Thursday, December 17, 2009

Diner Like

It is something of a luxury having a local, reliable restaurant that offers quick and consistently good dishes at a reasonable price. I am very lucky to have such a luxury.

Now, this is a very British place and I make no apologies for liking this. The dominance of America is evident in Korea and the odd spattering of a British influence makes a welcome change; Gavins sausages, London Pride and British clothes designers(Paul Smith, John Smedley, Aquascutum et al) being notable pleasures.

Diner Like sits at the top of Samneung Park, home to 3 tombs of Joeson royalty next to Seollung Station. The park is well worth a visit.

Dead kings are all very well and good but food and drink are of far more importance and Diner Like is the restaurant you want at the end of your street.

I am not going to go into too much detail as every time I eat there I wax lyrical at the SO and bore the shit out of myself. What they do right is have a space that is modern and open, they have incredibly efficient and pleasant staff and they have a menu that you want to order from.

And when you do order the food is invariably good. We are not talking fancy here, the place is called Diner Like not Michelin Starred Like, but we are talking food you want to eat. Food that you could possibly make at home but probably can't be arsed and costing exactly as much as you would be happy to pay.

You can browse the menu yourself, I have yet to be disappointed. Their burger is the best I have had in Korea, the homemade buns being spot on and the burger exactly the right thickness, not too thin like a McDonalds, not so thick as to be vulgar.
Pasta is good, risotto is good, curry is good, they make their own sausages and they have Yorkshire Pudding on the menu. Yorkshire Pudding!!!!!!!!!!!

The wine list is short and acceptable. They occasionally sell Erdinger for 5000won for half a litre. The sangria is fantastic and they sell Belgian Cherry Beer.

It really is a fantastic, locals restaurant with a consistency in quality many more notable places would be envious of.

I like it. Go there. If you don't like it, you're an idiot.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


A Francis Bacon portrait of Muriel Belcher up there. Muriel Belcher was the owner of the Colony Rooms in Soho and in the fantastic Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell stated "Come on cunty, you're not drinking enough champagne!". And she is right. I am not.

Christmas is coming and so buying champagne is probably a decent idea.

Homeplus have the Tesco NV Premeir Cru Champagne for 44,000. A good price for a wine that has, in the past, won accolades above and beyond its price point.
They also have a Tesco Vintage Champagne for 61,000. Somewhat shockingly I took no notice of what the vintage was but in my defence I was being hounded by a rather rude member of staff.

Also, Lotte Department stores are doing Piper Heidsieck for 48,000. A decent price for a decent champagne.

Port is proving frustrating to hunt down. Bog standard ruby port is easy to come by at an OK price but a proper aged tawny port is somewhat elusive. Looks like it will be an expensive one.

Chablis Premier Cru for 55ish at Les Vins Maeils is not bad, though I am hoping for a richer style of white Burgundy for Christmas.

Half bottles of Sauternes are as tricky to find as a dvd copy of Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell which everybody really should see. Link here for a short clip as facebook won't let me embed the video here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Return of the Prodigal Blogger

No promises.......

However, I should be updating again soon with news of Christmas drinking.
Absence has been due somewhat to work but largely due to a complete and utter disillusionment with wine in Korea. No excitement or bargains were forthcoming and going into wine shops just led to a feeling of 'seen it all before'.

This feeling has not really changed but Christmas demands cheer and cheer requires alcohol and one cannot toast the birth of baby jesus with Prime Max and London Pride alone.

On the radar is Champagne, Sauternes, Port, a big bastard red, something old world and civilised and a depressingly over priced white Burgundy. Also there is talk of making mulled wine, something which I like the idea of more than I like the reality of.

Possible changes on the blog in the new year with a move away from just wine to more of a Seoul luxury guide. Please bear in mind that I consider a fried egg on toast one of life's greatest luxuries.

Merry November, get your livers in training.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

London Pride

London Pride.
E-mart for 3500원 a bottle.
The full Fullers range is coming in the near future.
More info here.

I may get back into posting soon with the end of the semester looming. Keep drinking. It is good for you.

Friday, May 08, 2009



It has been too long. I have been somewhat busy and I have neglected both wine and writing.

There is very little to update with.....

I had a rubbish 05 claret that I was expecting to be excellent.
Emart seem to have reduced the price of Moet to a permanently tempting 59,000.
Homeplus have a fairly wide range of cheap wines that need further investigating.

This weekend, starting yesterday, is the Seoul wine expo at Coex. For 20,000 won you will get the chance to taste wines from all over the world. The exhibitors will be happy to educate you about their product. This will involve them giving you free wine. It is a no brainer, if you like wine go. Website here .

