It’s that time of year again- it’s snowy, it’s December and it’s time to feel Christmassy! I’m sure most expats would agree that Christmas isn’t a huge deal in Korea; sure, cafes are decorated prettily, there are Christmas-themed foods and drinks, and there are a few Christmas trees to make you feel festive. But compared to back home where Christmas spirit pretty much dominates the country as soon as Halloween is over and done with, Korea is somewhat lacking proper festivity.
As a result, last year I spent a long time trying to find Christmassy things to do. And when I saw that there was a winter lighting festival at The Garden Of Morning Calm (in Gapyeong), it looked ideal. And luckily, my expectations were met and exceeded; the lighting display was spectacular to say the least, and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
My photos from the festival don’t do justice to the stunning display; if it looks good in a photo, it looked 10 times better in real life. The view from the top of the garden is pretty breathtaking- a sea of twinkling lights in an array of bright, beautiful colours. As you wander around the gardens there are different sections with different themes. Heart sculptures for couples to pose in, a horse and carriage to sit in, animals, flowers, and light-tunnels. And it’s not only sculptures; the whole park is decorated with lights, covering the trees, plants, and paths. The whole garden looks enchanted.
I didn’t expect the festival to be so magical, but it’s one of the best things I’ve done in Korea and it’s well worth visiting, especially at this time of the year. It’s not a Christmas market with mulled wine and mince pies, but it’s a unique and brilliant alternative way to make you feel festive.
More information about the festival can be found here or on The Garden Of Morning Calm website. You should be prepared for it to be crowded, and full of people with selfie sticks, but it’s worth it. If you want to go walking in a winter wonderland, this is the place to visit.
Last week I was reading about a new cafe which is opening in London- a ‘cereal cafe’, with hundreds of flavours of cereal, many of which have been discontinued or are foreign imports. Lucky Charms, Barbie Cereal, Star Wars Cereal- you name it, they’ve got it. They’ve even got cereal cakes, cereal memorabilia (yes, I would like a Kellogg’s Frosties lip-balm), and cereal artwork on the walls. As a cereal lover, it sounds like my dream cafe. Needless to say I was pretty jealous I wouldn’t be able to visit.
Then, I began to think about Korean cafes, and I began to feel a little better. Because if there’s one thing which Korea does well, it’s a cafe. First of all, they’re everywhere. You never need to worry about getting your coffee-fix, that’s for sure. And even better, there are just so many cool cafes. You can forget about boring old Starbucks or Caffe Bene, and go to one of the many exciting cafes instead. Here are just a few of the cafes in Korea that are worth a visit:
Never a more fun, or crazy, cafe will you find. Happy, excitable dogs ready and eager to play and entertain you whilst you drink your drink.
They’re chaotic, loud, and sometimes, you might have to watch dogs ‘do their business’ in the middle of the cafe. But, you will also be able to enjoy the company of many lovable dogs.
It might not be the most dignified cafe in the world, but it’s a happy one. (Just beware of dogs dribbling all over you…)
For a more peaceful animal cafe, cat cafes are the best option. A lot calmer, but you still get to play with loads of cute animals. Cats in these cafes might be slightly less sociable than dogs (we’ve been to a couple where the cats prefer to sleep than play), but they’re still happy for your attention.
Plus, your clothes aren’t as much at risk from paw prints and dribble, which is always a positive.
If dogs and cats aren’t exciting enough for you, check out a sheep cafe instead. ‘Thanks Nature Cafe’ in Hongdae lets you enjoy your drinks in the company of sheep. The sheep might not be as playful as dogs or cats (and you definitely wouldn’t want them to try and sit on your lap), but it’s pretty cool to be able to pet sheep whilst drinking your coffee. Top marks for originality.
Hello Kitty Cafe
We always thought the Koreans were pretty obsessed with Hello Kitty, something which was proved when we saw that they have actual Hello Kitty Cafes. Girly-girls and Hello Kitty fans will be in heaven in these totally cute, totally pink cafes. And luckily, the drinks are quite good too!
