O’neul, Dongbinggo-dong

Homely Korean standards reach fine-dining heights at O’neul, which translates as “today”. The restaurant appears to be designed to soothe the senses and elegantly simple plates match the airy, unadorned space. The lack of any distraction in the décor means that you’re free to focus solely on the flavours of the restaurant’s exceptional ingredients and the obvious care that its team puts into every dish. The yukgaejang (rich beef soup) is simmered for 12 hours and the kimchi has been fermented for years, not months. Leave room for the ssuk tteok waffle, a chewy rice cake hybrid that’s tinged green with mugwort.

60 Jangmun-ro, Yongsan-gu 
+82 (0)2 792 1054

Parc, Hannam-dong

Try not to be too disappointed if your Korean friends don’t invite you to their place for dinner: entertaining at home isn’t all that common here. No matter – we’ve found an even better place for you to experience Korean hospitality. Parc’s co-owner Pak Mogua loved his mother’s cooking so much that he decided to open a restaurant based on her recipes; menus are updated once or twice a week. The dining room might feel like a European café fit for a casual business lunch but the presentation of the dishes is straight out of a Korean home kitchen. During the evening, traditional drinks and well-chosen wines are available alongside Korean pub snacks such as crispy, cheesy potato pancakes.

26-5 Itaewon-ro 55ga-gil, Yongsan-gu
+82 (0)2 792 2022

Café Onion, Seongsu-dong

All rusted doors and distressed walls, it’s not hard to deduce that Café Onion housed a metal company in the 1970s. But the term “industrial chic” doesn’t quite capture the feel of this space. Small courtyards scattered with greenery and an open terrace on the second floor give it a far more organic impression. It’s hard to resist the urge to explore all of its various nooks and crannies. 

This is a must-visit for pastry lovers who prefer something beyond the standard croissant or bagel for breakfast. The bakery on the second floor turns out buttery and sugary treats, including some quirky options: South Koreans especially love the baguette with a pat of butter and scoop of sweet adzuki (red beans). 

8 Achasan-ro 9-gil, Seongdong-gu 
+82 (0)2 1644 1941  

Anthracite Coffee, Hapjeong-dong

Open late – a rarity for Korean coffee shops – Anthracite is a mecca for fashionable folk seeking respite from Seoul’s often manic pace. Originally a shoe factory, it roasts beans daily for sublime single-origin pour-overs or blends with such literary names as Pablo Neruda and William Blake. A popular choice is the Butter Fat Trio espresso blend, which produces creamy shots with a toasty flavour. Cold-pressed juice and sweet treats cater to non-caffeine drinkers. 

10 Tojeong-ro 5-gil, Mapo-gu 
+82 (0)2 322 7009

Bugeogukjip, Mugyo-dong

If Koreans have one breakfast tradition, it’s starting the day with a hot soup – many soup shops open well before bakeries in order to accommodate early risers. Bugeogukjip, which translates as “House of dried-pollock soup”, has opened at 07.00 every business day since 1968, when it began serving its original clear broth with dried pollock, egg and tofu. About 700 customers pass through its doors on an average day and the soup is the only item on the menu, rounded out by self-serve kimchi and pickles. The service is fast and welcoming; the queue might be long at lunchtime but the wait is rarely more than 30 minutes. Don’t be shy about asking for free refills. 

38 Euljiro 1-gil, Jung-gu 
+82 (0)2 777 3891

Images: Jun Michael Park

Go back: Seoul


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Monocle 24

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  • The Pacific Shift