Only about a year has passed since my last trip to Seoul but I was surprised to realize that the number of cafes has increased tremendously. Café goers are also upping up their game, wanting to be the first to experience a new space. With their minimalist interior concept, minimal menu items, good coffee and simple (yet appetizing) food, café culture here never fails to disappoint me. I’ve also included two cafes from Busan – yes, café culture is just as great there.
If you haven’t, check out my list of things to do in Seoul here – 5 Things You Must Try in Seoul
and my first edition of cafes in Seoul here – 5 Cafes to Visit in Seoul
1. HYUNSANGSO (현상소)
Even with the address, one might find it hard to locate this showroom cum café which is up a tiny slope of houses. The exterior is as nondescript as ever, with a barely visible board at the door. Thank god for Naver blogs.
From its off-white wooden tile flooring to its off-white curtains, ceiling and table cloths, this café is decked in just this one shade of white, and screams minimalism. A corner of this space is dedicated to making and designing fabrics and I suppose part of the furniture within the café is made right there.
Don’t be surprised if the employees hand you envelopes. They contain photocopied “letters” of a handwritten menu. Such an un-gimmicky gimmick. All coffees here are 7000KRW each, which is considered to be on the high side even in Seoul. We did enjoy our Iced Mocha (7000KRW) and the Espresso (7000KRW) though. I just thought it was funny that my tall glass of iced mocha and that one shot of espresso were priced evenly.
The Apple & Cinnamon Oat Crumble Pie (7000KRW) wasn’t served warm but since it was one of the best apple crumble pies I’ve had, I had no complaints.
1F 24 Mallijae-ro 37-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
Bagpack courtesy of Gaston Luga, code “crystalwee15” for 15% off the site.
11am – 5pm, 6pm – 10pm daily
Tel: +82 02-312-0318
2. HUNGO RINGO BREAD (훈고링고브레드)
This cutesy bakery is just one of the many cafes you can find in Mapo-gu, an up and rising district for new cafes to open in. The café is full of mismatched coloured furniture, creating a whimsical atmosphere and is also much smaller than expected, making it a cosy corner as well. I wished I had a day to relax here, read a book, people-watch…
Specializing in bread, coffee and pound cakes, I just had to try their Green Tea Pound Cake (3500KRW). It turned out a tad dry (so you’ve got to eat it with the cream) but the green tea was quite distinct and not too sweet. We also tried a Canele (1500KRW) which was moist.
Pairing either the Black Tea (4500KRW) or Ringo Hand Drip Coffee (4500KRW) with their baked goods would be a very good choice.
2F 130 Jandari-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Tue to Sat 12pm – 9pm, Sun 12pm – 5pm
Closed on Mon, 1st & 3rd Tue of the month
Tel: +82 02-336-9676
3. CAFE MILD (마일드)
Just right before my trip, I stumbled upon yet another one of my favourite kind of cafe – white and minimal – on Instagram. It being located near Commonground (a hipster container market) became the deciding factor which got it on the itinerary.
The café was only 2.5 months old when I went in mid-May, and I waited in line with another café hopper for it to open. Within an hour of its opening, the café started to get full and lively with conversations, but not in a noisy manner.
The Cream Cappuccino (5500KRW) seemed to be the most popular choice amongst the beverages here and I could understand why. Resembling the new cream kiss drink from dalkomm coffee, the cream on top was mildly sweet and mildly thick, making the cappuccino richer and creamier.
We didn’t have any choice with regards to food since there was only one main and one dessert on the menu that day. Both the Salmon Sandwich (7500KRW) and Rare Cheese Cake (5000KRW) I had a raw, wholesome taste to it, in that they are not heavy on seasoning or flavours of saltiness or sweetness.
54-5 Jayang-dong, Gwangjin-gu, Seoul
11.30am – 9.30pm daily
4. SCOFF BAKEHOUSE (스코프)
Hidden deep within a quiet alley of a residential area, this bakery is helmed by a British chef turned baker, together with his Korean wife. They’ve been gaining so much popularity that they are on to their second outlet now. I stepped into this second branch and went, “Damn, these lucky residents.”
Overwhelmed by the aesthetically pleasing British baked goods laid out in trays, I had the hardest time of my life picking which ones to get, besides their signature brownies.
