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Unique cafes in Seoul

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Published : 2013-03-20 20:11
Updated : 2013-03-20 20:11

“Baa, baa” is not a sound usually heard in cafés. But at Thanks Nature Café situated in the middle of Hongdae, home to two incredibly cute sheep, Nana and Berry, the sound of sheep is an essential element of the experience.

Unlike cat and dog cafés where animals wander freely around the eating area, the cafe separates itself from the outside patio where the two snowy white farm animals occupy a space fully dedicated to their well-being.

After spending the past 20 years in the commercial business, Lee Kwang-ho created the café to provide people with a natural haven away from the concrete jungle. 
Guests play with sheep at Thanks Nature Café. (Thanks Nature Café)

“I believe that petting and feeding the sheep can provide visitors with a unique nature experience,” he said.

The café inside is just as beautiful as the patio ― with a warm dcor of different cartoon animals painted on canvas, the café oozes a peaceful atmosphere for busy patrons. It also offers a wide variety of delicious drinks and pastries, nearly as famous as its mascots.

Worth visiting for more than just the sheep, the café is situated on the main street towards the main gate of Hongik University. For more information, call (02) 335-7470. 
Café 1mm carries hundreds of small lifelike miniature pieces. (Café 1mm)

In Samcheong-dong, Café 1mm provides a unique experience for visitors. Almost surreal, the cafe is packed with incredibly small life-like figurines, putting guests in the shoes of a modern-day Gulliver.

Opened in July 2011, Café 1mm is decorated with hundreds of miniatures created by the owner, Choi Jeong-rim.

Painstakingly recreated miniatures include an American supermarket made entirely of wood, full of tiny fruit and vegetables, which are, in fact, baked clay. Kitchen units boast all the kitchen necessities, from glossy pans to spoons and forks, all rendered in minute details that can only be seen through a magnifying glass.

“Based on actual images from the Internet, I try to concentrate really hard to recreate my own individual pieces of art. The work requires a lot of patience,” she said.

Despite the museum-like features, Café 1mm exudes an inviting atmosphere ― the aroma of fresh coffee, tea, pastries, good music, soft lighting, wooden furniture all come together to cheer up patrons.

The café also has a souvenir stand where it sells miniature pieces. For more information, call (02) 725-7776.
Different flavors of smooth cream cheese are available at Cheese Café Sunrich. (Cheese Café Sunrich)

Everything tastes better with a bit of cheese at Cheese Café Sunrich. Dedicated to cheese and cheese alone, the café is the ultimate spot to indulge in your cheesy desires. Whether it is coffee and cheesecake, a mini pizza, a cheese platter or a deep fried cheese stick, the café caters to all your cheese needs.

Opened in 2010, the tiny shop has different cheese seemingly squeezed into every nook and cranny of the counter. Stored in a refrigerated display case are 12 different flavors of artisanal cream cheese, wonderfully rich, smooth and creamy, welcoming hungry patrons.

“We got the motif from New York bakeries,” said Lee Ji-he, strategic planner of the café.

From a plethora of bagels to their vast assortment of spreads and other add-ons, you can eat different combinations every day till you reach your limit. The café also offers fondue, cheese platters and bleu cheese pizza, along with an extensive selection of imported wheel cheeses as well as Sunrich’s own crafts.

“We’ve got the biggest cheese factory in Asia and we make a wide selection of cheese with the hope of giving our guests the ultimate cheese experience,” said Lee.

There are two Sunrich cafés ― one in Daechi-dong and the other in Hannam-dong. For more information, visit www.cheesecafesunrich.co.kr or call (02) 508-7224 for Daechi-dong and (02) 749-4910 for Hannam-dong outlets. 
Café Banjul has a grand piano on the third floor which is used by artists invited to perform at the café. (Café Banjul)

Café Banjul located in Jongno is hidden between brick walls. The café sign is visible from the street, and you can’t help but be curious as you walk into the alley. The door is plain and modest and you wonder why the place is called “Urban Serendipity,” Banjul.

Don’t let the exterior fool you: The café itself is huge. Several stories high, the café has a gallery, loft and a rooftop terrace. More than a place to drink tea, the café is decorated with large numbers of vintage furniture that exude class, beauty and a great pedigree.

“You don’t need to stay seated at your table. You can walk around the different floors with your cup of coffee ― you’ll be impressed,” said Kim Tae-ju, project manager of the café. “We have concerts, gigs and art projects all the time.”

Café Banjul opened in 1974 when Jongno witnessed an explosion of creativity with writers, painters, photographers, musicians and artists flocking to the area’s cafes and cheap eateries. The 40 years of history show in the assortment of vintage displays on all five floors. The café’s third floor has on display an unusual collection of hundreds of vintage coffee grinders neatly arranged on the shelves while the fourth floor showcases thousands of rusty teaspoons.

“The founder of the café collected the items for 40 years ― all the furniture, cups, spoons and plates are from her personal collection,” said Kim.

Visited by many prominent Korean and foreign artists, the café has already been nominated as the first “outstanding establishment” by the Korea Tourism Organization.

With 46 different teas and pastries to savor, the café serves as a hot spot for artists to network and experience art.

“Jongno has lost the splendor it enjoyed in the ‘70s, but we want to bring that back again with Banjul,” he said. For more information about the cafe, call (02) 735-5437.

By Bae Soo-min (soomin623@heraldcorp.com)

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