Seoul is a city filled with history and tradition, much of which can be found north of the river inside the gated area that was Seoul’s old city. The area around the Eastern gate, Dongdaemun, is a busy and bustling commercial neighbourhood and Seoul’s fashion capital. It is here that they host Seoul Fashion week, however it is not really known for its food, and when visiting I often struggle to find a good spot to grab a coffee or eat lunch. So when J Hidden House invited me to come and see their traditional cafe, I was excited to have somewhere to recommend to all the fashionistas and visiting tourists that frequent the neighbourhood.
J Hidden House is one of the oldest registered hanoks (traditional Korean house) in Korea, and has been owned by the same family for over 100 years since being built in 1915. Late last year they decided to renovate the hanok and turned it into the most beautiful and tranquil cafe. The name Hidden House describes the location perfectly, as that is exactly what it it. You would never believe that a tiny oasis of peace and tranquility could exist in the middle of the busy and bustling neighbourhood of Dongdaemun.
When walking into J Hidden House you are greeted by the stunning courtyard, where they have really made the most of their outside space. It is home to plenty of tables and chair where you can soak up the sunlight, along with a bamboo forest which makes a great selfie spot. The main hanok houses the cafe, but there is also a second smaller building which can be rented out for private events. The hanok itself has been restored in a contemporary and minimalist style, all the original beams are still in place, as well as the original windows which have been stored behind glass to preserve them. They even have some family heirlooms in place like a beautiful pearl inlay table and chair set. If you are a Korean history buff, I think this is something really special, and if you not you will still appreciate the beauty of the place.
Like the cafe, the drinks menu is quite unique, and it has been cultivated to offer more than the average cafe you find anywhere else in the city. They offer quite a big selection of coffees made from Devestate seasonal beans. We were really interested in trying a couple of their signature drinks and the two that came the most highly recommended were the Caramel Cream Latte (7,000), and the Peanut Latte (7,000). I adore sweet, rich, and creamy coffees, and these were just heavenly. The Caramel latte was a standard latte, but had the caramel flavour whipped into the cream and was sprinkled with nuts. It was almost like a dessert and was sinfully delicious without being too sickly or artificial. The Peanut Latte was also a complete surprise. I have no idea who thought of putting coffee and peanut butter together but it’s a match made in heaven. It was rich and nutty but in the most natural way, and it came topped with a a cute little peanut butter filled pretzel too.
As well as wide variety of hot drinks, there also plenty of cold drinks on the menu. One of their most unique drinks is the Lemon Cream Latte (7,500). I have never tried anything like this. It was light and fluffy, with the creamy lemon flavoured milk providing a hint of sweetness. For those that don’t like coffee it is the perfect choice. We also tried the Lemon & Hibiscus Ade (7,500) and the Lime Ade (7,000). These are free from artificial sweeteners and syrups and were really refreshing. While there are no cocktails on the menu currently, they do have some beer from Korean brewer Hand & Malt, however we did discuss the possibility of them adding some cocktails to the menu for spring. I’ll be crossing my fingers for that as the courtyard would be an ideal spot for some day drinking in the sunshine.
There is currently no full lunch menu, though they do have plans to add one in the near future. So far to eat they have a selection of cakes and pastries. On the menu are three croissants, a Chocolate & Hazelnut Croissant (6,500), a Coconut Croissant, and a Cinnamon Croissant (both 4,500). The croissants are the thicker more denser kind that tend to be more popular here in Korea. There were plenty of layers but they are different to the ultra light and airy mass produced ones. Being a big chocolate girl, I would probably have to say the chocolate one was my favourite, although the coconut came a close second as we loved the sweet came glaze on the top. If your sweet tooth hasn’t been satisfied by the baked goods they also have some J. Petit Chocolates (1,800) available. It is rare to find chocolate available in Korean cafes so these were a real treat.
Overall we had a wonderful afternoon. I think that J Hidden House is a truly special place that really is hard to find here in Korea. It is the perfect blend of tradition and modernity that celebrates the unique beauty of Korean hanoks. The menu is very seasonal and makes the most of artisanal Korean products and ingredients. If you are looking for a Korean cafe that serves something special, and has some unique photo opportunities, it is is not to be missed.
J Hidden House is located at 269-4 Jong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul. To get there take a train to Dongdaemun (line 1 & 4) and come out of exit 10. Walking straight out of the exit and take the first alleyway on your right hand side. There is a big gold sign that you can’t miss. J Hidden house is a couple of meters into the alleyway on the right hand side. For more information you can call them on 02-744-1915 or check out their website. They are open from 11am-7pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and from 10am -10pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. They are closed on Mondays.