Charlie Brown Cafe
The more masculine alternative to a Hello Kitty Cafe. Nice models of Charlie Brown and Snoopy decorate the cafes dedicated to the popular cartoon. If you’re a fan of Charlie, where better to reminisce and buy a cup of coffee in a special Charlie Brown mug, or to buy lots of Charlie merchandise?
Princess Diary Cafe
This isn’t a cafe named after the movie, it’s a dress-up cafe in Seoul, perfect for anyone who loves trying on outfits and posing. Go along and choose from a variety of outfits- fancy wedding dresses, traditional Korean clothes, mini-dresses, and more. Then, you can pose to your hearts content with many different props. It’s cheesy, girly, unique and fun. In fact, you’ll probably be so distracted by taking photos you’ll forget to drink your drink.
(Near Ewha Women’s University, 26 Ewhayeodae-gil, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, South Korea)
Book Study Cafe
This is taking studying to a new extreme- having a cafe actually dedicated to it. Still, this cafe definitely has a better atmosphere than a library, and you can enjoy nice drinks at the same time! Let’s just hope people abide by the rules and stay quiet, or you won’t be able to get any work done…
(In Gangnam, Yeoksam-dong 816-6, Yongin Building)
Photography lovers will love this cafe in Incheon. You can either take along your own DSLR camera and choose a lens from the cafe to use, or you can rent both camera and lens. Then, enjoy playing with different lenses to your heart’s content (while enjoying your drink of course).
(Incheon-si, Yeonsu-gu, Songdo-dong 18-1)
There are so many more cafes around Korea- cute cafes, theme cafes, and many cafes which just sell delicious food and drinks. My favourite have to be the animal cafes, where I would happily go every day. But whether you simply want a cup of coffee, to eat some cake, or to try on wedding dresses, there is probably a cafe for you.
But if anyone would like to open a cereal cafe too, that would be totally amazing…
I was pretty excited for December, to officially get into the Christmas Spirit, and even more to be able to start on the Malteser Chocolate Advent Calendar sent to me from home. And rather fittingly, the 1st December brought with it winter weather. Proper, bitterly cold winter with face-numbing winds and an actual snowstorm too. Cue us walking home from work completely unprepared for the sudden drop in temperature, with numb hands and feet and frozen faces.
So that evening it was time to get my winter gear out of the wardrobe. All of the things I bought last year to help me survive the freezing temperatures of Korea. Here is a list of my winter survival gear:
Huge Winter Coat
It might sound silly, but I never really realised how important a coat was until last year, when I bought a proper coat for the first time in my life, and it was so worth it. It comes past my knees, has a thick, padded interior and a fur-lined padded hood which covers my whole face. It might make me look like I’m wearing a man’s coat which is several sizes too big (my sister’s words, not mine) but it does the job and keeps me warm. In fact, by the time I’ve walked the 10 minute to school, my head is usually too hot. Best investment ever.
Gloves (x 2 pairs)
Again, the first time I’ve bought proper gloves (rather than pretty ones). One thin Lycra pair for underneath, and a thick padded pair to wear on top. I can literally not move my fingers once I have both pairs on- it makes entering the code to get into the apartment quite difficult- but it does stop my fingers going completely numb. Which I see as a positive.
I knew my normal thin scarves/pashminas wouldn’t do the trick in Korea, so I bought a huge, woolly snood to keep my neck warm. Turns out that it barely fits underneath my coat because it’s so thick, but it’s nice for wearing once I’m at school.
I can thank Lotte Mart for this purchase. Not just normal leggings, but thick leggings lined on the inside with soft, warm fur. A definite treat for your legs. I wear them with dresses, underneath trousers, underneath my pajamas…basically I alternate between different pairs all winter. And, in Korea they come in men’s sizes too; leggings are no longer a female-fashion-item as they are in England, but a useful piece of clothing to help you against the cold weather. And I love them.
