홍대 (Hongdae) is a really vibrant, hip and interesting neighbourhood in Seoul. When I think of Hongdae, the words that come into mind include "hip", "trendy", "youthful", "hip-hop", "artsy", "indie" - you get the gist. I After my first visit in 2011, I knew I wanted to spend more time exploring the various independent cafes that dotted the area. A quick Google search threw up more than a handful of cool places that I was dying to try out, but of course, I had to be selective as it's a short vacation, and I only had limited stomach space...
The graffiti-lined streets of Hongdae
Shooters and Cocks indeed. HA!
Paul & Paulina (폴앤폴리나)
Address: 마포구 서교동 344-6 (344-6 Seogyo-dong Mapo-gu, Seoul, Korea)
Get there: Hongik University Station, Subway Line 2, Exit 9. You'll see a KFC and Paris Baguette immediately after you exit from Exit 9. Take the slip road in between KFC and Paris Baguette, walk past Art Box, continue past Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, there will be a "SHOW" shop ahead. Turn right, and continue walking, you'll walk past Shooters & Cocks. Continue ahead till the road ends, turn left and there'll be a steep slope upwards. Walk up the steep slope for about 2-5 minutes. Paul & Paulina will be on the right.
Opening hours: Mon-Sat, noon-7 p.m., closed on Sun
To try: Pain au chocolat, ciabatta
The first place on the list of must-try was Paul & Paulina. It was a bakery that specialises in European-styled breads. It had the lovely smell of freshly baked bread and they totally won me over once I stepped into the tiny hole in the wall shop. It is not a sit-down dine-in establishment (save for some seats at the side of the shop) so either you grab a take away, or you can be like me, hog the small corner at the side and munch down.
What I liked about these bakeries I visited, was that they were pretty generous with bread samples. The only place I can think of in Singapore so far that has really good bread, and does the same, is probably DONQ at Takashimaya, but that's probably another post, for another day.
I highly recommend the chocolate croissant, otherwise known as the pain au chocolat. Just look at the layers of crispy dough above. I was greedy and bought both a chocolate croissant and a ciabatta to try. I had the ciabatta with some olive oil balsamic, and boy was it a good decision. The bread was really really soft and delicious with the olive oil balsamic (which I had to purchase separately). I had my chocolate croissant on-the-go while walking around the streets a while later, and I swear I swooned to the girlfriend on how delicious it was. The girlfriend had already consumed hers in the store, and she totally agreed with me on that account.
As the weather was pretty hot, after some shopping time, we popped into a place selling cold desserts. The display of popsicles and cookies were pretty cute, I guess they might appeal to people who appreciate such cutesy stuff. I mean, I admit that they are cute, but I'd probably not buy one cos it's just not me to do so.
I was tempted by the bingsoo poster on the wall and I liked how it was an individual serving so I got one to try. Sad to say, the matcha bingsoo was sadly lacking in terms of taste. So nope, not a recommendation. The place was nice to sit and rest though. We went up to the second level, and I spent some time researching on how to get to our next destinations.
Stand up coffee shop. Isn't it cool?
Address: 마포구 상수동 311-1 (311-1 Sangsu-dong Mapo-gu, Seoul, Korea)
Get there: Sangsu Station, Subway Line 6, Exit 1. Or from Cafe Hoho Myoll, it's just a short walking distance away. You can perhaps ask for directions (I showed the waitstaff the address and they gave me directions from there) and walk from there. Oh, better still, click > here for a blog that has a map on where Publique and Paul & Paulina can be found.
Opening hours: 10.30am - 10.00pm
To try: Sesame eclair
After Cafe Hoho Myoll (a separate post coming up soon!), we walked to Publique, a few streets away. The bakery specialises in French styled pastries and breads and I was debating on whether I should get more breads or not since it was already in the late afternoon and we were meeting my family for dinner in a while. Thus, we went with tea time treats of an eclair and a croissant.
Bread samples once again
Pretty good selection of eclair flavours
Well, IMHO, the best of the lot (not that I've tried the rest so it's def a biased opinion) was the black sesame eclair. I'm a huge fan of black sesame so once I saw that there was this flavour on offer, I knew that it was one of the things I wanted to try. And my gosh, it was oh so good. The black sesame custard filling had a really good black sesame taste and aroma, and the eclair was also quite big so it was perfect for sharing between two. A definite must try at this place. The croissant however, was sadly lacking, I'm not sure if it was the time we went - perhaps it was not freshly baked or something, but it was slightly limp, and didn't had a flaky exterior. I wonder if it would have been better if it was fresh out of the oven. Other online reviews seemed to recommend the croissants here though, so I'm on the line here about it.
Hongdae's really a great neighbour to spend a day exploring. One thing to note though - the shops around the area mostly open around noon time, so don't go too early. You can probably head there around 11-ish or so when the shops are starting to open, and spend the day eating, shopping and finally ending with a BBQ dinner there.