In Search of Seoul, Part 4 – Café Culture

Cafés are everywhere in Seoul, so this time we’re talking about café culture in the capital.

A Twosome Place

It’s an excellent and preposterous name in equal measures, and a reference to “A cup of coffee, Two of us, Some dessert, Place”. I didn’t say it was a particularly good reference, but it certainly is one. It evokes a different sort of imagery than they were probably going for, but it’s not entirely atypical for an Asian chain to have, what we would consider, a silly English name. I’m sure that there are plenty of names that we have appropriated that translate to gibberish in the original language, or make no sense in the context we use them.

So from a strictly foreign perspective, it is a silly name. And some of the items for sale are even funnier. Did you say “Very Much Potato?”. No? Probably not, but it’s a thing.

Very Much Potato…it’s just too much potato, really.

Their cake and drink offerings, however, are very much on point. Some of the drinks are unusual including mugwort and sweet potato lattes, but the standard coffee offerings are great. Most are heavily sweetened, and beautifully layered. The cakes are impressive too, with impossibly light sponges and mousse cake. This is sounding more and more like paid copy for A Twosome Place, but we did end up eating there on several occasions.

Cafés in Korea are not perfect, however, and I struggled to find savoury food in some of them. This isn’t much of an issue ordinarily, but when you have an angry (almost) two year old in tow and are looking for something resembling lunch, being faced with a counter full of cakes only isn’t much good. Try telling a toddler that cake isn’t lunch, though. Establishments tended to be more specialised than in the UK. Even Starbucks only had a couple of savoury options on offer (that were sold out). One thing is certain though. They cannot do scones. The scones in Starbucks were so dry they were almost mummified, and crumbled to dust like so many ancient scrolls in treasure hunting films.

Paris Croissant (or is it Baguette?)

Both operated by the same company, Paris Croissant and Paris Baguette are French-style bakery-cafés offering a range of pastries and meals. We had some French-style service (read:curt) from a waitress, but we did end up with a rather pleasant chocolate bear cake as pictured below. It was the first reasonable place we could find to eat in after escaping the labyrinthe COEX Starfield Mall.

Looking for a free laptop?

Picture yourself sitting in the corner of a moderately busy café near Yatap Station in Seongnam. There’s a low level of chatter. A few couples and friends are meeting up. You’ve got a slice of strawberry cream cake and iced machiatto. You look around and see a number of empty tables with laptops and other personal possessions on them. Miraculously, nobody has stolen them, or even seems particularly concerned. It’s perfectly acceptable to occupy a spot for a prolonged period of time and leave your things while you wander around a different location.

There’s a part of me that would like to conduct an experiment in London and time how long an unaccompanied laptop would last sitting out on a table in an average Starbucks. Not including the one I bought in a Notting Hill Starbucks, of course, but that’s a story for another time.

Café Swith Sol in Myeongdong is a café opened by a major Korean bank. The interior was really interesting and ideal for Evie, but the food was so-so. The cookies we bought were not the best of the batch, but apparently the business employs primarily deaf staff so it was nice to be able to support a social enterprise in a place that seems to embrace an overwhelmingly capitalist culture.

Yes, we ate in a lot of cafés. When in Seoul…

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