Uniqlo was where I found these life-saving slipper-socks. As we have to take off our shoes inside, I needed something warm for my feet, something better than the sandals given by the school (if I wore them, my feet would be frost-bitten by the end of the day).
These slippers are lined with fur and super-snug, keeping my feet nice and toasty all day. The students with their freezing feet are pretty envious.
Another amazing purchase was my furry welly-boots which are the comfiest, coziest shoes I’ve ever owned. They’re soft and snug and it’s like having your feet in a cotton-wool cushion. Before I bought these, my toes would be numb by the time I was halfway to school, but now they’re actually warm, even when walking through snow.
Again, I may not look too cool, sporting thick, un-elegant wellies (especially next to my Korean co-teacher, who wears high-heels even in the snow and ice), but I feel good. Which is way more important in the freezing weather!
Hot Water Bottle
To be honest, the minute I get home I’ll make a boiling-hot water bottle, and keep it next to me all evening. I would tie one to myself all day at school if it wouldn’t be so hard to carry around everywhere.
This is a good alternative to a hot water bottle, and is easier to keep with you all day. The best version I’ve tried is a sticky hot-pad which you stick to your clothing and which keeps warm for hours. In fact, it gets so hot that my co-teacher warned me not to stick it straight onto my skin, or I’d actually get burnt. Now that’s a good heat-pad.
Endless Cups Of Tea
Any excuse to drink more tea is fine with me, and the winter is definitely a good excuse. I pretty much chain-drink tea during the cold months, and keep a kettle by my desk at school. It’s a little expensive when you get through an average of 10 mugs a day, but it’s worth it.
The pajamas in Korea are so cute, and so soft and fluffy, that I’m glad of the excuse to buy myself numerous pairs. The best part is they’re so much warmer than a lot of pajamas. And when you wear them over the top of fluffy leggings too? Your legs will never go cold.
Of course there are obviously other things to do to keep warm; electric blankets and central heating, to name a couple. But, I find that if you don’t want your bills to sky-rocket by having your heating on 24/7, you can survive without it, as long as you take other precautions. And if you don’t want to cry every time you step outside and are hit by icy-cold air, you definitely need to buy some proper winter-gear.
The best part of having a proper cold-survival-kit? You can actually (kind-0f) enjoy winter, going outside to take pretty walks in the snow or alternatively, play in it. Happy winter, and here’s hoping for a White Christmas…
All countries have good and bad points, things which we can either complain about or praise. And while Korea has it’s faults, today I’m going to focus on the good things: 10 things which give Korea definite cool points.
To the misery of Oreo-lovers everywhere, this cereal has been discontinued in every country…apart from South Korea. I regularly see it featured on lists along the lines of ‘foods we miss which no longer exist’. Well, come to Korea and stock up…
Umbrella Plastic Protectors
Ever had the problem of your umbrella dripping everywhere while you carry it awkwardly around a shop? Not a problem in Korea- stick your umbrella into the stand, pull it out and it’s in a perfectly shaped umbrella-plastic-bag. Finally, an easy way to hold your umbrella, without leaving large puddles wherever you walk. This is an invention which England could do with copying…
Sure, you can get Bubble Tea in other countries. In fact, it’s a new and ‘trendy’ thing in the UK- for an extortionate price, that is.
In Korea, there are Bubble Tea cafes around every corner (not just a restricted number of exclusive cafes like in the UK), and most importantly, they’re cheap. Cheaper than a cup of coffee, in fact.
Ahead of the trends, lower on the prices. Go Korea.
Can we just talk about the variety/ cheapness of socks in Korea? I could literally buy a pair every day and not run out of designs. Plus there’s the choice: trainer socks, fluffy socks, socks with animal ears on. Socks have never been so exciting. (Ditto smartphone covers- endless designs and cheap. It’s tempting to buy a different cover for every day of the week).
