The area around Seongsu in the east of the city is another part of town where gentrification is seeing old-fashioned neighbourhoods slowly – or not so slowly – turn into trendy and sought-after districts. As with other locales like Gyeongnidan, Yeonnam-dong and Sangsu, cafés are often at the forefront of this social change, enticing younger people into the area and driving the “regeneration” (if you want to call it that) of previously depressed or downmarket places.
Here it is, the most eagerly awaited post of the year; the second annual Soju Sunrise Food Awards, showcasing the best foreign food that I think Seoul has to offer. No doubt squadrons of restaurateurs are reading this with fear in their souls, whole chains poised to collapse if they aren’t mentioned in my year-end review. What can I say? With great power comes great responsibility.
As with last year’s favourites – quite a few of whom return this year – I don’t present this list as a definitive “best of” but rather a compilation of my favourites, the places I return to again and again, the places that made 2016 worth persevering with. No doubt in each category there are better places around, and you should feel free to set me right in the comments – but these are the places that pop up again and again on my Instagram feed.
Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and see you all in 2017!
The cafe opposite Bonny’s Pizza has undergone more changes than David Bowie in his pomp. For a long time it was the home of the late lamented Indigo, a veritable Haebangchon institution. More recently it morphed into Good to Go, briefly housed the popular Italian restaurant Il Gattino, and then became Fat Cat, before adding a very shortlived “food truck” counter serving up sandwiches and subs to the late-night crowd.
Bukcheon, just north of the city centre, has changed quite a lot in the time I’ve been here. Five or six years ago it was a “hidden gem”, but now it’s anything but. Hordes of tourists stalk the streets with selfie sticks as tour guides squawk instructions at them. And, as usual in these situations, the rush to commercialise the area has destroyed quite a lot of its quirky appeal (see also the hanok village in Jeonju).
The phrase “hidden gem” is wildly overused in all walks of life, not least among pretentious bloggers writing about food and drink. But in this case it is quite justified, because this new HBC cafe is about as well hidden as any establishment could ever be. It’s no exaggeration to say that you could spend a day looking for it and never find it unless you knew exactly where to look. Let me tell you about Orang Orang.