Last weekend some friends, the wife and I decided to follow Sam Hammington’s suggestions in the Lonely Planet Seoul edition. It was a well planned, but at the same time, sporadic process which allowed us to taste all the culinary hotspots that Haebangchon (HBC) has to offer. The original food/pub crawl started at 12:00pm and went until 2am the next morning. However, a late class online, a brief trip to the hospital pushed the tour back one hour.
Here was our itinerary:
1:00 – 2:00 – Indigo for brunch
2:00 – 4:00 – Phillies for drinks
4:00 – 5:30 – Orange Tree for drinks
5:30 – 6:30 – Casablanca Sandwicherie
6:30 – 7:30 – Damotori
7:30 – 9:30 – HBC Gogitjip for BBQ
9:30 – ? – The Fix for drinks and live music
Unfortunately, although I had an excellent itinerary in mind, it did not come to fruition as I would have hoped. Alas, there were some adjustments made, but in the end, as the great Steinbeck wrote, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
Stop 1: Indigo
A great brunch is the perfect way to start a long day of drinking, eating and in general tomfoolery. Indigo was right on the way, just up the hill in HBC and seemed like a perfect starting point for our tour. Needless to say, after dining at Indigo, I can see why it is so popular in what used to be known as “the ghetto”.
How to get there: Almost all the places in this tour are in the same vicinity. I don’t think we walked more than 250 meters from place to place. It is easy enough to get to. First take the subway to Noksapyeong (Line 6) and depart from Exit 2. As you walk down the hill, you will have Yongsan Army Base on your left. Keep heading left until you see the kimchi pots. Walk up the hill and at about 250 meters you will see Indigo on your right. *UPDATE* Indigo is closing their doors because of a rumored landlord dispute. That said, with its popularity, is it possible they will move to a different location. Will update when I find out more information.
Atmosphere and Service: Walking into Indigo is like walking into an art gallery, a 1950’s diner and a bakery all rolled into one. The decor is simple, something you would expect at a local neighborhood brunch spot. Paintings of European houses, collages of various photos throughout the decades, compliment the cozy, but hip atmosphere of Indigo. The chairs and tables are simple, something you would find outside of a rural French bistro. As with so many places it seems, you need to pay before your food arrives. Le sigh. PK and I walked up the counter with the chalkboard menu in the background, passing a lovely cake displaying to begrudgingly pay our bill for food that had not even touched our tongues yet.
Food and Drink: PK ordered the Sunrise breakfast (9000KRW) and I ordered the Indigo Plate (13000KRW). The wife ordered a hash brown and two mini waffles (6000KRW) and we all ordered orange juice.
The Mini Waffles:
My wife described them as cute. Not only were they visual appealing, but they were tasty as well. They were both nice and fluffy, not to weighed down by batter or grease. Also they were covered a small dusting of sugar. My wife’s only criticism was the lack of maple syrup. As she is Canadian by marriage, her lust for maple syrup has grown expediently. She misses the days of American breakfast, with the large jug of maple syrup that is place at your table with your waffles and pancakes. That said, she thoroughly enjoyed them and would order them again.
The Sunrise Breakfast:
PK ordered the sunrise breakfast. The eggs were absolutely perfect. He ordered them sunny side up, and they came out exactly as they should. You know that zen-like moment when you break off that first piece of bread, dip it into the yolk and seeing the yoke slowly drip down on to your plate as though the sun is crying tears of joy. That was how perfectly these eggs were cooked. The sausage however was fairly mediocre. They were simple, underseasoned and colorless. The bacon was cooked well. There was a minimal amount of grease and were not burnt to a crisp.
The Indigo Plate: I had the Indigo Plate. First, the plate was full of food. Visually, it was appealing to see all the components of brunch so nicely packed on my plate. The dish was an array of colors, from the greens of the salad, to the yellows of the eggs, to the browns of the meat. This made the dish very picture friendly. First, I would like to extend my compliments to whoever was cooking the eggs that fine morning; he or she was a professional. I like my eggs over medium, which is not an easy task to accomplish. It is even rarer here in Asia where brunch is still a new concept. However, the chef at Indigo cooked them perfectly. Normally, my eggs are either too runny or hard as the yellow brick road, but these had a perfect balance of solid and liquid. When I sliced the eggs open, a trickle of yolk oozed out, but the remainder of the yolk was solid. An excellent display of culinary technique.
The sausages were okay. Like PK’s sausage, they were bland and a little rubbery. Normally, there is a little flavor, often sweet, but these tasted more like microwaved hot dogs, than a grilled sausage. The bacon was cooked well, much like PK’s. There was minimal grease and the meat wasn’t burnt. Oftentimes bacon can be too fatty, but I didn’t find this to be the case with my meal. The bacon was a nice, solid cut of pork, and not that fatty, cheap stuff that is often served. The hash browns were great. They reminded me of a less greasy McDonald’s hash brown, which as a McDonald’s breakfast junky (only when the sun comes up after a night out) was a pleasant surprise. The beans were served in a small bowl, but unfortunately I believe they came from a can. They tasted exactly the baked beans I pick up at Home Plus. Finally, the salad was a small, mixed green salad with a vinaigrette dressing. The dressing was a little much, and drowned the salad. That said, it didn’t take away from the overall quality of the dish.
Value: The total bill came to approximately around 35000KRW. This was a nice place, and with the news that it might be closing down, it literally will create a void in my heart and my stomach. That said, this place is a HBC legend and I would be shocked if it didn’t relocate to either Itaewon or some place nearby. Not the best brunch I’ve had in Seoul, but definitely the best brunch I’ve had in Itaewon. There is a reason this place is popular. The food is great, the atmosphere is chill and the prices are fair.
Who Should go to Indigo: A long night of drinking has left you needing some subsistence before crashing out for the rest of the day, then a trip to Indigo is in order.
Who Should avoid Indigo: A little out of the way in terms of location. If you are in Itaewon, there are other places to get brunch nearby.