Pizza Take-Out Tray
Papa John’s has just made pizza delivery more exciting- a three-layered pizza box, with one layer for pizza, another for sides & dip, and a final layer for a cookie pizza dessert. A 3-course meal in one takeout box = one pretty impressive invention.
And, it’s only available in Korea.
Clean, with working Wi-Fi, coffee and vending machines, and actual shops everywhere. In Korea, walking around subway stations is definitely more fun (and more likely to make you spend unnecessary money).
And let’s not forget the screens where you can find out information, or even better, play games and watch sports.
24 Hour Convenience Stores
The practicality of having a 24-hour store on pretty much every corner can’t be beaten. And they aren’t only good for buying emergency milk for breakfast. They have everything: food, drinks, medicines, alcohol, first-aid stuff, even emergency underwear.
On top of this, they have a hot-water stations and microwaves, so you can make hot food/drinks. Instant meals and coffee at 3 in the morning? No problem. That’s convenience on a whole new level…
If you get hungry when you shop, it’s no problem in Korea. You don’t have to buy an overpriced meal from a small cafe with minimal choice. No, there’s an entire food court with so many options it’s usually hard to decide what to buy.
What a way to make a trip to the supermarket more enjoyable!
The most fun you’ll ever have in a cafe. Again, Korea is ahead of the trend with these cafes- in London, a cat cafe has recently opened and is such a phenomenon that there’s long waiting list to be able to visit. Imagine the excitement if someone opened a dog cafe…
In Korea, you simply pop to your local cafe any day of the week. Another win for Korea.
It might be sweet, artificial coffee, but in my opinion, getting free coffee at the end of a meal is pretty great. Even better are the places where you can get an ice lolly at the end of your meal.
A definite way to ensure my return to a restaurant…
I think it’s fair to say that these are 10 things which Korea definitely does well. I would have mentioned 50 pence sushi, but I know I’ve raved about that before…
So, if you’re having a bad day full of negative feelings towards Korea, go out, buy yourself some nice socks and visit an animal cafe to cheer you up… That will definitely soften the blow of any negative feelings…
One of the (many) reasons I love living in Korea is the lower cost of many things which are ridiculously overpriced in the UK. The best example is probably eating meals out; when I’m in England, going out for a meal is a treat and an expensive one at that. Meals themselves are so much more expensive, plus the drinks (water not included in England, and even worse, no free coffee at the end), and 12.5% service charge on top of that… it adds up to a costly evening out, rather than a convenient meal as it has become in Korea.
And meals are just one thing which is cheaper in Korea. Here are some of the best deals, which we’ve taken full advantage of whilst living here…
As mentioned, eating is so much cheaper. A cheap meal in England would be, at the least around £10 (18,000 won) and that’s without side dishes, starter or dessert, or service charge. If you were also paying for drinks and a starter/ dessert, you’d end up easily spending £20 (36,000 won)… and that’s at a cheap restaurant.
Comparing that to Korea: my favourite luxury buffet costs £19 (33,000 won), for all-you-can-eat sushi and seafood. £19 in a sushi restaurant in England wouldn’t get you very far at all… In other ‘expensive’ restaurants, meals can cost around £9 (16,000 won), and we feel like we’re splashing out. We’re in for a shock when we get home; I’m going to miss being able to eat out regularly without going bankrupt.
£11 (20,000 won) for a 3 hour journey in a luxury coach? Yes please. Getting a 1 and 1/2 hour train journey into the capital city for about £5 (8,000 won)? Amazing. That would cost you about 5 times as much if you were travelling to London, and that’s if you paid in advance and at off-peak times. Otherwise the prices are even more extortionate.
The ease and comfort of travelling around in taxis is something that will be sorely missed. It’s actually as cheap (if not cheaper if there are a couple of you) than taking the bus. A 20-minute taxi ride in Seoul only costs about £10 (18,000 won). I dread to think how much that would cost in London.
