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Travel Guide: 72 Hours of Eating In Seoul

Forget the regular cafes and restaurants of Myeong-dong and Garosu-gil. We have your entire gastro itinerary for your next Seoul trip all figured out.
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Seoul is the kind of city that fits according to the mould that is the traveller. The palaces, Insa-dong and Hanok village for the culture buffs, the many concerts for the K-wave fans, Lotte World and Everland for the thrill seekers, the endless beauty shops in Myeong-dong and Garosu-gil for the skincare obsessed (i.e. us) – it’s like a putty city. The one thing that speaks across interests, though? The food. Nothing quite like kicking back with jajangmyeon (black bean noodles), bingsu (flavoured shave ice) and makgeolli (rice wine) after all that wandering. And yes, basically exhausting my limited Korean vocabulary here. So sue me!

A good bowl of bibimbap, ddokbokki and kimchi jigae – yeah, I’m still going with the Korean terms – isn’t hard to find in Seoul, but what of the other, lesser-known side of the Seoul food scene? In between visits to Chanel’s newest “Mademoiselle Prive” exhibition in Yongsan-gu and clearing Garosu-gil’s supply of sheet masks, we also set out to find some super fresh locales during our recent trip to Seoul.

Normal people start their day with coffee. Because we’re a little nuts, we start ours with ice cream. Specifically, the very photogenic cones of supreme deliciousness from Bitstopping in Seocho-gu. It’s easy to assume that aesthetically-pleasing ice creams are all looks and no substance, but all three cones we ordered were surprisingly delicious. You just pick one of the twenty jazzed-up cones, opt for either milk, yoghurt or chocolate ice-cream, then toppings in the form of decorated cookies and chocolates. Finally, proceed to gobble it all before Seoul’s summer sun melts it down into a crime scene.

If you must have coffee, Ediya Coffee makes a good cuppa. They’re all over Seoul, too, so you don’t have to go the extra mile to find a store. For something a little more quaint, try 50 Fifty No Stress Cafe in Apgujeong. Its interiors of naked floors and walls and mismatched vintage furniture alone are worth the trip. Whilst hunting for photo spots, we also discovered Surf’s Up, a neon-lit “beach shack” (pictured above) that serves a mean mango yoghurt smoothie. Solace on a sweltering day.

Now, actual meals for grown-ups. Thanks to our pal Irene Kim, we were introduced to Dadam, a fine-dining place that’s a little more on the clean-eating side. Think raw ginseng appetisers, jelly noodles with crispy seaweed and kimchi, seafood broth and lovely rice ice cream with a side of sikhye. O’neul has a similar concept, though their mugwort waffle – nothing at all to do with Muggles or Hogwarts – deserves special mention. For something even more on the raw end, try Danbi and their assortment of Korean-style sashimi.

The tranquil Hannam-dong is spotted with slightly hipster-ish establishments with trés kewl names such as Glamorous Penguin and Root, but it is Tasting Room and their fusion fare that draws the crowds. Think squid ink gumbo one minute and popcorn ice-cream with yuzu bingsu the next. If you must have a Korean meal like mother used to make, try Parc just a little further away. It’s all traditional Korean set lunches there, served in a very millennial space of white brick walls and wooden floor-to-ceiling windows.

Seoul has an impressive night life scene, so bars and pubs cannot be left out of the list. We loved the incredibly obscure Disco Surf, also at Hannam-dong. Not only do they play feel-good tunes that won’t take your hearing away, they serve this delicious platter of warm, gooey cheese and crackers topped with walnuts and honey. So good. If vino is what you need, La Cave du Cochon has an excellent and extensive selection of wine on top of their French grub.

Looking at this list, I’m just now realising that we essentially ate like pre-hibernation bears in the three days we were in Seoul. Damn those bingsus and seemingly innocent ice-creams. Someone get me one of those walking work desks.

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