Sunday, October 02, 2011

Seoul 2011: Cafe Culture

This is gonna be the parting post to my awesome trip to Seoul last month. Hopefully, I'll return to Seoul soon enough to create gorgeous memories again. ;)

Egg & Spoon Race Cafe at Ewha University Street

Seoul is a very cafe oriented city. Or rather, I should elaborate. There are basically two kinds of cafes that are aplenty in Seoul - the coffee ones (which then is further split into big coffee chains - think Starbucks, Coffee Bean, Holly's Coffee, A Twosome Place to the smaller local coffee shops) and the food cafes.

I visited quite a number of both types of cafes during my visit and here's my take on them.

Charming old schooled decorations

The Egg & Spoon Race Cafe belonged to the food cafe category. I had sourced upon the cafe while web surfing before my Seoul trip and made sure to add it to the to visit list. And I highly recommend this tiny hole in the wall place. It's quite accessible too, get off at Ewha Women's University Station (subway line 2) exit 3, walk straight and turn right at the second street. The cafe should be on the right side. It opens at 10am, and we reached there at 10am on the dot with no customer inside yet! Yeps, Koreans are quite chill and they don't generally visit cafes too early (look below for similar experience at Cafe 1010).

Morning cuppas

We ordered a citrus salad to share since we've not been getting much veggies and it was really amazing. Banana slices, salad leaves, crumbled cheese, a balsamic swirl and Vitamin C goodness all combined on a plate. And I love how they added toasted almond slices to the salad as it provided just the right zing (crunch) to the plate.

The waffle brunch set was also really good. The matcha waffles were really delicious - it had sort of a chewy texture with a crispy exterior, and my Sis, who's not a waffle fan, also gave the thumbs up - rare indeed. Waffles aside, the rest of the plate was average, I didn't really like the scrambled egg (too dry). The food here looks quite good in general, the diners who came in shortly after us ordered dishes that also looked quite appetizing.

Other misc cafes at the Edae area

Granted, this is not technically a cafe, but oh well, I'll lump it together as I deem fit. ;) O'Sulloc is located in Myeongdong, and it's apparently quite a popular spot as it serves really good quality tea (as recommended on the online sphere too). After dinner one night, we headed there for some sweet finish. The green tea roll is highly recommended. The cream was marvelously good. Sis couldn't stop eating, while proclaiming her love for the cream at the same time...

Tea + cookies

Caffe Bene is a popular coffee joint in Seoul, and this outlet is located in Myeongdong (there's tons of coffee shops at Myeongdong alone, and we visited quite a number of them during our nine day trip). As it was late at night at the point of visit, we didn't order coffee and ordered desserts as we had skipped eating dinner that night and restaurants were already closed.

We shared a buttery toast topped with sinful cream and a waffle topped with chocolatey ice cream. Talk about piling on the calories late at night...

Holly's Coffee

As you probably notice by now, we tend to visit the mass market coffee joints late at night, probably after a tiring day of walking. So more often or so, we gave the caffeine a miss and stuck with refreshing drinks such as the yuzu slushie drink above. It was really refreshing with yuzu bits in it. One point to note was that Holly's Coffee is 24/7 (at least the outlet in Myeongdong was...) so it proved to be our lifesaver late one night when we were super thirsty and all the other drinks shops were closed.

A Twosome Place at Insadong area

After our Insadong Ssamziegil visit, we stopped over to rest at yet another coffee joint (without drinking caffeine again snorts). The matcha frappe was really matcha-y - I like! Sis ordered a yuzu slush (as usual) and it was nice, but not quite comparable to the Holly's Coffee one.

We ordered two cakes to share - the chocolate chiffon and a raspberry chocolate cafe. Apparently, Sis likes chiffon cakes, and I'm completely unaware of this fact! The chocolate chiffon was quite nice actually, but for me, I preferred the other cake as it had a layer of raspberry gelee that was tart enough to reduce the sweetness of the cake in general. I'm actually quite surprised to taste relatively tasty cakes at a coffee chain (the decor of the cakes are also quite nice - the raspberry cake even had a dash of gold foil on top!) as I don't think I can find such cakes at coffee chains in Singapore (think Starbucks or Coffee Bean).

2nd Floor Flower Cafe at Myeongdong

This is my favourite food cafe of them all in my Seoul trip. It's this cute lil cafe just right next to the guesthouse that we were staying in - 2nd Floor. We have to walk past it everyday to get to the Myeongdong train station. On one of our first few walks in the evening, we popped up the stairs just to take a quick look and was immediately charmed. We both agreed that we were going to be back for brunch on one of the later days, and we did.

Aptly named the flower cafe, the lil shop was swarming with greenery. I love how Korean cafes really pay attention to minute details to make their cafes seem so cosy, personalised and homey.

Food choices were scarce though, and the menu was written entirely in Korean. Between my average Korean skills and halting English conversation with the waitress, we ordered a toasted sandwich set and peanut butter and banana (so Elvis!) sandwich set.

The food was average only. One thing I notice about some of these food cafes - they offer great atmosphere, if not to make up for the average standard of food served. I could envision people just sitting here on a weekend, book in hand and sipping a cuppa hot tea or whatever, enjoying the lovely nice music playing the background. Perfect afternoon setting. And on a random side note, I like the coffee mugs!