Upcoming is a review of outdoor drinking opportunities in celebration of the weather.
Also expect more white wine reviews as I have a thirst on.

Apologies to everyone who I have ignored over the last few months. I am going to catch up with emails and comments in due course........

Until next time.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Pierre Gagnaire

The Pierre Gagnaire review is in the Herald today. The above is the view from our table.

Below is the review in full. It really was a very good lunch. All the touches that you would expect when paying prices such as these were in place. Some of the food was exquisite. All of the food was very good. Just the cinnamon was an issue and in the chefs defence we were asked at the very beginning of the meal if we had any allergies or dislikes. If you have a celebration then now you have a destination.

In addition to all the food mentioned was a final course that could be described as petit fours. Some of these were the traditional biscuity, chocolatey things you might expect. The final was a shot glass of sweet, aromatic, palate cleansing liquid and was just another indication of the cleverness of the kitchen.

Pierre Gagnaire

The opening of Pierre Gagnaire’s restaurant at the top of the Lotte Hotel caused something of a stir in the English press here in Korea. The promise of 3 Michelin star quality food in Seoul was unsurprisingly garnering some excitement, not least from myself. Then there was silence. No reviews, no sign of menus, just the knowledge that the restaurant was there and promising so much pleasure for so much money. As I have previously stated I believe the best way to cope with the growing economic crisis is to indulge in luxury and so I took it upon myself to be the first to offer an English language review and so, as a one off, will only deal scantly with wine today.
Luxury is all about the details. With anything on which you are spending a large proportion of your hard earned cash you expect certain levels of service and satisfaction that generally come down to the details. Stepping out of the express elevator at the 35th floor of Lotte Hotel we were greeted by name into the reception. This is a very good start.
First impressions are also very important and unfortunately, with regards to décor, these were not great. Led through a dimly lit corridor with rooms hidden off to the side, the main dining area is gaudy, gold clad and feels dated in its opulence. However, our table right by the window, looking over the city and mountains quickly dispels any worries about the interior. Eyes will be on the food and the view only.
Immediately on being seated a Champagne cart is wheeled to the table with the Champagne flutes hanging like mini-chandeliers. Having been stung by Champagne prices at the start of a meal in the past and spying Dom Perignon as one of the options I should have politely declined. Instead I asked for the house (read “cheapest”) Champagne and got a crisp refreshing Don Ruinart Blanc de Blanc. Very pleasant but at 55,000 won I should have politely declined.
The two menus offered are not for the faint of heart either. The A La Carte menu is terrifying in its pricing with starters starting at a startling 100,000 won. You can peruse the menu at There is however the far more reasonable set lunch offering at 120,000 won. Admittedly, not a cheap lunch, but if you are the sort of person who puts a lot of importance on pleasures of the senses then not a disgrace. You are not just paying for a lunch to fill the belly, you are paying for an experience.
Is the experience up to scratch? Very much so. There is no room to detail everything presented so we will just deal with the highlights. First up are a selection of finger bites, small mouthfuls such as parmesan and chocolate composition and goat’s cheese in a crisp sweet shell. They were all very good and interesting. Then comes the amuse bouche, mouth amusement. I am accustomed to this being a single, small bite that is usually packed with flavour. Here we were presented with five fairly large dishes such as a palate cleansing, yuzu citrus celeriac with a soju foam, a fantastic chicken mousse with crispy chicken skin and something described as mang gae with cumin butter and hot fennel jelly which was strange and amazing. Despite the size and number these were all done with a lightness of touch that left you excited for the rest of the meal.
The only low point for me was the starter proper, cod and squid with a pumpkin veloute. It was perfectly executed but the addition of cinnamon ruined it for me as I only really like it in the company of other spices in a curry.
Main courses gave two choices; sea bass with iberique bacon and a veal salad which was pronounced a great success by my companion and my choice of duck leg with date, ginger, coco and quince accompanied by a French ‘kimchi’ and crispy smoked duck. It was a fantastic dish with savoury and sweet, fat and acid all balancing perfectly with the quince being a real surprise in its delicate sweetness. This is top class cooking.
Dessert comprised three dishes, the stand out being a pineapple, green pepper and ginger ice cream dish with a smear of coriander pesto that worked incredibly and is as good a dessert as I have had. Really inventive, slightly experimental but judged perfectly.
The last sentence could be used to judge the whole experience; it was a beautifully executed meal that managed to balance experimentation with classicism and was a perfectly weighted lunch.
The Marssannay recommended by the sommelier was reasonably priced and matched most of the dishes well, in itself a great challenge. The wine list, to my surprise does include affordable options and despite its favour of French wines offers some real interesting treats.
This was not a cheap lunch but it was a lunch that I consider to be great value. Cooking of this quality is rare in all but the world’s top cities and having a destination restaurant like this is a real bonus for Seoul. While 100 dollar starters can survive the economic down turn then there is a gem at the top of Lotte Hotel.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Les Vin Maeil

Back in the day, pre-Gangnam, I spoke a lot about Les Vin Maeil. Jamsil was the nearest, most accessible area of Seoul and so this was the shop that took most of my money. I splashed the cash about elsewhere admittedly, but this was the shop that I had most affection for. Then we moved and there were nearer, sometimes cheaper shops that caught my attention and I neglected my first discovery. This was a mistake.

