Pick A Bagel / Brüworks Pop-up
For years, I’ve been saying that a proper bagel place in HBC / Gyeongnidan would make a fortune. For years! I even considered opening a bagel shop on the HBC main road. The only thing that stopped me was (a) I don’t have the money to open a bagel shop (b) I don’t know how to make bagels. I was so close, though, dammit!
[UPDATE, JULY 2017: This pop-up has now ended. You can find Pick a Bagel at their main location in Apgujeong.]
Pick A Bagel is a New York chain that opened up in Apgujeong a while back, and this morning they opened a pop-up store right here in old Gyeongnidan. Finally, a decent bagel is available without travelling all the way to New York – or Apgujeong, which is almost as far for some of us.
There’s a good selection on offer, with a range of different bagels and cream cheeses. Even better, the cream cheese isn’t sweet as all too many Seoul bagel shops seem to think it should be. As you can see, prices are pretty reasonable.
I had an onion bagel with lox cream cheese – that’s smoked salmon to me and you. Now, my first proper taste of a lox and cream cheese bagel was at the legendary H&H bagels on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the greatest bagel shop in the world, which we took to go and ate sitting on a bench in Central Park, so every subsequent bagel has been measured against that Platonic ideal and inevitably, found wanting (and always will be: H&H, a store so iconic that Kramer from Seinfeld briefly worked there, closed down five years ago).
I will say that, given that we are a long way from New York, this was a pretty good bagel. Subtle oniony flavour, the dough not too stodgy or too sweet, nicely chewy, and a generous helping of cheese with salmon. Of course, I wished for slices of real smoked salmon on my bagel, but that would elevate the cost significantly – up to 9,000 won, in fact, as the menu notes. Next time, Andy, next time. As it was, I was happy with this.
As well as the “pick your own” combinations of bagel and cream cheese flavours, there is a small selection of “sandwiches”, essentially bagels with a sandwich filling and toppings. As an encore, I got a plain bagel with chicken salad, which was wrapped up to go. You can see it below. It was terrific.
The chicken salad was well-seasoned and tasty, not the bland shite you often get. It was topped with a couple of thin slices of onion and tomato, but all their bagels and sandwiches are assembled fresh, so you can get yours however you want it.
The pop-up is running in conjunction with Brüworks, who are the distributors of Seoul’s first cold-brew coffee. This was my first taste of cold-brew, would you believe, and I can see why it’s so popular. As the name suggests, the beans are steeped in cold water rather than hot, which supposedly extracts the best of the flavour without any of the bitterness.
According to Brüworks’ owner Dan Vroon – the man who revolutionised the Korean craft beer industry back in 2011 with Craftworks, just round the corner – cold-brew coffee has far less acid than a regular cup of coffee, making it much better for those of us of advancing years with ulcers and delicate constitutions, but also twice the caffeine. Sold, Dan!
There’s a range of cold-brew coffee available on tap, as you can see (the photo above was cribbed from their Facebook page). They also have cold-brew tea, which intrigues me, kombucha, and a couple of Craftworks beers. For this weekend only, they are running a promotional offer of a bagel and a Nitro coldbrew coffee for just 5,500 won.
I had the Nitro and it was almost like drinking a pint of Guinness. I’m still a traditionalist when it comes to coffee, and prefer it hot, but this will be perfect when the days become warmer – like an iced Americano, but much subtler and smoother.
The Pick A Bagel / Brüworks pop-up is running for six months from today, with plans to open a permanent brick-and-mortar store after that if everything goes well. It’s not quite H&H, but it’s a significant improvement on what was in the area before, so for the sake of all of us, I hope they make a killing. But it should have been me. It should have been me…
- Category: Cafe, Sandwich
- Price: $$$$
- Must try: Chicken salad bagel (6,000 won)
- Directions: The shop is in the little lane behind Gyeongnidan-gil where you can also find The Booth, Kkaoli Pochana and El Greco’s. It’s on the second floor above Heaven for a ‘G’ pub. If you’re walking up from Noksapyeong, keep going until you get to Baker’s Table, and turn right into that alley.
- Hours: 8am – late, with a 9am start on weekends. You can find their FB page here.