1. Start the day at… Tartine
This year, cult favourite Tartine Bakery of San Francisco chose Seoul for its first expansion outside of the U.S. and, in January, their first Seoul location in the quietly chic neighbourhood of Hannam-dong opened to endless queues. In the lofty Hannam-dong space, you’ll find Tartine classics such as their morning buns and country bread as well as locally-inspired items such as Jeju tangerine juice and the Hannam multigrain loaf made with Korean fermented rice wine, makgeolli. Recently, the new design-orientated Ryse Hotel in Hongdae opened with a Tartine Coffee Bar serving Coffee Manufactory beans and a Toast Bar featuring their oozing hot pressed sandwiches. With one or two more locations planned for Seoul this year alone, Tartine’s taking over the world—one avocado-topped slice of sourdough bread at a time.
Tartine Seoul, 263-2, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea; www.tartinebakery.com
2. For a taste of history, head to…Ojangdong Hamheung Naengmyeon
Pyongyang-style cold buckwheat noodles (naengmyeon) have a loyal and opinionated following amongst Korean food lovers. Ask where the best naengmyeon is served and a heated debate likely will ensue. Always included among the best though is Ojangdong Hamheung Naengmyeon, which has been satisfying noodle cravings since 1953. This place is no-frills; their décor may not have changed much since the '50s, and the elderly couple sitting next to you likely has been coming here for decades. The signature bowl of noodles is slathered in spicy red pepper paste with a splash of chilled beef broth and topped with chewy raw skate, cucumber, pickled daikon radish and a boiled egg—the time-honoured antidote to a sweltering Korean summer.
Ojangdon Hamheung Naengmyeon, 108, Mareunnae-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
3. Grab a drink at… Tea Collective
When soju-fuelled nights start to lose their appeal, take refuge and restore your balance at the Tea Collective. Art director Mijae Kim has created a warm, sun-drenched oasis in the heart of Chungdam-dong featuring their own line of locally harvested teas and infusions made from Korean plants and fruits. The Tea Collective aims to bring together a community in search of more mindfulness in their urban lives. Have a mugwort (ssug) scone or a pumpkin glutinous rice cake along with your healing tea. And keep an eye out for their monthly studio talks featuring like-minded creatives from around the world or tea workshops.
Tea Collective, 49, Dosan-daero 55-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea; www.tea-collective.com
4. The true locals go to… Jungshim
Jungshim in Itaewon is one of those hidden gems that you reluctantly share with other people because you’re worried you’ll never be able to get a seat there again. There are actually two Jungshims run by the same chef, Paul Lee, but the cosiest is the more casual location. The menu is handpainted on wooden boards lining the intimate interior, but ask the staff for their daily specials based on what’s in season. Jungshi