Cafe 1010 at Hong Dae

Cafes were everywhere in Seoul. Another popular cafe area is Hong Dae. There were several cafes in the area, and as previously, I had scouted a themed cafe I wanted to visit from the online sphere - Cafe 1010. The cafe was travel-themed and the whole place was done up really well according to its theme. Just scroll down...

Travel themed
Photos; Guestbook (with SG alr filled in!); Colourful; White

We were the first customers of the day, so I manage to get quite a lot of shots without anyone in the pictures. One thing to note - they open at 11am on the dot, as do most places in Hong Dae, so be sure not to head there too early as they won't be open yet!

And how cool is it that the receipt was an "airline boarding pass"? Totally rad I tell you.

Old schooled red typewriter - I want!!

And the food was served on a tray akin to an airline meal tray! I'm totally dying of the cuteness here seriously. The bibimbap was pretty good. The set below on the other hand, hmmm, nothing to elaborate about.

I think this might just be my second or third fave cafe in Seoul (I can't decide whether I like this or Coffee Antique better!) just because of its cute factor. ;)

A random Hello Kitty themed cafe in Hong Dae
Coco Bruni at Hong Dae

After walking around Hong Dae all day, exploring the Trick Eye Museum, we were tired and needed some energy boost. Another cafe to the rescue! Coco Bruni is known for its desserts, so Sis and I dropped by during tea-time and got two cakes and a drink to share.

I must say that the cakes here were disappointing, especially for a place that is supposedly known for its desserts. Or at least, the two that we tried were not very nice. Well, the chocolate coffee one was still quite okay (albeit too sweet), but the chocolate "tart" was just plain not to my liking. It didn't taste like a tart and seriously, I wouldn't have ordered it if my Sis didn't say she wanted to try that.

Coffee Antique at Myeongdong

The last cafe I'm gonna be introducing is yet another hole in the wall cafe at Myeongdong. This cafe is not centrally located in Myeongdong (as per the 2nd Floor Cafe). It is relatively near to my guesthouse too - the walking path towards the Nam San Cable Car is lined with a few pretty cafes - Coffee Antique being one of them. We walked past the row of cafes on the evening we visited Nam San, and made a note to revisit the area again for breakfast one day before we leave Seoul to check the cafes out.

Some of the decorative jewelry pieces on the walls were on sale

Unfortunately, the cafes on that stretch of road doesn't serve breakfasts, but we were okay with that. We made do with drinks and a muffin. I had a hot matcha latte while the Sis got a cold latte. The muffin was really yummy (Sis thinks that it's one of those mass produced kind and not the baked in store kind, but oh, who really cares).

Like I said, I really love the cafe culture in Seoul. I wish that Singapore had such cafes on our shores too. I don't doubt that the coffee cafe scene is slowly growing (think Papa Palheta, 40 Hands, The Coffee Daily, Restore, Jimmy Monkey, The Plain, Kith Cafe - all of which I hope to visit soon!) but as for the food cafe scene, the market is still quite small. In my next visit to Seoul, I hope to visit more cafes!

Seoul, it's been a really great experience getting to know you, and no worries mate, I'll certainly be back!


  1. what a nice trip! the competition between cafes must be fierce though.. 

  2. I would love to visit more of those cafes. The last trip I went, I missed out on alot. Another reason to not go travelling in big groups. 2 is good. Did u go the Coffee Prince? I wished the cafe culture here in KL would be better. everything here is so mainstream

  3. so lovely! the next time i visit korea, i know where to go :)
    PS:  i've yet to visit them those coffee places too!

  4. i think from 2 to 4 in a grp would be gd. :) nope didnt go to coffee prince cos i read online reviews it wasn't v good. i totally get u on the mainstream cafes thing. it's the same here in sg!

  5. heh. there's tons more lovely cafes to check out too!
    u refering to the sg ones? yeah i've nt visited ANY too. :(

  6. Around Edae area you should try Bueno's (they roast their own coffee beans daily) which is just a little more up the road from Egg and Spoon or Milkyway (good milk tea and delicious scones) which is a little more hidden in the alleys behind Dunkin Donuts. I would also recommend Raintree (the owner is a published travel writer and the cafe is like an ode to her travels. Not to mention they make the best yogurt) which is on the same road as LaSim but on the second floor and has this tiny doorway going up.

  7. Read all your reviews on Korea and it really helped me in planning my itinerary. Thanks! I'd like to ask, how much money did you spend for the entire trip excluding lodging and airfare? Need some help with budget planning haha.

  8. no prob i hope u have fun there. i wan to go back again badly! :D hmmm, budget wise im not sure...cos we brought extra sgd $$ to change on top of the korean won we had changed prior to our trip. if u dont spend much, perhaps $1k? if not, $1.5k? and bring extra sgd? haha.

    there's tons to do there - if u want, a trip to the hairdresser is quite cheap, supermart for korean products, not forgetting the cheap korean cosmetics and clothing, oh and plus all the korean food!!! hee.

  9. hi, do you know around what time does the 2nd floor cafe open at? and around which part of myeongdong is it located at? nearer to which subway station? thank you!

  10. hmmm im not too sure about opening hours. it's on the way to nam san. IF im not wrong (memory sucks), it should be myeongfong stn exit 5? hope it helps.

  11. Love all ur pics ..will be back to explore more of Hongdae & Edae ^^


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