The good thing about this branch is the dine-in area on the 2nd floor – the Seochon branch is a takeaway-only store. We eventually got our pastries and coffee and headed upstairs to dig in. My favourite was no doubt the Scoff Brownie (4000KRW) which was chocolatey rich yet moist.
The Chelsea Bun (4000KRW) is not just a normal cinnamon roll, what with the lemon sugar topping giving a subtle zest. Although the cream cheese overload from the Orange Cream Cheese Bun (4000KRW) might make it hard for one to finish it on his own, the Orange Vanilla Cake (4500KRW) was a good balance of sweet and citrusy flavours that you won’t want to share it.
The huge portions made the pastries impossible to finish for breakfast, and it turned out to my pleasant surprise that they remained rather soft and moist even after refrigerating them overnight.
90-2 Nuha-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Tue to Sun 10am – 7.30pm
Tel: +82 070-7761-1739
278-5 Buam-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Tue to Fri 11am – 6pm, Sat to Sun 11am – 7pm
Tel: +82 070-8801-1739
5. CHANG’S KITCHEN 2 (소격동 장진우식당)
Rather than a café, Chang’s Kitchen 2 is more of a modern restaurant serving up western fare in semi-formal style. Interior-wise, this all-white restaurant features an open-kitchen concept in the middle, while diners dine round the perimeter along bar counters. You’ll experience a view overlooking Gyeongbokgung Palace through ceiling-high glass windows.
The Strawberry & Gorgonzola Crunch Salad (17000KRW) was perhaps something I wouldn’t order usually but I was so glad I did. The play on textures was great especially with the crunchy lettuce and walnuts, and the combination of sweet strawberries and salty gorgonzola turned out interesting.
Our not-as-pretty Braised Oxtail with Burdock & Truffle Mashed Potato (25000KRW) featured a generous portion tender, melt-in-your-mouth oxtail atop a bed of truffle mash. Taste and portion-wise, this was very much worth it.
3F 66 Sogyeok-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Lunch 11.30am – 4pm, Dinner 5.30pm – 9pm daily
Tel: +82 02-734-9100
6. 4 YEARS APART (네살차이)
After 5 days in Seoul, I departed for Busan – where café hopping didn’t come to a halt. We arrived at 3pm and but had to be put on a waiting list since the café was full. That was how I realized how much café culture is being appreciated here.
Run by a soft-spoken couple, the café is spacious, with rustic wooden furniture against a white backdrop.
I would say take a break from coffee and go for their fancy, colourful sodas here like the Blueberry Lime Soda (6000KRW) I had. It may be a tad too sweet for some but I loved the refreshing blueberry sorbet that came with it.
For desserts, we had the Matcha & Cocoa Pound Cake (4000KRW) and Pumpkin & Sweet Potato Pound Cake (4000KRW). I personally preferred the latter for its combination that worked out well, and also since it was more moist.
8 Gwangnam-ro 258beon-gil, Suyeong-gu, Busan
Tue to Thu, Sat to Sun 12pm – 9pm, Mon & Fri 2pm – 9pm
Tel: +82 010-9909-6398
7. ORDINARY FLOWER & CAFE (오디너리 플라워 카페)
One of the most well-known cafes in Busan among the locals, Ordinary Flower & Café serves as a flower shop/design studio/workshop space and café so you can anticipate a lovely, dreamy floral interior.
While I was there, only the owner herself was manning the café, preparing all orders of food and drinks from scratch on her own. Wow. Thus we waited about 20-30 minutes to get our order but we were totally soaking in the quiet, cozy atmosphere in the meantime. I’m gonna miss Korean café culture.
The Ordinary French Toast (8000KRW) was just ordinarily good, somewhat like a comfort breakfast your mom would prepare the moment you wake up. We also had the Melting Chocolate Bread (4000KRW) which had molten chocolate within, a Vanilla Latte (5000KRW) and Cappuccino (4500KRW). Still amazed that one person dished up all of those.
35-1 Jeonpodae-ro 77beon-gil, Busan
Tue to Sat 12pm – 6pm, Sun 12pm – 5pm
Tel: +82 010-2607-8409
Psst I’m open to replying to any questions you have on my Seoul/Busan trip, just drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.