soju sunrise

The Royal Food & Drink

cafés | March 10, 2016 | By

Café culture was never something I was that keen on – perhaps because I come from Glasgow, where most all social interactions centre around the pub. If there’s one thing that living in Seoul is slowly bringing me around to (other than eating fermented cabbage), though, it’s the joy of a good café.

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The Royal Food and Drink, as the name implies, is a little more than a café, though it certainly has that vibe. It offers not just coffees and smoothies but breakfasts, sandwiches and all-day dining. Alerted by Gemma (who seems to sniff these places out the way a well-trained truffle hound can find buried treasures in the deepest of forests) I’ve been along a couple of times and am already a firm fan.

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Much of the menu at The Royal has an unmistakably healthy air, which isn’t always the case around this neck of the woods. The breakfasts burst with vegetables instead of the usual hash browns and fried goods, and the sandwiches are served with salad rather than chips. For those of us who need to eat a few less tacos and burgers, this makes a welcome change from the Itaewon / HBC norm.

On my first visit I ordered a chicken hummus sandwich. Chicken and hummus have always been two of my favourite things – apart from ten months or so in 2006, when I went out with a girl who ate almost nothing else – so put them together in a sandwich and you’ve got my attention. It didn’t disappoint.

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The sandwich looked great, but tasted even better. A sprig of colourful bean sprouts top chicken, nutty hummus – not the bland rubbish you get in some places, but a properly tasty hummus, this – and an egg. A terrific sandwich.

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On my subsequent trip, I had a salmon and cream cheese bagel, and it was equally good. Nice generous slices of fresh smoked salmon, cream cheese and a judicious use of capers – i.e. not too many of them. (Capers are one of these things I’ve always liked more in theory than in practice.)

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Everything is beautifully presented and just right.

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Up here on this quiet corner of the HBC hill, removed from the stress and bustle of the city around you, you can feel yourself relaxing.

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There’s coffee, juices and smoothies. Coffee in a mug is always a plus in my book, and The Royal serve up a pretty good one.

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The banana and chocolate smoothie was also fine – not much of a banana flavour, and the real chocolate used in the smoothie meant that the drink got a little grainy towards the bottom of the glass, but I am splitting hairs here.

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Aside from sandwiches and drinks, there are also all-day dining options that I’m eager to try. It’s certainly a place to spend a little time, and the owner Bomi (whom some longtime HBC residents will already know) is very helpful and friendly.

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The interior is nice, too. Sorry, I don’t have any kind of vocabulary to describe or evaluate the interiors of cafés, the way they are designed, the materials used to furnish them. I just divide them into nice and not particularly nice. This is nice.

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Highly recommended as a place to chill, grab a bite or just relax, The Royal adds another good option to the top of the Haebangchon hill and is perfect for a quiet brunch or mid-afternoon sandwich. Our little favela goes from strength to strength.

  • Category: Café, Sandwich
  • Price: $$$$
  • Must try: Chicken hummus sandwich (8,000 won)
  • Directions: The Royal is a couple of minutes’ walk from 해방촌 오거리 – the HBC “ogori” (junction of five streets at the top of the hill). To get there, take the road opposite the Tous Les Jours which has a convenience store on the left hand corner – it’s in the photo below. The Royal will be on your left a couple of hundred metres down the street.
  • Hours: 10am – 10pm Tuesday – Sunday (closing at midnight on Friday and Saturday night). Closed Mondays. You can find their FB page here.

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