One of my favourite cheap things! I avoid having my hair cut in England because I don’t want to spend £25 (over 40,000 won) on a 10-minute trim. Then I found out that in Korea, you only have to pay £7 (12,000 won) for this treatment. They even style it for free for you. It’s no wonder why I’ve kept up-to-date with hair appointments since I’ve been here…
Extremely cheap council tax, and monthly bills which are about a tenth of the price back in England. Our electricity bill is about £10 (18,000 won) a month… the first time I saw it, I genuinely thought they’d made a mistake. It’s great not wanting to cry when you receive a bill.
I love going to the cinema, and was so excited to see that it’s about half the price in Korea. Even at peak times, it’s only £6 (10,000 won), and that’s without the half-price vouchers you get given pretty much every time you go to the cinema. Needless to say we’ve seen about 10 times the amount of films that we normally would go to watch at the cinema.
I know that I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s so good it deserves to be mentioned again. Being able to buy rolls of Gimbap (the equivalent of Futomaki) for less than £1 (2,000 won) is just the best thing ever. Plus, the pick-and-mix nigri which is less than 50p (600 won) a piece is probably the best thing I’ve ever seen.
I was a little wary of buying make-up in Korea, simply because it was so cheap I thought it must be pretty rubbish. Then I bought an eyeliner for about £4 (7,000 won) and I was an instant convert, realising that the makeup is actually pretty amazing; the eyeliner was definitely better than the £20 I used to buy in England. I’m going to have to get stuff imported when I leave…
It’s fair to say that there is also a fair amount of expensive things in Korea, such as imported foods (cereals, sweets, certain fruits, teas), underwear (clothes are relatively cheap, but underwear is strangely pricey here), deodorants (seriously expensive), and pretty much most things Western. If you eat at a lot of Western restaurants and shop at places like H&M or Forever 21, you’ll find yourself spending a lot more money.
But honestly, being in Korea has been pretty good for my bank account. The best part? If you do end up treating yourself and spending a lot of money on something, it’s likely to be something you enjoy, rather than on a bill/ an expensive train journey. And don’t even get me started on the fact that you don’t lose half your paycheck paying taxes, or I might cry thinking about the fact that at some point I’ll go home and have to start suffering that loss again…
Happy Pepero Day from Korea! If you’re not familiar with this special day, it’s one in which people exchange Peperos (chocolate sticks) with their loved ones, kind of like Easter without the religion. According to reports, the celebration started because people believed if you partook in the Pepero celebration, you would become taller and thinner, especially if you ate your Peperos at exactly 11:11 on November 11th- 11:11, on the 11th day of the 11th month. And if you’re really superstitious, you should make sure you eat the Peperos 11 seconds after 11:11, for the ultimate thinning/ heightening effect. Eating loads of chocolate to make you taller and thinner? I like that kind of logic!
Last year, our first year here, the holidays took us by surprise in Korea: why were we given tons of Peperos on one day? Why apples another? Why is there loads of Valentine’s-looking stuff in the shops in March? Now it’s our second year, we know what to expect, and what holidays we can look forward to. Here are some of the special days celebrated in Korea (take note Westerners, we should make these catch on back home…)
A second Valentine’s Day, kind of. On Valentine’s Day, it is traditional in Korea for women to give men a gift. Then, one month later on White Day (March 14th), it is the man’s turn to give a gift. If you’re a romantic, you’d see this as a lovely way to prolong the holiday and increase celebrations. If you’re a cynic, you’d see it as even more of a commercial gimmick than Valentine’s Day already is…
A day for single people, on the 14th April, one month after Valentine’s-type celebrations have finished. Single people celebrate by eating a black-coloured meal of Jajangmyeon (noodles with black soybean sauce). A good excuse to treat yourself to a delicious meal, at any rate.
A personal favourite, obviously! It was a nice surprise when we came in one day to have children giving us gifts and kind notes. Oh, and the song they had prepared to perform for the teachers. A well-deserved celebration of teachers, and one I think teachers all over the world should be able to enjoy!
