Maybe it’s just one part of Italian culture I haven’t been able to shake, nor do I want to, but dining out is still very much my first idea of a fun time. Eating out can be intimate, up close and personal which makes it the best way to get to know and observe people better. Most of my fondest memories happen around a table. I’ve shared a meal with every person I consider to be a friend and I remember the place I’ve been by the cuisines I got to taste.
I think it’s only fitting I tell you a bit about one of my favourite places to eat in the heart of Manchester.
Ban Di Bul aims to bring Korean Cuisine to British customers by serving traditional soup, noodles dishes and rice dishes. The on-table BBQ setting was one of the reasons why my sisters and I went the first time and well we did not regret it.
As I write this, I have been to the restaurant more times than I can probably recall now so my perspective is not unbiased in that sense. I’ve tried a vast majority of dishes and at this point, I do know what I like on the menu and what I don’t. Of course, I’ll share my top picks to order down below!
I have tried a few Korean restaurants in a few British cities, but so far, I’d say Ban Di Bul is still the one I prefer when comparing. I can’t necessarily speak to its authenticity since, I haven’t had Korean food in Korea, but regarding this, I’ve come across opposing opinions. I can easily vouch for the taste though as I really do enjoy it!
The food comes steaming hot straight from the kitchen approximately 10-15 minutes after an order is placed, depending on how busy they are obviously.
I always start with the kimchi chun (pancakes). For me, it just sets the mood. The food is immensely appetising and well seasoned. My absolute favourite dish has to be the ddok bo ki (spicy rice cakes)! It’s that one dish that’s always prepared right and the one that I’d easily recommend. I don’t think it’s too spicy, but that would depend on individual tolerance. Some Friday nights I even give into temptation and order it straight to my doorstep too!
In terms of the atmosphere, the restaurant is quite small and intimate. There is little to no space between tables and so I’d advise not to hold onto the concept of personal space.
The dishes are a bit pricey whenever the bill comes, but most Korean restaurants I’ve been to are on the pricier side honestly so I do consider that before heading out, and it is something I do budget for properly.
Personally, I do find the servings to be pretty big. I get there either overzealous or overwhelmed by choice and occasionally order much more than I can stomach. If you do decide to go, I’d keep that in mind when ordering.
I’ve been to Ban Di Bul a number of times now and despite that, the first that comes to mind when I think of accessing the premises in a wheelchair is ‘tight’. The restaurant is quite small and cosy, and while that may be one of its charms, for someone who must put accessibility first this can easily become a headache.
When I reserve my seats over the phone, I often request the table right next to the entrance and the till. The reason for this is simply so I don’t have to go through the trouble of having to drive my wheelchair deep into the restaurant. By doing this, I avoid the need to interrupt other people’s meals as they may have to stand and push their chairs inward to let me through. I’m not necessarily a shy person, and wouldn’t mind asking if necessary, but I’d rather avoid the awkwardness whenever I can.
There’s not much space to move around which can sometimes result in feeling people’s kicks on the tyres of my electric wheelchair as they pass by. It’s never intentional, but it can quickly get annoying when I’m being bumped into mid-conversation.
Nevertheless, generally speaking, I do tend to enjoy my time there.
Now, let’s talk a little about what I don’t enjoy.
For such a very small space, having a stair lift at the entrance of the restaurant is a step in the right direction. What’s constantly frustrating is that the staff members never seem to know how to use it.
I’d think operating a stair lift in a busy restaurant would be one of the things on the training manual for every new staff member, but I guess that’s not to be expected here.
I’ve been there over a dozen times now and 98% of the times I have, the first thing I’m met with is a frazzled look on faces that say, “oh no, who knew a day would come when I’d have to use this thing?“.
In response to that mine says “me, because this is a never-ending cycle“.
So, if this is an unending saga, how do I manage to get in you may wonder?
Well, my family and friends and I all took the initiative to push a few buttons once and learnt how to operate it ourselves. This eliminates the ten minutes of confused stares as staff runs around trying to find the one more experienced member that hopefully isn’t as clueless. I do know this is in no way a great solution and it is taking away the responsibility from those in charge of providing good service who should be taking the initiative. However, there are only so many times you can get fed up with the same thing before putting matters into your own hands.
I do recognise I can only do this because I’m with company most of the time and the situation would be vastly different if I was alone as the lift needs to be operated externally.
There is a toilet that can be accessed. Personally, I’ve not really used it in all the times I’ve been there. The thought of trying to navigate my way to the opposite corner of the room through people with busy mouths is honestly always a bit of a turn-off. I’ve never really needed it urgently for me to decide to try using it. I did enquire though and there is enough space to fit in a wheelchair. Just note that I personally haven’t tried using it yet. If I do, I will definitely keep you updated.
From The Menu.
As written on the menu, these are my recommendations…
19. KIM CHI CHUN: kimchi pancake
22. CHAP CHE: sauced vermicelli noodles with pork and vegetables
23. DDOK BO KI: rice cake with fish ball – spicy sauce
41. KANG PUN KI: spicy fried chicken
58. Za Zang Men: rice noodles & black bean sauce with sliced cucumber
81. BOK GUM BUP: fried rice with vegetables and eggs
85. BUP: steamed rice
100. MO DUM GU I: assorted meal BBQ
102. SANG CHU: fresh lettuce
103. PA-JE-O-RI: sweet and sour spring onions
Your restless romantic roamer