Being a newly-wed and all, I am always on the look out for a good date night restaurant for me to go to with my Chubby Hubby. And with Valentines Day less than a week away, I’m sure many of you are starting to fret about where to go on the busiest night of the year. Luckily for you and me, I was recently invited to have dinner at La Marmite. La Marmite is a small European style bistro nestled in a residential alleyway in Haebangchon. The place has been opened for three years now but the menu has just undergone a revamp and they wanted me to come along and see what I thought about the changes.
French Chef/Owner Kevin now offers a Three Course Set Menu for 39,000 per person, which for dinner is pretty unbeatable. I’ve never seen anywhere offering high quality homemade dishes for this kind of price, especially since everything is made in house from the spelt sourdough bread to the cured duck charcuterie. While deciding what to order we also took a look at their wine list. I was pleasantly surprised to see that all of the bottles fell between 45,000-65,000 won. I enjoy a nice glass of wine with my dinner but there is a limit on how much I’m willing to pay for the privilege. As we both wanted different wines, we just decided to get a glass of the house. The house white is a Pierre Luneau Papin Muscadet (12,000). I’m not familiar with this style of wine but it was very pleasant and quite fruity. My beloved opted for a glass of the house red which is a Domaine Charbonnier Malbec (10,000). I usually find a lot of red wine to be too dry for my tastes, but I always find a Malbec to be much less so and much more palatable. For those that don’t like wine, they have a full bar, and would be happy to indulge you in making anything you wish to drink.
There are four choices of starter, and one dish we were both eager to try was the Charcuterie Duo of Duck Rillettes and Duck Ham. We often eat pork rillettes, but this duck version was really quite special. It was very creamy, and despite being cold, had no hint of congealed fat which can sometimes be a problem. The ‘duck ham’ is made in house and had a smokey yet refined flavour. The plate was rounded out with toasted homemade spelt & rye sourdough bread and fermented beetroot to balance out the fattiness of the meat. This was an interesting take on the traditional pickled veggies, as they had a hint sourness but without an ounce of vinegar in sight. Our second choice of starter was the Bacon Rolled Tiger Prawns (+2,000). These were absolutely phenomenal, although generally when you add two things as good as these together, the result was always going to be delicious. The shrimp were large and plump, and the crispy bacon encasing them is also made in house. It was a great way to start the meal, and it was very obvious that they put a lot of time and effort into making the different elements that go into the dish and that we were in for a good night.
Our first main course was the 6 Hour Pork Ragu with Tagliatelle. The homemade pasta which is flavoured with sourdough starter to make it more digestible was absolutely fantastic. It’s not hard to find homemade pasta in Seoul but this was something else, better than anything I’ve had recently by a long shot. The ragu itself was hearty and melt in the mouth, it had plenty of flavour without either being too heavy or salt. It was a very comforting winter dish.
Our second main curse was the Duck Steak with Saffron Barley (+2,000). The duck breast is brined and dried, before being fried then finished in the over to give it a delicious crispy skin. It was accompanied with a sweet apple chutney that paired so well with the gamey meat. The saffron barley rounded out the meal and gave a little bit of colour to the plate. It complimented the duck well. I really enjoyed this duck breast too, and would find it hard to choose which main dish I enjoyed more.
To finish we had both the desserts on the menu a Cream Chocolate with Anise Ice Cream & the Lemon Curd with Italian Meringue. The chocolate dessert was rich, mousse-y, and silky, and paired so well with the subtly flavoured anise ice-cream which really lifted the whole thing. The deconstructed lemon meringue tart was also a joy. The curd had plenty of lemony zest, and the warm shortbread biscuit was fresh out the oven. The perfect ending to a great meal.
Overall we had a fantastic meal, and for the price it is literally unbeatable. In an area where there there are a dozen or so other similarly designed trendy bar/bistro restaurants, where a bowl of soupy, overcooked, cream pasta will cost you upwards of 30,000, this three course dinner is an absolute steal. Everything we ate was fantastic, and the portion sizes were of a very decent size. If you are looking to find a restaurant that serves great homemade food in a romantic yet casual setting then look no further.
La Marmite is located at 7 Sinheung-ro 3-gil, Yongsan 2 ga, Yongsan-gu, Seoul. To get there take a train to Noksapyeong station (line 6) and come out of exit 2. walk straight until the road veers off and you see the kimchi pots. Walk along this road until you reach the turning just before bonny’s pizza and go left. Holy smoke is located on the left hand side. For more information you can call them on 010-7403-0620 or check out their facebook page.