A slightly random, but nonetheless enjoyable day: give an apple to people you want to apologize to. The Korea word for ‘apple’ is ‘사과’ which also means to apologize, hence giving an apple as a token.
There’s still a Parent’s Day in Korea, the equivalent of Mother’s Day/ Father’s Day. But in Korea, there is also a day to show appreciation for your children! Children are given gifts and taken to exciting places like the zoo, or a theme park. I would have loved such a day when I was young; it would be like an extra Christmas Day- what could be better?
Korean New Year
New Year’s Day is usually a pretty rubbish day in England: Christmas is officially over, people are tired/ hungover, and worse, feel like they have to start their New Year’s Resolutions, which generally leaves everyone feeling grumpy. In Korea, it’s a pretty good time- three days of festivities in fact. The best part for children? Sebeh: when children wish older people ‘Happy New Year’ by bowing to them, and in return are given money. Imagine how much you could make if you bowed to every older person on that day… sounds like the children get a good deal, that’s for sure!
I think that Korea have got it right with their holidays, and England could do with a few more random gift-giving days. What brightens up your day like getting a few apples or some chocolate sticks? And nothing would improve a gloomy January 1st more than getting some money. Well, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that England catches on to these ideas soon…
No matter how much you love a country, Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz was right when she said “There’s no place like home”. When you move away, you find new things you love, you make replacements and adjustments. But sometimes, you just want the real thing: a Mars Bar, some Nando’s chicken, your favourite magazine. And, most importantly, real English tea.
Then, there are the things you don’t even realise you like about home, until you’re not there and can’t have them anymore: the smell of going to a petrol station, turning on the radio and actually understanding what the people are talking about.
Here’s a (rather nostalgic) list of those things that, dare I say it, even a bowl of the best Bibimbap in Korea won’t cure. The little things from home that I miss…
Let’s start with the most important thing, and it’s a pretty predictable one- tea. It’s a mystery to me that even when you buy English Breakfast Tea, it never quite tastes the same as when you’re at home. Why is that? Is it because the milk is different? Well, that leads me onto my next point…
That horrible feeling you get when you go on holiday and the milk just doesn’t quite taste right? Imagine having that every day…do you get used to it? No, not really.
Tesco. Sainsburys. Waitrose. Having that comforting feeling of walking into a supermarket and knowing where everything is, what everything is, what brands are the best tasting, and more importantly, which to avoid.
Imagine our delight when we found Tesco Homeplus in Korea: packages that we recognise! Best thing ever.
I never thought of myself as particularly reserved, but it’s fair to say that since being out of England, I’ve probably lived up to the famous stereotype of ‘The Great British Reserve’. I like socialising, sure, but sometimes I miss the English way; polite small-talk is fine with people you’ve just met, thanks! There is definitely such a thing as too much information, as I’ve recently found out…
There’s nothing like a nice orderly queue, whether it’s standing in line at the bank, a supermarket, or to buy food at a football match. It just makes sense.
And also, queue-jumpers definitely deserve to be regarded as the lowest of the low.
Cadbury’s. Maltesers. Walkers Crisps. Magnums. The list could go on forever really.
Treat snacks from home cannot be beaten and we miss it a lot. And no, Hershey’s is in no way a suitable replacement.
There’s nothing better than a hearty, warming, filling meal. Sunday pub lunches with roast potatoes, gravy, Yorkshire puddings and stuffing. It pretty much cures anything.
What I’d give sometimes for a fish pie with mushy peas, or a good roast chicken with chips. Well, a girl can dream…
Ok, so we all moan about the weather, but you have to admit there’s something comforting about sitting by a roaring fire with the rain pounding down outside.
It’s not great of course when you’re caught in the middle of a rain storm with no umbrella, but still… it’s weird but true that you do end up missing it.
Sheep and Cows In Fields
This one might sound silly, but it’s true that going for drives just isn’t the same without endless fields full of animals.