Les Vin Maeil is excellent. In terms of bringing new wine into the country they seem to be a cut above the competitors. It was the first place I saw sherry here and now they have a sherry range. Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso, and Pedro Ximenez. Given how underrated sherry is in the rest of the world that they are pushing them in Korea is excellent. I picked up a Manzanilla for 20,000 and will give it a write up in the coming week.

The range of white wines they have is also a cut above the competition. They had the Goats Do Roam red and I expressed, on here, a wish for them to bring in the white too. Well, my wish was granted and it is on sale for 24,000 won.

You may hate the name, Goats Do Roam being a pun on Cote Du Rhone, but the wines are excellent. I have talked about the red before, a blend of Rhone varietals, and the white is a similar story with it being based on the great white of the Rhone, Condrieu. This means it is primarily a Viognier based wine and it is an excellent example. Wonderfully aromatic, your nose is treated to a heady peach and apricot salad that follows through to the palate with acidity that gives a suggestion of red grapefruit. It is beautifully balanced, has excellent length and is a wine I will be buying much more of. This is one I really do think you should be hunting down. Now. Go on. Go and buy one. You will like it. It is good.

Also, they have a wine from the same producer called the Goatfather. It is a blend of Italian varietals. I have a bottle. When I drink it I will write it.

South Africa seems to be doing the business for me at the minute!

The Pierre Gagnaire review is coming. It is written. I am waiting on the Herald.


Saturday, February 07, 2009

Whisky Whiskey

WSET, the body with whom I am undertaking my studies, take their letters from Wine, Spirit, Education and Trust. Wine, Education and Trust I think I am doing alright with here. You feel educated and trust each and every post I assume? Spirit? Not so good. I post each review in good spirit(don't trust me) but actual spirits....and education....nah. Spirits tend to be the short refreshing drink I have when my gut is full of beer at 2 in the morning. It happens.

However, a vertical tasting of scotch over Christmas has created a spark, a burning ember of interest that will only be extinguished by throwing lots of money and hangovers at it.

My expertise is fledgling. I know how to taste but I am not sure what I am tasting. I know what I like(and I like what I bloody well know) but I don't know why I like it.

Anyway. I have 2 bottles here now. A 15 year old Glenfiddich and the above Johnny Walker Black Label. The former is a single malt with 15(the clue is in the name) years of age and the latter is a blend with 12 years of age. They are both good. I read good things about the black label, comments such as 'My desert island whisky' and 'The blenders blend'. I knew Johnny Walker was widely available here and so figured it would be reasonably priced. I was right, 38,000 won at EMart. It is smokey, a little peaty and moreish.
The Gelnfiddich is a smoother, richer affair with it's time in barrel lending a chocolate creaminess with a hint of sherry nuttiness. I like it better and it is more expensive. Who'd have thunk it?

My good friend prefers the Black Label which just goes to show other people are not as bright as me.

I need to drink more. I need more blends and I need more single malts. I am a blank book. Influence me.

Having drunk 2 too many beers and doing a whisky tasting last night my next recommendation has to be Solpadeine plus. The drinkers friend available nowhere in Korea.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Public Service Announcement

Just a quick one to let all you romantic fools know that Emart are running a sale on all sparkling wine for Valentines. So, Moet about 53,000 won, Pol Roger about 88,000 won and Pol Roger 1999 about 100,000 won.

All the new world and cheapy sparklys are on sale as well if you are that way inclined.


Edit: Let's not talk about my spelling.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Pazzo Barrantes Albarino 2005

Pazzo Barrantes Albarino 2005
Around 30,000won Cep D'Or Gangnam
It has been a while since I pulled out a wine review for wine in Korea.
However, this is something of note as it is a grape variety that I have not seen here before and for that is exciting. Yeah, exciting.

Albarino(Albarinho? Not sure about the h.) is a, largely, Spanish white varietal that has stirred up some interest in the UK. It tends to be expensive, however, and so is not likely to be worrying the top sellers any time soon.

It can be a really aromatic, peachy wine with the ability to age making it more interesting than a bottle of cheap Sauvignon Blanc no? No?

