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Outdoor dining options open up across Seoul: As evenings get cooler, hotels and restaurants invite diners outside

Aug 23,2019
The Conrad Seoul in Yeouido, western Seoul, has opened its rooftop space named Vvertigo, which aims to give visitors the feeling of a forest in the middle of the city. Guests will be surrounded by trees and the tall buildings of the city’s financial district. [CONRAD SEOUL]
The Millennium Seoul Hilton in central Seoul offers an outdoor dining experience in the garden of its bar Oak Room, a popular option for small gatherings. [MILLENNIUM SEOUL HILTON]
From top: The view from Le Cabaret Dosan, southern Seoul, which has windows that open up and provide a city view of Seoul as well as a glass ceiling that shows the sky; JW Marriott Seoul, southern Seoul, offers an outdoor barbecue beginning Sept. 20 in the terrace of The Margaux Grill; The terrace at JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square’s bar The Griffin, central Seoul, has a view of the historic Dongdaemun Gate. [EACH HOTEL]
Though the summer sun is still hot during the day, the evenings have finally started to cool down, and people are looking for ways to make the most out of it. Major hotels across the city are offering their terraces and rooftops as places to enjoy a bite to eat or drink with friends or coworkers at the end of the day, along with street-side restaurants and bars that provide outdoor dining areas.

Conrad Seoul, located in Yeouido, western Seoul, has renovated its rooftop bar so that guests can use the space all year long, regardless of how hot or cold the weather is. The bar, called Vvertigo, is designed to be a forest in the middle of the city, a place for respite in the middle of the skyscrapers in the city’s financial district. The outdoor area has green grass and is surrounded by trees, creating a stark contrast to the glass and steel buildings that surround it, while the interior of the bar is decorated with plants. The rooftop is open for lunch, dinner and late night drinks.

Central Seoul’s Millennium Seoul Hilton offers something similar at its Oak Room bar, which has an outdoor garden. Covered with green grass and trees that have been growing for decades, the garden area provides a natural, yet refined setting to enjoy food and drinks. It’s popular for those looking to have small group gatherings with tables for dinner.

In the shopping-heavy Dongdaemun-dong, central Seoul, JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Hotel offers a variety of special events at its rooftop bar, The Griffin, where guests can enjoy a night view of the historic Dongdaemun Gate. At the moment, a champagne promotion is ongoing in which guests can match high-end bubbly drinks with small bites prepared by the hotel. The other JW Marriott hotel in Seoul, JW Marriott Seoul in southern Seoul’s Seocho District, will soon open up the terrace area of its The Margaux Grill restaurant for its Grill in the Secret Garden event beginning on Sept. 20.

Le Cabaret Dosan, located on the top floors of Aiden by Best Western Cheongdam in southern Seoul, is one of the hottest rooftop bars in Seoul because of the dramatic scene it offers. The roof’s windows, which are normally closed, can be opened to reveal a sweeping city view of northern Seoul across the Han River. To get close to the stars, you can choose to sit on the second floor of the restaurant and bar and look up at the open sky as well.

Elsewhere in southern Seoul, many restaurants located in the first floor have tables set up outside under the shade. While their offerings may not be as grand as those at the hotels, these roadside shops know that their customers want to enjoy the sun without having to be in the direct sunlight.

Cucciolo Terrazza, an Italian restaurant ran by Cucciolo Group, has tables outside that are covered in shade thanks to the tall buildings nearby. It is open from lunch to dinner and specializes in natural wines made with minimal preservatives.

Neighboring French bistro L’Espoir du Hibou provides a similar dining experience, with a different menu and high-end ambience. The bistro also opens its floor-to-ceiling windows and sets up tables outside so that diners can enjoy a more relaxed dining experience surrounded by plants.

Jungsik Cafe, which has been renovated from a bar to a cafe, has an area that looks similar to a greenhouse. Tables get sunlight from the glass roof, giving the dining area an outdoorsy feeling. The tables each have an umbrella that provides shade while you eat. On the other side of the cafe, a showcase of cakes and other sweets are on display, and bar seats are set up next to windows along the street. There’s a cool breeze at night and while sitting there, you can enjoy people watching while you eat.

Tea and Proof, a whisky bar that also serves a variety of teas for non-alcohol drinkers, is a good place to enjoy the warm sunlight on a Sunday evening. The bar opens at 4 p.m. on Sundays, attracting those who have just enjoyed an afternoon stroll along the Yangjae Stream. Located on the first floor, it also has a large window so that those seating by the window can see passersby outside and enjoy the sunlight.

BY LEE SUN-MIN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]