Believe it or not, the highlight of going to a Beef Festival recently was to see some cows- I was honestly excited by the thought of it… Weird.
Hearing the familiar tunes, recognising the faces and actually understanding what’s on the screen; it’s definitely something you start to miss.
Oh, and don’t underestimate the pride you feel when foreigners tell you how much they love the BBC…
Something that you take for granted- walking into a shop and actually knowing how much something costs, without having to do quick multiplications in your head.
‘So wait… 10,000 won is $10… which is £6?’ Pretty much guesswork. Let’s just hope I’ve been over-estimating my spending for the past 18 months…
And again, just because nothing says ‘home’ more than a cup of tea, does it? I know what the first thing I do when I get home will be: straight over to the kettle…
Ok, so it’s fair to say that there are also things which I definitely don’t miss: stupidly expensive transport, self-service machines which never work, having to pay 12% service charge in restaurants even if the service is bad… I could go on. And I know that when I’m back in England I’ll be moaning about the things which I miss from Korea.
I guess the saying in this case is true: ‘The grass is always greener’… in the other country.
Delicious food, good service, weird cocktails and free wine? Yes please. Where do you go to get these things? The Beastro Restaurant in Seoul, my new favourite place.
I’ve already written about the fact that Hongdae is one of my favourite areas in Seoul, and so it’s not surprising that I was excited to spend this weekend there. After spending hours exploring interesting side-streets, discovering new shops and cafes, and eating some pretty delicious food, I was one happy girl. The highlight of the trip? Finding an amazing new restaurant, The Beastro. Seeing as it’s number one on Trip Advisor, I was expecting it to be good, but it exceeded my expectations. So good was it that I had eaten half my meal before I thought to take any photos of the food, oops… so I’ll have to show you photos from The Beastro’sFacebook Page to give you an idea of their food.
I was immediately impressed with the restaurant; there was a 45 minute wait as we hadn’t booked in advance, but unlike a lot of restaurants when you’re asked to wait at the bar and so persuaded to spend more money on drinks, we were told we’d receive a free glass of wine while we waited. Well, this was a good way to instantly win me over! I was waiting for some sort of catch, or an expensive service-charge, but it never came. Nope, just a nice glass of wine… which was actually really good, not some disgusting cheap stuff. It was definitely a good start.
We were pretty hungry by the time we sat down to eat and the food couldn’t come quickly enough. Luckily, it was amazing service and so we didn’t have to wait long. The menu is quite small and select: appetizers include Salmon Rillettes, Red Pepper Soup, Kale and Ricotta Salad, and Roasted Eggplant Caesar Salad, mains are Carrot Risotto, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Roast Chicken, Pork Cheeks, Southern Fried Chicken, Hanger Steak, and Pork Belly. There are also some side dishes such as Fried Bree Wheel, Buffalo Mac and Cheese, and Chimmichurri Fries. It’s a good selection, and by keeping the menu on the smaller side, the meals are fresher and the quality that much better.
We ordered the Salmon Rillete, Southern Fried Chicken and the Hanger Steak… and all three were amazing. My boyfriend and I shared the salmon rillette and it was perfect: light and refreshing with big chunks of salmon in it. I absolutely love salmon so I was always going to like it, but it was some of the best salmon I’ve eaten in Korea.
Then, on to the mains… Now I’m not even a big steak fan, but wanted to try something different, and this meal converted me; the meat was almost buttery, it was so tasty and accompanied by an amazing gravy. I didn’t expect it to be so good, especially because it was reasonably priced at 19,000 won. My boyfriend devoured his chicken, which was incredibly juicy and tasty. The chicken came with some mashed potato and a ‘biscuit’ which I can only describe as a scone-like buttery treat.
Both meals tasted amazing, and were satisfying but not too heavy and filling (not that I would have complained if someone had given me some more, of course!). I imagine if you ordered a side of fries or mac and cheese, you’d end up very full though, as we saw both dishes being served and they looked rich and large (but delicious too).