This is an almost golden coloured wine and was darker than I was expecting for sure. The nose was very mute with a slight honeyed orange peel quality to it. So what it lacked in intensity it made up for in being appealing.
It is a refreshing and light glass with some good, crisp citrus fruit combining with a soft mouth feel. This makes it very easy to drink with the acidity and softness making it a bit of a quaffer. It developed more body in the glass with temperature and this saw the apperance of some more plumy/pear characteristics. This is a nice wine and definitely a nice change from the ubiquity of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

I would say hunt it down but when I went back to get another bottle they had sold out. I'll update if it comes back.

Exciting see!

In my defence, blogger is blocked at work and so I am messing with publishing from google docs and thereforeI have got a bit bogged down in the geeky side of things rather than the winey side of things. The editing options in google docs appear to be cack. Still, it seems to be working so now I can work on being exciting.

The Gagnaire review is coming. was good.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Free Grange

December was a story of me surviving having surgery on my neck in the very good Asan hospital near Jamsil and then surviving Christmas back in England at the very good hotel known as my parent's house.
Surgery was a great success and for the time being all the worst possibilities that were possible are looking less like possibilities. Which is quite possibly good news.
Apologies to any commenter's ignored. I will be catching up on things soon.

Christmas too was a great success. I laid down a lot and pushed things into my face a lot.

I ate at the Michelin starred JSW in Petersfield, Hampshire and for the second time in two years had a really brilliant tasting menu there. Scallops with cauliflower, seabass and tapenade, goats cheese and onion tarte tatin, a ridiculous mushroom risotto, slow cooked lamb and pork belly that defied belief so melt in the mouth was it. Two sweets as well. Really very, very good and again the one type of cooking that doesn't exist here that I do miss for the occasional treat.

My mother's cooking was up to the usual standards with some superb lamb, an ace Spanish tortilla and her trifle all being highlights.

Let's call the above my self indulgent diary post eh?


I drank well.

I won't go over it in detail as it has very little to do with Korea and given that my recent posts have been food related the whole wine korea title might start to look a little tenuous.

Dom Perignon 1990
Gorgeous. Straw coloured with a still fairly persistent fine mousse. This is a refined but powerful Champagne with a lovely honeyed quality. Cream soda was a factor with a long, long ripe apple finish. No edges, no meat(eh dad?) and a drink to remember.

Pol Roger 1990
This as a comparison to the above. Much darker and with a more persistent mousse. Really spicy nose on this one with a little apple. Was more like sticking your nose in a pestle and mortar than a glass of wine. It was a really interesting Champagne unlike anything I have had before. Fresh ground black pepper was the predominant flavour. I liked it a lot but it was not in the same league as the DP.

2 Bottles of Puligny Montrachet from different negociants and of different vintages which I can't remember.
The younger was tasting, er, younger. Both were excellent with great fruit and oak balancing going on. Yes, I should have taken notes.

Whiskey tasting. Glenfiddich 12, 15 and 18 year and an Islay that was 20 years I think.
Whiskey goes right to my head. The Islay was, as you would expect, peaty with a real iodine quality. Was not as smooth as I expected. There was a definite progression in drinkability through the three ages of the Glenfiddich. Again, must make more notes.

Grange 1996
Gorgeous. Fairly consistent garnet colour with very little fading at the rim.
Has a big old nose of the expected dark fruits with nice spicy complexity of bay leaf, violets and tea. It is a wine you know is going to taste nice.
It does. Full bodied and opulent it is fantastically structured with ripe fruit of blueberry/bilberry and plum combining with spice, vanilla and chocolate to veil the still very present tannins. It is a wine with a finish that just keeps giving. Will age for some time yet and will no doubt improve. The highlight of my drinking last year I think.

Korea 2009

I am back and I am busy. After the stress of last year however, I am now really starting to enjoy the new 'hood. Did a circuit of the local wine shops yesterday and picked up some good 'uns I think. We have some Portuguese wine which I have not seen here before we have an Albarino(!) which was very exciting to see. I have spotted Cloudy Bay for 44,000won for those who are so inclined(Wine House). I picked up another bottle of Sherry in order to continue training my palate to actually like it. erm... Goats do Roam has shown up in another shop and I think it is time to start pressing the importers to bring some more of the South African wines in.
What else?
All the pubs near my gaff are useless.
I might be going to Pierre Gagnaire for my birthday.
I am considering starting a second, no doubt equally ignored blog, on how to do luxury in Seoul. Where to buy all the things I can't afford, where to sleep in all the places I can't afford and where to do all the things I can't afford. Winning idea eh? You can think of me with my nose pushed against windows, in the cold, excluded from where the luxury lies.

Albarino and Portugese wine reports to come. Hopefuly something on Gagnaire to come.