

AnonymousApril 15th 2012.

I have had bibimbab with and without the egg fried it depends where you go. Doesn't seem to be any consensus. (I'm in Korea btw).

AnonymousMay 7th 2012.

I wish I had read this thread of comments before going to Ban Di Bul with a group of friends yesterday. Upon arriving at the restaurant, one of us had to negotiate with the "automatic" sliding door, opening it manually with some difficulty. Once we were settled, some of us decided to have the Korean BBQ selections from the rather impressive menu list. What was not made clear to us, however, was the fact that we were not suppose to cook the BBQ food ourselves. The woman (who seemed to be the manager in charge) was a tad bit controlling, and rather critical of her customers. This woman kept coming back to our table intermittently and fiddled with our food. As I didn't like my squid and beef over-cooked, I naturally moved the food aside from the heat (which, incidentally, was not hot enough for barbecue cooking). I was reprimanded by this woman, who said "It is not ready. If you do not believe, try it". I felt like saying back, "Actually, I think I know how long I like my beef cooked - ie not well done - and my squid not chewy." In the good company of my friends, I decided not to argue back, and thought perhaps I should listen to the "chef"!
And also, yes, I think the compulsory 10% service charge, poorly and obscurely scribbled on the bill is a rather pathetic business strategy.
The Vegetarian (V) indication on the menu: take this with a pinch of salt! The dishes mostly contain meat.

Would I go again or recommend this place to others? NO.

HiepsterJuly 7th 2012.

Finding a good Korean restaurant in Manchester has been a very difficult challenge. Moving from London to Manchester, my standards and expectation are quite high. I have tried all of them in Manchester and none of them has lived up to my liking.

On reading some of the reviews of Ban Di Bul and the disappointment of the other Korean restaurants in Manchester I was reluctant to give it a try, but my craving for Korean food got the better of me so I dragged a friend and gave it a go.

We ordered a Dolsot bibimbap each, barbeque assortments and kimchi pancake as a starter. The starter was just the way I like it, crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle and very flavourful. A good start but the main test was the main courses.

The waitress cooking our barbeque was very friendly, she explained to my friend (who never been to a Korean restaurant before) how to wrap the meats in the lettuce leaves and which sauces to use, all the meats were marinated beautifully. The Bibimbap’s was obviously made with fresh ingredients, the food was excellent.

I’ve read previous reviews mentioning the faulty automatic doors, considering the amount of foot traffic outside, the doors would be opening and closing constantly. If you had a table next to the door I don’t think you’ll appreciate the cold breeze cooling your food. How hard is it to manually slide the doors yourself??? When I’m judging a restaurant there are 2 main things I look at, quality of food and service, not the quality of the front door.

Overall the experience was brilliant. The service was friendly and attentive. The food is on par with the restaurants in London, definitely the best authentic Korean restaurant in Manchester. This is a MUST try.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 7th 2012.

Have you tried Seoul Kimchi? I fail to see how anybody wouldn't think that's the dog's bollocks!!

There's also a great Korean place in York called Oshibi but that's obviously a bit of a trek

HiepsterJuly 11th 2012.

Yeah i have tried Seoul Kimchi, it was one of the first i visited when i moved to manchester. The place is tiny. i thought the staff wasn't very friendly and the food was ok but wasn't anything special

AnonymousJuly 23rd 2012.

Totally disgusting service and food - DO NOT EAT HERE !! .. I eat out a lot and have been to many authentic Korean and Japanese restaurants across UK. However this place is the worse ever. The food is not to the expected quality and portions for the price paid and the service is appalling. Its child unfriendly and I personally would never eat at this place again. It was an awful experience i do not wish to repeat.

Mr JMay 4th 2013.

So disappointed - it's basically not Korean cooking - and almost no flavours at all.. <br /><br />We came for lunch and ordered bulgogi vegetables and rice, and a kimchi soup. <br /><br />The bulgogi came served on the same plate as the rice ( a bad sign -they'd be in separate bowls in Korea) and tasted of a#some sweet sauce (Maggi?) and MSG. <br /><br />A friendly Korean speaking waitress explained apologetically that the kimchi soup came without kimchi(?) unless you paid extra. The result had no flavour at all - large chunks of raw tofu had been thrown in. There was just no flavouring, no gochujang or any of the right spices. <br /><br />We were given two side dishes, one a bizarre tiny handful of beansprouts, the other some cold potato covered in a nasty green sauce that my Korean wife couldn't identify...<br /><br />From what we tasted , this is not authentic Korean cooking - one to avoid unless you want a basic Chinese style /vaguely Eastern meal. <br /><br />Except for the young Korean waitress who was very pleasant ,the other staff were unfriendly and bored

LucyDecember 2nd 2013.

disappointed! disappointed! disappointed!..... I went to this restaurant on sunday with my family after chrismas shopping in town. I ordered one cassrole food and some started. The food is really pull me off. I have been served with bowl of water with lots of chilli powder and cheap ingrediance inside which not worth the price. the soup is not soup stock. I didn't enjoy the cassrole at all. I don't think this is restuarant level food I can cook at home better than this. when it come to the price, this really small restaurant actually extremely expensive. Starter about 8-9 pound plus service charge. The owner of the restuarant should been put into reality check. Serve cheap ingrediant food and charge people 5* restuarnt price!!!! your resturant does not deserve this !!!!

Adrian MonaghanNovember 1st 2014.

Food - average at best. Staff - surly and eating their own lunch in the restaurant in full view of all customers. Spend your well-earned money elsewhere - I would strongly recommend Baekdu or La Koreana instead.

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