The drinks were also winners: the cocktails have rather odd names, ‘Piss and Vinegar’ probably being the weirdest. We chose ‘Good Thymes’ which was a refreshing mix of wine, honey, lemon and thyme. It didn’t even taste alcoholic it was so sweet and light, which could have been pretty dangerous had we ordered more…
What I loved about the restaurant (apart from the food) was the service; the waitresses, barmen and chefs alike were so friendly, helpful and welcoming and the atmosphere was great. One of the chefs actually came over to advise us on our order and allow us to try the salmon rillette before we decided whether to order another appetiser which we really appreciated; there’s not many places where you’d receive such good service. It made the night even better and ensured that we’d happily go back.
So for any foodies, if you’re looking for a new place to eat, go to The Beastro! To get there, head to Hongik University Station, go out Exit 9, head to the playground, and The Beastro is on the second floor above MAC make-up shop. You can book in advance, but if you fancy a free glass of wine then maybe you won’t mind showing up and having to wait a little bit… now there’s an incentive if you still need one!
If you’ve read my blog before you’ll know all about my love of food, especially my new-found love of Korean food. So imagine my excitement when I found, quite by accident, cooking classes for foreigners in Seoul. I immediately booked a class, excited not only for the experience, but also so that I could start to recreate my favourite meals at home. After all, I will at some point go back to England, and if I don’t know how to make Bibimbap by then it will be a disaster.
I wanted to share my experience of the cooking class, simply because it was one of the best, if not the best thing I’ve done in Seoul. It’s fun, interesting, and you learn something new, Oh, and you get a delicious meal at the end (how delicious will depend on your cooking skills, of course).
A little bit about the classes: they are run by The Food And Culture Academy and you can find their website here. The Academy is located in Jongno Gu, Seoul and directions can be found on their website. The prices range from 20,000 won to 65,000 won, and this includes: the price of the class, the meal at the end with some side dishes included, and a copy of the recipe you followed. There is a huge selection of cooking choices, including: Bulgogi, Bibimbap, Dakgalbi, Japchae, Mandu, Paejon, Gimbap, and different types of Kimchi. If, like us, you’d like to cook more than one thing, there is a 1 + 1 option.
Don’t worry if you’re not a talented cook- the website calls the class ‘An Intensive Cooking Class for Avid Cooks’, but this shouldn’t put you off, as it’s not a scarily serious or difficult class by any means. Two minutes into the class, I chopped straight into my finger while cutting an onion, so I didn’t exactly prove myself as a super-advanced cook by any means! There is a chef with you at all times to direct you and make everything simple and easy (luckily).
So we chose two things off the menu, cooking one first and leaving it to rest while we started on the second. This was a good way to do it, but also meant that at the end of the class we had not one, but two meals to eat. For someone with a big appetite like me, it was obviously great, but make sure you go feeling hungry!
How it works- the cook simply instructs you as you go through, step by step. It’s good because you can also ask questions about what you’re making, which is pretty interesting! We learnt a lot about the history of the food and the different variations throughout the country. And obviously the main benefit of having your own chef is that you’re closely guided as you cook. You’re not just given a recipe and left to work through it.
When you’ve finished, there’s an area for taking photos of you standing proudly with your food; you can even dress up in Hanbok if you choose, to feel even more Korean and properly get into the spirit of things. Then, there’s a separate eating area where you can sit and enjoy your food. It’s nice that you’re given a few side dishes, as it feels like sitting down in a restaurant for a proper meal.
So, if there was one thing in Korea that I’d recommend doing, whether you’re here on holiday or living here, it would be this cooking class. It’s excellently run, the staff are so friendly and helpful, and it’s a chance to learn about your favourite foods and how to recreate them yourselves. Most importantly, it’s a great way to eat and have fun; it sure beats going down to the local cafe!
To find out more, check their website and get yourself booked in to a class. Trust me, you won’t regret it.